Motor Trade Association (MTA) says there is growing evidence that unscrupulous dealers and rogue traders are preying on tourists buying used campervans.
After purchasing a vehicle to make their way around New Zealand, many are quickly discovering they have been fleeced and their so called bargain buy is little more than scrap on wheels. As tourism picks up with the onset of summer, so too have the number of sellers willing to take advantage of tourists lack of familiarity with local markets and consumer regulations.
MTA’s mediation centre, which handles calls from consumers dealing with both MTA members and others in the trade, has seen a sharp increase in the number of calls from tourists caught out after dealing with unprincipled sellers. Many it seems are unwittingly buying sub-standard vehicles from sellers at car fairs and road-side selling venues, only to be disappointed when the vehicle develops significant faults, often almost immediately after they have taken ownership.
MTA Marketing and Communications General Manager Ian Stronach says, “We normally take a small but steady number of calls about campervans from tourists, but in recent weeks we have noticed an upsurge. Tourists arrive here looking to buy a vehicle reliable enough to make it around New Zealand without too many issues, but increasingly seem to be ending up with vehicles literally riddled with problems.”
Many buyers, not surprisingly, are unaware of what their rights are when it comes to buying vehicles and are regularly being duped, not only about the condition of their campervan, but also about what they can do when things go wrong. Getting a case before some form of disputes tribunal can be a lengthy process, some sellers seem to simply be sitting the time out in the knowledge that the buyer will have left the country well before any case is likely to be heard.
Stronach says “These vehicles are often passed off by unregistered traders as being owned by another member of the family, or where they do disclose that they are traders, the so called warranty provided is little better than worthless. We had one case last week where the trader provided a ‘warranty’ of 60 kilometres – barely enough to get the tyres warm, only for the vehicle to fail after 55 kilometres! And, in other cases when buyers have attempted to contact the seller after a problem emerges, they have gone without trace.”
With more and more tourists facing significant repair bills before they can get their campervan into a serviceable condition, MTA is hoping that those allied to the tourist trade such as hostel and hotel operators will alert potential buyers of the risks they face and encourage them to deal with established registered traders. While it is never possible to totally remove any risk when buying a used vehicle, choosing a reputable outlet is certainly a good place to start. Buyers can also check their rights by visiting the Ministry of Consumer Affair’s website under for consumers, then motor vehicles.
“The fact that the number of people getting caught with shoddy vehicles is not only a problem for the individuals who have the misfortune to end up with them, but it’s hardly enhancing our reputation as a quality tourist destination,” adds Stronach.