Everything you Need to Know About Buying a UTE

Everything you Need to Know About Buying a UTE

UTEs were originally designed to carry anything large or heavy. Over the years, the use of utes have evolved from the tradie or farmer workhorse to a vehicle fit for families. You’ll often spot utes in New Zealand’s rugged countryside or in construction sites, hauling everything from livestock to tools. Their functionality now extends to hauling weekend gear and keeping up with family off-roading adventures. 

While most modern utes may have the look of passenger vehicles, it is important to remember that, at their core, they are meant to be work vehicles.

Types of Utes:

There are three basic ute types you’ll find in New Zealand:

  • Cab and Chassis – This is basically a ute that is sold without the tray. It’s simply a front cab with a naked rear chassis. This is the preferred ute type for those who intend to customise their vehicle. It can be fitted with a camper, a custom flatdeck or a lock box.

  • Flat Deck Ute – The flat deck has exactly that -- a long tray for carrying big, heavy items. This ute type is popular among tradies as they are made for heavy work. Some models also have removable sides.

  • Wellside Ute – This type of ute has factory-installed sides that cannot be removed, moulded trays and a rear tailgate that can be opened. They’re the most common type of ute you’ll see in New Zealand roads.

Choosing the Right Ute:

So, what exactly should you be looking for when deciding on a ute? Here’s a list of things that you may want to include in your checklist: 

  • Seating Options – The single cab version is a two-seater ute which has a larger tray at the back that gives you all the hauling space you need. The super cab or an extended cab, is a two-door ute which seats four – it is perfect for those who need to bring their family along for the ride but still has a large tray. The seats collapse to allow access to the small rear compartment. The double cab or King Cab is for those who want to use their ute as a family vehicle. It has five seats.
  • Drivetrain – Choosing the drivetrain for your vehicle will depend on what kind of usage you expect from it. If it’s just normal driving, then a 2-wheel drive should suffice. On the other hand, if you expect to do a lot of heavy hauling and off-roading, you may want to consider a four-wheel drive.
  • Payload – This refers to the maximum load your ute can carry, including passengers, luggage and whatever goes into the tray. Different models have different maximum payload capacities.
  • Accessories – Roof racks, side steps, sports bars, tray liners, hard covers – these are just some of the most sought-after accessories for utes. Does the vehicle already have these or do you intend to get it? If you plan on getting after-market accessories, are they compatible with your ute?



Where and What to Buy

Before you buy any vehicle, there are some things to consider. Will you be buying a brand-new ute or a used one? Are you getting it from a dealer or through a private sale? Each will have its benefits.

If you’re buying from a dealer, you are under protection from the Consumer Guarantees Act. You would not get the same protection if you are purchasing your ute privately, however the price of the vehicle could be much less.

Similarly, a used ute would be priced much less than one that is new. As with any used vehicle, they are prone to engine wear and body damage so you may want to take that into consideration when thinking about how much you are saving versus buying a new vehicle where you are the first owner.

The Legalities of Buying a Vehicle

As the new owner of any vehicle, you automatically become liable for pending issues that have not been resolved prior to the completion of the sale. As such, you will need to protect yourself by asking the following:

  • Is any money owed on the vehicle?
  • Is the Warrant of Fitness (WoF) current?
  • Are there any outstanding Road User Charges?
  • Is the vehicle’s rego current?
  • Has the vehicle been reported as stolen?

Used Vehicle Inspection

While used utes are often cheaper than new ones, buying one means you need to have a sharper eye for any future issues.

  • Physically check the engine and the body for signs of rust, leaks and other issues that will need to be fixed.
  • If you do not have sufficient engine knowledge, take a mechanic with you to check the engine.
  • Take it for a spin. Before you do a test drive, make sure the car is insured so you do not end up being liable for accidents. When you’re behind the wheel, listen for any odd noises that could indicate problems, check for blue smoke or any odd smells coming from the engine.
  • Check if the warrant of fitness is current. If you are buying a vehicle on an ‘as is where is’ condition, you will need to get the WoF sorted and pay for any repairs to bring the vehicle up to warrant standard.
  • Ask for the ute’s repair history.
  • Understand what the vehicle was used for prior to sale as this be an indication of engine wear.
  • To be on the safe side, you may want to get a full inspection. The cost for this is often covered by the buyer and can be done by a specialist or any garage.

A more comprehensive safety checklist for used vehicles is available from NZTA.

There you have it! Whether you’re buying a new ute or a used one, this article covers everything you need to know from choosing the right ute to conducting an inspection and ensuring you are sufficiently protected as a vehicle buyer.