Thousands of people falling victim to inadequate vehicle registration system - motoring commentator

A motoring commentator says thousands of people each day are falling victim to an anomaly that doesn't require both buyer and seller to provide ID when a vehicle changes hands.

Dog and Lemon Guide author Clive Matthew-Wilson says the system, which only requires the new owner to register the car, is open to abuse.

Aspen Fernandez's TNT Roma was her pride and joy until a month ago.

"One day it was here and the next it was gone," Fernandez says.

"Just last month it was unfortunately stolen and yeah I heard from the police that it was re-registered under a new name."

That would surely make it easy to recover the car - well not exactly.

A month later the police told Fernandez "it's under investigation" despite the new person's name on the Motor Vehicle Register.

"Honestly just confused as to how it can happen," Fernandez says. "It can happen to anyone!" 

She's right and it cuts both ways. Steven Gilliland bought his son a scooter on TradeMe for $2000 only to get a knock on the door a few days later from a large debt collector.

"He was a lovely gentleman but very firm and friendly - he was here to collect the scooter because it had $1600 dollars owing on it. Very frustrating," Gilliland says.

This story has a happy ending for Gilliland but only after he was forced to turn detective.

"[I] ended up going through four people actually to find the young kid who still owed a bit of money on it and ended up getting the money back for myself from him," Gilliland says.

Under the old system, both buyer and seller had to confirm the purchase at a post office and crucially both had to provide ID but then the system was streamlined.

Waka Kotahi says being the registered person in charge of a vehicle does not provide legal title or ownership. It exists mainly so that authorities send notices for fees, fines and tickets to the person who is in charge of a vehicle.

"We're talking thousands every day, you just don't hear about them," Matthew-Wilson says.

Matthew-Wilson says he spends a lot of his time helping people recover their vehicles.

"The current system assumes that you're male, white and middle class and if you're not it probably won't work for you," he says.

"It's a thrown together system that was designed to eliminate bureaucracy but in fact it ends up with a lot of people getting ripped off."

Matthew-Wilson says both parties should supply ID, then a check should be made whether there's money owing on the vehicle and only then should ownership change.