erena Buying and Selling


December 15 - March 13, 2010

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Buying the Serena

Auckland Central Business District from Mt Eden
Serena parked on Arnold Street

Since our arrival in New Zeland on November 1, we had been pondering whether to rent or buy a car for our travels after Sumner. As usual, we were really just lazy and didn't want to take the effort to carefully research either option, not even summoning up the energy to explore the Christchurch equivalent of the Backpackers' Car Market. But then fate took a hand and while surfing the web, Gerry went to Craig's List for Christchurch and there found a lone ad for a Nissan Serena van.

The van seemed a bit old to us, it was first registered in 1992, but in the accompanying photo it looked to be in OK shape and it was the right price: We had not had a good experience selling our car in Australia and so didn't want to have too much invested in any vehicle. Our goal was to be able to give away the vehicle if we had any real trouble selling it and still feel we had had value for money. In that and in other ways the Serena more than filled the bill: it had a platform in the back topped with a foam mattress that could serve as a bed. It came equipped with a 4-man tent, a primus stove, pots and pans, cutlery, and just about every kind of kitchen implement you might want. It sounded like just the deal for us and even more so when we learned that the owners lived in Sumner.

The sellers were an Anglo-German couple who had intended to live and work in NZ for a couple of years and had been suprised by an unplanned pregnancy and even more suprised when the pregnancy caused the NZ government to refuse to renew their visas. Ooops! Their loss was our gain. We test drove the car, an automatic-transmission, somewhat petrol-guzzling, but easy to drive vehicle. Jan was a bit concerned about driving a van for the first time in her life, but the test drive was so comfortable to her that she was a quick convert.

Friendly Backpackers' Car Market Owner
Friendly Backpackers' Car Market Owner

We went home to think it over and later that same day, called the couple and made them an offer. After some negotiating we came to an agreed price and the deal was done. The next day the four of us drove together into downtown Christchurch to the Backpackers' Car Market and did the trasnfer of ownership and the payment of the agreed price. We also bought insurance for the car and emergency road service insurance from the BCM that gave us the right to two call-outs. We hoped we wouldn't need any call-outs, but thought it best to be protected. Our experience on the Otago Peninsula made it a very good decision. The owner of BCM was a very friendly guy, who gave us lots of good advice. We wandered around his showroom and came away satisfied that we had about as good a deal as possible.

Auckland Central Business District from Mt Eden
Packing the Serena for Departure on Jan 11, 2010
Auckland Central Business District from Mt Eden
Packed and Ready to Go

We drove the car back to Sumner, stopping to fill it up with gas, and on the way home, we stopped to make an appointment to have a general oil and lube. By the time we took it in to the garage, we had noticed a bit of a squeak sometimes, but the garage owners didn't have any good suggestions as to what it was, so we didn't take it any further. For the next three weeks, the Serena mostly sat in our Sumner driveway. We took it out only a handful of times to venture up onto the hills around Sumner and to make a day trip down to the Banks Peninsula. We found it a bit sluggish going uphill, but since we were never in a hurry to get anywhere, it didn't bother us too much as long as it eventually got us there. It always did.

Once we had left Sunmner, of course, we drove it just about every day for ten weeks. The best thing about it was that it started first time, every time. It was very reliable. Except for one flat tyre and another change of oil, we had absolutely no trouble with it. The squeaking noise seemed to be getting worse, but as it had passed its roadworthiness tests, we figured we were fine.

Selling the Serena

And so it was. On Saturday March 13 when we arrived in Auckland after a non-stop drive from Raglan Beach, our only concern was having to show the van covered with the dust of the road and packed to the gills with our bags and paraphernalia, including our two bikes, of course.

The Saturday market was held in a large parking lot, used during the week for commuters. When we arrived there were about two dozen vehicles in the lot, about half of them passenger vans like ours. We arrived half an hour after opening and at the gate we were given a card on which to write the price we wanted, some papers that explained the selling procedure, and paid a fee of NZ$20 for the privilege of using the market. We parked in the designated spot, opened up all the doors, and started preparing for customers. Jan started trying to clean up the van a bit, removing as much of the road dust as she could from both inside and outside, and making things as shipshape as possible. Gerry, meanwhile, went to check out the competition and see how our van compared to the others in the lot. More vehicles were still trickling in, but there were hardly any customers to speak of.

After about half an hour, the first customer approached our Serena. Jan offered to answer questions, but this guy just wanted to take a quick glance at the car. He was followed by a group of three people, a guy and two girls, who were kind of looking sideways at the van. Once again, Jan offered to answer any questions, but they said no. Then she heard that they were speaking German and so repeated her offer in German. They were a bit surprised by that and maybe that's what got them to ask the first question: "Does it have a back seat?" "Jawohl!" responded our resident language expert, and suddenly they were much more interested. Jan showed them that the back seat could be and currently was rotated 180 degrees, so that the bed platform could be fully extended for sleeping. She explained to them how to remove part of the platform, so that the seats could be rotated back into the normal position for carrying passengers.

At this point, it was time to bring in the big guns. Jan waved to Gerry to come and help her out. He joined the conversation and we got to introduce ourselves. Kai and Jasmine were a young married couple, and Vivienne was Jasmine's sister. The back seat was important to them because they wanted to spend a few weeks travelling as a threesome before Vivienne flew back to Germany. Before we knew it, Kai and Gerry were discussing a test drive. We emptied the bikes and our bags out of the van and off they went. They came back with the deal pretty much having been done.

Auckland Central Business District from Mt Eden
The Happy Buyers and Sellers: Kai, Vivienne, Jan, Gerry, and Jasmine
Note our bags lurking in the background

The one thing that was missing was the roadworthiness test, which has to be done within a month of a purchase/sale. Kai and the girls were a bit anxious to tie up all the loose ends as they wanted to leave town as soon as possible. We agreed to try and get the test done today and made an appointment for three o'clock in the afternoon, so that in the meantime we could drive to our Backpackers', check in and unload our stuff, and grab some lunch. We exchanged phone numbers and parted ways.

Just after one o'clock, as we were just starting the process of unloading and sorting, we got a call from Kai. The post office closed at two and that was where we had to do the transfer of ownership. Could we zoom on down into town to meet them? We quickly finished our unloading task and drove into town, getting there just in time to squeeze into the PO before it closed. Next job was to go to the roadworthiness test center. There, we got a bit of bad news. The vehicle failed the test in one respect: there was too much play in the right front suspension. It would have to be fixed. That was bad news for us, because we had agreed not to charge them for any repairs, and bad news for them, because the repair work would have to wait until Monday.

On Monday, the repairs were done, and no surprise, it fixed the squeak that we had noticed. At about three in the afternoon, we drove the Serena for the last time down into Auckland's CBD, handed over the keys and the car to its new owners and waved a fond farewell. A happy ending to a happy car-owning experience. We had arrived in Auckland expecting to spend the best part of two weeks looking for a buyer and lo and behold, we had sold the car in the first hour!

Auckland Central Business District from Mt Eden
The Happy Buyers, Sellers, and Friends at Celebratory Bamber House Dinner

We thought that we would never see the Serena again, but fate took a hand. Friends of Kai and Jasmine were staying at Bamber House! So Kai and company brought the Serena back to Bamber House and there they and their friends cooked a yummy pasta dinner for us all.

September 30, 2010