This can be done by conducting a search of the Personal Property Securities Register (“PPSR”), preferably on the day you are going to pay for the car. The PPSR will confirm whether a ‘security interest’ is registered against the vehicle.
If there is a security interest registered, another person or company could seize your vehicle to pay off any debt relating to that security interest. Even if this debt was incurred by a previous owner, you could still lose your vehicle if the previous owner has failed to repay the debt in full before selling the vehicle to you.
If there is money owing on the vehicle, the PPSR will record the details of the creditor, and you should ensure the debt is cleared before you buy. That way you can be sure you are buying your vehicle outright.
For instructions on how to search the register see ppsr.govt.nz. Each search costs $3, and is charged to your mobile phone.