Finding Better Car Deals on Trade Me Motors

On Tuesday Trade Me announced

We’ve tweaked our vehicle categories to return more relevant results and hotter auctions to the top of your search results. We now also show the exact dates that classifieds were listed, in order to give buyers more transparency on the age of listings.

For now, we’ll just concern ourselves with the second part of the announcement, the news that Trade Me will now be displaying “the exact dates that classifieds were listed”.


If you list your vehicle for sale on Trade Me Motors, you’re given the option of listing it as either an auction or a classified listing. If you choose “auction”, as around half of private sellers do, then the normal protocols apply: you choose start price and closing date, season liberally with dazzling description and enticing images and post to Trade Me, there to await the pleasure of the bidders. The end date is displayed (and the listing date can be calculated easily enough based on the 14-day maximum duration of the listing). If the motorised conveyance fails to sell within that time, you can relist it for free (apart from any promotional extras you may choose, which are billed anew with each relisting). If your horseless carriage does sell, the final price may be the same as the starting price — or much higher, if more than one eager bidder is in hot pursuit.

If you choose “classified” (favoured by the vast majority of dealers, as well as the other half of those private sellers), the same protocols apply — except for the price, which remains fixed (unless negotiated otherwise, off-site). Relisting remains free (except for extras).

The main difference between the two options: price. In auctions, the final purchase price is determined by the market; for classified listings, the price is set by the seller on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis.


Until the arrival and widespread adoption of the internet, most retail and commercial transactions were unbalanced. The seller typically knew a whole lot more about the product or service he or she was offering than the buyer,  at least in terms of where to source it and at what cost. As a result, products typically carried a higher profit margin than would be possible in a truly transparent marketplace.

Enter Al Gore’s creation, the Interweb. With the aid of a Google or two, would-be purchasers can quickly establish the going rate for most any product, and use that information to their advantage when negotiating with sellers.


The wide-open market that is Trade Me has long fostered transparency. Looking for a widget? Just search the site and you’ll find all the widget sellers and what prices they’re asking. If you want to know the final prices actually achieved on widgets recently sold, click on the “More Options” link on Trade Me’s search bar and you can prowl amongst up to two months worth of recently-closed widget auctions to identify selling prices.

In the used car market, not typically the most open and sharing of environments, information remains the jealously-guarded treasure of a few. You can search through closed Trade Me Motors auctions to see what sold or didn’t — but (until now) you couldn’t easily identify whether that 1999 Honda Accord was first listed 14 days or 14 months ago.

And, of course, that’s a major competitive advantage when negotiating. If you know that we’ve had that Honda sitting on our forecourt for six months, you’ll have a different view of the pricetag than if you thought it has just been listed for the first time (and other eager buyers are sniffing around).


We carried out a quick sortie on Trade Me Motors, zeroing in on the Honda category (so our findings are not necessarily representative of TM Motors as a whole — but they probably are).

What we found was that, of the 3593 used cars currently listed under the overall Honda category:

  • Around 2000 were listed more than 14 days ago (and thus have been relisted at least once)
  • Around 600 have been listed on Trade Me for more than three months
  • Around 300 have been up for sale for more than six months
  • 60 lucky listings have been up for more than a year
  • The single oldest listing we found under Honda on Trade Me Motors was this one, proudly displayed on the site since the 1st of June 2007!

Needless to say, all the old listings we found were placed by dealers. Who else has the patience? Private sellers would long since have flicked their vehicle on some other way, or sold it for spare parts.


So, next time you’re in the market for a motor, check out the date of first listing. Oh, a word of advice: listing dates shown are ‘day and month’ only (eg ‘Listed Fri, 1 Jun’). Given that a small number of vehicles have been listed for more than 12 months, that “November” listing date could be November 2o08 or earlier. So double-check by reviewing the Listing Number. You’ll find it on the top right hand side of the listing.


If that number is below 1,947,000,000, the listing is from 2008 or earlier.  If it’s below 1,350,000, you’re looking at a gem from 2007 or older. And if that listing number is below 1000, congratulations, you’ve got yourself a collectors’ item from pre-millennial 1999!

PS For sellers: if you want to avoid the ignominy of having your failures so conspicuously displayed on Trade Me Motors, there’s a simple workaround: don’t simply relist your vehicle. Create a whole new listing instead, so that the new creation date takes precedence. Yes, you will have to pay a new listing fee, but that’s a relatively small cost in the context of vehicle prices. And besides — if your old listing was working, you’d have already sold the vehicle. So rework the words and pictures before you relist [you’ll find plenty of helpful advice on the subject of effective vehicle listings in Chapter Twelve of Trade Me Success Secrets].

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