Utes are proving an unconventional investment choice for some Northland retirees.
More than 1400 new passenger vehicles were registered in Whangarei in the year to December, a 10 per cent jump on 2011.
Archibald Cars manager Rosemary Archibald said last year was a "big improvement" on 2011 - with older persons bringing a boom in business.
"There's more retired people. In my opinion they are choosing not to invest their money and ... enjoy their money."
Ms Archibald said she didn't think it would be as busy this year as it was "very quiet" currently.
The whole Mitsubishi fleet was moving towards better fuel efficiency as petrol prices soared, but most of Archibald's sales were 4WDs which were "not really known for their fuel efficiency".
There were 126 new motorbike registrations in Whangarei last year, a 10 per cent increase on 2011.
Nationally, new vehicle purchases surged in the last year, with sales topping 100,000 for only the third time since 1989 - despite sluggish trading conditions in many other sectors.
In total, 100,795 new vehicles were purchased in 2012, up 16,155 on 2011, the Motor Trade Association (MTA) said.
MTA spokesman Ian Stronach said 2012 was considerably stronger than anyone had predicted.
New passenger car sales reached their highest level in five years. Sales were dominated by Toyota, Ford and Holden respectively. The top selling models were the Toyota Corolla (5324), Suzuki Swift (3321) and Holden Captiva (2506).
New commercial vehicle sales also had a good year, reaching a four-year high with 23,924 sold.
The top commercial models were the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger and Nissan Navara.
"While a positive result, the market is really only returning to where it was pre GFC [global financial crisis]."
Mr Stronach said today's buyers had more makes and models to choose from, but New Zealand's overall rate of new vehicle sales still lagged behind that of Australia and the US.
"That in turn provides them with a newer fleet that's cleaner, more efficient and safer than ours."
Sales of used imported passenger vehicles were down 3 per cent to 78,311, but still well ahead of predictions.
Mr Stronach said the market had quickly adjusted to meet revised exhaust emissions standards, with the "pool of qualifying vehicles" set to expand again this year.
A litre of 91 octane cost 212.9 cents last December, compared to 206.9 cents at the same time in 2011.
Today's price in Northland ranges from 200.9 to 205.8.
The resurgence in new vehicle sales and greater fuel efficiency did not spill over into the motorcycle market, which suffered the lowest recorded sales since 2003.
There were 5945 new motorbike registrations nationwide in the year to December, a 7 per cent fall.
The flight towards less powerful mopeds and scooters evident 18 months ago had stopped, with sales down 28 per cent last year, Mr Stronach said.
In with the new
- 126 new motorbikes registered last year (10 per cent increase).
- 115 in 2011.
- 1421 new passenger vehicle registrations last year (10 per cent increase).
- 1291 in 2011.
- 780 new commercial vehicle registrations last year (25 per cent increase).
- 626 in 2011.
- 5945 new motorbikes registered last year (7 per cent decrease).
- 6376 in 2011.
- 76,871 new passenger vehicle registrations last year (20 per cent increase).
- 64,019 in 2011.
- 23,924 new commercial vehicle registrations last year (16 per cent increase).
- 20,621 in 2011.
- Source: NZ Transport Agency, MTA