Vehicle was de-registered in the past

The vehicle has been de-registered in the past and then registered again.

The vehicle may have been in an accident and written off by an insurance company, or the vehicle's registration may have expired because the licence was not kept current.

Passenger vehicles can only remain unlicensed for 12 months, or 24 months if currently owned by a vehicle trader. Non-passenger vehicles (trailers, ATVs, etc) can remain unlicensed for 24 months.

The owner at the time may have asked that the licence and registration be cancelled because the vehicle would not be used for some time (for example while overseas), or the vehicle may have sent to an auto-wrecker for parts.

Have an independent mechanical inspection by a reputable company (for example VTNZ).

You could also try and contact the person who owned the vehicle just prior to the date of de-registration, for more information.