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Driver Licences

Driver Licences

Driving is an important part of a young person’s life. Before you can drive, you must have a licence to make sure you and others are safe on the road.

This section contains information about driver licences in New Zealand, driving overseas, and what happens if your licence is taken off you.

What test do I need to pass to drive?

There are 3 stages to getting your licence in New Zealand:

Stage 1 – Learner Licence
Stage 2 – Restricted Licence
Stage 3 – Full Licence

You must pass tests and fulfill requirements to get to the next stage, starting from stage 1. You’ll get more driving rights as you pass each stage.

How can I get a Learner Licence?

If you’re 16 or older, you can get a Learner Licence by taking a written theory test based on “The Road Code“. There is no practical part to the learner test. Studying the Road Code is the most important aspect of learning to drive, this ensures that you’re a safe driver by knowing all the rules to driving in NZ. You can find useful online tests for practice after you have learnt the road rules.

Once you’re confident in the rules, you can pay a fee at a driver licensing agent to take the test. To pass and get a learner licence, you’ll have to get at least 32 out of the 35 questions right. This will qualify you to learn to drive.

What are the restrictions on a Learner Licence?

On a learner licence, you are practising your driving, so there are a number of restrictions.

The restrictions on a Learner Licence are:

  1. You must always have a “supervisor” in the front seat or as close to you as possible when you drive. They must hold a current and valid NZ Full Licence for at least 2 years. They must also be “in charge” of the vehicle.
  2. You and your supervisor must have your licences with you at all times.
  3. Your vehicle must display ‘L’ plates on the front and back of your car. You could be fined $100 and receive 25 demerit points for not displaying ‘L’ plates.

How can I get a Restricted Licence?

You’re allowed to apply for a Restricted Licence when you have held your Learner Licence for at least 6 months. The Restricted Licence test is a practical assessment, which takes approximately one hour.

You will need to book your test at a driver licensing agent and pay a fee. A restricted licence allows you to get the practical experience to become a safe driver with fewer restrictions.

What are the restrictions on a Restricted Licence?

The restrictions of a Restricted Licence are:

  1. You must have your licence with you when you are driving;
  2. You can drive during the day (between 5am and 10pm) without a supervisor;
  3. You must have a supervisor who has held a full licence for at least 2 years in your front passenger seat if you drive between 10 pm and 5am;
  4. You must have a supervisor if you carry passengers, unless the passenger(s) are your spouse, your or your spouse’s children, your parent or guardian, a relative who lives with you who is on a social security benefit, or someone you look after as their primary caregiver. You cannot drive your sibling or your friends unless they meet the supervisor criteria.

How can I get a Full Licence?

You may apply for a Full Licence after you have had your Restricted Licence for 18 months if you’re under 25 years of age, or in 6 months if you’re 25 and over. This period can be reduced if you successfully complete an approved advanced driver course, like the Defensive Driving course (reduced to 12 months if you are under 25 and 3 months if you are 25 and over).

To qualify for a full driver licence, you must pass a practical test approximately 30 minutes long, called a Full Licence Test.

What is in the Full License Test?

The Full Licence Test is designed to see if you can handle those driving situations that present the greatest risk in your first five years of driving. You must demonstrate safe driving practices in a wide range of driving situations as well as clearly being able to identify hazards and responses as a part of driving on the road. If you cannot show the testing officer that you can handle these situations safely, you will not pass the test. You will remain on a Restricted Licence until you can pass it.

Can I drive a manual car if I passed my driving test in an automatic car?

If you sat and passed your restricted test in a car with an automatic transmission, you must have a supervisor if you drive a manual car. If you have no supervisor, then you must drive an automatic car. If you sat your restricted test in a manual car, you may drive either a manual or an automatic car. It will be indicated on your licence whether you have passed your restricted test on an automatic or a manual car. If you have passed your full licence test, you’re allowed to drive both automatic and manual cars.

How much is it to get a driver’s licence?

For car or motorcycle licence:

Learner licence application fee – $48.20 + Learner licence test – $45.70 = $93.90
Restricted licence application fee -$48.20 + Restricted licence test – $86.60 = $134.80
Full licence application fee – $49.60 + Full licence test – $59.90 = $109.50
10-year renewal – $43.90

(Costs last updated on 26/08/2017 – for the latest cost, please check on NZTA.)

What will my driver’s licence look like?

Your driver’s licence will show:

  • A digital colour photograph of yourself, your name and digital signature, your date of birth, dates of issue and expiry;
  • The classes of vehicle (e.g. car, motorbike) you are licensed to drive, plus anything allowing you to drive special vehicles (e.g. forklifts), or special licences like a licence to carry passengers in a bus, taxi or uber;
  • Anything you must do when driving (e.g. wearing glasses);
  • Organ donor information (optional and merely an indication of your wishes);
  • Security features to deter forgery;
  • Your address (optional).

What do I do if I lose my driver’s licence or it gets stolen?

You will need to replace it promptly to avoid driving without a licence and possibly being fined for it. You will need to fill out a form and pay a fee of $38.20 to have it replaced at your local agent. You must also bring evidence of your identity with you.

Do I need to have my licence with me when I am driving?

Yes, you have to carry your licence with you whenever you drive. If you don’t, you could be fined up to $1,000 if you’re convicted. Usually, though, you will have to pay an infringement fee of $55 and may be asked to go to your local police station within 72 hours to prove that you’re a licensed driver. If you do hold a licence, you can prove your identity in some other way, and haven’t committed another offence; an officer could decide to warn you instead.

What happens if I break the rules of my Learner or Restricted Licence?

Each time you are caught doing this, the police can extend the time you must wait to get to the next stage of your licence by up to 6 months. If you’re insured and have an accident while breaking the rules of your licence, your insurance company may not pay for any damage. It depends on the circumstances and on your insurance policy. You could also be fined up to $1,000. Usually, though, you will have to pay an infringement fee of $100-400 and receive demerit points.

What happens if I drive without a current licence?

If you drive on public roads without any licence because you had never passed any driving tests, you can be fined up to $1,000. Usually, though, you will have to pay an infringement fee of $400. Your car will also be impounded for 28 days. The consequences are more serious if you don’t have a licence because your licence has been disqualified, and are caught driving.

At what age can I drive large vehicles?

For heavy trade or special type vehicles weighing more than 3500 kg, you must be at least 18 years old and have your full licence for at least 6 months to apply. You have to be at least 20 years to apply to drive small or large passenger service vehicles and ambulances.

Where can I find more information on licences?

You can get more information from the Road Code or from the NZTA website. Your nearest driver-licensing outlet (e.g. AA/VTNZ) also has copies of factsheets on specific subjects. The NZTA driver licensing helpdesk can be contacted toll-free on 0800 822 422.

For information on applying for motorbike licences and licences for other types of vehicles contact the Driver Licensing Agent in your area.

Can I drive overseas with my New Zealand Driver’s Licence?

Yes, in certain countries. New Zealand driver’s licences are accepted in many countries including Australia, Fiji, the UK, and the Republic of Ireland. However, it is strongly recommended that you apply for an International Drivers Permit (IDP) to be able to drive in most countries while on holiday.

How can I get an International Drivers Permit?

You can apply to a driving licensing agent for an International Drivers Permit (IDP). Call toll-free on 0800 822 422 for your local branch. You can also apply online.

To apply for an IDP you must:

  1. Be at least 18 years old;
  2. Provide one passport type photo;
  3. Produce a current Full NZ licence; and
  4. Pay a fee of around $20-$40 depending on how you apply.

You don’t need to apply in person. However, you must ensure that your details are correct when a person acting on your behalf signs the application form. It can be issued to you straight away.

How long will the International Drivers Permit last?

An IDP will only be valid for up to 12 months from the date of issue. If you’re driving in NZ on an IDP with an overseas licence, you can use it up until its expiry (12 months from issue). When your IDP expires, you’ll have to apply for a local licence. If you get residency or start working, you should contact the local licensing authority as an IDP is only for touring and holiday purposes.

I’m suspended from driving, what does that mean?

Being suspended means you’re not allowed to drive for a certain period of time – this is usually either through getting too many demerit points or being caught by the police for committing a serious driving offence.

If you’ve been suspended, you may during your suspension, in certain limited circumstances, apply for a Limited Licence that allows you to drive in specific situations.
Contact your local community law centre or YouthLaw to find out more.

I’m disqualified from driving, what does that mean?

If you’re convicted in Court for a matter relating to driving, the Judge may or must disqualify you from driving for a period of time, depending on the crime. If you’re disqualified, your licence will be taken from you and you’re not allowed to drive or attempt to drive during your disqualification.

If you have been disqualified, you may during your disqualification, in certain limited circumstances, apply for a Limited Licence that allows you to drive in specific situations.
Contact your local community law centre or YouthLaw to find out more.

Can I get a Limited Licence?

Everyone experiences hardship if they’re unable to drive. To get a limited licence, you have to prove either extreme hardship to yourself or undue hardship to another person if you’re unable to drive:

  • Extreme hardship – is if you suffer excessive loss as a result of being disqualified from driving. For example, losing your job because you cannot get there. It is not enough that it’ll take you longer to get to work if you take public transport.
  • Undue hardship – is easier to prove than extreme hardship. For example, if driving is part of your job, but your employer cannot replace you for that part. This could also be if someone dependent on you requires to be driven.

You need to be able to provide evidence of the hardship before the court will consider giving you a Limited Licence.
A limited licence will only allow you to drive in specific conditions to overcome those hardships.

How do I apply for a Limited Licence?

You will be required to go to Court to give your reasons for applying for a Limited Licence. Your written statement about this is called an affidavit. People supporting your application, e.g. your employer, will also need to do an affidavit. Generally, you should seek the approval of the police officer that had dealt with your case before making the application.

What does the Limited Licence say?

The Limited Licence outlines the conditions under which you’re allowed to drive. It is an offence to break any of the conditions on the Limited Licence.

The Limited Licence will state the purpose of the Licence (for example, to get to work) and what vehicle or kind of vehicle you’re allowed to drive (for example a tractor, if you work on a farm). It will also say the specific times that you are allowed to drive, and might specify where (for example, a defined route to and from work).

When am I not allowed to apply for a Limited Licence?

You’re not allowed to apply for a Limited Licence if you:

  • are suspended for 28 days for excessive speed or alcohol consumption;
  • have been convicted within the last 5 years for a driving offence involving injury or death through careless, reckless, or dangerous driving; not stopping at or reporting an accident; a drink driving offence; or any other serious driving offence with a minimum 6-month disqualification sentence;
  • have breached a condition of a previous limited licence or is currently disqualified for driving while disqualified;
  • have been disqualified from driving for an indefinite period;
  • have a driver licence stop order in place;
  • are subject to an alcohol interlock licence.

The Court must also be satisfied that it is not contrary to the interests of public safety for you to be granted a limited licence.

For more detailed information, refer to the Community Law Guide on Applying for a Limited Licence.

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