Getting Driver Licences in New Zealand

General information

The New Zealand driver licence system is divided into three levels: Learners, Restricted and Full.

Learners licence

The licence is issued from the age of 16 after passing the theoretical test. Having received this licence, the newly-made driver can drive the vehicle strictly under the supervision of an accompanying person sitting in the front passenger seat. It is possible to transport passengers, but with the consent of the accompanying person. A prerequisite is also the presence of a special sign L on the front and rear windows. After 6 months, the Learners licence holder can pass a practical driving test and obtain a Restricted driver licence.

Please note that for a companion, a mandatory condition is:

  • a New Zealand driver licence (Full) with at least 2 years of experience;
  • a New Zealand driver licence (Full) + a foreign driver licence with at least 2 years of experience.

More details on the official website.

Restricted licence

Its owner must be at least 16 and a half years old. Under this licence, self-driving is allowed, but strictly at certain times of the day – from 5 am to 10 pm. It is also allowed to carry passengers without an accompanying person, but only if it is:

  • your legal or common-law spouse;
  • your children;
  • your parent or ward who lives with you and receives social security benefits;
  • someone under your custody.

From 10 pm to 5 am, you can drive a vehicle only in the presence of a supervisor who must sit in the front passenger seat.

Further, the restricted licence holder can pass another practical driving test and receive a full licence. But this can be done no earlier than a certain period after receiving a limited licence:

  • a year and a half – for those who are not yet 25 years old;
  • six months – for those who are 25 years old and older.

These terms can be cut in half by taking special driving courses.

Full licence

Full licence, which allows you to drive a vehicle corresponding to the class of the licence without restrictions. The licence is issued from the age of 18. It can be obtained six months earlier, subject to the passage of those special driving courses.

Please note that practice driving tests for Restricted and Full licences are different. For a Restricted licence, the test lasts 45 minutes and includes not only street driving, but parallel parking and a U-turn. For a Full licence, the test is shorter – 30 minutes and consists only in driving through the streets.

The cost of obtaining a driver licence depends on its type and class, more details can be found on the official website.

List of AA and VTNZ Offices that take exams for obtaining or converting licences.

Conversion of a foreign driver licence (full licence)

If you already have a driver licence, you can drive with it in New Zealand subject to a number of conditions:

  • your driver licence is international, otherwise, you need to make a translation with a translator accredited by NZ Transport Agency;
  • no more than 12 months have passed since your last entry into the country. Each time you leave New Zealand and return back, you will be able to use your licence for 12 months. After this period, you will either have to leave the country and return back again, or to exchange the licence for a New Zealand one.

Despite the fact that the police do not often stop cars on the road, there is still such a possibility. Having doubted the validity of your licence, the police officer can quickly contact the migration service and find out the date of your last entry into the country.

In general, we advise you not to delay the licence replacement. It is convenient and you can get additional bonuses:

  • in addition to full legalisation on the roads of the country, a local driver licence is a widely used identity card in New Zealand, it is also an ID;
  • if you have a local driver licence, you will not be subject to a multiplier for driver liability insurance;
  • when employed, it is quite common to meet the requirement of a mandatory or desirable presence of a New Zealand driver licence.

The process of converting the licence is quite simple, you just need to find time to prepare and study the process in detail.

If you are not one of the lucky ones who have a licence issued in America, Canada, England, Hong Kong and a number of other countries, then you will need to pass the theoretical and practical part of the exam.

So, first of all, you should start preparing for the theory in advance. The traffic laws are quite similar and understandable but there are still differences that you need to be aware of. Read more about the significant differences in our article.

Theory test

Study of traffic rules

You can get acquainted with the traffic rules (Road Code) both online and using special literature.

Testing is delivered on a computer and consists of 35 questions with a choice of one answer out of 4 offered. If in doubt about the correctness of the answer, you can skip the question and return to it at the end. No more than 3 mistakes are allowed. You will know the results immediately after the end of the test. When you feel that you are ready for the test, you can feel free to apply for the exam at any agent near you.

You will need:

  • A completed application;
  • An identity document (international passport) + photocopy;
  • A driver licence with translation and stamp of the translation bureau + photocopy.

Additionally, you need to:

  • undergo an eye examination at the representative office or provide a medical report/certificate from your optometrist for a period not exceeding 60 days;
  • take a photo at the representative office;
  • pay the application fee and theory test;
  • choose an available time for testing.

After successfully passing the theoretical test, a special licence (Restricted with the supervised condition) is issued with all the restrictions of the usual Restricted + prohibition to drive a car without an accompanying person. From this point on, you cannot use your existing foreign licence, even if 12 months have not passed since your last entry into the country. This is the most unpleasant and not very clear moment in the whole conversion procedure. To minimise the inconvenience, we advise, in parallel with preparing for the delivery of theory, preparing for practice, so that immediately after the theoretical exam, sign up for a practical exam and get a full licence as soon as possible.

Take a free test of preparation for the New Zealand driver licence exam.

Driving test

After successfully passing the theory, you can immediately sign up for a practical driving test. This can be done directly at the representative office or online.

When registering, you must choose the place and time of the exam. We advise you to choose the area with which you are most familiar, in this case, you will feel more confident and relaxed. If for some reason you have to take it in an unfamiliar area, we advise you to take a ride along the nearby streets several times, mark the location of special speed zones, for example, schools. If you don’t want to drive in traffic, then you should choose a quieter area, and the morning time from 9 to 12 will provide you with almost empty streets.

For moral support, you can invite one companion to the exam. They can be anyone. The escort is not allowed to talk during the test, but later they can give you their recommendations or they can get a valuable opportunity to get acquainted with the route and the process, which is very useful if he/she also needs to obtain a driver licence in the near future.

You must come to the exam in your own vehicle. Make sure the car has:

  • there are a valid registration and technical inspection;
  • brake lights, turn signals and reverse gear work;
  • the sound signal works;
  • the tread depth of the tires meets the requirements.

After the appropriate check, the examiner gets into the car in the front passenger seat and after a short introduction regarding the upcoming exam, you will be prompted to start the test. The total exam duration is 30 minutes. It takes about 5-10 minutes for preparation and conclusion. The remaining time is driving, during which the instructor will try to test all your safe driving skills, the ability to read signs and respond adequately to the traffic situation.

You can learn more about the process of passing the practical exam in the official guide, and also very clear about the process, requirements and the most common mistakes are told on the official youtube channel – Drive.

After the end of the exam, the result is immediately announced, as well as minor and critical mistakes. The final conclusion will be sent to the examinee’s email address. If the exam is passed, an extract is immediately issued, on which you can drive until a plastic driver licence arrives by mail. By the way, when submitting a theory, there should be the same procedure – an extract, and after a few days, you will receive a licence by mail.

Separately, we would like to say that the most common comment from examiners is insufficient control of dead zones. Unlike the usual driving school in the CIS countries, there is a peculiarity here. It is necessary to check without fail the presence of other road users not only by the mirrors but also by turning the head over the shoulder in the appropriate direction. In this case, the turn should be strong enough, and not just sideways. This way a blind spot check is achieved. Many people have to get used to easily and confidently turn their heads without fear of losing control of the road while driving. All in all, it’s worth working on it.

We wish you easy exams and good luck on the road.

Useful links:

Buying a car in New Zealand

Features of traffic rules in New Zealand

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