Driving in New Zealand
You need to be 16 years old or over to drive in New Zealand. All drivers must have a current and valid New Zealand driver's licence, International Driving Permit, or overseas licence.
You can drive on an overseas licence for 12 months. After that, you need to apply for a New Zealand licence. Carry your licence with you at all times when driving. If you are stopped by the Police for any reason and fail to produce your licence, you will be fined.
To ride a motorcycle in New Zealand you must get a motorcycle licence.
There are three stages to getting a licence. You must pass a test at each stage, these being a written test and two practical driving tests.
For more information on how to get a licence, see NZTA Fact Sheet 45 - Learning to drive: How to get your car licence, available on Land Transport New Zealand's website.
Take a free theory driving test here www.drivingtests.co.nz
The Road Code
It is important that you get a copy of the New Zealand Road Code and learn the road rules, traffic signs and signals for driving here. Land Transport New Zealand also has a fact sheet for visitors to New Zealand: NZTA Factsheet 56 - New residents and visitors: Driving in New Zealand. You can buy the New Zealand Road Code at all larger bookstores and copies are held in public libraries.
Wearing a Seatbelt
You must always wear your seat belt (safety belt), whether you are sitting in the back or front of the vehicle. Drivers and passengers are legally required and responsible for wearing their own seat belts. The driver is also responsible for making sure that children under 15 years of age wear seat belts. The fine for not wearing a seat belt is $150.00 for each person.
Drinking and Driving
Driving while over the alcohol limit is an offence, for which there are severe penalties, including having your licence taken off you, or going to jail. The amount of alcohol that drivers under twenty years of age are legally allowed to drink before driving is so small that it is safer not to drink prior to driving at all.
If you are going out as a group for the evening and using a car, nominate one person not to drink alcoholic drinks and to be responsible for the driving. Alternatively, you can ring a taxi to take you home if you have been drinking. Taxis are available 24 hours a day.
Owning a Car
Think carefully before buying a car. Unfortunately, some international students have had problems with driving or owning cars and some of them have been serious. Owning a car is a big responsibility and can cost a lot. Some New Zealand students find they are too costly. Cars devalue quickly and when you sell it, you may be disappointed with the money you get for it.
If you do decide to purchase a vehicle in New Zealand, have it inspected by a reputable third party such as VTNZ or AA New Zealand. It's also a good idea to obtain a vehicle history report.
Once you own a car, you need to make sure that it has a current vehicle license and a valid Warrant of Fitness. If your vehicle does not have a current vehicle licence and Warrant of Fitness, you will be fined.
Vehicle insurance in New Zealand is not compulsory, but it is a good idea. Insurance fees are usually higher for people under 25 years and may also depend on your driving history and the type of vehicle you own.
If your vehicle is not registered, licensed or does not have a current Warrant of Fitness, or if you are driving without a valid driver's licence, your insurance company may not pay out if you have an accident. If you would like more information about vehicle insurance, take a look at the Insurance Council of New Zealand's web page on motor insurance.