New Zealand

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Traffic Regulations in New Zealand

The nation’s beautiful scenery makes driving in New Zealand a real visual treat. However, there are some things which may surprise expats when they are driving in New Zealand, such as the actual travel times between major cities. Get prepared for the road with our driving guide for New Zealand!
Stay concentrated and alert when driving through New Zealand's beautiful landscape: Roads are often curvy and narrow.

Guidelines for Safely Driving on the Roads

The official New Zealand road code is a good guideline for getting a detailed insight into regulations for driving. We have listed a few of the most important parts:

  • Seatbelts are required for all New Zealand drivers and their passengers.
  • Child restraints must be used for children under seven years of age.
  • The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.5‰; penalties for driving over this limit can result in high fines, suspension or disqualification of your license, and in extreme cases even imprisonment.
  • Traffic moves on the left-hand side of the road.
  • The speed limits are 100 km/h on open roads and 50 km/h in urban areas. These are strictly enforced.
  • The use of handheld mobile phones as well as dialing and writing text messages while driving is strictly prohibited.

The New Zealand Transport Agency has also made a factsheet available on their website for new residents about the differences of driving in New Zealand.

Before You Get on the Road: Registration and Licensing

In New Zealand you need to both register and license your vehicle. With the registration of your car, you are officially recognized as the person who is legally responsible for the vehicle. Licensing is a matter of paying a fee in order to use your car on public roads.

The registration process is quite simple and goes hand-in-hand with the licensing process. For the registration process, you need to have your car checked to see whether it meets New Zealand standards. Once your vehicle passes this test, the registration application needs to be approved by a registration agent. In the next step, you will receive your registration plate and a license label. Without either of these you cannot legally drive in New Zealand.

The licensing and registration fees are listed on the NZTA website. You pay the registration fee only once, whereas your car’s license must be renewed annually.  

Regular Check-Ups

In addition to the above registration and licensing processes, you also need to get a so-called Warrant of Fitness (WoF). It acts as proof that your vehicle meets certain safety and other standards. The warrant of fitness safety check can be carried out at approved licensed garages or New Zealand AA inspection stations.

A new car must be inspected at the time of registration and then the following check is after three years. Older vehicles that were registered on or after 1 January 2000 must be inspected annually; any registered before this date must be inspected once every six months.

New Zealand: Importing Your Car

If you would like to import your own car into New Zealand, there are some additional steps to bear in mind. The New Zealand Automobile Association is an approved Transport Services Delivery Agent (TSDA), meaning they can help you with the legal side of the process of permanently importing your vehicle.

Firstly, your car must go through a border check, a customs inspection, and an entry certification. These are carried out by three government offices: The New Zealand Transport Agency checks whether the vehicle meets safety standards, the New Zealand Customs Service enforces import taxes, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry ensures that no diseases or plagues are brought into the country. To find out what documentation you need and the exact steps for importing a used vehicle into New Zealand, please read Factsheet 44 on the NZTA’s website.

Not Mandatory, but Highly Recommended: Car Insurance

Unlike most countries, car insurance is not obligatory in New Zealand. The registration fee already insures that basic injury and medical claims are covered if you happen to be at fault in an accident. However, it does not cover vehicle or property damages.

While it is up to the driver whether or not they want to invest in additional car insurance, it is recommended to purchase one or more of the three types of third-party vehicle insurance that are available:

  • Third-party property insurance covers you against damage to other vehicles or property.
  • Third-party fire and theft insurance additionally covers theft and damage by fire.
  • Comprehensive or full insurance includes both of the above and also covers the motorist against accidental damage or loss and may include the coverage of towing costs.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

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"With all of the information that InterNations provided on Wellington, it made my move from Turkey easier than I could have imagined."

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