Driver Education

Getting a car licence

New Zealand’s graduated driver licensing system has three stages – learner, restricted and full. Before your teen even sits behind the wheel, learner drivers must have applied for and received their learner licence. An application for a learner licence may be made at  any NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) driver licensing agent. These are selected branches of:

  • The Automobile Association (AA)
  • Vehicle Testing New Zealand (VTNZ)
  • Vehicle Inspection New Zealand (VINZ)

The learner licence

To obtain a learner licence you must:

  • Photos/Websites/L plate(copy).jpgBe at least 16 years old
  • Provide evidence of your identity and address
  • Prove your eyesight meets the required standard
  • Pay the necessary fees
  • Pass the learner licence theory test!

The learner licence theory test consists of 35 questions which are randomly generated from a pool of over 350 official test questions. The pass mark is approximately 93%. Free practice tests may be viewed at

Learner licence conditions

The first time behind the wheel of a car can be exciting – and daunting. Driving a vehicle is a big responsibility.

For your own safety, and for other road users:

  • Photos/Websites/learning to drive(copy).jpgYou must not drive on your own. You must be accompanied by an appropriate supervisor at all times
  • You must display learner (L) plates on the front and rear of the vehicle at all times while driving
  • You may carry passengers if your supervisor agrees
  • If you are learning to ride a moped, you do not need a supervisor. However, you do need an L plate on the rear of your moped, you must not carry any passengers and you must not ride between 10pm and 5am

The restricted licence

Because of the dangers involved in gaining the necessary experience, it is strongly recommended that you get instruction from a skilled and experienced driver. You should also practise driving in a variety of situations and on different types of roads.

Once you have held a learner licence for at least six months, you are eligible to apply for a restricted licence.

To obtain a restricted licence you must:

  • Be at least 16 ½ years old
  • Provide evidence of your identity and address
  • Prove your eyesight meets the required standard
  • Pay the necessary fees
  • Pass the restricted licence practical driving test!

The restricted licence practical driving test is designed to assess whether your skills as a driver are at a level where you can safely drive without a supervisor under certain conditions.

Before you apply to take the test you should:

  • Have had lots of driving practice – at least 120 hours of driving experience is recommended. (Research has shown that drivers who get around 120 hours of supervised driving are up to 40% less likely to crash in their first years of driving on their own)
  • Be a skilled and confident driver

The test is conducted in a vehicle provided by you. Your car must have a current warrant of fitness, car registration, and working brake and indicator lights. It must also have L plates on display.

The test will take about 60 minutes. This time allows for vehicle checks before the test, the driving test itself and time for the testing officer to give you feedback on your performance.

Note: if you pass the test in a vehicle with automatic transmission, your restricted licence will have an ‘automatic vehicles only' condition, meaning you will only be allowed to drive automatic vehicles unless you are accompanied by a supervisor.

Restricted Licence Conditions

Photos/Websites/car crash(copy).jpgThe highest crash risk period for all drivers is the first six months after gaining a restricted licence – a restricted licence driver is 4 times more likely to have an accident.

Every restricted licence driver is at risk because of a combination of inexperience and high-risk situations – not just the “hoons”.

Crash risk is highest for any new driver when driving:

  • At night
  • When distracted (e.g. using mobile phones and music players)
  • In poor weather conditions
  • On high-speed roads
  • When tired

The conditions imposed on restricted licence drivers are designed to help reduce the risks.

 The conditions are:

  • You can drive on your own between 5am and 10pm
  • If driving between 10pm and 5am, you must be accompanied by a supervisor
  • You must not carry passengers unless you have a supervisor with you. The only passengers you can carry without a supervisor are:
  • Your spouse or partner (partner means a civil union partner or de facto partner)
  • Your parent or guardian
  • A child who lives with you and is under the care of you or your spouse or partner, eg you or your spouse are their parent or guardian
  • A relative who lives with you and who receives a social security benefit, eg the domestic purposes, invalid's, sickness, unemployment or widow's benefits
  • Someone you look after as their primary caregiver
  • There is a zero alcohol limit if you are under 20. That means if you drive after consuming even one drink you can be charged with drink driving.

The full licence

To obtain a full licence you must:

  • Be at least 17 ½ years old if you present an advance driving course certificate – otherwise the minimum age is 18 years
  • Have held a restricted licence for at least 12months if you present an advance driving course certificate – otherwise you must have held a restricted licence for at least 18 months
  • Provide evidence of your identity and address
  • Prove your eyesight meets the required standard
  • Pay the necessary fees
  • Pass the full licence practical driving test!

The driving part of the full licence test will take about 20 minutes. The test is designed to measure your ability to operate the controls of the vehicle and drive safely on the road in traffic.

Once you hold a full licence, you can drive either automatic or manual vehicles, regardless of the type of vehicle you sat your test in.