Driver Education

Getting a car licence

New Zealand’s graduated driver licensing system has three stages – learner, restricted and full. Before your teen even turns a 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 applicants must:

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Provide evidence of  identity and address
  • Prove their 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 the safety of the learner driver, and other road users, learners:

  • Must not drive on their own. An appropriate supervisor is required at all times.
  • Must display learner (L) plates on the front and rear of the vehicle at all times while driving.
  • May carry passengers only if the supervisor agrees.

A supervisor is not required is learning to ride a moped.  However,  L plates are still required and the moped may not be driven between the hours of 10pm and 5am.

Because of the dangers involved in gaining the necessary experience, it is strongly recommended that instruction from a skilled and experienced driver is obtained. Practising driving in a variety of situations and on different types of roads is also highly recommended.

The restricted licence

Once a learner licence has been held for at least six months, a restricted licence may be applied for. To obtain a restricted licence applicants must:

  • Be at least 16 ½ years old
  • Provide evidence of  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.

Preparation for the restricted test

Before applicants take the restricted driving test they 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 the applicant. The 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 feedback.

Note: if the test is passed in a vehicle with automatic transmission, the restricted licence will have an ‘automatic vehicles only’ condition, meaning manual vehicles are not to be driven unless accompanied by a supervisor.

Restricted licence conditions

The 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:

  • Driving unaccompanied must be between 5am and 10pm.
  • If driving between 10pm and 5am,  a supervisor is required.
  • No passengers are to be carried unless  a supervisor is present.
  • The only passengers you can carry without a supervisor are:
    – a spouse or partner (partner means a civil union partner or de facto partner)
    – a parent or guardian
    – a child who lives with the restricted driver and is under their care or  their spouse or partner
    – a relative who lives with the restricted driver and who receives a social security benefit, eg the domestic purposes, invalid’s, sickness, unemployment or widow’s benefits
    – someone the restricted driver looks after as their primary caregiver.

There is a zero alcohol limit if you are under 20. One alcoholic drink can result in charges of drink driving.

The full licence

To obtain a full licence the applicant must:

  • Be at least 17 ½ years old if an advance driving course certificate as been obtained – otherwise the minimum age is 18 years.
  • Have held a restricted licence for at least 12months an advance driving course certificate as been obtained  – otherwise a restricted licence must be held for at least 18 months.
  • Provide evidence of identity and address
  • Prove  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 the applicant’s ability to operate the controls of the vehicle and drive safely on the road in traffic.

Once a full licence has been obtained, either an automatic or manual vehicle may be driven regardless of the type of vehicle the test was sat in.


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