You don’t need to own a car to get around Wellington—but if you want to buy or hire one you may need to get a New Zealand driver licence.
The Road Code explains all the driving laws in New Zealand.
- drive on the left-hand side of the road
- the maximum speed is 50km/h in an urban or built up area and 100km/h on the open road
- don’t drink alcohol and drive—you can be fined, lose your licence, have your name published in the newspaper or possibly be imprisoned
- everyone in a car has to wear a seatbelt—the driver is fined if anyone in the car isn’t wearing a seatbelt
- New Zealand roads can be deceptively hazardous and it is important to have motor vehicle insurance.
Driving on your international licence
If you have a current and valid overseas driver’s licence or an international driving permit, you can drive in New Zealand for 12 months from the date you arrive. After that, you need to get a New Zealand driver licence if you want to drive.
You have to have your licence on you when you’re driving—otherwise you could receive an instant fine. If your licence isn’t in English, you must carry an accurate translation.
Driving in New Zealand without an appropriate licence is illegal. If you’re caught:
- you may need to pay a large fine
- your car may be impounded
- you’re unlikely to be covered by insurance if you have an accident.
Getting a New Zealand driver licence
In New Zealand there are two types of driving tests—theory and practical. You may not have to re-sit these tests if you’re from a country with similar licensing laws to New Zealand.
To see the testing requirements for your home country, visit the New Zealand Transport Agency website.
Buying a car in New Zealand
Most New Zealand university students find that it’s too expensive to own a car and it is easy to get around Wellington without one. Think very carefully before buying one, because there will be additional costs like registration fees, insurance, petrol and parking.
In New Zealand, most people buy second-hand cars.
Get the car checked over by an authorised mechanic before you buy—The New Zealand Automobile Association (AA) can do this for you. You should also check:
- it has no outstanding parking or traffic infringements
- it’s not stolen or still has a lot of money owing on it. You can do this (for a fee) by:
- phoning Autocheck (0900 909 777) with the car’s registration details and licence plate number
- using the Motor Vehicle Search on the Personal Property Securities Register
- your car dealer is authorised—search the Motor Vehicle Traders Register.
Extra costs of car ownership
You’ll need to budget for:
- vehicle insurance—this isn’t compulsory in New Zealand, but it’s important to have at least third party cover
- Warrant of Fitness (or WoF) checks. This is a compulsory, regular safety inspection. Proof of the WoF must be displayed on your car’s front windscreen
- registration—all vehicles must pay a licensing fee to drive on New Zealand roads.
If you’re caught without a WoF or registration you can be heavily fined—and your insurance company won’t pay out if you have an accident.