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Your car licence

Updated: 11 December 2014

You have to be at least 16 years old to apply for a car driver licence and you must hold a learner licence before you start learning to drive. It’s all about keeping you and other road users safe as you gain driving skills and experience.

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Learner Licence

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Restricted Licence

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Full Licence

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What you can drive with a car licence

With a car (class 1) licence you can drive:

  • most ‘light’ vehicles – cars, vans and utes
  • all terrain vehicles (ATVs)
  • mopeds – but not motorcycles
  • some agricultural vehicles.

Check whether this is the right licence to drive your vehicle.

How you get a car licence

There are three stages to getting a car licence. At each stage you earn a new licence with fewer restrictions and more responsibilities:

Stage 1: learner licence
Stage 2: restricted licence
Stage 3: full licence.

Before you get behind the wheel…

It’s illegal to drive without a current and valid licence – there are severe penalties for doing so. This means you have to get a learner licence before you start learning to drive.

Stage 1: Getting your learner licence

You must be at least 16 years old before you can apply for your learner licence.

You have to pass a road rules theory test to get this licence.

Want to practice answering questions in the theory test? You can:

While on a learner licence:

  • You must only drive with a supervisor sitting beside you at all times. Your supervisor must hold a current full New Zealand car licence which does not have a supervisor condition. They must have held their full New Zealand licence (or an equivalent overseas licence) for at least two years.
  • Your car must display learner (L) plates front and rear.
  • You may carry passengers but your supervisor has to agree to this.
  • You face severe penalties if you drive outside the licence conditions.

See details on the process for getting your car learner licence and the conditions that will apply to you.

Your learner licence will be issued for five years. See more information on the validity period of licence classes.

Got your learner licence?

Once you’ve got your learner licence, get in as much driving practice as you can. For help, check out the Practice programme, a free learn-to-drive education practice website. The programme helps learner drivers get as much good quality, supervised driving experience as possible in preparation for their restricted licence.

Stage 2: Getting your restricted licence

To apply for your restricted licence, you must:

  • be at least 16½ years old
  • have held your learner licence for at least six months

You can apply for this licence after six months on your learner licence. To progress to this step, you’ll have to pass a practical test of your driving skills.

While on a restricted licence:

  • You can drive on your own, but not between 10pm and 5am
  • Generally, you cannot carry passengers without the supervision of a licensed car driver. Your supervisor must hold a current full New Zealand car licence which does not have a supervisor condition. They must have held their full New Zealand licence (or an equivalent overseas licence) for at least two years.

See details on the process for getting your car restricted licence and the conditions that will apply to you as a novice driver.

Your restricted licence will be issued for five years. See more information on the validity period of licence classes.

Stage 3: Getting your full licence

You must be at least 18 years of age before you can apply for your full licence. If you have completed an approved advanced driving skills course, this is reduced to 17½.

If you are under 25 years of age, you can apply after you’ve held your restricted licence for:

  • at least 18 months; or
  • at least 12 months if you have completed an approved advanced driving skill course.

If you are 25 years of age or older, you can apply after you have held your restricted licence for:

  • at least six months, or
  • at least three months if you have completed an approved advanced driving skills course.

Find out about approved courses that can reduce the time you have to stay on a restricted licence.

To progress to a full licence you have to pass a practical test by demonstrating safe driving behaviour across a wide range of traffic situations and road conditions.

Learn more about how to apply for your car full licence and what the test involves.

Ready to apply for a practical test?

Book your practical test online through our Transaction Centre or through one of our licensing agents.

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