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The graduated driver licensing system (GDLS) has changed

Updated: 31 May 2013

On 1 August 2011 the minimum age for obtaining class 1 (car) and class 6 (motorcycle) learner licences increased from 15 years to 16 years. New minimum ages for obtaining restricted and full licences also apply.

New minimum licensing ages

The changes to the minimum age at which learner, restricted and full car and motorcycle licences can be obtained are set out in the table below.

Prior to 1 August 2011:
Minimum criteria to be met before applying for a licence under the current GDLS.
From 1 August 2011:
Minimum criteria to be met before applying for a licence under the new system.
Learner licence • 15 years old. • 16 years old.
Restricted licence • 15½ years old.
• Held a learner licence at least 6 months.
• 16½ years old.
• Held a learner licence at least 6 months.
Full licence
(option 1)
• 17 years old.
• Held a restricted licence at least 18 months.
• 18 years old.
• Held a restricted licence at least 18 months.
Full licence
(option 2)
• 16½ years old.
• Held a restricted licence at least 12 months.
• Completed an approved advanced driving course.
• 17½ years old.
• Held a restricted licence at least 12 months.
• Completed an approved advanced driving course.

Persons part way through a licence application

If you are part way through a licence application, when the law changed on 1 August 2011, you can complete that application after 1 August. This is because you met the minimum criteria on the date you first lodged your application.

Applying for an exemption

The NZTA may grant you an exemption to obtain a full car or motorcycle licence at an age younger than 18 where:

  • you have a clean driving record (ie there are no traffic offences recorded against your driver licence), and
  • if applying for a full car (class 1) licence you have held your restricted car (class 1) licence at least 18 months (reduced to 12 months if you have successfully completed an approved advanced driving course) or
  • if applying for a full motorcycle (class 6) licence, you have held your restricted motorcycle (class 6) licence at least 18 months (reduced to 12 months if you obtained your learner motorcycle (class 6) licence prior to 1 October 2012 and you have successfully completed an approved advanced driving course commenced prior to 1 October.

To apply for an exemption you must:

  • Submit a completed application (form DL4 - PDF, 627KB).
  • Pay the non-refundable exemption application fee of $27.20 (this fee will not be refunded if your application is declined – as the fee covers the cost of processing your application).

Approved advanced driving courses

The time reduction gained by passing an approved advanced driving course, when applying for your full car (class 1) licence, has not changed.

This means that if you are aged under 25 you continue to have the option of passing an approved advanced driving course to reduce the minimum time you need to spend on your restricted car licence from 18 months to 12 months.

Drivers converting an overseas licence to a NZ licence

The minimum age criteria for obtaining a learner, restricted or full NZ licence also applies to those drivers converting an overseas licence to a NZ licence.

This is to ensure novice drivers cannot use an overseas licence to circumvent the GDLS – thus gaining an unfair advantage over other drivers.

Drivers converting an overseas licence to a NZ licence will also be entitled to apply for an exemption. The same criteria will apply to these overseas drivers as applies to those progressing through the NZ GDLS. This ensures all drivers are treated equally.