About driver responsibility

Registered person's responsibilities

If a motor vehicle is registered in your name, you are responsible for making sure that the following requirements are met.

Warrant of fitness or certificate of fitness

All vehicles driven on New Zealand roads must have a current warrant of fitness (WoF) or certificate of fitness (CoF). See About your vehicle for more information about WoFs and CoFs.

Registration

All vehicles driven on New Zealand roads must be registered. When you register a vehicle, it is added to the Motor Vehicles Register. Once a vehicle is registered, it is issued with registration plates (commonly referred to as number plates) and a current vehicle licence. A certificate of registration is also sent to the registered person.

Your registration plates must be clearly visible, and you can only display approved plates on your vehicle. It is an offence to have obscured, misleading or unauthorised plates on your vehicle.

If for some reason your plates will be obscured (e.g. by a bicycle on a bike rack) you can apply to the Transport Agency for a supplementary plate. This supplementary plate can then be attached to the load that is obscuring.

Relicensing

Relicensing is sometimes confused with registration. Relicensing is the payment of a fee to use a vehicle on the road. All vehicles used on the road must be relicensed regularly and must display a current licence label on the windscreen.

To get a vehicle licence, you must:

  • make sure your vehicle has a current WoF or CoF
  • fill out the relicensing notice (MR1) that you should receive in the post, or fill out an Application to licence a motor vehicle (MR1B), which is available from any NZTA agent
  • pay the appropriate fee.

You can also relicense online at nzta.govt.nz/online.

A vehicle licence is valid for up to 12 months. Most vehicles must be licensed continuously. This means that the licence fees must be paid from the expiry date of the previous licence (that is, if you renew your licence after the expiry date of the previous licence, the licence fees will be backdated and you must pay these).

You can apply for an exemption from continuous licensing if you won’t be using your vehicle for a period of three months or more. An exemption means that when your licence expires, the licence fees won’t be backdated next time you relicense your vehicle. An exemption does not mean that you can use your vehicle on the road without a current licence. Talk to an NZTA agent for more information.

If you don't:

  • relicense your vehicle, or
  • apply for an exemption from continuous licensing

and the vehicle remains unlicensed for more than 12 months, its registration will lapse.

You will still have to pay any backdated licence fees and, if the vehicle is to be used on a road again, it must be re-registered with new plates and registration papers. Your vehicle may also need to be certified by an approved vehicle inspector.

Road user charges

You must pay road user charges (RUC) and obtain a RUC licence for your vehicle if:

  • it's powered by diesel, or any other fuel that doesn't include government tax in its purchase price (regardless of the vehicle's weight), or
  • it has a manufacturer's gross laden weight of more than 3.5 tonnes (3500kg).

This is because diesel, unlike petrol, CNG and LPG, doesn’t include fuel excise duty in its purchase price. This tax contributes towards the upkeep of New Zealand's roads.

RUC licences can be purchased from an NZTA agent or online from nzta.govt.nz/online. You'll be given a RUC licence label, which must be displayed on the inside of the windscreen.

When buying or selling a vehicle that requires a RUC licence, the licence should be sold with the vehicle. The new owner will become responsible for paying any outstanding charges if the vehicle is sold without a current RUC licence.

Buying a motor vehicle

Before you purchase a vehicle, an NZTA agent can check to see whether it is registered and licensed, or has been reported stolen. It's a good idea to do this before you buy the vehicle, because once you have bought it:

  • you will be liable for any outstanding fees owing on the vehicle
  • you may lose the vehicle if it has been stolen.

Once you've bought a motor vehicle, you need to notify the NZTA within seven days of the sale. The seller may want to confirm that you've done this before they hand over the vehicle. You need to do the following:

  • Obtain the vehicle’s Certificate of registration from the seller. The form for changing who the vehicle is registered to is printed on the back of the certificate. If the seller has lost the certificate, you will need a Notice by person acquiring motor vehicle form (MR13B), available from an NZTA agent.
  • Complete the Notice by person acquiring motor vehicle form and give it to an NZTA agent with the appropriate fee.
  • Show the agent your New Zealand driver licence as evidence of identification. If you don't have your driver licence, you'll need to show other identification that includes your full name, signature and date of birth.
  • Ask the agent to give you a transfer receipt. Take this to the seller when you pick up the vehicle – it shows you have changed the vehicle's registration into your name.

You can also complete this transaction online at nzta.govt.nz/online.

A new Certificate of registration, showing the vehicle registered in your name, will be sent to you once you have completed the Notice by person acquiring motor vehicle form (MR13B). Although commonly referred to as ownership, the Certificate of registration isn’t legal title for the vehicle – it is simply a record of who is responsible for the vehicle.

Selling a motor vehicle

If you are selling a motor vehicle:

  • Complete the bottom, tear-off portion of your Certificate of registration with the new owner's details and post it to the Transport Registry Centre, Private Bag, Palmerston North (no stamp required). If you've lost the Certificate of registration, you can still notify your part of the change of ownership process by completing a Notice by person selling/disposing of motor vehicle (form MR13A), available from NZTA agents.
  • Give the remaining portion of the Certificate of registration to the buyer so they can notify their part of the change of ownership.
  • Make sure you and the new owner complete change of ownership forms within seven days of the sale. If you don't, you could be liable for the new owner's speed camera tickets, licensing fees and any fines they may receive for not displaying a current WoF or a current licence. Ask them to show you one of the following documents as evidence they've changed the vehicle into their name:
    • a change of ownership transfer receipt
    • an email confirmation page (if they have completed their transaction online)
    • a receipted Notice of change of ownership of motor vehicle (form MR13B).
  • If you sell your car through a registered motor vehicle trader they should notify the change of ownership for you, but it is wise to check that they have done this.

You can also complete this transaction online at nzta.govt.nz/online.

Call the motor vehicle registration contact centre on 0800 108 809 if you have any questions about:

  • your ownership responsibilities
  • where to obtain any of the forms, or
  • where to find an NZTA agent.

This service is available between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday (except public holidays).

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Last updated: 27 February 2015