About driver licences

New Zealand's driver licensing system

Why have driver licences?

New Zealand has a driver licensing system to make sure that everyone who drives on our roads has the skills and knowledge necessary to be a safe driver. The safer drivers are, the safer our roads will be.

A licence to drive a motor vehicle is a privilege that is only given to people who pass the driver licence tests and demonstrate respect for the rights and safety of others.

Photo driver licences help identify drivers. They are one of the best ways to catch unlicensed and disqualified drivers.

Licences with photos help the police to check that new and inexperienced drivers (people on learner and restricted licences) don't break the conditions of their licence.

What does a New Zealand driver licence look like?

Picture of a driver licencePicture of a driver licence - back

Drive identity side

This side of your licence contains driver identity information and shows:

  • your photograph
  • your signature
  • your address (if you have chosen to have this printed on your licence)
  • your date of birth
  • your licence number (this number is unique to you and stays the same each time you renew your licence)
  • your card version number (this number changes each time you are issued with a new licence
  • if you have indicated your willingness to be an organ donor.

Driving entitlement side

This side of your licence contains driving entitlement information and shows:

  • the licence classes you hold
  • the issue and expiry date of each licence class
  • the licence endorsements you hold
  • the expiry date of each licence endorsement
  • any licence conditions (eg must wear correcting lenses)

Note: any conditions listed will apply to all licence classes and endorsements unless otherwise specified.

Licence conditions

If your licence is issued with conditions on it you must follow them when you drive.

The reason some people have conditions on their licence is because they may not be a safe driver unless they follow the conditions. If you do not follow the conditions you could be issued with a ticket and receive demerit points and a fine.

A common example of a licence condition is that the driver must wear correcting lenses when they drive. Other conditions include driving only automatic vehicles or driving only specially adapted vehicles. Licence conditions are printed on the driving entitlement side of your photo driver licence.

Note: additional conditions that must be followed by drivers on a learner or restricted licence are not recorded on the driving entitlement side of your licence. See Stage 1 - Learner licence for details of learner licence conditions and Stage 2 - Restricted licence for details of restricted licence conditions.

Classes of driver licence

To drive a car you will need to get a Class 1 licence, but there are actually six classes of licence in New Zealand. Each class covers different types and weights of vehicle. That's because the skills you need to drive a car are different from the skills you need to drive a heavy vehicle or motorcycle.

You can apply for a Class 6 (motorcycle) licence or a Class 1 (car) licence without holding any other class of licence. But if you want a class 2, 3, 4 or 5 licence, you will need to get a full Class 1 licence first.

Class 1 – Car

A holder of a Class 1 learner or restricted licence can drive:

  • a vehicle that has a gross laden weight (GLW) or gross combined weight (GCW) of not more than 4500kg (this includes tractors or combination vehicles, but does not include motorcycles)
  • a moped or all-terrain vehicle
  • any motorhome or tradeperson’s vehicle with a GLW of not more than 6000kg and an on-road weight not exceeding 4500kg.

A holder of a restricted Class 1 licence can also drive:

  • an agricultural tractor that has a GLW of not more than 18,000kg or a combination vehicle (consisting of an agricultural tractor and agricultural trailer) with a GCW of not more than 25,000kg if driven at a speed not exceeding 40km/h.

A holder of a Class 1 full licence can drive:

  • a vehicle that has a GLW or GCW of not more than 6000kg (this includes tractors or combination vehicles, but does not include motorcycles)
  • a moped or all-terrain vehicle
  • a tractor with a GLW of more than 6000kg but not more than 18000kg if driven at a speed not exceeding 30km/h
  • a tractor/trailer combination with a GCW of more than 6000kg but not more than 25,000kg if being used in non-agricultural land management operations and driven at a speed not exceeding 30km/h
  • an agricultural tractor with a GLW of not more than 18000kg or an agricultural tractor/agricultural trailer combination with a GCW of not more than 25000kg if driven at a speed not exceeding 40km/h.

A Class 1 full licence with an F endorsement will permit you to operate a forklift with a GLW of not more than 18000kg.

A Class 1 full licence with an R endorsement will permit you to operate a special-type vehicle that runs on rollers with a GLW of not more than 18000kg.

A Class 1 full licence with a T endorsement will permit you to operate a special-type vehicle that runs on tracks with a GLW of not more than 18000kg.

A Class 1 full licence with a W endorsement will permit you to operate special-type wheeled vehicles:

  • with a GLW not more than 6000kg
  • with a GLW more than 6000kg but not more than 18,000kg if driven at speed not exceeding:
    • 40km/h, if the vehicle is an agricultural motor vehicle
    • 30km/h for any other special-type wheeled vehicle.

A Class 1 full licence with an F, R, T or W endorsement will also permit you to operate:

  • an agricultural tractor with a GLW of not more than 18000kg or
  • a combination agricultural tractor/agricultural trailer with a GCW of not more than 25,000kg.

Class 2 – Medium rigid vehicle

Class 2 is the medium rigid vehicle licence. A holder of a Class 2 learner or full licence can drive:

  • a rigid vehicle (including any tractor) with a GLW of more than 6000kg but not more than 18,000kg
  • a combination vehicle (that is not a tractor/trailer combination) with a GCW of not more than 12,000kg
  • a combination vehicle (that is not a tractor) consisting of a rigid vehicle with a GLW of not more than 18,000kg towing a light trailer (GLW of not more than 3500kg)
  • a rigid vehicle with a GLW of more than 18,000kg that has no more than two axles
  • a vehicle covered in Class 1
  • a tractor with a GLW of more than 6000kg but not more than 18,000kg, if driven at a speed over 30km/h.

In addition, a holder of a Class 2 full licence can also drive a special-type agricultural motor vehicle that runs on wheels with a GLW of not more than 18000kg if driven at a speed not exceeding 40km/h. Note that a W endorsement is not required.

A Class 2 full licence with an F endorsement will permit you to operate a forklift with a GLW exceeding 18,000kg.

A Class 2 full licence with an R endorsement will permit you to operate a special-type vehicle that runs on rollers with a GLW exceeding 18,000kg.

A Class 2 full licence with a T endorsement will permit you to operate a special-type vehicle that runs on tracks with a GLW exceeding 18,000kg.

A Class 2 full licence with a W endorsement will permit you to operate special-type wheeled vehicles:

  • with a GLW of not more than 18,000kg if driven at a speed exceeding 30km/h
  • with a GLW of more than 18,000kg if driven at speed not exceeding 30km/h.

Class 3 – Medium combination vehicle

Class 3 is the medium combination vehicle licence. A holder of a Class 3 learner or full licence can drive:

  • a combination vehicle a GCW of more than 12,000kg but not more than 25,000kg
  • any vehicle covered in classes 1 and 2.

Class 4 – Heavy rigid vehicle

Class 4 is the heavy rigid vehicle licence. A holder of a Class 4 learner or full licence can drive:

  • a rigid vehicle (including any tractor) with a GLW of more than 18,000kg
  • a combination vehicle consisting of a rigid vehicle with a GLW of more than 18,000kg towing a light trailer
  • vehicles covered in classes 1 and 2, but not Class 3.

A Class 4 full licence with a W endorsement will permit you to operate a special-type wheeled vehicle with a GLW exceeding 18,000kg.

Class 5 – Heavy combination vehicle

Class 5 is the heavy combination vehicle licence. A holder of a Class 5 learner or full licence can drive:

  • a combination vehicle with a GCW of more than 25,000kg
  • vehicles covered in classes 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Class 6 – Motorcycle

Class 6 is the motorcycle licence. The holder of a Class 6 learner or restricted licence can ride a LAMS-approved motorcycle or any moped or all-terrain vehicle.

The holder of a Class 6 full licence can ride any motorcycle, moped or all-terrain vehicle.

Certain kinds of vehicles require you to have a licence endorsement, as well as having the correct class of licence, before you can drive them. Some examples are special-type vehicles, passenger service vehicles and tow trucks. See the following definitions for more information.

Notes

Holders of Class 2 and Class 4 licences are allowed to tow light trailers behind rigid vehicles of those classes. Don’t count the weight of the trailer in any GCW calculations.

An articulated special-type vehicle can be driven on a Class 2 or Class 4 licence, depending on its weight. This is because its handling characteristics are determined by it being a special-type vehicle, not because it’s articulated.

If you’re a tractor driver, you simply need to hold the right class of licence for the weight of the tractor. You don’t need a W or any other special-type endorsement.

Definitions

All-terrain vehicle means a special-purpose vehicle (with or without motorcycle controls and equipment) that:

  • is principally designed for off-road use
  • has three or more wheels
  • has an engine capacity exceeding 50ml, and
  • has a gross weight of less than 1000kg.

Gross laden weight (GLW) is the greatest of the following:

  • any weight specified (following the latest modification, if applicable) as a vehicle’s GLW by the vehicle’s manufacturer.
  • any weight specified as the GLW of a particular vehicle (or a vehicle of its kind) by the NZTA.
  • the weight of a vehicle together with any load it is carrying, including any equipment and accessories.

Gross combined weight (GCW) is the sum of the GLW of the vehicles that make up a combination vehicle.

Light trailer means a trailer with a GLW which does not exceed 3500kg.

On-road weight means the total weight of the vehicle and load at any particular time.

Special-type vehicles are motor vehicles that are forklifts or vehicles that run on rollers or self-laying tracks. It also includes motor vehicles that run on wheels but that aren’t passenger vehicles, trade vehicles, tractors, fire engines or vehicle recovery vehicles.

Tractor means a motor vehicle (other than a traction engine) designed principally for traction at speeds not exceeding 50km/h.

Important

You must carry your driver licence with you at all times when driving. Drivers are required by law to produce their driver licence to an enforcement officer on request.

Licence endorsements

To safely drive some kinds of vehicles, or to provide certain kinds of services, you need to have special knowledge or training. A licence endorsement on your driver licence shows that you have completed whatever courses or qualifications you need for that endorsement.

The types of endorsement you can get on your New Zealand driver licence, and what they allow you to do, are shown in the table below.

Endorsement Allows you to
D Drive a vehicle that is carrying dangerous goods
F Drive a forklift
I Be a driving instructor
O Be a driver testing officer
P Drive a passenger service vehicle, eg a bus or taxi
R Drive a special-type vehicle that runs on rollers
T Drive a special-type vehicle that runs on tracks
V Drive a tow truck
W Drive a special-type vehicle that runs on wheels

To find out how to apply for endorsements, phone the NZTA's driver licensing contact centre on 0800 822 422 or visit the Licence endorsements section of our website.

One photo driver licence for all classes and endorsements

Rather than getting an extra driver licence every time you get a new class of licence or new licence endorsements, you will be issued with a new licence that lists all your classes of licence and any endorsements.

This way you only need to carry one licence.

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Last updated: 27 February 2015