About driver licences


Stage 1 – learner licence

Before you even start to learn to drive on the road, you'll need to get a learner licence.

Once you receive your learner licence (after applying for your licence and passing the theory test) you can start learning to drive in a car or other light vehicle.

Who can apply for a learner licence?

To apply for a learner licence you have to be at least 16 years old.

How do I apply for a learner licence?

You'll need to go to a driver licensing agent to:

Medical declaration

To ensure all drivers on our roads are medically fit to drive, the driver licence application form contains a medical declaration.

Every applicant has to complete this declaration. If you have any of the conditions listed below, you may need to provide a medical certificate.

The declaration asks you to declare these types of medical condition:

  • diabetes
  • locomotive joint or limb problems
  • strokes
  • nervous or mental disorders
  • high blood pressure
  • seizures, fits, convulsions, epilepsy
  • serious injuries (for example, head or spinal injuries)
  • visual disturbances (for example, cataracts, double vision, glaucoma)
  • cerebral vascular accidents or disease
  • cognitive impairment
  • any other condition that may affect your ability to drive safely.

Organ donation

When you fill out your driver licence application form, you'll be asked the following question: ‘Would you be willing to donate organs in the event of your death?'

The NZTA can't produce a driver licence for you until you have ticked either ‘Yes' or ‘No'.

By ticking the ‘Yes' box and signing the form, you are indicating your wish to be identified as an organ and tissue donor and have the word ‘DONOR' printed on your driver licence. (It's also put on your record on the driver licence database.)

In the event of your death, your family may be asked for their agreement before organs or tissue are removed for donation. That's why it is very important to discuss your decision with your family.

It's a good idea to think about organ donation before you go to the driver licensing agent.

If you would like more information about organ and tissue donation, contact Organ Donation New Zealand on 0800 4 DONOR (0800 436 667) or visit their website at www.donor.co.nz.

Learner licence theory test

The learner licence theory test is designed to test whether your knowledge of the road rules is good enough for you to learn to drive on the road. Knowing the road rules is important for you to become a safe driver.

You will sit the theory test at a driver licensing agent's office.

Note: you shouldn't take anyone else with you while you are sitting the test. If you do take dependent children (under the age of eight) with you, it is at your own risk as they may distract you, which could cause you to fail the test.

Computerised theory test

The test is made up of 35 questions about road rules, road hazards and safety practices that relate to the type of vehicle licence you are applying for. See New Zealand's driver licensing system for the different classes of licence you can apply for. The questions will appear in a random order.

The questions have a mix of multi-choice and true/false answers. You select the answer you think is most correct by clicking on it. You can change your mind after clicking an answer but it will be locked in when you decide to move on to the next question. You will know if you have correctly answered the question before the next question displays.

To pass the theory test you need to get at least 32 questions right out of 35. If you get more than three questions wrong, you will need to book to take the test again at another time, and you'll need to pay another test fee.

If you pass the test, you'll be given a temporary learner licence, which is valid for 21 days. Use it until you receive your photo driver licence in the mail.

How should I prepare for the theory test?

Before you book your theory test, you need to be thoroughly familiar with the road rules. You will need to read and learn everything in The official New Zealand road code. You will probably need to read it several times to know and understand everything you need to know to be a safe driver.

To help you learn the road rules you can test yourself against the questions from the theory test.

If you wish to test your knowledge of the Road code further, or familiarise yourself with the computerised theory test, you can do this by going to www.roadcodepractice.co.nz.

Speech or language difficulties

If you are having difficulty preparing for your theory test because of a reading or language difficulty, there are several organisations that may be able to help:

  • Literacy Aotearoa
    phone: 0800 678 910
    website: www.literacy.org.nz
  • English Language Partners New Zealand (formerly ESOL Home Tutors)
    phone: (04) 471 2382, or look in your phone book for your local branch
    website: www.englishlanguage.org.nz
  • Citizens Advice Bureau
    phone: 0800 FOR CAB (0800 367 222), or look in your phone book for your local branch
    website: www.cab.org.nz.

People with reading difficulties can also apply for:

  • extra time to complete the theory test
  • the theory test to be given orally.

Besides English, the computerised theory test is available in the following languages:

  • Arabic
  • Chinese (simplified and traditional)
  • Gujarati
  • Hindi
  • Korean
  • Māori
  • Punjabi
  • Samoan
  • Tongan.

For more information about these options, talk to a driver licensing agent when you book your test.

There are also options for people with English language difficulties when taking the practical driving tests. Talk to a driver licensing agent or contact the NZTA's contact centre on 0800 822 422 for more information.

What are the conditions of a learner licence?

  • You must have your learner licence with you whenever you are driving.
  • You must not drive on your own. You must always be accompanied by a supervisor, who must always sit in the front passenger seat beside you.
  • If you are learning to ride a moped, you must not ride it between 10pm and 5am and you must not carry passengers.
  • You must display L (learner) plates on the vehicle at all times when you are driving. Failure to display L plates could result in 25 demerit points and a fine of $100.
  • There's no law stopping you from carrying passengers in your car. However, if you do, your supervisor (who will, of course, be seated next to you in the vehicle) must agree to this. The supervisor is responsible for everyone in the vehicle and for what happens when you're driving.
  • There is a zero alcohol limit if you are under 20. That means if you drive after consuming even one drink you can be charged with drink driving. If you have an alcohol level of less than 150 micrograms per litre of breath and less than 30 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood you could be fined and given 50 demerit points. If your alcohol level is higher, you could be disqualified from driving, given 50 demerit points and either fined or imprisoned.
    If you're 20 or older, the legal alcohol limit is 400 micrograms per litre of breath or 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood.
  • Breaching the learner conditions of your driver licence (other than failing to display L plates) could result in you receiving 35 demerit points and a fine of $100. If you breach any other conditions of your driver licence you could receive 25 demerit points and be subject to a fine of $400.

Note: If you are not complying with your licence conditions the police can now prevent you from continuing to drive until you are able to comply with the conditions of your licence. They may also direct you to drive straight home, take your keys, immobilise your vehicle, or have it moved to a place where it is not a traffic hazard.

L plates

If you're driving with a Class 1 or Class 6 learner licence, you must display L plates on your vehicle.

L plates show other road users that you are a learner driver, so they will be more considerate of you on the road while you are learning to drive. They also mean that police officers can make sure learner drivers are following the conditions of their licence.

The L plate must have a black L on a yellow background and must be at least as large as the measurements shown on the diagram below.

Picture of an L plate, showing required dimensions

L plate

If you're driving a car, van or ute, your L plates:

  • must be displayed on both the front and rear of the vehicle
  • must be displayed where it is clearly visible to other road users
  • must not restrict your front or rear vision.

If you're riding a motorcycle with a learner licence, your L plate must be displayed on the back of your motorcycle where it is clearly visible to other road users.

L plates can be purchased from driver licensing agents, or you can make your own.

Learning to drive

Learning to drive is a big responsibility and it is important that you develop good driving skills so you will be a safe driver on our roads.

Professional or private instruction?

You can decide whether to get training from a qualified professional driving instructor or whether you want to get a friend or family member to teach you (a driving coach).

Many people do a mixture of both, getting lots of practice with a driving coach but having some lessons with a driving instructor to improve their skills.

Learning to drive with an instructor

Driving instructors charge a fee for training and must:

  • hold a driving instructor (I) endorsement for each class of licence they want to teach
  • sit in the front passenger seat when they're instructing you.

Before your first lesson, ask the instructor to show you proof that they hold a current driving instructor endorsement.

Learning to drive with a driving coach

A driving coach is someone you know who is willing to teach you how to drive.

Like any driving supervisor, they must hold a current and valid full New Zealand car licence (without a supervisor condition) and have held this (or an equivalent overseas licence) for at least two years.

Your coach should:

  • carry their driver licence at all times when supervising your driving
  • be prepared to commit to the time needed for you to practise
  • be a responsible, skilled and confident driver
  • be an effective communicator, able to get information and ideas across clearly
  • have the patience to instruct you effectively
  • be able to teach and build on previous lessons
  • review, evaluate and assess your progress.

Your coach can use the Driving skills syllabus to help them teach when you're learning to drive.

What is a supervisor?

When you drive on your learner licence, you must always drive with a supervisor.

Your supervisor must:

  • hold a current and valid full New Zealand licence (which does not have a supervisor condition) for the same class of vehicle you’re learning to drive
  • have held their New Zealand full licence (or an equivalent overseas licence) for at least two years
  • sit in the passenger seat next to you at all times when you are driving
  • carry their driver licence with them.

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Last updated: 21 March 2013