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.

What does a New Zealand driver licence look like?


Picture of a driver licence

Photo side - Driver identity information

  • Your surname (last or family name)
  • Your given first or Christian names (including any middle names)
  • Your date of birth
  • Your unique licence number – This number remains the same each time a new card is issued.
  • A random card version number – This number changes each time a new card is issued.
  • Donor status - This shows if you want to be an organ donor. Your next of kin will still be asked for permission, so make sure they know your wishes.

Picture of a driver licence

Reverse side - Driving entitlement information

  • A table showing
    • the vehicles you're licensed to drive
      • where 'L' appears next to the listed class, you hold only a learner licence.
      • where ‘R’ appears next to the listed class, you hold only a restricted licence
    • any endorsements you hold
    • the issue and expiry dates of each class
    • the expiry date of each endorsement
  • Any special conditions that apply when you’re driving, eg that you must wear correcting lenses

Note: A special condition may apply to all or to only some of the classes and endorsements held.  If no specific classes or endorsements are listed, the special conditions recorded apply to all.

Licence conditions

If your licence is issued with conditions on it, this means that 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.

A common example of a licence condition is that the driver must wear corrective lenses when they drive.

Other conditions include driving only automatic vehicles or driving only specially adapted vehicles.

Licence conditions are printed on the reverse 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 reverse side of your licence. See Stage 1 - Learner licence for details of learner 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 truck are different from the skills you need to drive a car or motorcycle.

Before applying for a Class 2 licence, you will need a full Class 1 licence. The classes relevant for heavy vehicles are covered below.

Class 1 – Light vehicles

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

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

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

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

  • an agricultural tractor that has a GLW of not more than 18,000kg, if driven at a speed not exceeding 40km/h
  • an agricultural tractor towing an agricultural trailer that has a GCW of not more than 25,000kg, if driven at a speed not exceeding 40km/h.

The 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 and combination vehicles, but does not include motorcycles)
  • a moped or all-terrain vehicle
  • a motorhome or tradeperson’s vehicle with a GLW of not more than 6000kg
  • a forklift* with a GLW of not more than 18,000kg
  • a special-type vehicle* that runs on rollers or self-laying tracks and has a GLW of not more than 18,000kg
  • a special-type vehicle* that runs on wheels and has a GLW of not more than 6000kg
  • a special-type vehicle* that runs on wheels and has a GLW of more than 6000kg but not more than 18,000kg, if driven at a speed not exceeding:
    • 40km/h, in the case of a special-type vehicle that is an agricultural motor vehicle
    • 30km/h, in the case of any other special-type vehicle
  • a tractor with a GLW of more than 6000kg but not more than 18,000kg, if driven at a speed not exceeding:
    • 40km/h, in the case of an agricultural tractor
    • 30km/h, in the case of any other tractor
  • a tractor/trailer combination vehicle with a GCW of not more than 25,000kg, if driven at a speed not exceeding:
    • 40km/h, in the case of an agricultural tractor towing an agricultural trailer
    • 30km/h, in the case of any other tractor towing a trailer, if it is being used in non-agricultural land management operations
  • an agricultural tractor with a GLW of more than 6000kg but not more than 18,000kg, if the driver holds a special-type vehicle endorsement
  • an agricultural tractor/trailer with a GCW of not more than 25,000kg, if the driver holds a special-type vehicle endorsement.

Class 2 – Medium rigid vehicle

The holder of a Class 2 learner or full licence can drive:

  • a rigid vehicle 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 12,000kg or less
  • a combination vehicle consisting of a rigid vehicle (that is not a tractor) with a GLW of not more than 18,000kg towing a light trailer
  • a rigid vehicle with a GLW of more than 18,000kg that has no more than two axles
  • a tractor with a GLW of more than 6000kg but not more than 18,000kg
  • any vehicle covered in Class 1.

The holder of a full Class 2 licence can also drive:

  • a forklift* with a GLW of more than 18,000kg
  • special-type vehicle* that runs on rollers with a GLW of more than 18,000kg
  • special-type vehicle* that runs on self-laying tracks with a GLW of more than 18,000kg
  • special-type vehicle* that runs on wheels with a GLW of more than 18,000kg, if driven at a speed not exceeding 30km/h
  • a special-type vehicle* that is an agricultural motor vehicle that runs on wheels with a GLW of more than 6000kg but not more than 18,000kg, if driven at a speed not exceeding 40km/h (with or without a special-type endorsement).

Class 3 – Medium combination vehicle

The holder of a Class 3 learner or full licence can drive:

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

Class 4 – Heavy rigid vehicle

The 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 (GLW of not more than 3500kg)
  • vehicles covered in classes 1 and 2, but not Class 3.

The holder of a full Class 4 licence can also drive:

  • a special-type vehicle* that runs on wheels with a GLW of more 18,000kg.

Class 5 – Heavy combination vehicle

The 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 – Motorcycles

The holder of a Class 6 learner or restricted licence can drive:

The holder of a full Class 6 licence can also drive:

  • any other motorcycle.

Notes

*Special-type vehicles that are forklifts or run on wheels, rollers or self-laying tracks require the driver to hold the relevant special-type endorsement as well as having the correct class of licence, before you can drive them.

Other vehicles that require an endorsement include large or small passenger service vehicles, tow trucks and vehicles carrying dangerous goods. See Factsheet 11 for a full list of vehicles that endorsement holders can drive.

Definitions

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 Transport Agency
  • 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.

LAMS-compliant means a motorcycle approved as part of the Learner approved motorcycle scheme (LAMS). For more information click here.

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.

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 vehicle operating in a passenger service, eg 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

* Retested every five years.

To get a licence endorsement, you must pass an appropriate course run by an approved course provider, which may be a driving school, polytechnic or private provider. To find out about courses in your area, look in the Yellow pages, visit the Licence endorsements section of our website or call our contact centre on 0800 822 422.

When you pass a course, you will be given a certificate to take to a driver licensing agent. There, your licence will be updated to show the appropriate endorsement.

To find out how to apply for endorsements, click here or call our contact centre on 0800 822 422.

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.

< previous | next >

Last updated: 1 October 2017