About driver licences

New Zealand's driver licensing system

New Zealand has a driver licensing system to make sure that everyone who drives or rides on our roads has the skills and knowledge necessary to be a safe road user. 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 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 you must follow them when you ride.

The reason some people have conditions on their licence is because they may not be a safe rider 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 rider must wear corrective lenses when they ride. Licence conditions are printed on the reverse side of your photo driver licence.

Note: additional conditions that must be followed by people 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 and Stage 2 - Restricted licence for details of restricted licence conditions.

Classes of driver licence

There are six classes of driver licence in New Zealand. Each class covers different types and weights of vehicle. That's because the skills you need to ride a motorcycle are different from the skills you need to drive a car or heavy vehicle.

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.

Note: you can ride a moped on a Class 1 licence but not a motorcycle.

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 and combination vehicles, but does not include motorcycles)
  • a moped or all-terrain vehicle
  • a motorhome or tradesperson's vehicle with a GLW of no more than 6000kg and an on-road weight not exceeding 4500kg.

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

  • an agricultural tractor that has a GLW of no more than 18,000kg if driven at a speed not exceeding 40km/h
  • a combination vehicle (consisting of an agricultural tractor and agricultural trailer) with a GCW of no more than 25,000kg if driven at a speed not exceeding 40km/h

The holder of a full Class 1 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 tractor (other than an agricultural tractor) with a GLW of more than 6000kg but no more than 18,000kg if driven at a speed not exceeding 30km/h a tractor/trailer combination (other than an agricultural tractor) with a GCW of more than 6000kg but no 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 more than 6000kg but no more than 18,000kg if driven at a speed not exceeding 40km/h
  • an agricultural tractor/agricultural trailer combination with a GCW of more than 6000kg but no more than 25,000kg if driven at a speed not exceeding 40km/h.

See factsheet 11 for a full list of vehicles that endorsement* holders can drive on a Class 1 licence.

Class 6 – Motorcycle

A holder of a Class 6 learner, restricted or full licence can ride:

  • a motorcycle
  • a moped or all-terrain vehicle.

Notes

* 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 definitions below

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

To find out how to apply for endorsements, click here or call 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: 11 February 2015