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Golf carts, quad bikes and ATVs

Updated: 9 February 2015

Golf carts, quad bikes and ride-on mowers are vehicles designed for off-road use. They are not suited for travelling on public roads, mostly because they are light and offer little protection from other vehicles should you have a collision. Only all-terrain vehicles are permitted for use on public roads - and then, only under certain conditions.

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What are off-road vehicles?

This is a broad range of vehicles that includes:

  • all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) or quad bikes - either used on farms or for adventure tourism
  • golf carts
  • ride-on mowers
  • vehicles of the type used by councils for gardening or property maintenance, including three- and four-wheeled vehicles that are classified overseas as motorcycles but do not qualify here
  • 'mobile machines' used at airports on runways and airport land
  • small rugged vehicles used on farms that do not meet the standards requirements for class NA goods vehicles and also do not meet the frontal-impact requirements for passenger cars.

What is a road?

Roads are not only streets and highways, but any place the public has access to - including bridges, culverts, beaches, riverbeds, reserve lands, wharfs and road shoulders. This doesn't mean you have a right to use these areas, but if you do - the rules relating to registration, licensing and general driver behaviour apply.

Can you ride off-road vehicles on the road?

Can you drive golf carts on the road to and from the golf course or between two parts of a course? Can you drive ride-on mowers on the berm, or between properties? Can you drive mobile machines such as airport runway sweepers in the car-park where public have access? In short, no. These vehicles are too light and offer insufficient protection should you collide with other vehicles on the road. If you must transport off-road vehicles, put them on a registered trailer.

Requirements for ATVs

You can use ATVs on public roads under certain conditions. You must:

  • register and license the ATV
  • hold a current New Zealand driver licence
  • wear an approved safety helmet when riding them on the road. The only exception is farmers if they're travelling slower than 30km/h, from one part of their farm to another or to an adjoining farm
  • maintain a current warrant of fitness (except if used as a farm vehicle).

Take safety seriously

  • Apart from road crashes, ATVs are a significant cause of work-related fatalities in New Zealand.
  • Take particular care if you're towing a trailer.
  • Children under 12 years of age should not drive an ATV.

Find out more about the requirements for ATVs.

Using your ATV on a farm?

Some requirements for ATVs vary when used on the farm. For example, you can use different safety helmets, as collisions on farms are likely to occur at lower speeds than on the road.

Learn more about the requirements and safe farm use practices from Safe use of ATVs on farms (external link) on the Department of Labour website. Produced by the farming community together with ACC and the Department of Labour, this guideline sets out agreed industry best practice for both work and non-work situations.