When a vehicle is registered, number plates are assigned. These plates are alphanumeric (containing both letters and numbers), with up to six characters. A plate stays with a vehicle for the length of its life, unless it’s replaced after being lost, stolen or damaged, or with personalised plates.
Ordinary plates are made out of aluminium with black embossed characters (numbers and letters) against a white retro-reflective background.
Personalised plates are also made of aluminium but the characters can be black, red or blue on a white retro-reflective background.
All plates are made containing a silver fern security feature in the sheeting. The silver fern is created during the manufacture of the reflective sheeting. This unique image is for New Zealand (other countries have their own image). The image can be seen if you turn the plate to a 15–30 degree angle. This feature is to assist the identification of an authentic plate from a fake.
Only plates issued by the Transport Agency and its agents are legal. Plates purchased anywhere else are unacceptable.
Ordinary number plates are the plates you’re most likely to see on New Zealand roads. They are issued in sequence using a set of unique alphanumeric characters.
People cannot choose which set of characters are issued to their vehicle unless they buy a personalised plate. Ordinary plates are issued to all types of vehicles. The majority of vehicles are issued a pair, but there are a few exceptions.
Plates for motorcycles come in two options, square or rectangular. Only one plate is issued. This also applies to mopeds, ATVs and tractors.
Plates used on trailers are the same size as the plates used on cars but only one is issued. These are also issued to caravans.
These plates can have up to six characters. They can be made up of letters, numbers or a combination of both, and include captions, messages or slogans. Unlike ordinary plates, when you purchase a personalised plate you’re purchasing the exclusive right to that set of characters. Personalised plates can be transferred from vehicle to vehicle and even person to person.
Personalised plates are sold through Personalised Plates Limited. Costs for personalised plates can vary dependant on the style you choose.
If you sell your personalised plates you’ll need to complete a Transfer of entitlement form (external link) .
If you want to transfer your personalised plates to another vehicle you'll need to complete an application for replacement plate (MR6A) transaction at one of our agents.
Used mainly by vehicle manufacturers, assemblers and dealers.
Trade plates are made out of aluminium with black embossed characters (numbers and letters) against a yellow background, showing the last two digits of the year the plate was purchased. Only one plate is issued.
Vehicles owned by embassies, consulates and high commissions, and crown vehicles used by the New Zealand government, come under this category and can be distinguished by the symbol of a crown or the characters CR or DC, for example.
These are not currently legal in New Zealand. The Transport Agency is investigating the possibility of making these available in the future.
If your plates are damaged, unreadable, stolen or lost, you’ll need to apply for new plates. Complete an application for replacement plate (MR6A) transaction at an agent.
If your registration plate has been damaged, destroyed or lost, you can apply for duplicate plates. You can only duplicate plates that are currently issued to the vehicle. Older style plates, ie the black plates with silver characters, can only be duplicated with a white retro-reflective background and black characters.
Duplicate ordinary plates will usually only be issued for plates that can be returned, ie damaged. Duplicate ordinary plates may be issued for plates that have been lost, stolen or destroyed if evidence of their destruction is provided, for example if the theft has been reported to the police.
To obtain duplicate plates you’ll need to be the registered person of the vehicle and have a New Zealand driver licence or other suitable ID. Payment can be made via credit card and cheque. Please allow 7–10 days delivery time.
Personalised duplicate plates vary in costs depending on the style. To order duplicate personalised plates contact LicenSys on 0800 REMAKE (736 253), fax 09 276 9829 or visit their website www.licensys.com (external link) .
You must ensure that the numbers and letters on your vehicle’s plate are clearly visible.
If you have a bike rack fitted or some other attachment that temporarily obscures the front or the rear plate you can either:
obtain a supplementary plate and attach it to the object, or
attach the front or rear plate from your car to the object when it is in use. You must then return it to your vehicle when you aren’t using the bike rack or other attachment.
Supplementary plates are a temporary solution if you use an object that obscures the vehicle’s plates. If the object is permanently attached, you should remove the plates and securely attach them to the object in an upright position and ensure they are clearly visible.
A supplementary plate does not replace the need for the original plate; they can only be used in times where the ordinary or personalised plate is obscured.
To obtain supplementary plates you'll need to be the registered person of the vehicle and have a New Zealand driver licence or other suitable ID. Payment can be made via credit card or cheque. Please allow 7–10 days delivery time.
To order supplementary plates contact LicenSys on 0800 REMAKE (736 253), fax 09 276 9829 or visit their website www.licensys.com (external link) .
In certain circumstances we will allow the re-issue of a vehicle’s older style black and silver plates. The following conditions apply.
This rule only applies to those who are reregistering their vehicle. For example, if a vehicle is currently registered with plates but previously had black and silver plates, these cannot be re-issued. Any person who is reregistering their vehicle and wishes to have their black and silver plates re-issued can write to:
NZ Transport Agency
Private Bag 11777
Palmerston North 4442
If approved, we will send you a letter to give to the agent processing your reregistration. This letter confirms that the plates may stay on the vehicle and that new plates are not required.
All plates must be fixed securely to the vehicle in an upright position. They must be displayed so that all the characters (numbers and letters) are clearly visible at all times.
A motorcycle, moped, tractor, trailer or trade plate must be fixed on the rear of the vehicle.
All other vehicles require two plates, one at the front and one at the rear.
Only plates issued by the Transport Agency are legal, which means you can’t make your own plate or purchase one online. Displaying a non-approved plate or something that could be mistaken for a plate could mean a maximum fine of $5000.
If your vehicle requires plates, then they must be displayed. If your vehicle requires a front and rear plate then they must bear the same set of characters.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution New Zealand License