Wait times for driver licence tests on the rise as more people move towards full licences


NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi (NZTA) is urging people to put in the practice and preparation needed to pass driver licence tests the first time, with wait times for tests increasing around the country.

On 1 October this year, Government changed driver licence fees to an all-in-one fee for each stage of a driver licence, and fees for re-sitting tests were removed.

The change was designed to encourage people to enter and move through the driver licensing system, providing them with cost certainty at each stage of their licence. It was also hoped the change would encourage people who have stayed on learner or restricted licences for long periods of time to progress through the system and obtain full licences, with a view to improving overall safety on the roads.

There’s no doubt the changes have had a significant impact,” says Neil Cook, NZTA Deputy Director of Land Transport.

“Many more people are now starting or continuing with the journey to get their full licence. In the two months of October and November 2022, around 15,000 people obtained a learner licence. In the same two months this year, more than 27,500 people passed the learner licence test.

“Similarly, in the months of October and November last year there were just over 92,000 total bookings made for driving tests. This year there were 145,200 test bookings made in the same two months.

“Both the AA, which provides theory testing, and VTNZ, which provides practical driver testing services on behalf of NZTA, have seen a massive increase in demand for driver licence tests since October 1. A knock-on effect of that has been a significant jump in wait times caused by increased test bookings, and higher numbers of re-sits, especially for learner licences,” Mr Cook says.

In some parts of the country, wait times for practical driver tests are currently more than 90 days, and the national average is around 60 days.

“We’re monitoring wait times closely, and our agents are working hard to mitigate the effects of this additional demand in the system.

“We know it’s frustrating for people to have to wait, but we’re asking everyone to be patient with AA and VTNZ staff, who are doing their very best to manage increased demand by increasing capacity where possible,” says Mr Cook.

The AA is making changes including installing more theory testing booths in some sites, and VTNZ is looking at different ways to deal with the long wait times for practical tests.

NZTA, AA and VTNZ are urging people to make sure they get in as much practice as possible before siting their driver licence test so they’re more likely to pass, and less likely to have to re-join the wait list.

The Drive website and the Drive Go app have plenty of free information to help people prepare for both theory and practical driving tests.

Drive website(external link)

“If you want to pass the test for a learner licence, you need to have read and learned the Road Code,” Mr Cook says. “Before you arrive to sit a practical test, get lots of practice on the road, and consider taking driving lessons as part of your test preparation.”

Mr Cook says compounding the wait time issue is that some people are booking tests which they don’t turn up for, without cancelling the appointment.

“If someone fails to turn up for a test and doesn’t cancel the booking, that means the spot can’t be used by anyone else. We’re asking anyone who can’t make it to their appointment to cancel on-line. If there’s even a few hours’ notice, it gives someone else the opportunity to jump in and take that test slot.”

Mr Cook says people should check back on the booking website regularly, as practical testing slots frequently open up when tests are cancelled or as more appointments are loaded based on VTNZ staffing availability by location.