About driver responsibility

Registered person's responsibilities

If a motor vehicle is registered in your name, you are responsible for making sure that the following requirements are met.

Certificate of fitness

All vehicles driven on New Zealand roads must have a current warrant of fitness (WoF) or certificate of fitness (CoF). See About your vehicle for more information about WoFs and CoFs.


All vehicles driven on New Zealand roads must be registered. When you register a vehicle, it is added to the Motor Vehicle Register. Once a vehicle is registered, it is issued with registration plates and a current vehicle licence. A certificate of registration is also sent to the person registered as the owner.

Before a vehicle can be registered, it must have been given a vehicle identification number (VIN) and been approved for registration by an approved vehicle inspector. Vehicle inspectors can be found at participating offices of the Automobile Association (AA), Vehicle Testing New Zealand (VTNZ), and Vehicle Inspection New Zealand (VINZ).


Relicensing is sometimes confused with registration. Relicensing is the payment of a fee to use a vehicle on the road. All vehicles used on the road must be relicensed regularly and must display a current licence label on the windscreen.

To get a vehicle licence, you must:

  • make sure your vehicle has a current WoF or CoF
  • complete the I need to relicense my vehicle transaction at www.nzta.govt.nz/online
    submit your Renewal of motor vehicle licence notice (MR1) that you receive in the post or an Application to license motor vehicle (MR1B) at any agent of the Transport Agency
  • pay the appropriate fee.

A vehicle licence is valid for up to 12 months. Most vehicles must be licensed continuously. This means that the licence fees must be paid from the expiry date of the previous licence (that is, if you renew your licence after the expiry date of the previous licence, the licence fees will be backdated and you must pay these).

You can apply for an exemption from continuous licensing if you won't be using your vehicle for a period of three months or more. An exemption means that when your licence expires, the licence fees won't be backdated next time you relicence your vehicle. An exemption does not mean that you can use your vehicle on the road without a current licence. Click here for more information.

If you don't:

  • relicense your vehicle, or
  • apply for an exemption from continuous licensing

and the vehicle remains unlicensed for more than 12 months, its registration will lapse.

You will still have to pay any backdated licence fees and, if the vehicle is to be used on a road again, it must be re-registered with new plates and registration papers. Your vehicle may also need to be certified by an approved vehicle inspector.

Road user charges

You must pay road user charges (RUC) and obtain a RUC licence for your vehicle if:

  • it's powered by diesel, or any other fuel that doesn't include government tax in its purchase price (regardless of the vehicle's weight), or
  • it has a manufacturer's gross laden weight of more than 3.5 tonnes (3500kg).

Note: this includes heavy trailers.

This is because diesel, unlike petrol, CNG and LPG, doesn’t include fuel excise duty. This tax contributes towards the upkeep of New Zealand's roads.

RUC licences can be purchased here or from an agent. You’ll receive a RUC licence label, which must be displayed on the inside of the windscreen.

When buying or selling a vehicle that requires a RUC licence, the licence should be sold with the vehicle. The new owner will become responsible for paying any outstanding charges if the vehicle is sold without a current RUC licence.

Buying a motor vehicle

Before you purchase a vehicle, it’s a good idea to see whether it is registered and licensed, or has been reported stolen. Check the label to make sure it is currently licensed, and you can check here to see if it has been reported as stolen. Click here for more information.

You should do this before you buy the vehicle, because once you have bought it:

  • you will be liable for any outstanding fees owing on the vehicle
  • you may lose the vehicle if it has been stolen.

Once you’ve bought a motor vehicle, you need to notify the Transport Agency immediately. The seller may want to confirm that you’ve done this before they hand over the vehicle. You need to do the following:

  • Complete the I’ve bought a vehicle transaction here. You will need your driver licence number and your credit or debit card or your bank account details to pay the appropriate fee.
  • Complete a Notice of acquisition of motor vehicle form (MR13B) at an agent and pay the appropriate fee. You will need to show the agent your driver licence as identification. If you don’t have your driver licence, you’ll need to show other identification that includes your full name, signature and date of birth.

Ask the agent to give you a transfer receipt, or print out the email confirmation page if you do the transaction online. Take this to the seller when you pick up the vehicle – it shows you have changed the vehicle’s registration into your name.

A new Certificate of registration will be sent to you after you have completed the transaction. The Certificate of registration isn’t legal title for the vehicle – it is simply a record of who is responsible for the vehicle.

Selling a motor vehicle

If you are selling a motor vehicle:

  • Complete the I’ve sold a vehicle transaction at www.nzta.govt.nz/online. You will need your driver licence.
  • Complete a Sold/disposed of your vehicle? form (MR13A), available from an agent, and post it to the address on the form.

Make sure you and the new registered person complete these forms immediately. If you don’t, you could be liable for the buyer’s speed camera tickets, licensing fees and any fines they may receive for not displaying a current WoF or CoF, or a current licence. Ask them to show you one of the following documents as evidence they’ve changed the vehicle into their name:

  • a change of registered person transfer receipt
  • an email confirmation page (if they have completed their transaction online).

If you sell your vehicle through a registered motor vehicle trader, they should notify the changes on your behalf, but it is wise to check that they have done this.

Go to www.nzta.govt.nz/vehicle or call 0800 108 809 if you have any questions about:

  • the responsibilities that come with having a vehicle registered in your name
  • where to obtain any of the forms
  • where to find an agent of the Transport Agency.

Choosing the right heavy vehicle


The Transport Agency has produced the Heavy vehicle selection guide to help you, as a heavy vehicle purchaser, choose the right vehicle to improve your business's efficiency, safety and, ultimately, profitability.

The purchase or lease of a new vehicle can add real value to your operation. For example, you'll probably want to boost the vehicle's payload capacity and/or reduce maintenance costs. Choosing a more fuel-efficient vehicle may also be a priority. The right vehicle can help enhance your business image with your customers and you may also want to consider driver preferences. And, of course, there are the basics - improved safety and increased reliability.

Initial purchase price vs lifecycle cost

When selecting a new or replacement vehicle, it is advisable to consider the lifecycle cost of the vehicle, not just the initial purchase price. What's really important is to minimise all of the direct and indirect expenses throughout the life of the vehicle. Choosing the cheapest vehicle on the market today may prove to be false economy tomorrow.

Suggested process for selection

There are five broad areas that should be considered when purchasing or leasing a vehicle. These are:

  • operating environment and vehicle layout
  • vehicle performance (including fuel efficiency)
  • health and safety
  • maintenance
  • appearance.

Driving your heavy vehicle sustainably

We all want our travel to have low impact on the environment, lower fuel bills and clean air. The good news is that the vehicles we choose to drive, and how we maintain and drive them, can make a big difference.

Why fuel economy is important

Most vehicles run on petrol and diesel and there isn't an endless supply of 'fossil' fuels. This is a problem in view of the high energy use of the transport sector. Transport accounts for 44 percent of national energy consumption, with passenger transport making up 57 percent of that.

This problem is being tackled in a number of ways. Alternative fuels are being researched. Biofuels are becoming available at the fuel pump. New technology is also being developed to make engines more efficient.

A more fuel-efficient vehicle also makes personal sense - the less fuel you use, the more money in your pocket.

Attention to the vehicle's condition and maintenance will improve its efficiency and fuel economy. Check the tyre inflation regularly, as per the manufacturer's recommendations, and ensure the vehicle is well maintained and tuned.

Adjusting your driving habits can also increase your vehicle's fuel efficiency:

  • Avoid stop-start driving, high speeds and heavy acceleration. Plan your journey to avoid periods of peak congestion and try to drive smoothly.
  • Drag forces always act on your vehicle and account for a large amount of your fuel consumption. Reducing your top speed by just a small amount will considerably reduce the drag.
  • Try to organise your journeys to maximise the utilisation of the vehicle and the efficiency of the operation - try to avoid half-loaded or empty runs.

Why CO2 is important

Fuel combustion in the engine emits the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 is widely believed to be the main greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. The amount of gas emitted is directly related to the amount of fuel used. The more fuel-efficient your vehicle is, the less CO2 it will produce. This is an additional benefit from having a fuel-efficient vehicle.


Your vehicle emits pollutants that contribute to smog and create health problems for people. Most heavy vehicles are diesel vehicles which emit carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC) nitrous oxides (NOx), and particulate matter (PM10). Particulate matter from diesel engines is particularly harmful to people.

New Zealand law requires that vehicles entering the country must have been manufactured to meet a specified emission standard, for example, Euro 4. This will ensure that it has the technology fitted to control the amount of pollution it emits.

In addition, the vehicle must be maintained and serviced so that it runs cleanly and efficiently. Have the vehicle serviced regularly (not just for the CoF) and make sure in particular that all the fluids are checked (brake fluid if any, oil, water, engine coolant). Some older vehicles can have particulate filters fitted to reduce their emissions - you might consider this option.

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Last updated: 22 July 2014