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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.

Personalised plates

What does a number plate look like?

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 white or silver on a black background or black, red or blue on a white background.

Security feature

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 Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and its agents are legal. Plates purchased anywhere else are unacceptable.

Types of number plates

Ordinary plates

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.

Motorcycles

Plates for motorcycles come in two options, square or rectangular. Only one plate is issued. This also applies to mopeds, ATVs and tractors.

Trailers

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.

Personalised plates

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 KiwiPlates. 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.

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. Personalised plates must be sighted by the agent so make sure you have them ready to present.

Find an agent in your area.

For more information about personalised plates, visit kiwiplates.nz(external link)

Trade plates

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.

More information for motor vehicle traders

Number plates for official motor vehicles

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.

Adhesive plates

Waka Kotahi is no longer actively pursuing an adhesive plate product. We were unable to find a suitable product that the manufacturer would guarantee and that could be provided at a reasonable price.

Lost, stolen or damaged number plates?

Replacement plates

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.

List of our agents

Duplicate plates

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. Please allow 7–10 days delivery time.

Personalised duplicate plates vary in costs depending on the style.

To order duplicate personalised plates contact LicenSys:

Are your plates obscured by a bike rack or other object?

Supplementary plates

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. Please allow 7–10 days delivery time.

To order supplementary plates contact LicenSys:

Re-issuing number plates

If your vehicle's registration is cancelled and you want to re-register the vehicle using a previous number plates, there's a few criteria you'll need to meet first:

  • The number plates must have been previously assigned to the vehicle. They can’t be copies, or transferred from a different vehicle.
  • The number plates must be in good condition. They can’t be bent or scratched, making them unreadable. They can’t be painted.
  • The number plates cannot have been made into personalised plates.

You'll need to provide photos to show the condition of the plates. You may also need to provide official documentation from the period the vehicle was originally registered confirming the plate, make and model (eg certificate of registration, inspection check sheets that clearly show both the plate and vehicle details, insurance documents, copies of notices/forms from us such as licence (rego) reminders or RUC invoices).

If you are re-registering your vehicle and meet the above criteria please email  ReuseOfPlates@nzta.govt.nz

Display of number plates

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.

Supplementary plates must only be attached to the vehicle that bears the same set of characters.

Number plate offences

Only plates issued by Waka Kotahi are legal, which means you can’t make your own plate. 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.