New Zealand has a graduated driver licensing system to make sure that drivers on our roads have the skills and knowledge to be a safe driver. Safer driver = safer roads. In New Zealand there are 6 classes of driver licence:

  1. Class 1 - Car
  2. Class 2 - Medium Rigid Vehicle (bus or truck 6,000-18,000kg)
  3. Class 3 - Medium Combination Vehicle (truck & trailer 12,000-25,000kg)
  4. Class 4 - Heavy Rigid Vehicle (bus or truck 18,000+kg)
  5. Class 5 - Heavy Combination Vehicle (truck & trailer 25,000+kg)
  6. Class 6 - Motorcycle

Class 1 Car Licence

To become a fully licensed class 1 driver in New Zealand you need to pass through the 3 stages of the graduated driver licensing system:

  1. Stage 1 - Learner licence
  2. Stage 2 - Restricted licence
  3. Stage 3 - Ful licence


Before you even start to learn to drive on the road you must obtain a learner licence. The learner licence is the theory test. To get a learner licence you'll need to:

  • Be at least 16 years of age
  • Apply for your learner licence and pay the fees (Visit your nearest AA Agent) - in Queenstown this is Unichem Pharmacy located at Remarkables Park.
  • Pass the theory test with a minimum of 32 correct answers of the 35 road code questions

Conditions of the learner licence

  • You must have your learner licence with you when you are driving
  • You must not drive on your own (must be accompanied by a supervisor)
  • You must display L (learner) plates on the vehicles front and rear windows when you are driving
  • There is a zero alcohol limit if you are under 20

You must be accompanied by a supervisor. Check out http://www.nzta.govt.nz/supervisor/ Your supervisor must:

  • Hold a current and valid full class 1 New Zealand drivers licence (which does not have a supervisor condition)
  • Have held their full New Zealand licence for at least 2 years
  • Sit in the passenger seat next to you at all times when you are driving
  • Carry their driver licence with them


A very useful resource for helping to upskill and prepare for your learners & restricted licence is the website DRIVE (www.drive.govt.nz). The website has various modules and video clips and  practice test questions to check your learning. 

Professional Driving Instructor or help from a friend/family member?

You can have driving instruction from a professional approved driving instructor or a friend or family member. It is recommended that you do both, as an instructor will teach you the necessary skills and help you correctly apply the road rules, and a friend or family member can help you to practice and build up your number of driving hours and practice the techniques that your instructor has shown you. The road code recommends that you try to reach 120 hours of driving practice in a range of intersection types and traffic situations before you sit your restricted driving test. For further information check out http://www.nzta.govt.nz/learners-licence/


You can apply for your restricted licence once you have mastered the driving skills nececessary to pass the restricted licence test. You must:

  • Be at least 16 1/2 years of age
  • Have held your learner licence for at least 6 months

Conditions of the Restricted Licence

  • You must always have your restricted licence with you when driving
  • You can drive on your own from 5am-10pm only. If you drive from 10pm-5am you must have a supervisor
  • If you sat the restricted licence test in an automatic vehicle, your restricted licence will say that you can only drive an automatic (unless accompanied by a supervisor). This doesn't apply when you have your full licence. 
  • You cannot normally carry passengers (exception is your spouse, your children, relatives who live with you and on a social security benefit or someone you look after as their primary care giver). For more details see http://www.nzta.govt.nz/driver-licences/
  • Zero alcohol limit if you're under 20


The restricted licence test is 60 minutes and has at least 40 minutes of driving. The restricted licence test is in 2 stages. 

Stage 1 takes about 10 minutes. It has some basic driving elements in lighter traffic as well as either the reverse parallel park or 3 point turn. The testing officer will check that you're able to drive well enough to progress to the 2nd stage. 

Stage 2 takes about 35 minutes. The aim is for the testing officer to determine if you display the appropriate safe driving skills in a range of intersections, driving task, roads and in medium to heavy traffic. The testing officer will ask you to perform a range of maneuvres including turning right across traffic, changing lanes, merging into traffic and negiotating roundabouts etc. Throughout the entire test, the testing officer will be assessing your ability to make safe decision, observe other road users, apply the road rules and handle your car.

NZTA recommend: "Its a good idea to have lessons with a driving instructor to make sure you're doing things correctly before taking the test. Most people who fail the test do so because of critical errors or immediate fail errors. If you're doing any of these errors during your practice sessions it means you're not ready to take the test."

To know whether you are ready to take your restricted licence test we recommend that you have a full driving assessment from a professional and approved driving instructor. This will determine if you have the skills and knowledge to pass the practical driving test and will also help you adjust or lose any bad driving habits. Contact us to book your driving assessment and any necessary driving lessons before taking your restricted driving test. Typically to help them pass their test, young drivers require help from a driving instructor with observation (scanning, mirror use and head checks) and driving manoeurvres such as correct lane use, three point turns or reverse parallel parking. Others will require further instruction on a broader range of skills and maneurvres such as entering flush medians, speed control, following distance (obeying 2 and 4 second rules) gap selection (taking the first available safe gap and rejecting unsafe gaps), signalling for a minimum of three seconds and signalling correctly at roundabouts. For further information check out http://www.nzta.govt.nz/restricted-licence/


You can apply for your full licence once you have mastered the driving skills necessary to pass the full licence test. You must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age, or be 17 1/2 years of age and completed an approved advanced driving skills course (eg: our Street Talk defensive driving course).

Drivers under 25 years of age

You can apply after you have held your restricted licence for:

  • At least 18 months or
  • At least 12 months if you have successfully completed an approved advanced driving skills course (eg: our Street Talk defensive driving course).

Drivers 25 years of age and over

You can apply after you have held your restricted licence for:

  • At least 6 months or
  • At least 3 months if you have successfully completed an approved advanced driving skills course (eg: our Street Talk defensive driving course).

Full Licence Test

The full licence practical test is a 30 minute test with a testing officer. It includes 20 minutes of driving and the driving will include hazard detetion and response. The main difference between the restricted and full driving tests, is that during the full licence test, the testing officer will prompt you to look for and identify hazards you see, and say what you're doing about them.  Test applicants will therefore be expected to be able to apply hazard detection techniques and give appropriate responses at various assessable tasks, while demonstrating good driving skills in more complex situations and maintaining safe driving behaviours across a wide variety of intersection types and traffic situations. 

The point of hazard detection and response is to find out how well you are scanning the environment around you, asses whether you're making good decisions about what you're seeing, and to check you can do these things while maintinaing a high standard of driving. Even experienced drivers can find it challenging to describe hazards out loud while driving. To prepare for the test it's a good idea to have a professional instructor to explain this thoroughly with you and enable you to practice this before taking the test. 

NZTA recommend - "It's a really good idea to have a professional instructor take you for a tidy up lesson before you sit the full licence test. They can help you identify anything you need to work on before you sit the test". 

To know whether you are ready to take your full licence test or for a brush up on your driving skills contact us well before taking your full licence test. For further information check out http://www.nzta.govt.nz/full-licences/

Driving without a licence!

Don't risk driving without a licence or driving outside of your licence conditions!

Insurance companies will typically not cover unlicenced drivers. Typical insurance policy wording... There is usually no cover if your vehicle is being driven by or in the charge of any person who: 

  1. is not legally allowed to drive in New Zealand, or 
  2. is not driving according to the conditions of his or her driver licence.

Once you have obtained your full drivers licence, be sure to inform your insurance company. 

For further driver licensing information contact NZTA 0800 822 422 or visit your nearest AA Driver Licensing service centre.