Noise rules

Noisy vehicles are a very real problem, especially modified "boy racer" cars. But there's now greater relief for New Zealand's noisy car headache.

A widely-supported move to lower New Zealand's noise limit from 95 to 90 decibels took effect from June 2008 for all new registrations. The new noise rule combats illegally-modified boy racer cars, but not genuine factory modified performance vehicles.

Most cars imported into New Zealand already meet the stricter 90 decibel limit - including performance vehicles.

The problem under the old noise rule was that a small minority of car owners modified their cars to 95 decibels and beyond to produce a more "high performance" sound, or to try and gain more horsepower. While the difference between, say, 85 and 95 decibels appears to be small, it actually works out to a doubling of loudness.

The noise limit for cars is measured at the exhaust while stationary. Police have the power to refer excessively noisy cars for a formal noise test, and WoF inspectors are able to refer noisy cars.  A different but related noise problem is "sustained loss of traction" - the screeching tyre and engine noise produced by wheel spins. This issue is enforced by Police, who are able to fine car owners and even impound vehicles.

AA speaking up for motorists

Support for lower noise emissions

The AA backs lower noise emissions. Bringing New Zealand's noise limit in line with international standards is a good first step, as the cars we import are built to these standards anyway.

We support the lower 90 decibel limit being applied to newly imported vehicles, but not to the existing vehicle fleet and continue to support the right of car enthusiasts to sensibly modify their cars. There is enough scope for vehicle modification within a noise limit of 90 decibels.

There needs to be greater enforcement of noise emission rules, but for some motorists fines are not enough of a deterrent. Demerit points rather than fines may be a better way of penalising repeat offenders.

What AA Members are saying

57% of AA Members claim to be exposed to noise from racers at night. 30.5% of AA Members consider noise to be a "very serious" problem, and 42% a "significant" problem.

Did you know?

  • The maximum exhaust noise that can be lawfully emitted by a passenger vehicle is 90 decibels if registered after June 2008. A 95 decibel limit applies to cars registered in New Zealand before June 2008.
  • By way of comparison, a jackhammer emits about 100 decibels; a jumbo jet on take-off 140 decibels.
  • Hearing impairment can occur at noise levels above 75 decibels.

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