Vehicle licensing reform proposals

The government is currently consulting on the vehicle licensing reform which proposes changes to:

  • The Warrant of Fitness (WoF) system for cars, utes/vans and motorcycles
  • The Certificate of Fitness (CoF) safety check
  • The Annual Vehicle Licence (also known as ‘rego’); and
  • The Transport Services Licensing (TSL) system (register of commercial transport operators)

The government is looking for any changes that reduce costs to consumers, industry and the state, but without compromising safety.

The AA will be making a submission to the Government on these important proposals. We have evaluated the data around the options being considered as well as conducting a survey to gauge our Members' views. 

Why review WoF/CoF and rego?

The review, led by the Ministry of Transport and NZ Transport Agency, has identified that:

  • potentially hundreds of millions of dollars may be being wasted every year on unnecessary WoFs which don’t contribute to safety.
  • the 'rego' system could be streamlined to lower administration costs and improve compliance to reduce the high number of infringement notices issued each year.

The Government estimates that the 5.5 million WoFs per annum (excluding rechecks) cost the NZ economy $245m in fees, and another $100m in time spent getting a WoF.

The estimated savings to motorists of the various proposed changes range from $45m to $275m a year, with potential increase in crash costs at between $3m-$90m depending on option, but each proposal includes initiatives to offset any additional safety risks.

In terms of 'rego', 235,000 infringements are issued each year. Most of these are failure to pay, or failure to display a label.

Some of the key facts and figures from the discussion document and other sources are provided below.

Crash data, international comparisons and AA survey results on the WoF

How many crashes have vehicle faults as part of the cause?

Analysis of NZ road crashes indicates that vehicle faults contribute to about 2.5% of all fatal and injury crashes (or 0.4% where it’s the sole cause). In the UK, the equivalent crash rate is about 2%.

Of all NZ vehicle-fault crashes, approximately 15% of vehicles did not have a current WoF. A 2001 study by the Motor Trade Association estimated that about 9% of light vehicles (about 280,000) on the road don’t have a current WoF.

The graph below illustrates the main crash causes:

 A graph showing how many injury crashes involve different factors.

Source: NZTA Crash Analysis System

What types of faults are involved in crashes?

To get a clearer picture of the type of vehicle faults that have been factors in crashes, the AA analysed all fatal road crash data from 2007-2011.

Of the 1640 crashes, 89 (5.4%) involved vehicles with a defect recorded as a contributing factor. Of the vehicles in those 89 crashes:

  • 39% had no WoF
  • 52% had a tyre fault
  • 17% had lighting faults
  • 11% had brake faults
  • 9% had a body or structural fault
  • 13% of drivers were disqualified, forbidden to drive, or unlicensed

How does our WoF regime compare to other countries?

NZ is the only country in the world that requires most vehicles (85% of the light fleet) to undergo an inspection every 6 months.

Other countries with less frequent inspections (or none), have similar or better road safety records than New Zealand.

The table below compares our test frequency with other countries.

Country Age at 1st test
(in years)
(in years)
(other states)

5, 3


All states except NSW and NT test only on transfer of ownership or when directed by police.
France 4 2 vehicles aged 30+ only need a test every 5 years
Germany 3 2  
Ireland 4 2  
Japan 3 2  
New Zealand 1 1, 1/2 annual up to year 6, 6-monthly thereafter
Singapore 3 2 annual after 10 years
The Netherlands 3 1 up to 30 years then every 2 years for vehicles aged 30-50, no test after 50+ years
United Kingdom 3 1 pre-1960 vehicles exempt

The average private car travels 12,000km a year in NZ, meaning it is tested approximately every 6,000km. By comparison, in the UK cars are tested approximately every 19,000km, and every 32,000km in Germany.

The chart below illustrates the number of safety inspections over the first 8 years of a vehicle’s life in different countries.

A graph comparing the number of inspections a vehicle has in its first 8 years.

Source: MoT/NZTA

How does NZ's road safety record compare to countries with less frequent WoF tests?

Compared to other countries in the OECD, NZ does have an older fleet, the average age being 13 years. This compares to 11 years in the USA, 10 in Australia, 9 in Germany, 8.6 years in Canada and 7.1 years in the UK.

The table below shows test frequencies in a range of countries and their road death rates:

  Inspection frequency Death rate per 10,000 vehicles Death rate per 100 million vehicle km travelled
NZ annual up to year 6, 6-monthly thereafter 1.17 0.94
UK annual from year 3 0.54 0.37
Netherlands annual from year 3 0.57 0.43
Denmark bi-annual from year 4, annual from year 12 0.88 0.56
Germany bi-annual from year 3 0.73 0.52
Japan bi-annual from year 3 0.69  
Australia - NSW annual from year 5 0.87 0.62

Source: BITRE International road safety comparisons 2010.

What do AA Members think?

In September, the AA surveyed a random sample of its Members on possible changes to the WoF and rego systems. The independently-audited survey had 1395 responses and had a margin of error of +/- 2.6%.

The following charts show results from the survey:

We also asked AA Members what they thought about other potential changes to the WoF system:

WoF option Percent support
Introduce tougher penalties for repeat offences, like car impoundment or crushing 67%
Use electronic number plate recognition for police to identify unwarranted vehicles 64%
Introduce demerit points for the vehicle owner for no WoF OR unsafe vehicle driven on road 59%
More education and advertising of owner/driver responsibilities 58%
Introduce demerit points for the driver for no WoF OR driving unsafe vehicle 57%
Increase the fines for no WoF OR driving unsafe vehicle (currently $200) 49%
Use technology like tyre-tread depth measuring laser scanners at service stations 49%
More roadside enforcement by police 36%
More enforcement in car parks (e.g. supermarkets, parking buildings etc.) 21%
More enforcement by traffic wardens 19%

Proposed changes to the annual vehicle licence ('rego') and AA survey results

The main purpose of the Annual Vehicle Licence is to collect the ACC levy, which makes up the bulk of the annual licence fee (approx. 70% for a petrol car), although a small portion goes to the National Land Transport Fund to pay for road maintenance, new roads and enforcement (most of the NLTF is funded from petrol tax or diesel Road User Charges). Petrol vehicles also pay an additional 9.9 cents per litre ACC levy in the price of fuel, whereas diesel vehicles pay their entire ACC levy in the rego fee (which is why diesel rego fees are higher). The AVL also keeps the Motor Vehicle Register up to date, which is used for law enforcement, tolling, vehicle recalls etc.

The Vehicle Licensing Reform proposes to make some minor changes to the rego system, including introducing a direct debit payment option and early payment discounts or late payment penalties. The review will also look at changing or removing the rego label, but it is not looking at other ways of paying the rego or ACC levy, such as collecting it all via fuel tax or diesel RUC.

What do AA Members think?

The following table shows AA Member support for changes to ways of paying vehicle 'rego':

Rego option Percent support
Introduce early payment discounts 69%
Provide more payment options e.g. monthly payments, direct debits 51%
Pay for your "rego" at the same time and place as the WoF 45%
Use more ways to remind owners to pay "rego" on their vehicle e.g. email, txt 43%
Combine the licence label with the WoF label 38%
Scale infringement penalties according to length of time unpaid 38%
Pay for your "rego" through other transactions e.g. banking, electricity bills, WINZ deduction 31%
Introduce late payment penalty fees 36%
Replace windscreen label with an electronic barcode or QR code for police or traffic wardens to check 26%
Pay your "rego" when you insure the vehicle 19%
Have no label and instead police or traffic wardens use the number plate to check vehicle licence status 14%
Scrap "rego" and pay an extra 24c per litre on petrol or $26 per 1000km RUC instead 9%
Scrap "rego" and require an annual driver licence fee instead 9%
Pay the total "rego" fees ONLY at change of ownership 6%

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