Road user charges (RUC), paid by owners of vehicles that use diesel, are collected by Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency. In a recent survey it became clear many people don’t understand what RUC is, when it should be paid, or where the money collected goes. Here are the FAQs:

Who has to pay RUC?

Anyone using a diesel vehicle on public roads must pay RUC. These range from light vehicles such as cars, to mobile homes, large commercial trucks and trailers.

Why do vehicles using petrol not also incur RUC?

Petrol vehicles incur fuel excise duty (FED) which is paid at the pump. So why is fuel excise duty not applied to diesel as it is with petrol, which would take away concerns about RUC being paid? A lot of diesel is consumed in machinery, generators and vehicles that never use the road. That would mean collecting the FED and then refunding much of it, which would become a large, administrative burden for all parties involved. And RUC would still need to be applied to heavy vehicles to account for the extra wear and tear they cause on our roads.

Does every diesel vehicle pay the same RUC rate?

No, light diesels under 3.5 tonnes all pay the same. Above that, rates gradually increase according to the weight and size of the vehicle to take into account the added wear heavy vehicles cause on our roads.

Where does the RUC money that’s collected go?

RUC payments help fund New Zealand’s land transport system and go toward new roads, maintenance, road structures such as bridges and culverts, policing, road signage and road markings.

When does RUC get paid?

RUC is a pre-paid system, meaning it must be paid ahead of the odometer reading. For example, if you have a licence from 5,000km to 10,000km and your odometer reading is getting close to 10,000km, you should buy another licence from 10,000km. If you do not, and your odometer goes over 10,000km, you will be noncompliant and may be subject to an infringement notice.

What happens if you neglect to pay RUC, or underpay the amount of RUC you owe?

It is illegal to use a diesel vehicle on roads without having current RUC, or to sell a vehicle that has no RUC or overdue RUC. You are legally required to pay RUC and there are consequences if you neglect to do so, including financial penalties, referral to a debt collection agency with possible credit rating consequences and potential review of a transport service licence.

What happens if I buy a vehicle behind in RUC?

Make sure the vehicle has a current RUC licence. If you do buy a vehicle without a current RUC licence you will become liable for any unlicensed distance.

Where can I pay for my RUC?

Online at or in person at an AA Centre.

Who can I contact with questions relating to paying RUC?

Phone the Waka Kotahi Contact Centre on 0800 655 644 or email [email protected]

Reported by John Freeman for our AA Directions Spring 2021 issue

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