You can drive in New Zealand on a UK driving licence for up to a year. If you have an old non-photocard licence it may be sensible to update it before travelling as the paper licence may not be accepted. Do check with your car hire company.
New Zealanders drive on the correct, sorry, left hand side of the road.
Car insurance is not compulsory in New Zealand but may be advisable. Third party injuries are paid for by the states Accident Compensation Commission which is funded through levies on vehicle licence fees and fuel. The ACC doesn't provide any cover for third party property damage.
Main highways and motorways have speed limits of 100 km/h for cars unless otherwise marked. Beware restrictive 30km/h temporary limits where roadworks are in progress but where nothing actually appears to be happening. Limits may be left in place for a couple of weeks to allow loose stones to be swept away but are still enforced. Speeding in excess of 40 km/h is considered to be dangerous driving and you will face arrest.
Drink drive limits are similar to the UK at 0.08% though they have a zero limit for under 20's.
Tighter corners will often have advisory speed limits. These limits have normally been set to be a comfortable speed to tackle the corner in good conditions so most will travel 10-20km/h faster. The exception to this is that the 35 km/h limits should be observed as they are always tight.
There is a 20km/h limit when passing a school bus that has stopped to pick up or drop off passenger. This limit applies whether you are overtaking the stationary bus or passing on the other side of the road.
Child seats are compulsory for the under fives. Five to seven year olds can use either a child restraint or seat belt and, from eight years old, they must use a seat belt.
Further information on the rules of the road can be found on the New Zealand Road Code site.
Collision and loss damage waivers are normally included with car hire but excesses can be very high, NZD 3500 (about £1850) being not unusual for a modest compact car.
Tyres, windscreens and the underside of the car won't normally be included in the damage waivers. Taking out a policy through MoneyMaxim's car hire insurance comparison service can save 80-90% over additional waivers charged at the rental desk.
The amount of third party insurance provided can vary considerably, though with personal injury claims handled by the ACC (see above) a lower limit than normal for Europe is justifiable. If you don't feel the level is sufficient, taking up the Supplementary Liability Insurance option on an annual car hire excess insurance policy tends to add around £50 to the cost and will top up any locally supplied insurance to US $1m. If you do this, make sure you select a policy valid outside the USA and Canada as many only cover those territories.
Most car hire in New Zealand comes with unlimited mileage contracts and fair fuel policies where the car is provided with a full tank of fuel and should be returned in the same state.
Automatics are easy to find, often without a premium over manual transmissions.
If you need to hire a child seat, sat nav or snow chains check the rates when comparing suppliers as they can vary considerably.
Although uncommon, we have seen additional location fees of NZD 5 to NZD 12 as extra charges to be collected at the desk.
This content was last reviewed on 26/09/2023