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Guide to Driving in New Zealand

Driving tips

Planning a road trip in New Zealand? Here are some of the country’s road rules, which will be handy for you to know if you’re looking to book a rental car with VroomVroomVroom.

While driving through New Zealand can make for a great adventure, some key things for you to remember are that New Zealanders drive on the left-hand side of the road, speed limits and distances are denoted in kilometres (rather than miles), and driving under the influence of alcohol is generally not permitted.

North Island vs South Island

From the geothermal hotspots in the north to the glaciers in the south, there is always something to see in New Zealand. In many ways, the north and south islands are quite similar with their sprawling coastlines and mountainous terrain, but there are some things you should keep in mind depending on the island you’re driving on.

North Island: Overall, the North Island is smaller, flatter, and home to more urban areas than the South Island, so you may want to rent a more compact vehicle to navigate the city streets and park with.

South Island: With a more rugged and agricultural landscape than the North Island, you may want to consider renting a four-wheel drive or a more powerful car for your road trip around New Zealand’s South Island, especially if you’re thinking about visiting the snowy regions.

Speed Limits

In New Zealand, speed limits can range from anywhere between 10km/h and 110km/h. Most urban and built-up areas have a default speed limit of 50km/h, with motorways ranging from 90km/h to 110km/h. In almost every area, the speed limit will be clearly signposted.

Seat Belts

It’s compulsory to wear a seat belt whilst travelling in any vehicle that has them, including buses that are fitted with seat belt restraints.You may not share your seat belt with another passenger as this is both unsafe and illegal.

Children aged seven and up can wear adult seat belts or use booster seats. For kids under seven, there are specific ways to best secure them. Check out our guide on child seats.

Toll Roads

There are three toll roads in New Zealand, all of which are located on the North Island. These include the Northern Gateway in Auckland, the Tauranga Eastern Link, and Takitimu Drive. If you use these roads, you'll need to pay a fee. You can pay online at NZ Transport Agency website or over the phone at 0800 40 20 20.

Learn more about toll roads.

Traffic Fines

If you receive a traffic fine whilst in possession of the rental car, you will be liable for any costs involved. If the fine is sent to your rental provider (as opposed to being issued to you at the time of the offence), they will take one of the following actions:

  • Charge your credit card for the amount detailed on the fine, including any applicable taxes and surcharges.
  • Supply your information to law enforcement agencies, who will then issue a fine to your postal address.

To learn about driving offences and penalties in New Zealand, visit the NZ Transport Agency website.


Before You Drive

Make sure you know and comply with the road rules at all times. Stay alert and be informed about the road risks. We also strongly recommend that you do some research to educate yourself before embarking on a long road trip in your rental car. And most importantly, if you're confused or unsure about anything, don't be shy to ask questions at the car rental counter.