Motorcycle licensing

Getting your licence in New Zealand is a three-step process. The current scheme is this:

Stage 1: Learner licence

You have to get your learner licence before turning a wheel on the road, and the minimum age is 16. Before you apply for your learner licence you have to pass a Basic Handling Skills (BHS) test. There’s a list of places where you can book to train and take your BHS test on the NZTA website.

The Basic Handling Skills test covers four areas:
  • basic turn and stop
  • figure of eight and park
  • linking figures of eight
  • increased speed and emergency stop


Pass your BHS and you apply for a learner licence by taking a theory test.

With your BHS and theory test passed you’ll get a learner licence, entitling you ride a machine that fits the Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme (LAMS). There are various restrictions on what you can do as a learner licence holder. You have to display ‘L’ Plates, you cannot take a pillion, you can only ride between 5 am and 10 pm and you can’t tow another vehicle. For more information visit NZTA.

Stage 2: Restricted licence

Okay, so you’re 16½ (or more) and have held your learner licence for at least 6 months. You can now take a practical test to get a restricted licence, which will let you ditch the ‘L’ Plates (but the rest of the restrictions still apply).

This stage recognises the skills you have gained and provides a stepping stone to your full licence.

Stage 3: Full licence

You need to be at least 18 and have held your restricted licence for 18 months or more before you can apply for your full licence. You might be able to get it sooner, with an exemption, by taking an approved advanced course.

Getting your full licence involves another practical test, some of which will take place in higher speed zones than the restricted test.

Get the full picture at the NZTA website.

NZTA changes to the licensing process

From 1 March 2014 there'll be competency-based training and assessment (CBTA) which means you'll have another option when choosing how to get your motorcycle licence.  You'll be able to reduce the amount of time it takes you to get your restricted or full licence, while ensuring you have the skills and knowledge you need to ride on New Zealand roads. 

So from 1 March you'll be able to choose between the existing driver licence testing and the new competency-based training and assessment courses, or a combination of the two, to gain your restricted and/or full motorcycle licence.

Renewing or replacing your licence

The new photo licences generally expire after 10 years. (Different criteria apply if you are older). You should be sent a renewal pack close to the date. But if your licence has been lost or damaged, or you’re moving abroad, you may need to renew it beforehand.

Number 4b on the front of your licence shows the expiry date. Number 7 will show ‘category 6’ for a motorcycle.

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