Driving tests

How much does it really cost to get a car driver’s licence? (+calculator)

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Getting your driving licence can help you make money (many jobs require that you have a driver’s licence), give you freedom, spend time with friends, pursue hobbies and see places you might not otherwise easily be able to see. But this comes at a cost. Scroll to the bottom if you want to use the calculator.

Learner licence

The first step is to get your learner licence and for that you have to pass the theory test, which you can practice for free here on this website. You will need to get at least 32 of 35 questions correct to get your learner licence and you can then display black-on-yellow L plates on your car.

The cost is $48.20 for the application and $45.70 for the test fee, giving a total of $93.90.

L plates are usually around $10 and you can get them from supermarkets and automotive suppliers.

If you need to cancel the test for any reason before you take it, you might be eligible for a full or partial refund depending on the circumstances (click here for the refund application form). If you fail the test or don’t show up for it you will have to pay again.

If you want to change or cancel your test, you will have to pay a further fee.

  • If you give two or more complete working days (excluding weekends and public holidays) between the day you change or cancel your test and the date of your appointment, the rescheduling fee is $16.40. This covers the time taken and costs incurred when a test is cancelled or rescheduled.
  • If you give less than two complete working days (excluding weekends and public holidays) between the day you change or cancel your test and the date of your appointment, you’ll have to pay a further test fee, and it’s not refundable.

If your previous appointment is filled by another person then you might be eligible for a refund, minus the $16.40 fee.

Driving lessons

While you can be both instructed and supervised by a parent or friend who has held a driving licence of the same class that you’re learning for 2 years or more, you’ll be a much better driver if you get some driving lessons.

Driving examiners are experts at spotting when you have been taught bad habits by someone other than a driving instructor. Getting lessons from a driving instructor, especially right at the beginning, will help cancel out those bad driving habits you’ve been observing your parents do through your childhood – things like tailgating, not indicating, speeding, poor lane choice, bad position on the road, etc.

Also, a driving instructor’s car will be fully insured and will most likely have dual controls which means they can help take over if you are struggling. A licenced driving instructor is the only type of person that can charge you for driving lessons.

There’s no set number of lessons that you should have, but if you estimate between 20 and 40 hours then this should cover most people. If you’ve had a lot of experience driving vehicles before, e.g. on a farm, then it might take less; if you’ve rarely been in a vehicle or you’re more apprehensive about driving, it could take more.

Expect to spend between $50 and $75 per hour depending on the car, location and reputation of the instructor. Many driving instructors offer package deals of lessons that reduce the hourly rate. Make sure you get recommendations from other people and read our guide to choosing a driving instructor first.

Expect your total cost to be in the region of $1000-3000

Defensive driving course (optional)

You can take a Street Talk defensive driving course to reduce your restricted licence period by 6 months if you are under 25 and by 3 months if you are over 25. It’s an intensive 8-hour course usually split over four 2-hour evening sessions plus a one-on-one practical session that teaches you how to recognise hazards on the road.

The usual cost will be around $170.

Restricted licence

Once you have held your learner licence for at least 6 months you can take a test to get your restricted licence.

The application fee is $48.20 and the test fee is $86.60 giving a total of $134.80.

When you are on your restricted licence you can now drive on your own between 5am and 10pm, but must have a supervisor between 10pm and 5am. You can also carry passengers if they are your long-term partner or spouse, parent, child or someone for whom you are the primary caregiver.

Your own practice

While you could gain enough skills for your practical test just by taking lessons, it’s even better if you can have more practice. This will give you a wider variety of driving experiences. Try to practice in many different conditions – rain, sun, night, day, busy traffic, light traffic, city, rural, and so on.

When on your learner licence you’ll need a supervisor who is a patient and understanding passenger, or if you have your restricted licence you can practice on your own between 5am and 10pm. You’ll either need your own vehicle, or a borrowed vehicle and money for petrol. Make sure that you are insured to drive the vehicle.

To calculate your approximate petrol usage, let’s assume that your vehicle will use 10 litres per 100km and you might cover 50km in a one-hour practice, driving a mix of urban and rural streets and practicing some manoeuvres such as parking and reversing.

With fuel at approximately $2.10 for 91 (at the date of writing this), you will use 5 litres and therefore $10.50 of fuel. There will also be some minimal wear and tear on your car, and there will be costs to insure and own the car, but the variables are too many to make an accurate assessment.

Aim to get as many hours as possible practicing. If you can do a hundred hours, you will improve your chances of passing enormously.

Petrol for one hundred practice hours will be approximately $1050 based on the equation above.

We haven’t taken into consideration the ‘opportunity cost’ of learning to drive. This will be around 150 hours that you will need to dedicate to driving when you could be doing something else like working to earn money – i.e. you might need to take some time off work to take your test.

Before you take your test have a look at these 10 common mistakes people make in their driving test.

Full licence

This is the final part of getting a car licence. The cost is $49.60 for the application and $59.90 for the test, giving a total of $109.50.

Once you have passed your full licence you can drive by yourself.

Recapping the costs

Take a deep breath because when you look at the total costs it looks quite expensive. But bear in mind that having your licence will give you the freedom you don’t have without one. It will give you access to job opportunities you wouldn’t have without it, and it’s just a part of the cost of being a responsible road user.

We haven’t included any of the costs of owning or running a car such as insurance registration, maintenance, WoF, etc, except for fuel you’ll use to practice with.

Compulsory costs

These are the costs you can’t avoid.

Learner licence: $93.90

Restricted licence: $134.80

Full licence: $109.50

Total: $338.20

Recommended costs

These are what we would recommend so that you reduce your chances of having an accident, and shorten the time you need to be on your restricted licence.

Driving lessons: $1000-3000

Defensive driving course: $170

Petrol for extra practice (100 hours, or 5000km): $1050

Total: $2220-4220

driver training courses

Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

Tagged with: | Posted in Advice, Driver licence
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