Tips for Safe Driving in New Zealand

At Orange Car Rentals we support and promote safe driving on New Zealand roads.

From our experience of hiring cars in New Zealand, there are some key safety points that we are keen to share with our rental car customers.

New Zealand is blessed with some of the most spectacular views, exciting activities to enjoy, and interesting places to explore and experience. The best way to truly appreciate and explore New Zealand is by Rental Car. While the journey around the country can be as interesting and exciting as the various destinations along the way, the unique terrain, road conditions, and road rules makes driving more challenging than some other countries.

To stay safe on New Zealand roads we strongly recommend that you consider the following safety tips and click on our information and video links.

Keep left

Always drive on the left side of the road and take extra care when turning and pulling out onto a road. For drivers used to driving on the right hand side of the road it is very easy to forget which way to look. Slow down and take the time to look both ways and make sure that the way is clear before proceeding.

Drive to speed limits and road conditions

Before driving in New Zealand familiarise yourself with our speed limits. Generally the speed limit on motorways and rural roads is 100 km per hour, however there are exceptions which will be indicated by road signs. Most towns and cities have a speed limit of 50 km per hour in built up areas, unless indicated otherwise. It is important to note that the speed limits are the maximum speed permitted and often conditions such as heavy rain, snow, ice, or fog may require a slower safe speed. New Zealand is a country of extremes in terms of terrain, weather, and road conditions, and drivers need to be prepared to adjust to the conditions.

Don’t drink and drive

While New Zealand has a legal limit for drinking and driving, our advice to our Rental Car customers is not to drink and drive at all. Driving an unfamiliar vehicle on unfamiliar roads requires your full concentration. Drinking and driving may affect your ability to drive and also your rental car insurance policy.

Always wear safety belts

Safety belts must always be worn while driving in New Zealand. This includes front and back seat passengers as well as children who must be seated and secured in approved child safety seats as per New Zealand laws.

Be patient and take care when overtaking

Compared to other countries, New Zealand roads can be narrow with a lot of bends, and on some roads there are a lack of safe overtaking lanes. Our advice is to be patient and wait for a safe and legal overtaking lane. When driving slower than the main traffic flow, be prepared to pull over when it is safe to let other vehicles pass.

Don’t use your hand-held mobile phone while driving

Using a hand-held mobile phone or device for calling or texting while driving is dangerous and illegal in New Zealand. Our advice if you need to make or receive a call or text is to pull over or wait until your next stop.

Allow enough time for your trip

And then allow some more time! It is very easy to underestimate distances and driving times when planning your New Zealand rental car journey. On a map New Zealand appears to be a relatively small compact country. However our roads can be narrow, and steep with a lot of bends making driving times a lot longer. Be wary of booking agents who plan itineraries which don’t allow for breaks, rest days, or unexpected delays. One way to check whether you have allowed enough time is by using the AA driving distance and driving time calculator.

Further Reading

Driving tips for winter rental car hires

What’s different about driving in New Zealand

Driving Tests – Tourist Driving Theory Quiz

AA Travel NZ driving Time and Distance Calculator:


Driving a rental car in New Zealand – English version

Driving a rental car in New Zealand – French version

Driving a rental car in New Zealand – German version

Driving a rental car in New Zealand – Chinese version