What is the Road User Charge?

What are road user charges, and who has to pay them? Canstar explains NZ’s road user charges.

What are road user charges?

Anyone using New Zealand’s roads contributes towards their upkeep through taxes. Petrol vehicle users pay through levies on petrol, while drivers of  heavy vehicles (over 3.5 tonnes gross laden weight) and all diesel vehicle drivers pay through road user charges (RUCs).

RUCs allow the government to charge big lorries, buses and trucks higher levies, as they cause more wear and tear on our roads: the heavier the vehicle, the bigger the RUC.

RUCs are also based on the distance a vehicle travels. If you drive a diesel car you need to pre-purchase a distance licence, which is priced in units of 1000km and must be displayed on a vehicle’s windscreen.

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How much are road user charges?

RUCs vary depending on a vehicle’s weight and its number of axles. Here’s an overview of RUCs for common powered passenger vehicles with two axles, including most utes, vans and lightweight petrol vehicles.

Weight Bands RUC rate per 1000km
Up to 3500kg $76
3501kg – 6000kg $82
6001kg – 9000kg $167
Any RUC weight over 9000kg $352

RUC rates for large truck-trailers, buses, unpowered vehicles, motor caravans and vintage vehicles can be found here.

Note that an administration fee applies to all types of RUC licence:

  • Online – $12.44
  • Counter sales – $13.55

How do I buy road user charges?

You can buy a RUC licence either in store or online.

To purchase a RUC online, follow these steps:

  1. Follow this link to the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency website
  2. Fill in your name, plate number and number of units you need (each unit is 1000km)
  3. Enter your internet banking details, or use a Visa or Mastercard credit/debit card to pay
  4. Confirm transaction

You can purchase a RUC licence instore at any:

  • Automobile Association (AA)
  • Postshop
  • Vehicle Inspection New Zealand (VINZ)
  • Vehicle Testing New Zealand (VTNZ)
  • Independent agents that display the Waka Kotahi logo

How is my distance recorded?

Every vehicle that requires an RUC licence must be fitted with an approved electronic distance recorder or hubodometer. If you drive a diesel car, ute or other small vehicle, the distance recorder will be your regular odometer.

However, vehicles over 3.5 tonnes require an approved hubodometer or electronic distance recorder. A list of approved distance recorders and hubodemeters can be found here.

Exemptions to RUC

Currently, fully electric vehicles (EVs), plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), vehicles unsuitable for regular road use and some light diesel vehicles that are used almost exclusively off-road are exempt from RUCs. The full list can be found here.

Electric vehicles

As part of its initiative to encourage Kiwis to drive electric, the former government granted EVs and PHEVs temporary exemptions from RUCs. However, this exemption is set to end on March 31, 2024 for electric vehicles less than 3.5 tonnes, and December 31, 2025 for heavy electric vehicles (>3.5 tonnes).

Currently, no exact e-RUC rates have been revealed, but it’s likely electric cars will cost the same amount to drive on the roads as small diesel vehicles: $76 per 1000km.

About the author of this page

This report was written by Canstar Content Producer, Caitlin Bingham. Caitlin is an experienced writer whose passion for creativity led her to study communication and journalism. She began her career freelancing as a content writer, before joining the Canstar team.

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