We’ve all heard stories from friends who have owned a car and the registration has lapsed, and now they either can’t get it registered again or don’t even want to try. It seems everyone has a story on a car with dead rego. Renewing lapsed vehicle registration is all too hard, apparently.

But is it?

DriveLife teamed up with VTNZ to get the low-down on dead (or lapsed) rego, and honestly, according to VTNZ, it should not be more difficult than getting a Wof. Well, for some cars at least.

This article also relates to our current project car, a 1973 Sunbeam Rapier Fastback with dead rego. We need to get it registered to get the V8 into it and on the road, so what we learn here will apply to that car.

Please note this article is not about importing a car and then going through the compliance process. We are specifically looking at a car that’s been previously registered in New Zealand, the registration has lapsed, and now you want to liven that rego again. We’re focusing on the situation where the person who owned the car when the rego lapsed is now trying to reregister it.

But we’ll also cover off when a car with dead rego changes hands (sometimes more than once), and then that buyer wants to re-register it. This can be tricky if the car has been off the road for more than 30 years, but we’ll cover what to do in that situation as well.

Note that while this article is about cars, it generally applies to motorbikes as well.

You can read the page on the NZTA website on vehicle relicensing here.


Here’s the scenario; you’ve had your rego on hold, the reminder came in and you forgot to extend the rego on hold online, and now it’s moved into the dead zone, and lapsed into no-man’s land.

Or another scenario might be that someone is selling a car online but the rego is dead, and every question on that auction is all about the dead rego. Many buyers will simply walk away, thinking it will be too hard to get the car registered again.


I had often wondered this myself; registration never used to go cold, why not keep it alive forever without having to put it on the register?

It’s all down to money and personalised plates, apparently. Let’s say you have a 1969 Ford Anglia with a (black) registration plate of FA1; it’s been parked under a tree for 30 years and is rusting away, but ‘one day’ you are going to restore it.

I really want FA1 as a personalised plate, but I can’t since it’s still attached to your car in the system. This is why car registration dies – so a car that is likely never going to go back on the road frees up its license plate for someone else to have as a personalised plate.

There’s unconfirmed talk of the government getting 50% of the cost of every new personalised plate sold, you can see why they pushed this change through. The bottom line is to keep your car on the register if you have any intention of ever using it again.


So, you want to get your car back on the road. First off, there is a single question to ask: Is the car’s first-registered date before January 1st, 1991?

This is a real cruncher as if the car is older than this, then life just got a whole lot easier. Those with cars newer than 1991, read on – we’ve got you covered as well, but you’ll be in for more pain and expense.


Scenario 1: I own the car and the rego has lapsed

It doesn’t matter how long your rego has been dead for, if you want to re-register your car then your inspection for re-registration is pretty much just a tougher WoF inspection (a ‘Super WoF’) and requires no invasive stripping of the vehicle, providing the vehicle was not deregistered as a result of a write-off for insurance purposes. Keep in mind that any structural repairs or damage will need an approved repair certifier to oversee while the repairs are carried out.

Also – to put this myth to bed – you don’t have to upgrade seatbelts, put in a high-stop light, install electronic stability control, or anything else. As long as your seatbelts pass the WoF inspection, then your car does not need to meet current safety standards as far as things like high-stop lights, electronic stability control, forward impact standards, or anything else. Again, it’s just like a WoF check.

You can see how renewing the registration for a car that’s older than 1991 is not too difficult.

To reiterate, this scenario is that the car has been registered previously in New Zealand before 01/01/1991, and the car is owned by you – so your name will appear in the system as the current owner. 

While the above inspection process is not hard, you do need to have evidence to prove that your car was registered in New Zealand previously. What evidence do you need? Regardless of whether the car is still in the system, you need to prove that this very car you are fronting up with is the exact same car that is in NZTA’s system. How?

If you are the current owner and the chassis number on the physical car lines up with the one in the system, then this is pretty simple. You only need your ID (a driver’s licence is fine). This is the case with our Project V8 Fastback; The rego lapsed while I owned the car, and my name is still in the system as the owner. All I need is an ID to prove I am that person, and the car goes through for its ‘Super WoF’, end of story.

And to put another myth to bed, any car that has dead rego will need a VIN number and a VIN plate to go on the car. The location of that plate will be dependent on what type of vehicle it is and if it is practicable to fit it there, and you can read more about this on this link. Since our Project V8 Fastback already has a VIN number and plate, this is already covered for that car.

Restoring? Do This First!

Keep in mind the vehicle MUST have an untampered identifier on it; in other words, the chassis number must be visible and in the original location. According to VTNZ, the most common error that restorers make is to remove the chassis plate and do repairs then reaffix when painted, and this causes issues with identification requirements. The best fix for this is to get a VIN assigned before starting a resto as your entry certifier can verify and record the original chassis number before removal. You can do this at any entry certifier such as VTNZ, and the cost is around $100 (VTNZ).

This means that if your car has dead rego, needs restoring and only has a chassis number, a new VIN will be assigned to the car when you carry out the above process.

To complete this scenario of you being the registered owner, the car is pre-1991 and hasn’t had/doesn’t need any repairs, you should be able to take the car to VTNZ or another ‘Inspecting Organisation that has light entry authority’, and re-register it quite simply (as long as it’s up to the Entry certification and WoF standards).

See further on for your next steps, and please note the above scenario is for New Zealand-new cars that were previously registered in New Zealand before 1991. If you import a pre-1991 vehicle, it will need to go through the invasive stripping process regardless, and you will need to pay the higher cost (if you use VTNZ, that’s the same cost as a post-1991 car).

Scenario 2: I didn’t own the car when the rego lapsed, but I own it now

Again, we are looking at cars pre-1991.

Let’s say you’ve purchased the car from a certain online website, the rego is dead and you want to get it on the road. You still need whatever evidence you can produce, but you’ll also need to be able to show that you actually own the car – a signed receipt from the previous owner should suffice for this or at least a paper trail leading back to them (for example, they may have passed away). You also have the option of completing a Statutory Declaration form and having it witnessed by a JP or Police officer.

What if the guy you bought it from was not the owner who had it when the rego lapsed? This gets a little messier unless you have a signed receipt/invoice/bill of sale from the previous owner to the one before (who did own the car when the rego lapsed).

With regards to the evidence you need, photos are great, as are registration papers, and any other evidence of ownership/New Zealand provenance you can provide – the more the better.

If you are struggling on this front, there is another option for you to pursue; the Vintage Car Club Of New Zealand (VCCNZ) may be able to help you here, even if you aren’t a member. In the best-case scenario, the VCCNZ may be able to assist in providing proof of previous registration in New Zealand.

All the previous facts around your car still stand – all this scenario is covering is someone else owning the car when the rego lapsed, and now you own it.

RENEWING LAPSED REGISTRATION: PRE-1991 VEHICLES | My Car Is Now Sorted And Ready For Reregistration

You have your ownership evidence and are ready to get your car back on the road. We’ll assume it’s up to WoF standards and any repairs have been certified.

The steps are:

  • Book in and go to VTNZ or your compliance centre of choice, with the car either with dealer plates or on a trailer
  • Taking some photographic evidence of the car with its old plates on is ideal
  • Providing a registration sticker or card showing its plate is always handy
  • The car (or motorbike) will go through the ‘Super WoF’ check
  • If it doesn’t have one it will be issued with a VIN number and plate
  • Assuming it passes, you will be issued with an MR2A form to allow the car to be reregistered.
  • Once the MR2A has been processed, a set of new number plates and registration label will be issued – unless you have personalised plates with you.

The cost to do this (using VTNZ) is around $400 (these are being reviewed at the moment), note that this doesn’t include the vehicle registration fee. 

And what if it doesn’t pass the first time? VTNZ does not charge for rechecks (within 20 working days) on light entry inspections, so provided the vehicle is back within the recheck period there is no additional charge. If the vehicle returns after the recheck period a new inspection would be required and a full charge to complete it.


Let’s say you’ve brought your car’s registration back from the dead, and want to use your old plates.

This is from the NZTA website:

Re-issuing number plates

We will review reissuing black, silver and white plates if the following criteria are met:

  • The plate is the last plate on the vehicle at the time of cancellation i.e. it hasn’t been replaced by another plate.
  • The plate is in very good condition and hasn’t been painted, cut or tampered with.
  • The plate hasn’t been personalised.
  • The applicant needs to provide official documentation from the period the vehicle was originally registered confirming the plate, make and model, i.e. the certificate of registration, an insurance policy, a warrant of fitness sticker or repair receipts. Unacceptable documentation is a Statutory Declaration, a handwritten receipt, the Vintage Car Club document or the Alternative document from our office.

If you are reregistering your vehicle and meet the above criteria please email  [email protected]

Note: Black and silver style plates cannot be remade. If you’re applying to reuse these plates, you must have the original set.

So there’s a chance you can use your old plates, at the discretion of NZTA. VTNZ can normally assist with the application email, but be aware there may be a charge involved if it gets time-consuming. Talk it over with your VTNZ branch of choice.

If NZTA says you can use your old plates, you take a printed copy of that email in with you when it’s time to register your car.


All the above steps relate to cars that are built before January 1st, 1991. If your car was built after this date, then the process is more difficult and more expensive – $599 at VTNZ. Motorbikes cost $399 at VTNZ currently, but these prices are under review. 

You still need to prove ownership, just the same as pre-1991 cars. The conditions around chassis numbers and repairs etc stand the same. If you are restoring a car, the previous advice around getting a VIN number before you start still stands, and is important to note.

The more difficult part relates to the checks that the entry certifier needs to make to get your car back on the road. Basically, the car is treated the same as one that has been imported from overseas. This means that wheels are removed and brake components disassembled, inspected, and measured.

Also removed are underbody stone guards, wheel arch covers, wind laces/rubbers around all door openings, and interior trim to reveal seatbelt anchorage points. This removal (and replacement process) is all covered by the inspection fee. Of course, that means the cost to get your car reregistered will go up, as there’s a lot more work involved. Again, it’s $599 assuming it goes through the first time.

And what if it doesn’t pass the first time? VTNZ does not charge for rechecks on light entry inspections, so provided the vehicle is back within the recheck period (20 working days) there is no additional charge. If the vehicle returns after the recheck period a new inspection would be required and a full charge to complete it.

So other than a lot more inspection, the other steps are the same as a pre-1991 car:

  • Book in and go to VTNZ or your compliance centre of choice, with the car either with dealer plates or on a trailer
  • Taking some photographic evidence of the car with its old plates on is ideal
  • Providing a registration sticker or card showing its plate is always handy
  • The car (or motorbike) will go through the required checks, including removing wheel arch covers etc as previously mentioned
  • If it doesn’t have one it will be issued with a VIN number and plate
  • Assuming it passes, you will be issued with an MR2A form to allow the car to be reregistered
  • Once the MR2A has been processed you will be issued with new number plates and a registration label, unless you have personalised plates with you or you have your old plates and the email from NZTA as previously described.




DriveLife understands that many car clubs and others would like to reproduce this article about Renewing Lapsed Vehicle Registration NZ in their club magazines/newsletters. We will allow this as long as a direct reference is made that the article was sourced from www.drivelife.co.nz.

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Fred Alvrez
How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm a driving instructor and an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.


    • HI Justin. Depends on the year, as it says in the article. Is it newer than 1991? Is it a heavy vehicle or a ute? Also it mentions in the article that the costs were being reviewed, so that $695 might be the new cost quoted in here as $599.

  1. I have a used Muscle car and now it is only standing in my garage but I am little bit confused about what to do with it, should I repair it and use it again but for that I have to spend money on repair, insurance and re-registration or should I sell it to a used car dealer please suggest me what should I do.

    • HI Alex
      I think your best bet is to join a Facebook group for that brand/ exact model of muscle car, and ask there. I doubt a used car dealer is going to want to purchase it – stick to the fans directly, you’ll get more $ if you decide to sell than to a dealer.
      But fixing it is an option, but as you say, it all depends on how much that might cost, if you have that cash to spend and your emotional attachment to the car.

  2. Hi there,

    I completely forgot about the Rego for more than a year (13 months) of my current car (2007) I moved to a new house and all the possible notices to renew were sent to the old address. I did the WOF, It’s up to date but again because of the pandemic and moved to a new place I forgot about the rego. I guess I’ll have to pass through the whole process again. Any idea of a situation like this?

    Thank you,

    • Hi Chris
      Best thing you could do is simply take the car to somewhere like VTNZ and they can advise you. If you have an up to date WoF then you should be able to register the car, without any extra work?

    • Hey Cris, I’m now in the very same boat you were in, very interested to know how your conundrum turned out because I need some advice and tips if at all possible?

  3. Hey, my Toyota surf was just de registered a few days ago (stupid mistake on my part) but it still has a current wof, does this make my life easier? Or does that not matter?

  4. Hi, I have a stolen and recovered Motorcycle that had it’s plate, Vin tag and chassis No removed. I have brought it back to life, broken steering locks etc, bent handle bar. But it’s now really good. All that’s left is some motor numbers. Do you think I could get a frame No from a Honda dealer using the engine no’s? and then a re Vin or is that impossible?

  5. Hi Fred, I would be really keen to find out where your info came from regarding the seatbelt upgrades to a deregistered car from 1966.
    I have just gone through reregistration and they Insist the vehicle needs a low level certification on the front seatbelt mounts.
    Any grandfather clause as they call it about pre 91 seatbelt regulations are invalid as the car is being reregistered – so I’m told.

    • HI Iain
      That came from VTNZ, who we wrote the article with. I can’t confirm nor deny there is such a clause. Give VTNZ a call and discuss with them?


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