As change is considered, one option is to assume new cars are safe.
New cars could be exempt from a Warrant of Fitness for the first three years under proposed changes to the vehicle licensing system.
They would have their first WoF check after 36 months on the road and thereafter be tested yearly - with every other passenger car on the road.
The likely changes to the WoF regime are part of a plan to lower the annual compliance costs of WoF and vehicle registrations, and the certificate of fitness and transport services licensing systems.
The present six-monthly WoF on cars over six years old is expected to be scrapped. The possible changes surfaced after Driven published details of a "conversation paper" signed by Ministry of Transport chief executive Martin Mathews and NZ Transport Agency acting chief executive Stephen Town.
The MoT and NZTA have been meeting transport groups to thrash out proposed changes.
New-car distributors have also been canvassed.
The three-year WoF exemption for new cars comes after early meetings reportedly favoured checks at two, four, and six years, then yearly.
But the three-year respite has gained support. "A warrant check every year after three years is seen as a more efficient answer than one every two, four and six years," said a transport official who didn't wish to be named.
"Most car manufacturers offer a three-year warranty, so why second-guess their guarantee? Many of them also offer extended warranties.
"They are quick these days to advise of any recalls. These usually come early in the vehicle's life anyway.
"A warrant after the first three years fits nicely with the new-car people. The yearly check after that might help safeguard those buyers who didn't take up an extended warranty.
"The aim of the transport review is to lower compliance costs across the board. We can do this by putting in place a system that encourages New Zealanders to take responsibility for the upkeep of their cars, rather than the Government coming down on them," he said.
However, one Japanese carmaker is opposed to the three-year exemption. An executive, who also didn't wish to be named, said the present annual check on new cars often picks up things that might have escaped attention at the factory or on arrival in New Zealand.
"The three-year thing also creates a gulf between the customer and dealer," he said. "The customer wants to know the dealer is there as a back-up and the dealer wants to retain the customer's loyalty.
"It's all about communication. Taking away the annual warrant inspection takes away the contact a dealer wants to have with a new-car buyer."
A senior executive of a European carmaker supports the three-year exemption. "It won't have any effect on the customer-dealer relationship," he said.
"If anything, it might reinforce it. Any dealer worth his or her salt will go out of their way to stay in contact. That's the nature of the business these days."
The MoT and NZTA will prepare a report for the Cabinet which will put together a public discussion paper to be released in September.
The conversation paper says the Government wants to lower compliance costs while preserving safety and the environment.
"Analysis of the vehicle roadworthiness inspection system suggests it may not be delivering the best balance between compliance costs and safety benefits.
"Vehicle owners rely too much on having a WoF or CoF (Certificate of Fitness) instead of taking responsibility for keeping their vehicles in a roadworthy state."
But opponents say changes to the WoF system would put people out of work, affecting Vehicle Inspection NZ, Vehicle Testing NZ stations and small garages.
Public reaction to the review has been mixed. Letters and emails are still arriving at Driven.
My preference is to have a system like many overseas countries. Your car must get a warrant before being sold. As for new cars, I think if we are going to have a regular WoF system, new cars should be excluded while under warranty. Technology has changed so much that testing a modern car every year or six months is ridiculous.
The fact of the matter is that it really isn't the age of the vehicle so much as the usage. A courier could do 40,000km a year and granny's car will be lucky to clock 4000km a year. Which car has a greater risk of problems and failure? It isn't all about the age of the vehicle.
Let's get real about this. The motor industry will maintain we need to keep the one-year/six-month WoFs for safety, when in actual fact, WoFs are their bread and butter and they wish to keep them purely for financial gain, thus keeping the motoring public subsidising garages. It wasn't too bad when it cost $15 for a WoF but now garages are charging $50 for a service that's not needed.
How about instead of a scheduled money-making WoF every so often we actually take control of our personal responsibilities in life and look after our own cars instead, just like many other countries do? Yes, I can hear the cries of ignorance of car maintenance as an excuse already. Really? So in the old days you got away with not looking after your horse and expected someone else to maintain it for you? Sad people.
New Zealand needs to grow up and look at what overseas countries do. A WoF every six months is just a money-making racket. If the rest of the world doesn't need to do it, why does little NZ? Germany doesn't and I think their cars and roading is a cut above NZ. We are so behind with the times, cut the red tape and nonsense.
I think cutting back on WoF checks is contrary to the country's goal of reducing road deaths and injuries. I'm a mechanical engineer and WoF has found issues like a worn steering rack, leaking shock absorbers and so on that I was unaware of. I know a lot of people who don't do tyre replacements until their vehicle fails a WoF. Changing the frequency will increase the number of people driving on bald tyres and other safety defects.
Too many people rely on the WoF inspection to tell them to fix things. Yet a WoF only confirms roadworthiness at the time it is issued. For some reason New Zealanders have come to the conclusion that this actually means the car is fine and doesn't need touching until the next inspection. We need to move away from that mindset and make people actively monitor the condition of their vehicles rather than relying on an arbitrarily timed inspection.