First let's clear up the terms registration and relicensing as most of us refer to our responsibility to relicense our vehicles as paying the registration or the more commonly used term, the "rego".
The registration, however, refers to the vehicle itself and is in fact what identifies a person as being legally responsible (not the legal owner) for their vehicle.
The relicensing is the regular payment we make to the authorities that allows us to use our vehicles on public roads. We normally only need to worry about the registration process when a vehicle is sold, as the registered owner is responsible for their vehicle and for meeting the requirements that allow them to drive legally on the road. This includes keeping the vehicle roadworthy, and paying the licensing fees and any outstanding traffic or parking infringements.
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Bear that in mind if/when you sell your vehicle. Making sure the change of ownership papers are filled out correctly and posted will ensure you don't cop any future motoring infringements, among other things, caused by the new owner. It's ongoing licensing fees that we receive reminders about, not the registration.
Where it has the potential to turn nasty is when the relicensing fees are not paid by the due date. Owners will always be responsible for any backdated fees, as well as the new licence costs when the vehicle is eventually relicensed.
If your vehicle remains unlicensed for 12 months the registration is cancelled.
Most motor vehicles are licensed continuously, but the law allows for the licence to be placed on hold if, for example, a vehicle requires extensive repairs, or is placed in storage for an extended time, or it was undergoing restoration.
It's fairly straightforward and can be done via an NZTA agent or online. The minimum time to place the licence on hold is three months and the maximum is 12 months.
The process can be repeated once the 12 months are up. The vehicle will only require a new Warrant of Fitness and the licence fees paid before it can be used on the road after a licence has been placed on hold.
So where are the potential pitfalls? I recently discovered a vehicle that had been placed in storage because the owner could not afford to have major mechanical repairs carried out.
The licence was not put on hold while they were saving up the necessary funds and consequently the registration expired for 12 months.
The owners faced the extra cost of having to have the vehicle go through a compliance inspection, which is a process similar to a used import's arrival in New Zealand and then, if it met the required standards, be re-registered.
Depending on a vehicle's age, this can be a very invasive inspection, where the interior trim is removed to check items such as seat belt mounting points, and the structural integrity of the vehicle is tested before the vehicle can be issued with a new Warrant and given new registration plates.
If a vehicle was first registered pre-1991 then the process is less invasive. However, any vehicle first registered post-1991 requires the major inspection.
Costs can vary depending on the age and engine size of the vehicle and the length of time the licensing is issued for, but owners can often get little change out of $1000 and in some cases pay a lot more if repair costs are factored in.
In the case of the stored vehicle, it was a toss-up whether to repair the vehicle and then go through the compliance process or try to dispose of it for parts or scrap.