AA on WOF checks

October 15th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Mike Stockdale from the writes in the Dom Post:

As part of the reform of the vehicle licensing and Warrant of Fitness systems, the Government is looking at changing the frequency of the safety inspection. Changing the system is a big decision that will affect us all, so it’s important it’s made on the basis of unbiased facts and evidence.

Let’s put things in perspective. New Zealand has the most frequent vehicle safety inspection in the world. No other country requires cars aged 6 years or older (most of our fleet) to be tested twice a year.

A key point.

Some countries have an annual inspection, and many only every two years. Others, like much of Australia and the United States, have no regular inspection at all.

Most vehicles in New Zealand are tested every 6000km. In Britain they’re tested every 19,000km, and in Germany vehicles travel about 32,000km between inspections.

Personally if inspections are to be regular, I think distance is more sensible than time.

Yet despite these differences in inspection frequency the number of crashes caused by vehicle faults in New Zealand is about the same as other countries at about 2.5 per cent – or less than half a per cent where it is the sole cause.

So we are paying extra for no benefit.

The Automobile Association believes some of the focus on vehicle safety should shift away from the majority of compliant motorists to the minority who choose to ignore our laws and put other lives at risk, and focusing more on factors that most contribute to crashes – tyres, brakes and lighting. When it comes to vehicle faults contributing to crashes, the main cause is worn tyres and our current six-monthly test isn’t preventing that.

We need to be smarter about how we ensure vehicle safety is maintained and enforced, rather than only relying on a WOF check once or twice a year.

We need to encourage more motorists to get in the habit of regularly checking their tyres and vehicle condition themselves. If drivers in other countries can, so can we.

Absolutely. The WOF checks can give a false confidence.

The international evidence suggests road safety will actually improve if we follow their example and reduce inspection frequency while beefing up driver education and roadside enforcement of unsafe vehicles.

In the last few decades the quality of the New Zealand fleet has vastly improved from the days when Kiwis routinely drove elderly and worn-out vehicles on unsafe roads, when our road toll was three times what it is today, and when a twice-yearly test made sense. Since then vehicle technology and safety have progressed, but the frequency of the WOF test hasn’t changed to suit. Maybe it’s time it did.

I’ve seen no evidence in favour of the status quo – just a scare campaign.

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34 Responses to “AA on WOF checks”

  1. frankflintstone (69 comments) says:

    From my obversations..the cars that are on the roads in germany are a way higher quality and newer..In the UK just about everyone that I knew would get their cars serviced regularly anyway..but this cost 200-400 pounds (10 years ago) each time

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  2. gazzmaniac (2,270 comments) says:

    It is mentioned that many parts of Australia don’t have regular testing. It fails to mention that the bulk of the Australian fleet is sold new in Australia and isn’t second hand from Japan, and that the a vehicle in New Zealand is on average significantly older than one in Australia. Possibly something to do with the average annual income being higher in Australia than NZ.
    Not that there aren’t some shitboxes in Australia (ones that would be picked up with regular inspections).

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  3. Ancient Dan (39 comments) says:

    Here in South Australia fleet is older, no access to good quality second hand cars, and also it is not the richest state in Australia.
    There is no WOF test. First of all maybe Australians like Americans are grown ups and make the decision themselves as to whether the condition of the vehicle is safe to drive.

    Secondly its a very very small number of accidents that are caused by the condition of the vehicle.
    This testing every six months is a hangover from the fifties when the cars in NZ were British made, of appalling quality and should have been government checked every time they left the house.

    So what conclusions can you draw.
    Well New Zealanders are an extremely conservative people and just because cars have become vastly better engineered and built is no reason to change an ancient ritual.
    The fact that it creates a stream of revenue from the poor who find it a drag on their income, that it means you continue the almost stalinist practice of Police who have better things to do with their time than checking if the germans aare still building five year old merceded benz’s to the same quality and wastes millions on “bondi” and needless repairs is just a bonus.
    That you continue such blatent economic stupidity is one of the reasons you have lower incomes than Australia.

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  4. Griff (6,263 comments) says:

    Australian fleet is 10 years old new Zealand 12 USA 8.5 not a huge difference especially if you take into account that both ausse and yank built cars are shite
    http://www.mfe.govt.nz/environmental-reporting/transport/vehicle-km-travelled/vehicle-age/
    http://www.reliabilityindex.com/manufacturer/relIndex

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  5. liarbors a joke (1,069 comments) says:

    Change it now. Ancient Dan makes several valid points as do other commentators outside of KB.

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  6. tempest (29 comments) says:

    Not surprising really that we are the only country to be testing every 6 months. It’s also not surprising that this is a national topic of conversation – I very much doubt it would be in other western countries.

    But then we as a country are obsessed for some reason with road safety. In no other country is the average citizen generally aware of what the national annual road toll is. Why the media here seem to religiously lap up the endless parroting of statistics by the LTSA – that x number of people died on a holiday weekend of year y versus the same weekend on a previous year – is beyond me. This doesn’t happen in the UK, Australia, Canada, Ireland, USA, you name it.

    People die on the roads here. People also drown, die of cancer, die of old age, and die slowly as a child from horrific sadistic injuries meted out to them by their mother’s new boyfriend.

    Let’s keep it in perspective.

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  7. peterwn (2,940 comments) says:

    There could also be benefit in even less regular inspections for the likes of farm plant which would otherwise rarely be taken into town.

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  8. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    Time is better than distance as odometers are too easy to hack.

    And distance is only sensible if every piece of road was identical but driving on the motorway in Hamilton is different to driving on an unsealed road in The Sounds (including the salt weathering).

    In America there is third party compulsory insurance. I bet they invalidate your insurance coverage when you need it if they can show that your car was uncared for i.e. it didn’t have a regular check-up. So it’s essentially compulsory anyway.

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  9. Manolo (12,643 comments) says:

    That you continue such blatant economic stupidity is one of the reasons you have lower incomes than Australia.

    Ancient Dan hit the nail on the head. Well said.

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  10. dave53 (53 comments) says:

    But then we as a country are obsessed for some reason with road safety. In no other country is the average citizen generally aware of what the national annual road toll is.

    Well the Australian media are obsessed with it, endless articles and items on the road toll. Just like here.

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  11. calendar girl (1,108 comments) says:

    This is not a difficult Government decision to make – reducing WOF compliance costs has obvious economic justifications, and is a certain vote-winner as well. The naysayers in testing / mechanical workshops will cry foul and endeavour to mislead the public on questions of “safety”, regardless of evidence to the contrary, but a significant change has compelling logic on its side. Those affected on the supply side will just have to adapt to economic change, as most industries have to do from time to time.

    If I was implementing the change, I would do it in two stages: (1) immediately move WOF testing for passenger motor vehicles out to 2-yearly intervals for all vehicles up to 10 years old, and change all other WOF testing requirements to annually; (2) at the same time signal – and if necessary legislate for – a second increase in the vehicle age threshold from 10 years to 15 years in 2022 (i.e. in ten years’ time).

    I don’t know enough about heavy duty vehicles to voice an opinion on their COF testing regime.

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  12. Manolo (12,643 comments) says:

    calendar girl, you might be right, but the decision to do away with WOF requires the political will and, more importantly, the balls this Labour lite government lacks.

    I’d love to be proven wrong.

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  13. KiwiGreg (3,129 comments) says:

    US car fleet is now around 11 years old on average FWIW. I think Ancient Dan has nailed it.

    Cue screaming from whoever bought VTNZ about “safety”.

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  14. flipper (3,274 comments) says:

    The main advocates of the status quo are the owners of VTNZ, are they not?

    No, preserving a nice money extreacting game is their real priority. So, why not a switcheroo?

    One only pays for a WoF when “repairs” are required to meet safety criteria – not BS extended interpretations of self-serving “rules”….. otherwise it is free! :)

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  15. Griff (6,263 comments) says:

    One only pays for a WoF when “repairs” are required
    Moron

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  16. labrator (1,691 comments) says:

    … beefing up … roadside enforcement of unsafe vehicles.

    This is what I’d like to see more of. It’s no harder than the breath tests.

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  17. flipper (3,274 comments) says:

    Griff …
    Where ????
    One pays to get a WoF – repairs or not

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  18. Ross12 (931 comments) says:

    I think the distance suggestion has merit especially for new cars. Making comparisons on a time basis with Australia and USA is abit meaningless — they would travel much longer distances annually than NZ cars.
    So maybe have new cars up to a set distance travelled tested at say 100,000km and then convert to a time basis. All imported used cars tested on arrival before sale and then annually.

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  19. Griff (6,263 comments) says:

    Because if you were in business and only got paid to fail cars there would be a incentive to do so. That is why I only use VTNZ for wofs they have no financial interest in the outcome.
    Far more fair to only pay on a pass :wink: ether option would skew the result.

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  20. rouppe (852 comments) says:

    In hand with this is reinforcing that owners are required to keep their vehciles in a warrantable standard at all times. I don’t think people realise that if you have a current warrant but your tyres are bald, your car is not fit for the road, is not “warrantable” and insurance companies can and will decline cover based on this.

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  21. Steve (North Shore) (4,330 comments) says:

    What about the rusty and unsafe boat trailers?

    Anyway, changing to a longer period for newer vehicles puts the onus on the owner to make sure it is safe. A WOF is a Warrant of Fitness, not a Warranty of Fitness. It is a visual inspection, not a crack test everything inspection

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  22. RRM (8,997 comments) says:

    RRM would be in favour of some reduction in the frequency of the inspections.

    But if you think mechanics over-egg small faults in order to fail a WoF and generate repair work NOW, I wonder what would happen with that if the number of WoF inspections halved overnight?

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  23. Redbaiter (6,482 comments) says:

    Yeah well just do away with it completely then, that’ll fix the extortinate bastards.

    Other countries have minimal checks without any negative impact on safety so why the hell can’t NZ?

    Its not as if the country can afford a Rolls Royce car checking system.

    Keeping it on just to keep a few check stations in business is just crap.

    About as bad as keeping the ETS because too many companies have “planned for it”. That’s crap too, and whoever was pushing that bullshit shouldn’t have any kind of job now. Maybe they should even be sued up to their fucking back teeth.

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  24. Akld Commercial Lawyer (138 comments) says:

    May I suggest that whilst it is interesting to debate this issue on the basis that the historical throwback to 6-monthly testing is out of step with the more recent rise in average age of the NZ fleet (due to used imports) or feather bedding in the vehicle service industry – it is likely to be the insurance industry that holds the keys to the kingdom. I don’t see any detailed analysis on the response from the insurance sector. If any financial benefits from the removal of 6-monthly testing mean that premiums spike then the idea should be shelved quickly. Our little economy is suffering enough through exposure of the building sector to a lukewarm international insurance market. Noting that even a comparison with Australia may not help (fewer, windy, rural roads and greater concentration of people in cities) – I expect that international insurers would re-price the risk quickly and rather painfully. If so, I will be one who happily continues reading the Saturday paper (the only time I buy one) at the testing station every 6 months. I don’t even mind having to replace the odd wiper blade before its time – if this gives insurers the comfort they need to keep my premiums at an affordable level. Let’s see some hard data about the long term impacts before we rush to judgment.

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  25. Nostalgia-NZ (4,698 comments) says:

    A split system makes more sense. I have some vehicles that do virtually no mileage between COFs or WOFs, but I still pay the same for rechecks that often find some fault that wasn’t there 6 months previously despite perhaps only a 100ks mileage difference. On the other hand vehicles, particularly commercial ones, that do high mileage are best looked at more regularly. But any transport operator will tell you the current system is a bit of a rort, as would apply to collectors and so forth or low mileage users.

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  26. Redbaiter (6,482 comments) says:

    Akl Commercial Lawyer- do you live in a friggin gold fish bowl or something? There is a big world out there boyo and there are many places in it where they do not do such exhaustive checks as NZ and people get by fine with insurance.

    BTW way, this is a blog. Try cutting back on the verbiage if you make a comment, and if you must take so many words to say something so relatively simple, use fucking paragraphs please.

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  27. Griff (6,263 comments) says:

    Akld Commercial Lawyer
    Ignore reddy he is a pet we keep to amuse us sometimes the rest of the time we chain him out the back and throw rocks at him

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  28. RRM (8,997 comments) says:

    Akld Commercial Lawyer –

    Thanks, I had wondered about whether/how this would impact the price of car insurance.
    Your posts seem a bit too sensible for this place – I hope you last here.

    Howling at the moon like a deranged Redbaiter is not compulsory, but it is encouraged ;-)

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  29. tvb (3,947 comments) says:

    When I drove an old car there were issues every 6 months to be fixed before I got the warrant, I simply budgeted about $400 every time. It was simply an essential maintenance issue I had to face. in other words for older cars it was necessary. However with newer cars obviously not, except for the tyre issue when even in a very new car I have had to deal with constantly.

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  30. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    Can’t see a saving.The mechanics will simply double their prices for Wofs if they go annual. However, it will be one less headache and arbitrary “big Brother’ intrusion so that’s a thumbs-up.

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  31. Brian Smaller (3,915 comments) says:

    One check per year or two is fine – but there needs to be compulsory third party insurance as well. I have been hit twice by scumbags with no insurance.

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  32. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,787 comments) says:

    If New Zealand is going to start following best practice from Overseas then can the New Zealand Government change passports back to ten years from the current five years. Just like everywhere else.

    Cheers.

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  33. Mobile Michael (367 comments) says:

    The six monthly WOF is a relic that belongs to the Cortina and the Kingswood. Cars full of rust just don’t happen anymore. Annual WOFs for cars over 6 years or 100,00km travelled, obligation on the driver to ensure a safe vehicle, with Police roadside checks to include a cursory look at the vehicle condition and the ability to order an inspection if they believe the vehicle is in need of maintenance.

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  34. hinamanu (2,352 comments) says:

    Ancient Dan is the man

    That you continue such blatant economic stupidity is one of the reasons you have lower incomes than Australia.

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