(File photo, Radio NZ)
(File photo, Radio NZ)

MoneyJune 26, 2020

The cops won’t ping you for an expired WOF. But your insurance might

(File photo, Radio NZ)
(File photo, Radio NZ)

Driving around with an expired warrant of fitness after the deadline was extended in March? You may want to get that looked at if you want your insurance to pay out. 

What’s all this then? 

When New Zealand went into lockdown and all non-essential business had to stop, a lot of motorists were suddenly left with expired Warrant of Fitnesses and registration documents. So to avoid any unnecessary drama, the government extended the deadline for renewal to give people plenty of time to get their WOFs done after lockdown finished. The extension was made on April 9 for a period of up to six months and applies to all vehicles that had WOFs expiring on or after January 1, 2020.

That sounds fairly simple. So what’s the problem then?

Your insurance company might disagree with the idea that an expired WOF isn’t much of a problem, which might be a problem for you if you have a crash and you want to make a claim. 

Uh oh. 

Indeed. The Insurance Council has been advising people ever since level two that they should get their WOFs done as soon as possible. That’s based on what its members (insurance companies, in other words) have been telling them.

So does that mean a claim involving a vehicle that doesn’t have a WOF will be declined?

No, and having the WOF itself isn’t necessarily the defining factor. Some claims will still be accepted. For example, if the vehicle doesn’t have a WOF but the driver clearly wasn’t at fault, then it’ll probably still be fine, although that’s not guaranteed. But if you’re driving something that wouldn’t have gotten a WOF successfully (a broken light or no tread on tires, for example) then the insurance company probably wouldn’t consider your vehicle to be roadworthy and therefore decline your claim. This would even be the case under the NZTA’s extension of deadlines.

But the problem here is that without trying to get a WOF, you might not realise your car would fail it and it could still count against you when making an insurance claim. That’s especially the case if the cause of the crash was something that would have caused a WOF to be failed. For example, if your brake pads were worn out and you slid off the road on a corner while your WOF was expired, your insurance company is much less likely to pay out. That’s not necessarily outside the norm for insurance cover generally, but people might still be confused by the NZTA extension.

How likely is it that people will actually be caught out by this?

It all depends on the individual circumstances, but it’s possible. A member of the public who contacted The Spinoff about it said their insurance company told them to get a WOF as soon as possible. “They did say they assess claims on a case by case basis, so I may be fine if I need to make a claim. But even though my services are up to date, they rely on WOFs to show roadworthiness.”

How much does it cost to get a WOF?

That depends on where you go, and whether any work needs to be done on the car. But if no work is needed it should be less than $100 at a place like VTNZ which is, generally speaking, cheaper than the cost of crashing an uninsured car. 

How often do I have to get a WOF? 

If your car was first registered on or after January 1, 2000, your WOF will last for a year. If the car is older than that, you’ll need a new one every six months.

Are there any other reasons to hurry up and get a WOF? 

Yes. Over and above the fact that a lot of mechanical problems get picked up in the Warrant of Fitness process, it might not be so easy to get one in October when the extension ends. The Motor Transport Association has issued warnings about the potential backlog if everyone leaves it to the last minute. In a normal month, about 500,000 WOFs would be processed, and the industry is capable of handling that volume. But a massive spike could be a different story.

Keep going!