Are Whip Lights Legal in New Zealand?

Can you use the whip lights on and off-road in NZ?

In short YES.

If you plan to use them/turn them on, on public roads. You need to consider what length of whips you get and where and how you are going to mount your whip lights ie lower on bull bars or higher on bonnet mounts or off mirrors.

LED Spiral Whip lights are totally legal to be mounted and turned on day and night for both on-road and off-road use in New Zealand. This is one of our most frequently asked questions.  

Drivers increasingly see whip lights on big rig trucks and at the beach and in the bush off-road and wonder if they are actually legal or illegal to drive with them turned on day or night, when on the public roads.

While the answer is YES whip lights are legal. It comes with restrictions. It's not a free for all! 

  • Off - road you can have them set how you like!
  • On - road there are obviously rules and restrictions especially when driving with the whip lights turned on day and night.

If you want to avoid red and blue police lights, please follow the on-road rules. On-road day and night rules are under the Cosmetic Lighting Regulations.

Cosmetic light usage when you are driving on public roads in New Zealand.

  • FRONT MOUNTED WHIPLIGHTS:   CAN only use the white or amber solid colour at the front. Consider where you mount them, the colours should not be visible from behind.
  • BACK MOUNTED WHIPLIGHTS : If mounted at the back of your vehicle they can only be red or Amber.
  • On-road, you can NOT use any other colours or any of the motion, movement or spiraling colour setting modes at all on the front or back. 
  • Any flashing, dazzling or light movement is deemed 'dangerous and distracting' to other drivers and is for Police and Emergency vehicle use only.
  1. According to NZTA  'It is against the law to use cosmetic lamps in a way that could dazzle, confuse or distract other road users’.
  2. NB: There are also now legal limits on how many extra lights can be fitted on a vehicle and where they can be located for on-road, as well as restrictions on "cosmetic lighting". So if you already have modified, additional or cosmetic lights fitted to your vehicle, it is your responsibility to understand all the latest New Zealand regulations before installing your NZ Whiplights.

The New Zealand Police dog squad do their dog training opposite our home and have seen our 4WD whiplight vehicles and they confirmed for us that these are the key rules and it is how the rules are being enforced by police.

NZ Whiplights whips have modes that can also enhance and reduce brightness. Please make sure you don't have them on enhanced full brightness at night when on the road, as this could operate like 'full beam' depending on where you have them mounted on your vehicle. This brightness feature is however great when off-road, and can act as portable flood lighting, especially in remote dark areas.

NZTA / Waka Kotahi have details and specifications on a whole new category of vehicle lighting that they refer to as "Cosmetic Lighting". With the dramatic increase in LED lights,  decorative strips and under body lighting usage inside and outside vehicles in New Zealand, everyone wants to make their vehicle more unique and distinct. So these updated changes in regulations were inevitable.

  • NZTA WOF Regulations for Cosmetic Lighting

    KEY WOF RULES - Relating to Whip Lights
       - A rear-facing reflector on a vehicle reflects red or amber when seen directly    from the rear.
       - A forward-facing reflector on a vehicle reflects white light shining on it as anything other than white or amber light.
      - A side-facing reflector on a vehicle reflects white light shining on it as anything other than white or amber light.

    LED lighting and whip lights are a great way to make your vehicle look more distinct and unique -  to help you stand out from the crowd and just have some fun by adding cool stuff on your vehicle. Customers love having the whip lights and constantly say "When we are out, everyone just loves them" or "The lights just make everyone smile".  When you are off-road you can use all the flashing, spiraling and 'drop colour' modes you want and change them up as frequently as you like.  But not sticking to the rules when on the road just brings fines and unnecessary grief for us all.
  • We heard one story recently where a driver was following a car with whiplights on that were in the flashing motion mode with red and blue combinations and cars in front of it were all pulling over assuming they were 'undercover traffic officers'.  Do not do this - it will not end well, you'll get serious fines!

      What are some of the other Cosmetic Vehicle Lighting Rules in New Zealand?

      According to the NZTA website, the on-road rules apply to Whip lights, light bars and spots. These specifically state when driving on public roads...

      • They must be angled downwards and fitted so that the light source isn’t directly visible from the front or back of the vehicle (this will prevent the lights distracting, confusing or dazzling other road users).
      • You must not be able to see any red light from directly in front of the vehicle.
      • They should only give off light that is spread out (diffuse) rather than light concentrated in a beam.
      • They must not be positioned close to or covering essential lights such as headlights or indicators.
      • They must not flash, pulse, fade in and out or change colour.
      • They must not revolve, rotate or move in any direction.

      If you are at all unclear, or want further information for the latest regulations check out the Waka Kotahi / NZ Transport website for exact rules and regulations on lighting.

      How many lights are you allowed on a vehicle?
      There is not a set number. There are set regulations on how many lights you are allowed based on where they are positioned and how bright they are.  If you have other spot or cosmetic lights already on your vehicle you may need to check to see your total set up is allowed.

      So there are rules and plenty of factors to take into consideration when planning your lighting fit out.

      Check out NZTA Rules - Get your lights Right!

      WOF Lighting Rules 2022.


    2. I hope some of this is helpful as you plan how to pimp your ride. Feel free to share any other tips, tricks or rules you've learnt in the "Comments" below.

      What ever you own or drive -  Make it distinct and Light it up!


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