Air pollution ratings

Why air pollution is important

Air pollution is caused by pollutants (such as nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide and particulates). These contribute to smog and can create health problems for people. The amount of pollutants your car emits depends on how cleanly it burns the fuel.

Air pollution standards

All cars that come into New Zealand are manufactured to an emissions standard. The following emissions standards are acceptable under New Zealand vehicle standards legislation:

  • European union (EU/UN-ECE)
  • Australian (ADR 79 - these standards are globally harmonised with the EU standards)
  • Japanese
  • United States (Federal standards)


Air pollution standards for cars that run on petrol relate to the allowed emission levels for:

  • Carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Hydrocarbons (HC)
  • Nitrous oxides (NOx)

Air pollution standards for cars that run on diesel include the allowed emission level for:

  • Particulate matter (PM10)

Air pollution ratings

Air pollution ratings tell you how well your car performed against the emission standards when it was new. To make sure that your car stays as close as possible to the rating it was given when manufactured, make sure that you keep your engine well-tuned and maintained.

The more stars a car has for air pollution, the more environmentally friendly it is. Overseas manufacturers are progressively applying tighter standards in this area; better ratings mean better standards:

  • Cars manufactured to older standards will have fewer stars
  • Cars manufactured to better, more modern standards such as 'Euro 3' (from Europe) and 'Japan 00/02' (from Japan) will have more stars
  • Cars made to tighter standards such as 'Euro 4' (from Europe) and 'Japan 05' (from Japan) will have even more stars.