Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

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Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

Employment for panelbeaters is expected to decline over the next few years. At the same time, the industry reports serious challenges in recruiting qualified staff, and there is strong demand for qualified workers. Apprentice positions remain competitive with many applicants for each position.

Longer term, demand for panelbeaters may decrease, as there is a trend of replacing rather than repairing car parts.

How to become a panelbeater

What they do

“Panelbeaters” refers collectively to those working in the automotive collision repair sector. The sector includes collision repair technicians and automotive refinishers.

Collision repair technicians weld and repair cars that have been damaged in a collision, or rusted over time. They replace and repair sections of the cars exterior in order to restore the car to a proper condition.

Automotive refinishers prepare the surface of the car for painting and then paint the car after the collision repair technicians have been working on it. Preparation for painting involves sanding the affected areas of the car.

Their tasks may include:

  • removing damaged panels and parts, and removing upholstery and accessories to gain access
  • removing dents by hammering panels
  • straightening damaged vehicles and parts using mechanical and hydraulic equipment
  • replacing badly damaged sections with new or second-hand panels
  • filling depressions with plastic filler, and filing, grinding and sanding repaired surfaces
  • cutting and joining replacement sections using welding equipment
  • fitting repaired or replacement panels on vehicles and refitting body hardware such as door locks and trims
  • assisting vehicle body builders in constructing and restoring custom-designed, vintage and other specialty vehicles
  • spray-painting vehicles.


To become a qualified collision repair technician you need a National Certificate in Motor Industry (Automotive Body) (Levels 3 and 4) with a strand in collision repair.

To become an automotive refinisher, you can do the same qualifications, but with a strand in refinishing.

Cost of study

On the job training

*if completed as an employer-funded apprenticeship there may be no fees for the apprentice

The least expensive way to train as a collision repair technician or automotive refinisher is to become an apprentice and learn on the job. As an apprentice you can earn while gaining a qualification.


First time students may be eligible for fees-free tertiary education for their first year of study, which will reduce the total cost. For more information about fees-free eligibility, go to Some polytechnics may have a zero-fees scheme. Further costs include materials, textbooks, and accommodation.

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services: 

Where to study

MITO New Zealand Incorporated (MITO) is the Industry Training Organisation (ITO) that facilitates on the job training for collision repair and automotive refinishing. Through MITO, qualifications are achieved through New Zealand Apprenticeship training programmes while working full-time in the industry. Generally, the training takes around three and a half years to complete. As part of the apprenticeship, MITO apprentices will get up to 80 hours of off-the-job training every year through a local polytechnic or specialist training provider. Polytechnics throughout New Zealand also provide panelbeating courses.

The New Zealand Apprenticeships scheme is available for anyone over the age of 16, and is subsidised by the government. More information on the scheme is on the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) website.


Completed qualifications

The number of graduates with a Level 4 Certificate in Panel Beating has been low in recent years.

Qualification completions chart

Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


The annual income in 2019 for panelbeaters is estimated to be around $46,400. There is a significant range of wages depending on whether the employee is qualified or not, and experienced, qualified workers may earn much more than this.

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index.

A 2018 Motor Trade Association Survey found that:

  • The average income for a qualified employee can be much higher than the national average across the sector.
  • The average hourly rate for a qualified collision repair technician is $28.35
  • The average hourly rate for a qualified automotive refinisher is $28.38.

Employment and skill shortages

Panelbeaters’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2023 2028
3,375 2,553 2,080 1,970
  -3.9% -3.4% -0.9%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
* Growth projections are based on the wider category “Panelbeaters, and Vehicle Body Builders, Trimmers and Painters”.

The number of panelbeaters in employment eased slightly from 2006 to 2013. This trend is projected to have eased in the current period, but the decline is projected to ease after 2023.

At the same time, the industry reports difficulties in hiring qualified employees. This indicates that the decline in employment is because there are too few qualified panelbeaters, rather than too little work.

Employment chart

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Outcomes after qualification completion*

OverseasIn further studyReceiving a benefitIn employmentMedian Salary
8% 25% 9% 76% $49,000

Source: Tertiary Education Commission
*Three years after completion of Level 4 Certificate – Panel Beating.

Panelbeaters are on Immigration New Zealand's regional shortage lists. If a job appears on the list, it means the government is actively encouraging skilled people in the role to come and work in New Zealand. A full list is available on the Immigration New Zealand website.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

The number of online job ads for panelbeaters grew quickly in the years leading up to 2017, and it has varied in the last few years.

 Jobs advertised chart

Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

Panelbeater vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs, Seek and MITO websites. There are specialist recruitment agencies for the automotive industry, such as Automotive Employment NZ and Automotive and Technical Personnel. Many jobs can also be found via word-of-mouth or by approaching employers proactively.

Trade Me Jobs: 
Automotive Employment NZ:   
Automotive and Technical Personnel:

Career path

Panelbeaters can go on to specialise in certain aspects of the trade. Experienced panelbeaters often progress to business management and ownership.

Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level panelbeaters.

  • Automotive Electrician
  • Automotive Parts Salesperson
  • Automotive Spraypainter
  • Automotive Technician
  • Automotive Trimmer
  • Automotive Underbody and General Service Technician
  • Coachbuilder
  • Collision Repair Technician
  • Diesel Motor Mechanic
  • Exhaust and Muffler Repairer
  • Heavy Vehicle Automotive Technician
  • Light Vehicle Automotive Technician
  • Motor Mechanic
  • Motorcycle Mechanic
  • Radiator Repairer
  • Small Engine Mechanic
  • Vehicle Body Builder
  • Vehicle Electrician
  • Vehicle Painter

Other information


More information on panelbeaters is available on the Careers New Zealand and Motor Trade Association (MTA) websites and through the "Just the Job" videos.

Careers New Zealand: 
Vocational Pathway: 
Motor Trades Association (MTA): 
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Automotive Collision Repair 
Just the Job video clip: A Career as an Automotive Refinisher


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of panelbeaters has been coded to the following ANZSCO code for their purpose of this report:

324 – Panelbeaters, and Vehicle Body Builders, Trimmers and Painters