Coachbuilder/Trimmer Kaihanga Pahi/Kaiwhakarākei Waka

Coachbuilders manufacture and assemble frames, panels and parts for vehicles such as buses and motor homes. Vehicle trimmers install and repair the upholstery of vehicles.

Coachbuilders/trimmers may do some or all of the following:

  • cut, shape, glaze and spray-paint metal parts
  • build vehicle frames
  • assemble and join parts to the frame, such as floor, roof and side panels
  • install electrical wiring
  • fit additional parts to vehicle bodies, such as hydraulic lifts and refrigeration equipment
  • repair, replace and modify frames and parts
  • install or repair upholstery.

Coachbuilders/trimmers working on motorhomes may also install plumbing, pressure-water systems, waste-water systems and gas in the vehicle.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for coachbuilders/trimmers includes:

  • fabrication work such as welding and working with sheet metal
  • assembling vehicles
  • work as a panelbeater.

Upholstering or sewing experience is useful for those wanting to work as a vehicle trimmer.

Personal Qualities

Coachbuilders/trimmers need to be:

  • efficient and practical
  • accurate, with an eye for detail.


Coachbuilders need to have:

  • knowledge of vehicle building materials and equipment
  • welding and collision repair skills, including the ability to cut and shape metal
  • skill in interpreting plans and sketches
  • knowledge of NZ Transport Agency regulations
  • knowledge of safe working practices.

Vehicle trimmers need to have:

  • sewing and pattern making skills
  • knowledge of different fabrics used in upholstery work.



  • usually work regular business hours, but may work overtime at busy times
  • work in factories or workshops.

Coachbuilder/Trimmers can earn around $23 per hour.

Pay for coachbuilders/trimmers varies depending on skills, experience, employer and the type of work they do. 

  • Coachbuilders/trimmers in training usually start on minimum wage.
  • Qualified coachbuilders with at least three years' experience can earn between $23 and $26 an hour. 
  • Very experienced coachbuilders/trimmers may earn more than $26 an hour.

Those running their own business may earn more than this, but their income depends on the success of the business.

Source: Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission research, 2017.

Coachbuilders/trimmers may progress to set up their own coachbuilding or trimming business, or move into management roles. Trimmers may progress into interior vehicle design.

Coachbuilders/trimmers may specialise in buses, vans, trucks, caravans or motorhomes, or super yachts.

Years Of Training

3 years of training usually required.

There are no specific entry requirements to become a coachbuilder or trimmer. 

Qualifications for coachbuilding and vehicle trimming

To become a qualified coachbuilder you need to complete an apprenticeship and gain a New Zealand Certificate in Coachbuilding (Level 3), overseen by industry training organisation MITO.

To become a qualified vehicle trimmer you need to complete an apprenticeship to gain a New Zealand Certificate in Industrial Textile Fabrication (Level 3).

Other trades useful background for coachbuilders and trimmers

Employers also hire people with other relevant experience or qualifications. 

For coachbuilders, experience in mechanical engineering, fabricating or welding is useful.

For trimmers, experience in sewing or upholstery is useful.