You’re considering hiring a camper van in New Zealand but you don’t know what you want. Are they difficult to drive? Expensive to run? Are they slow? This guide to hiring a camper van in New Zealand will guide you through many of the things to consider. This guide will only deal with renting a camper van – if you are interested in buying one either for backpacking, or for longer term use, check out the guide to buying a used car of campervan instead (coming soon!).
In this article we’ll cover the following : Facilities, Campervan Styles, Extras, Bonds, Time of Year to rent, off season relocations, pick up and drop off times and the New Zealand ‘Camping Our Way’ guide.
First of all make a list of what you want out of your camper van while touring New Zealand as this will make a dramatic difference in the costs, and how self sufficient you are. The choice largely depends on the comforts you want – are you happy to rough it looking out for public toilets and showers to use, or do you want to be able to pull up in the middle of nowhere, grab the chilled wine, and throw on the microwave meal whilst going for a quick shower inside? Do you need full electric power to power laptops etc from normal plug sockets, and do you want to be able to cook without having to unfold a camping stove?
Some people may decide to compromise on some facilities due to where they are likely to stay. If you are going to stay on campsites, many in New Zealand have TV lounges etc so you may be able to save some money by not having as many luxuries the van. In saying this, many backpackers will hire a basic van and still stay off the beaten track but it’s important to recognise the impact on the environment this can have.
Unless you are more elderly or just value your privacy I don’t really understand people who hire expensive motor homes with tvs, fridges, and showers, yet still spend $20-30 a night to stay on a camp site.
Like cars, there are many different style of camper van in New Zealand. The three main categories can be described are briefly described below, with bullet lists of facilities you may expect in each category. Due to the great number of layout options available, the facilities will vary according to rental company and, more importantly, your budget.
BACKPACKER / BUDGET VANS
– capacity of 2 people comfortably ($30-80) per night
- may be converted people carriers, or basic vans – easy to drive, cheaper to run
- lots of choice, very cost effective way to rent a van and save on costs
- unlikely to be a full conversion so may offer more space if you have a lot of kit
- little or no electric hookup – may provide 12 volt charger for ipods etc
- collapsible camping style stove with gas cans
- seating may be more basic meaning you have to turn your seats into a bed.
- fridge likely to be 12v coolbox
- more likely to be basic conversions and not proper kitchen style units
- may only offer a fixed bed which may not fold away
- if there isn’t a secondary leisure battery you could flatten your battery if you listen to the stereo etc.
- Some companies will paint their vans with muti colour logos and slogans – e.g. Escape & Wicked. They may offend some people, but they’re intended to be funny
- more powerful leisure batteries to allow power when not plugged into the mains
- may offer a proper fridge
- may offer full electric hookup when on camp or motorhome sites
- more likely to be converted with proper units and built in stove, drawers etc
- built in water and waste tanks
- may be slightly larger vans, with an increased cost of running
- more expensive to hire
- on board toilet and shower at top end
- ability to be self sufficient
- tv and stereo
- separate living and sleeping areas
- more storage
- bulkier vehicles to harder to navigate some narrower roads
- if still staying on campsites it will work out expensive
- more costly to run and slower to drive
When you are making rental enquiries, check that there aren’t any additional charges for things you may consider essentials like 12 volt chargers, sleeping bags, cutlery etc. Gadgets such as satnav are likely to cost you more and could add quite a bit onto your rental costs.
RUCs are Road User Charges that are applicable to diesel vehicles in New Zealand, which basically makes up most of the difference in price between petrol and diesel. If you are renting a diesel van check whether the RUC costs are included, or if they will be added on when you return your vehicle.
Self Contained Certification
If you want to have the ultimate freedom to stop anywhere, you should check that your campervan is certified self contained by the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA). This means that it is self contained for a set number of days minimum and has an onboard toilet. Some parking areas have this as a restriction and they are actually patrolled so you’ll get warnings if you stay there in an uncertified van.
Bonds & Deposits
In the past we’ve had rental bonds required to be paid upfront rather than just taking a credit card imprint. Although this practice shouldn’t happen, it’s worth checking as it could be treated as a cash advance on your card.
Time of Year
If you are travelling in low season like mid winter, early Spring, or later Summer you may be able to get some really good deals either allowing you to just save money, have a longer trip, or move up a level in luxury. While writing this in September there were offers where you could hire vans from $30 a day or under, 30% off, free relocations from South to North for up to 7 days and you could get 2 for 1 deals on some attractions and ski resorts so it is worth shopping around a lot.
Off Season Relocations
Many tourists will start their journey in Auckland, finishing in Christchurch either flying back for their flight home, or having different entry and exit points. If you are travelling off season and do your trip the other way round you may be able to get a few days rental for free by doing a relocation for a rental company. If you do this you’ll either get the whole rental cost for free if you get it back in a few days, or be able to rent for longer and get a reduction of a few days cost. In reality, the first option isn’t a good way to experience the country as it won’t give you any time to stop. Sometimes you could get up to 7 days free including a free interislander ferry ticket when travelling South to North.
Pick up and Drop off Times
If you are planning on landing at the airport and taking off in your van immediately check the rental company is open at the time of your arrival or departure is outside of standard business hours.
You probably already know that New Zealand is a beautiful country – that’s why you’re thinking of heading here! With larger campervans or motorhomes you will notice the speed tailing off dramatically when you climb some of the larger hills around the country. This may prove a bit of a burden for some but there’s no need to rush anyway as there is lots to see and do on your travels – just remember to use the slow lanes and pull over for other traffic to let them pass!
New Zealand is generally quite overrun with campervans and motorhomes and there are more problems being encountered with people not being so considerate to locals. Please ensure you have read the Camping Our Way – Love NZ guide.
Although the links below suggest which category each rental company are most likely to fall into, many of the rental companies will cover all categories. This list has been presented as a starting point if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by the choice!
|Budget / Backpacker :Spaceships
Backpacker Camper Vans
Medium Range :
I hope this guide has give you a good list of things to consider for your New Zealand campervan or motorhome hire. Have you any experiences you’d like to pass onto others? Please leave a comment below.