Campervan Rental in NZ – Choosing a van, planning tips & need to know info
So, you’re deciding to rent a campervan in New Zealand?
Great idea! Honestly, traveling NZ in a campervan was one of the best experiences of my LIFE!
That being said, I know that the whole planning process for renting a campervan in New Zealand can be a bit daunting. From choosing a campervan rental company to figuring out insurances and hidden fees, it all seems like A LOT.
I know, I’ve been there.
What style of campervan (or motorhome) should I get?
How much is hiring a campervan in New Zealand going to cost me? Are there any hidden fees?
Are some campervan rental companies better than others?
Do I need a certain license to drive in New Zealand?
What age do I have to be to hire a campervan in NZ?
What are the road rules in NZ and what are the roads like?
Do I need a self-contained van?
These are all questions I had once and I’m pretty sure you have as well.
After traveling around NZ in a van for an entire year I consider myself somewhat of an expert. Between the hundreds of travelers I’ve met and the dozens of vans I’ve seen, I know what you need to have an awesome NZ road trip experience.
So here it goes, I’ll answer all of these important questions and more to help you rent the RIGHT campervan in NZ.
Why trust us: This guide comes from my personal experience as well as tips from my family (who visit New Zealand every year and rent a campervan or motorhome.)
What are the different styles of rental campervans in NZ?
There are 3 main types of New Zealand campervan rental vehicles. Each has the own pros and cons and all vary in price range. The decision on which one to rent should depend on your budget, how many people you travel with, and your confidence driving on the roads.
1. Camp-car (1 to 2 people)
Price Range (NZD) :
- Peak Season (Dec – Feb): $60 – $100
- Low Season (June – Aug): $40 – $80
A camp car is the most basic campervan available. It is generally a small-sized van or just a car with a fold-out bed.
The pros of renting camp cars include being easy to drive, cheap to rent, and inexpensive to run. The downside to camp cars is a small living space, generally uncomfortable to live in, use of a portable toilet, and limited storage space.
I would only recommend renting a camp car for shorter trips where you plan on spending some nights at holiday parks. Many camp cars are NOT self-contained certified which makes freedom camping more challenging, and in some cases, impossible.
If you want more information on “freedom camping” and “self-contained vehicles” check out our blog: Freedom Camping in New Zealand !
2. Campervan (1 to 4 people)
- Peak Season (Dec – Feb): $100 – $150 per day
- Low Season (June – Aug): $60 – $100 per day
Campervans are the happy medium between liveability and driveability.
The pros of renting a campervan in New Zealand is that they are more comfortable than camp cars, easier to drive than motorhomes, lots of living space, and have the option to share between up to 4 people.
The downside to a campervan is they are still not big enough to walk around in, involve folding away beds and tables every day, and they only have a portable toilet. You can stand up in the larger campervans with the high roof but you still won’t have a proper fixed toilet/bathroom!
Campervans can be used for both long and short trips and are still great for freedom camping. Not all campervans are self-contained certified though. You will pay more for renting a self-contained certified campervan but this will allow you freedom camp almost anywhere (that means not paying for campsites!)
3. Motorhome (up to 6 people)
- High Season (Dec – Feb): $300+ per day
- Low Season (June – Aug): $170+ per day
Motorhomes are large vehicles made for living in and are very comfortable.
The pros of a motorhome are that they have a comfortable living space, feels like a home, can fit up to 6 people, great for families, have a fixed flush toilet and bathroom, and have plenty of storage space.
However, the downsides are that motorhomes are very large to drive, expensive, high fuels costs, and limits places you can visit.
Motorhomes are perfect for long and short trips and really comfortable for freedom camping. If you have the budget and don’t want to rough it then a motorhome really is the best rental choice!
How do I know what type of campervan rental is best for me?
There are a few different things you should think about before deciding what campervan rental style to go with for your own trip. Ask yourself the following questions and make your decision based on your answers:
Will you freedom camp?
Freedom camping means camping for FREE! In New Zealand, there are various parking lots and areas allocated for those who want to freedom camp. The downside to these places is that they are very limited in terms of facilities.
Oftentimes, there will only be a pit toilet, no showers, and that’s it! Alternatively, in certain regions, you can just drive off the beaten track and park wherever you want to camp with no facilities at all.
For both of these options, you will almost always need to be in a self-contained certified vehicle which is a certification that basically means you can live in your vehicle without littering (or going to the toilet in the bush.)
If you plan on freedom camping then picking a campervan or motorhome with some extra luxuries is a good idea. Having things like a second battery for power, a high roof, and an inside kitchen will help a lot when you’re not in a holiday park (or paid campground) with lots of facilities.
If you don’t plan on freedom camping and plan to use holiday park facilities then you don’t need to spend the money on the extra features you likely won’t use that often. Almost every holiday park will have large common areas including kitchen facilities, bathrooms with showers, laundry facilities, and some even have bars or restaurants.
Do you need a “proper” bathroom/toilet?
If you rent a campervan (not a motorhome) then the toilet in the vehicle will be a small, portable, chemical toilet. These toilets are required in order for the vehicle to get self- contained certified, however, they are not very practical and most people avoid using them.
Going to the toilet in the bush is frowned upon in New Zealand (and illegal so you could find yourself getting a hefty fine). Instead, you must either make use of this tiny toilet or be prepared to use public toilets.
We had a portable chemical toilet in our van and in the several months we lived in it, we never used it. There are so many public toilets in New Zealand that using our own just wasn’t necessary.
In a motorhome, the toilet is fixed and flushes into a fixed tank below the vehicle. This means it’s fine to use. However, most people limit it to liquid waste. This is because you need to empty this tank before returning it and this can be a challenge with solids in the tank. If you really don’t want to empty the tank, you can have it done by the rental company but this does cost money.
Motorhomes also have a designated bathroom with a door. This is a must for some people but not so important for others.
If you’re not sure what toilet your rental comes with then ask. It’s important to have the right expectation!
Can you drive a big motorhome?
If you’re not a confident driver then getting the largest motorhome out there isn’t a great idea. It’s important to know before you go that many of the roads you will travel on will be very windy and narrow.
Driving a large motorhome on these roads can be difficult so it’s definitely something to think about before renting a campervan in New Zealand.
Are you renting a campervan during the winter?
New Zealand’s winters are very cold (to me). In the South Island, temperatures can drop to -10 degrees Celsius. In the North Island, it can get below 0. If you plan on doing a winter road trip through New Zealand renting a motorhome or campervan with a heater is necessary (unless you’re crazy).
That being said, please be aware that you cannot run an electric heater off a second battery and will need to be plugged in at a holiday park. This is because heaters use far more electricity than your vehicle can handle.
I would also recommend getting a campervan with as much space as possible in the winter. You will be spending more time inside than in the summer so you want to be comfortable!
You can browse ALL of the different campervans and motorhomes for hire in New Zealand on the website Motorhome Republic. It is a booking search engine for campervans and is a great tool for deciding the style you need!
What are the BEST Campervan Rental companies in New Zealand?
Having lived in New Zealand for a long time as nomads (basically homeless) we really got to know the campervan companies well!
To be completely honest, most of the campervan rental companies or motorhome rental companies in New Zealand are reliable. The standard in New Zealand is so high because of the competitive market. However, the big difference between companies is service!
But why? Service is important to us especially when you’re driving a very expensive home around New Zealand. Also being apart of a family of renters instead of just being a number feels great!
Here are our recommended campervan rental companies some of who we now call friends!
Kiwi Motorhomes (luxury motorhomes)
Kiwi Motorhomes is a small motorhome rental company that’s family-owned and operated! Their service is really the best you could ask for and there are many benefits to choosing such a good company including:
- No cleaning fees
- No booking fee
- Full comprehensive insurance (included in the rate!)
- Free airport & airport hotel pick up/drop off
- No RUK (Road User Charges)
- One way hire options
- An extensive list of free items (that usually cost more with other companies)
Aside from the extra benefits, you’re choosing these guys because you want great service, good quality vehicles and that personal touch larger companies simply can’t give you!
We reached out to Kiwi Motorhomes and made a special partnership with them so that you can get 5% off your motorhome rental! Just enter in DEST5 when you book and you’ll automatically save!
Mad Campers (for campervans and camp-cars)
Mad Campers offer options perfect for those on a budget. They have awesome, well-made campervans and we have rented a campervan off of them before! They also offer a 1-birth camper! This is really cool as it gives solo travelers the option to rent a campervan at a discounted rate for 1 person. Heres some benefits to choosing Mad Campers:
- They’re environmentally conscious
- Service is personal and really next-level good!
- One of the cheapest companies with the best vans
- We can also get you a 5% discount (10% if you complete the MAD Challenge!)
- They’re travelers too so they have the best advice!
- They run the MAD Challenge (5% discount if you complete it)
- They have a one-person campervan
But like above they’re a small company owned and operated with a passion for travel around New Zealand!
We loved our rental with Mad Campers so much we’ve partnered with them to secure our readers a special deal! Enter in DTRAVEL5 when you request a quote or book to get 5% off your campervan rental!
Why only two companies? Well, we could have partnered with every campervan rental company in New Zealand and just about sold you on every choice out there. However, it’s a once in a lifetime holiday for our readers and we want no part in risking that with a dodgy recommendation! These above companies are some of the best, but don’t take our word for it, check out their reviews for yourself!
Other Campervan Rental Companies in New Zealand
Just because we’re partial to Mad Campers and Kiwi Motorhomes doesn’t mean they are your only option. There are literally dozens of campervan rental companies in New Zealand and it is probably in your best interest to shop around!
Here are some more companies we’ve heard good things about:
Budget Campervan Rentals in NZ:
Happy Campers offers smaller mini-van style campervans for the budget travelers but also larger styles if you want to spend a bit more for space.
These guys have really great reviews even though their campervans are some of the cheapest available!
Mid-range Budget Campervan Rentals:
Tui Campers offers a campervan that has a high roof and the kitchen inside, it is the perfect mid-range option for those who want to live comfortably but also on a bit of a budget.
Jucy is a very large company in New Zealand. They have tons of campers to choose from as well as hostels, restaurants, and tours you get discounts at if you rent with them!
Discover NZ Motorhome Rentals have some of the best reviews on Motorhome Republic but they don’t come cheap as one of the most luxurious and expensive motorhome company in NZ.
Maui is one of the largest motorhome rental companies in New Zealand. They have a huge selection of different sizes and styles of motorhomes!
How far in advance do I need to book?
If you know when you’re going to NZ then I would suggest booking your campervan rental as soon as possible.
Why? To avoid missing out!
Some of the best campervan hire companies we recommend are small companies with only a limited number of campers or motorhomes to hire out. In the summer months, these companies WILL book out. However, in the winter they may not.
If you are visiting during the summer months (December to March) I recommend booking your campervan at least a few months in advance. This is the busy season when it comes to road tripping in NZ and therefore it is more important to book in advance.
During the winter (June to September) there are a lot fewer people renting campervans in NZ so you don’t need to book as far in advance.
Browse all campervans and motorhomes available for hire during your intended dates on Motorhome Republic. This is a great search engine for campervans and makes comparing prices and features easy!
What does it cost to hire a campervan in NZ?
Most campervans cost between $45-200 USD per day for the base rental rate. Of course, this is a BIG range. Prices differ quite a lot on campervan hires based on a few reasons:
- The size of campervan or motorhome you rent and the number of people it fits. Larger campervans and ones that sleep more people cost more.
- The season you are renting your campervan. Summer is peak season and the most expensive time to hire a camper in NZ. Winter is considerably cheaper.
- What your camper comes with. Some companies include things (like a fold-out table and chairs, towels, etc)
But the base daily rental rate isn’t your only expense. There are some extras that you WILL have to pay and should budget for…
Extra Campervan Costs (that most people don’t know about)
These fees are not hidden as such, but more unknown to most and can be missed when calculating your budget.
Pick-up and drop-off location fees:
When you rent a campervan you must select a pick-up and drop-off location. If you choose to drop your campervan or motorhome off in another city you will likely be charged a relocation fee. These fees can exceed $300. For this reason, it’s important to know exactly what you want to see and if you can see those things and end up back in the city you started.
Check out our blog on 10 New Zealand road trip itineary ideas to help you pick the perfect New Zealand road trip itinerary and minimise these fees.
The fuel tax is a tax on diesel vehicles that is paid per 1000km. This is paid for by the rental company in advance but is passed onto you depending on how many kilometers you do on your trip (unless they specify it’s included). This tax is paid on diesel vehicles only.
This fee is around $7 – $10 NZD per 100km depending on the size of the vehicle. It is worth noting that with this tax, fueling up a diesel vehicle is about the same cost as a petrol vehicle (petrol is more expensive at the pump but does not get taxed afterward.)
Gas bottle refill:
If you use a gas bottle (which all campers do) then you need to make sure it’s full when you return it. This cost depends on how much you use.
My advice is NOT to go to a “swap and go”. These places basically just swap your bottle for a full one and while it is more convenient it is more expensive. They will charge almost $40 compared to $3.30 a liter at a refill station. In three weeks you will be lucky to use a third of a 9-liter bottle meaning it should only cost $10 to refill.
You can find these refill stations at certain fuel stations or at specific gas businesses, however, the most common place is at CALTEX fuel stations. If you are unsure where there is one in your area, just call up the nearest visitor center (i-site) and ask, they will be able to tell you where to go!
Some campervans come with limits on the number of kilometers you’re allowed to do on your trip without incurring an extra fee. Please check this with your rental company to ensure you have all of the costs worked out.
If you don’t clean your camper sufficiently they can charge you cleaning fees. Most rental companies only require the floor to be swept, tanks emptied and benches wiped down. However, please check with your rental company on these requirements.
Rental vehicles change hands regularly and small damage can get missed by one inspector and picked up by another. For this reason, it’s important to note down all damage you notice when you pick up your rental.
Do not let the rental company tell you what’s wrong. DO YOUR OWN INSPECTION and make sure every item that has even the smallest amount of damage is in the pre-rental report. Also, it’s a great idea to take your own photos for your record.
Toll Roads in New Zealand:
There are a few toll roads in New Zealand. These tolls are not expensive and only cost around $2. These can be paid online just by entering in the number plate on this website. Please only pay tolls from the dates you had or have the vehicle.
Another thing worth noting is included toll fees. These are common with some rental companies and they will try to sell you a $20 toll limit. It’s very unlikely you will use the $20 so I suggest to just pay as you go if you have the option.
If you are picking up your campervan on one island and dropping it off on another it is your job to book the ferry between the islands. Booking the ferry in advance can save you money and make your road trip in New Zealand hassle-free. You can book your ferry tickets here.
Depending on the company you book with your included extras will differ. For example, a table and chairs are not always included, neither is a fan. Some extras to ask for included in your quote when deciding on a company are:
- Fold-out table and chairs
- Fan (for summer)
- Heater (for winter)
- Pots pans and utensils
We wrote an awesome blog that includes 10 different tips on how to get a CHEAP Campervan Rental in New Zealand.
*Don’t forget insurance costs as well! Depending on your travel insurance, this can be a hefty cost. Keep reading for more info on campervan rental insurance in NZ and the cost!
What time of year is best for a road trip in NZ?
The choice is ultimately yours…do you prefer beaches or winter sports?
The truth is that any time of year is fine of an NZ road trip – you just need to be properly prepared!
In the winter, it can get quite cold sleeping in a campervan (especially in the South Island.) Make sure you bring lots of warm clothes and ensure the rental company gives you warm blankets!
The road conditions can also be a bit icy and snowy. Your rental company will provide you with snow chains in case you need them. If you don’t know how to fit them ASK before taking off. Snow chains will be required on certain mountain passes or roads.
The upside to renting a campervan in New Zealand in the winter is that it will be much cheaper. The rental fees for the campervan will be cheaper as well as the fees for staying in holiday parks. Not to mention that most tourist attractions will be less busy and booking holiday parks and activities in advance is not necessary.
The summer is the busiest time of year for campers. You could find that campground are booked out or certain attractions are packed.
Sometimes it can get very hot sleeping in a van in the summer as well. Be sure your campervan rental has curtains as keeping the sun out is a good way to minimize the heat.
That being said, in the summer it is gorgeous! You can relax at the beach or tackle any hike (many are closed in the winter.)
What kind of drivers license do I need?
First off, you’re going to need a valid driver’s license to rent a campervan or motorhome in New Zealand.
Most companies state that if you have a driver’s license in English from your home country then you will be fine to drive and rent a campervan or motorhome in New Zealand (providing that license allows you to drive the same vehicle in your home country.) They will also accept an international driver’s license in this case.
Non- English License
If your license in your home country is not in English you will need to have it translated to English and bring BOTH licenses when you pick up the vehicle. This translation MUST be done by an NZ Transport agency authorized translator, consulate or embassy, or by the organization that authorized your license in your home country.
Rental companies MAY also accept an international driver’s license that has been translated into English. Here is a list of authorized translators.
Some rental companies can also offer a translation service at the time of picking up your vehicle. This does cost around $70 NZD and needs to be organized in advance.
How to ensure you have the right license: The best way to make sure you have the correct license is to contact the company before you arrive. That way you can let them know what license you have and find out what you need to do to get on the road in New Zealand!
What are the roads and driving conditions like?
The roads in New Zealand are alright – Okay I know, that’s vague. Let me explain…
Most roads in New Zealand are paved and well maintained. You don’t need to worry much about potholes or gravel roads. Almost everywhere you will want to go has paved road access.
But the highways are often narrow single lanes. This means you’ll be driving well over 80km/h speeding past oncoming traffic (remember what I was saying about driving what size of vehicle you’re comfortable driving.)
It also means you can be stuck behind a slow vehicle for a longggggg time. Patience is a virtue and allow yourself more time than Google Maps suggests to get from point A to B (especially in the South Island).
There are also a lot of mountains in NZ (duh!) When driving near mountains or through mountain passes the roads can be very windy. Expect lots of turns, single-lane bridges, and blind corners.
In the winter there can be road closures due to snow and ice. Usually, closures only last for a day or two. The most common road closures include the road to Milford Sound and the Crown Range which is a pass that connects Wanaka and Queenstown (but there is an alternative route.) Your rental company will also supply snow chains during the winter and teach you how to use them if you’re traveling in the winter.
If you’re careful though, allow yourself lots of time, and take it easy you should be just fine. Just make sure if you rent a motorhome that you are comfortable with its size and navigating smaller, curvy roads.
What’s the deal with insurance?
Hiring a campervan in New Zealand can mean complicated and expensive insurance packages or a huge excess (deductible.) There are many options offered by campervan companies with the best being a comprehensive cover.
You pay more for better insurance. So, comprehensive cover is more expensive than basic. You also pay more to reduce your excess or deductible. So, depending on the company you choose, insurance can be costly.
Here are some ways around the high insurance expense:
Third-party Excess (deductible) Insurer
When you get insurance for your campervan you have a couple of options – you either get the most basic insurance that comes with a high excess (thousands of dollars), or you pay a lot more for insurance upfront and get a reduced excess.
Going with a third-party excess insurer means that you get the basic insurance from the rental company (with the big excess) and instead of paying huge fees to have the excess reduced, you take out a policy with another insurance company to cover the excess.
Simply put: If your excess is $10,000, you take out a policy to insure the $10,000 in case you have an accident.
This works out much cheaper than the cost of reducing the excess. For example, to reduce an excess from $8000 to $0 for a 4 birth motorhome last year cost my mum $2000 extra!
Another option is to get travel insurance that includes rental car insurance. These can work out cheaper than taking out two policies. A great company for travelers is World Nomads travel insurance. get a policy that covers around a $7,000 excess to be sure you’re covered!
Traveling for a long amount of time? Save money on travel medical insurance with SafetyWing (who I personally use!) You can travel NZ spending as little as $37 every 4 weeks!
How old do I need to be to rent a campervan or motorhome in NZ?
To rent a campervan in New Zealand you must be at least 18 years of age. This age limit is for smaller and more basic campervans. If you wish to rent a larger motorhome you generally must be over the age of 21.
When it comes to renting a campervan, generally speaking, you will need to pay an extra fee or have a higher excess if you are under 25. This is because you are considered a high-risk driver. For more information contact your chosen rental company directly.
If you’re planning on renting a self-contained vehicle for your NZ holiday, consider booking with the company Mad Campers, they are a local company offering affordable one and two person self-contained vehicles. Enter in DTRAVEL5 when you request a quote or book, you’ll get 5% off your campervan rental in New Zealand!
Anything else I should know?
Read the fine print
When renting a campervan in New Zealand, it’s important to read the fine print of any contract before you sign it! Some of the most common details included in fine prints are:
- Restrictions driving on certain roads
- Driving restrictions to ski fields
- Driving restrictions on gravel roads
- Driving restrictions on beaches (like Ninety Mile Beach)
Renting a campervan in New Zealand through a third party booking agency does have its pro’s and cons. There are great companies out there that can save you money.
One company that is very reputable and we personally reccomend is Motorhome Republic. It is very easy to use their website and a great way to compare styles or campers and prices.
Another one we use is Outdoorsy. These guys actually partner with private owners of campervans and act as a middle man on private rentals (the AirBnb of campervans!) The campervans are much cheaper and the third party company ensures both parties are looked after! They have campervans all over the world with a large selection in NZ.
Renting a campervan in New Zealand is the first step to having an amazing time on your road trip. For this reason, it’s one of the most important things to get right! This guide is not here to just help you plan your trip, but help you prepare for van-life and have realistic expectations so you can hit the road and love every minute!
There are a few amazing places in New Zealand that you will definitely want to check out along your road trip! They are:
…and many more. Check out the rest of our blogs about New Zealand!
September 13, 2019