10 Tips on How to Score a Cheap Campervan Rental in New Zealand

Let’s be honest, New Zealand is not a cheap country to travel. If you’ve been looking at hiring a campervan or motorhome in New Zealand then you’ve likely already realized this also isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s pretty expensive!

First of all, I need to tell you that it is worth it! Don’t let the price tag attached with travel in New Zealand get you down. The county is absolutely amazing and worth splurging a little bit – trust me on this!

Secondly, there are cheap ways to get around pretty much anything! I know of campervan rental companies in NZ that only cost $42 USD a day! While that is still a hefty expense for the budget-backpacker, think of all of the savings!

When you travel in a self-contained certified campervan in New Zealand you can sleep for free every single night. These campervans also have kitchens and cooking equipment so you don’t have to spend ridiculous amounts of money on food and eating out for every meal.

Also, say goodbye to bus and tour costs as having your own wheels will allow you to get around easily and do things without a guided tour! Having a campervan in NZ will literally save you thousands in other expenses too!

Still haven’t convinced you?

Well, if you still want a campervan for cheap in New Zealand, I’m about to share with you a few tips to score a good deal! I spent over a year in New Zealand traveling everywhere and living in my campervan! I rented a campervan, built my own, and spoke to hundreds of other travelers on the road.

Based on what I’ve learned, there are a couple of ways you can get yourself a cheap campervan rental for your NZ road trip – 7 ways to be exact! (Be sure to read tip #2 with a campervan promo code as well as #7 about the “AirBnB” of campervans in NZ!)

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1. Go in the winter

renting a motorhome in nz in the winter
Taking our rental vehicle for a road trip in winter!

I know, traveling around New Zealand in a campervan in the middle of winter doesn’t sound that appealing. But, if you want a good deal then this is the time to go! Almost every campervan rental company lowers its rates in the winter.

Plus, road tripping around NZ in winter really isn’t that bad. The views are more scenic (snow-capped mountains everywhere), you can do winter sports (skiing in NZ is awesome), and most places are much less busy (Milford Sound sees only a fraction of the visitors in the winter compared to summer)!

Simply put, it is easier to book tours and everything is honestly cheaper.

Most campervan rental companies will also give you a small heater to run at night in your camper as well as plenty of blankets. Think of being snuggled up in your camper taking in mountain views with a glass of local red wine. Sure, it might get a little cold sometimes, but if you’re on that tight of a budget the savings will totally be worth it!


2. Take Advantage of Promo Codes and Discounts

mad campers campervan in nz
Use our discount code DEST5 to get this exact camper 5% off from Mad Campers!

If you’re a savvy shopper then you probably already know that promo codes and discounts exist for nearly everything in this world. Well, I’m here to tell you that campervan hire in NZ is no different.

Some companies run special promotions during certain times of the year or deals if you book for a longer period. The best way to find out about these specials is on their social media. Most companies don’t change their website every couple of months with new deals, so be sure to follow them on Facebook and Insta for the latest specials.

When we were in NZ we actually rented a campervan from Mad Campers. We loved this company so much and had such an awesome experience that we actually asked for a discount code to give you guys (our wonderful readers!)

Any time of the year, you can use our Mad Campers discount code DEST5 to get 5% your campervan rental. These guys already offer the cheapest campervan on the market, so with this discount, you’ll save a ton!

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3. Narrow down your campervan requirements

having a drink outside our campervan
Daniel, enjoying a drink at our campsite for the night!

If you want a cheap camper you need to go basic. Larger campers are more expensive as with motorhomes and trailers. Some campers offer enough room to stand up in and while this is super helpful, it is a luxury and comes at a premium.

If you want a cheaper campervan you will be looking at a smaller mini-van style camper. These usually come with a bed that folds up into a table as well as a kitchen that is accessible from the back.

Other things that cost more and can be add-ons include a second battery (to have electricity all of the time), fold-out tables and chairs, a portable shower, an awning, and a roof-rack.

The cheapest campervan I know of is a self-contained camper built for just one person. It is small but has enough room to sleep, store your stuff, and cook. It has a second battery as well as an electric removable tap that seconds as a shower. Prices do vary depending on the season and availability, but you can get this little guy for as little as $42 USD a day! (Be sure to use our Mad Campers promo code (DEST5) to score an additional 5% of the rental cost!)

*Hot tip – you’ll want a fold out table and chairs. While camping, it is nice to be able o sit outside and I honestly think these are  must. BUT most campervan companies charge a daily hire rate for these, and depending on how long you are renting for, it could be easier to just buy your own. Check out Kmart for cheap deals, or look for some second-hand on Facebook Marketplace or Trade me (the Kijiji or Gumtree equivalent in Nz.)


4. Book a campervan location transfer

travelling nz in a van
The views from your campervan are likely the best you’ll get in NZ!

The cheapest option by far for getting a campervan in New Zealand is to take part in a location transfer.

What do I mean?

Well, campervan companies often need to get certain campervans to certain locations for customers to pick-up. So, instead of paying someone to drive the campervan to where it needs to be, the company gets a tourist to drive it for free (or very cheap). The campervan company saves money and so do you – it’s a win-win!

The only downside to doing this is the dates are very specific and they often don’t allow much time. This means a location transfer campervan is really only suitable for someone who doesn’t have much time in New Zealand and is happy to fast-track everything. For example, to get a campervan from Auckland to Christchurch you’ll generally get about 6 days. It isn’t a lot but could be a good option for the right traveler. This same route is free (you do need to pay for insurance though.)

You can browse available location transfers here.


5. Save on insurance

camping at beautiful places in New Zealand while living in a van
We sure camped at some beautiful places!

Insurance to go with your campervan rental is another big expense.  You need it and want good insurance because these campervans are worth a lot of money. You don’t want to get in an accident and have to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage now, do you?

The truth is, you can’t escape insurance. But, you can get it cheaper than most do!

First of all, you can get car or campervan rental insurance included in your travel insurance. Doing a package deal this way is bound to be cheaper than the insurance offered by your campervan rental company.

Second, you have different options for insurance. The high the deductible (aka “excess”) the lower the overall cost. Some of the deductibles get up to several thousands of dollars, which is a lot of money. One little trick I learned is that you can actually get an external insurance company to insure your deductible.

Wait, what do I mean?!

Basically, you get insurance for your campervan directly from your campervan rental company. Get the insurance with the highest deductible. Then, go to a company like CarInsure.net and get insurance for your deductible. This way, if you do get into an accident both the campervan AND deductible are covered. And, the total price is way cheaper than paying all that money for insurance with little to no deductible.

*Be sure to double-check your coverage with your campervan rental company. If you do go with an external provider, you often need to put a deposit down upfront. The rules change from company to company though so just review the details and be sure you’re 100% covered!


6. Book directly with the campervan rental company

living in a self-contained van
Me, enjoying a glass of wine in our self-contained van.

There are hundreds of third-party booking websites for campervans in New Zealand out there. Don’t use them. Period.

Why?

Well, we have heard of many problems (including not getting the right campervan) from using third party booking websites, so we generally advise people to stay away from them. Also, if you do have any problems or need to cancel it is much harder dealing with a third party than the rental company directly. A lot of these booking companies have terrible customer service which can end up costing you time and money on your NZ road trip.

Often third party booking companies appear to offer the best deals enticing you to book with them. Most of the time the deals aren’t that good and you can get a better deal directly from the company.  

If you DO find a better deal on a third party booking website then I recommend to screenshot the deal, and then email the rental company directly. More often than not, the rental company will match this deal and you can book straight from them (no middle man!)

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7. Rent from a person (as opposed to a company!)

inside of our campervan
This is the inside of our van that Daniel built himself! If you rent a van from a person, you could end up with something as unique as this!

If you aren’t set on a particular rental company, then consider renting a privately owned campervan or motorhome instead! There is a company called Outdoorsy that is essentially the “AirBnB of campervans”!

What does this mean?

Well, instead of going through a company that has a business renting campervans, you just rent from a normal person who owns a campervan and won’t be using it for your travel dates. The prices are way cheaper generally and you can get better bang for your buck.

All you need to do is make an account, enter your travel dates and location and then browse all of the campervans available! You can check reviews and photos just to be sure you know what you’re getting.

This is a fairly new concept and one we can get behind pretty easily. I mean, it saves you money so it is a really good option!

You can check out Outdoorsy’s website here and see what they have available for your travel dates!


8. Travel with others

campervan at sunset
Dan and I both lived comfortably in our van for several months!

Sure, that one-person campervan I mentioned above is perfect for the solo traveler. But in all honesty, traveling with other people is not only more fun, but it is also more cost-effective. You can split the cost of the rental, share meals, and share fuel costs (fuel is not cheap in NZ and will likely be your biggest expense on the road.)

If you don’t already have friends or a partner to travel with, you can get one! In the NZ backpacker community, it isn’t unusual for strangers to rent a campervan and travel together just to save money. You can meet other travelers in hostels when you get to NZ or you can try and organize something in advance.

The NZ Backpackers Facebook group is a great place to find a travel buddy. Just join the group and post your travel dates and that you’re looking for someone to rent a van with (or someone that already has one) and hopefully you’ll make a new friend as well as save some cash!

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9. Have the same pick-up and drop-off location

view of the beach from inside a campervan
From beaches to mountains, NZ has it ALL!

Rental companies will often charge you more if you pick-up and drop-off you campervan in different locations. So, if you want the cheapest deal, be sure to choose the same pick-up and drop-off locations.

The most common and cheapest places to pick-up/drop-off your campervan will be Auckland, Christchurch, or Queenstown. These are big tourism hubs with the majority of rental company office locations.

*Hot tip – if the company you choose has offices in more than one location you may be abe to pick up from their office and then drop off at another for no additional cost. Be sure to ASK about this before you book to avoid hidden fees.


10. Buy (or build) Your Own

Me, putting in the work to build our own campervan!

Even if you do use all of the tips I’ve written above, a campervan rental in New Zealand still isn’t necessarily “cheap.” It is affordable if you’re only visiting NZ for a few weeks, but if you’re visiting for a couple of months then it is likely a better deal to buy your own campervan.

You can buy a campervan already done, or just buy a van and convert it into a camper yourself. Whichever you choose to do should be based on the amount of time you have and how handy you are.

If you buy a campervan in the winter and plan to sell in the summer (or even at the start of summer) chances are you will actually make money on your van. Doing it the opposite way around will be costly though as there aren’t many people looking to buy campervans in winter in NZ.

Be sure to check out our blog all about what to look for when buying a campervan in NZ!


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I really hope you do explore NZ in a campervan. It is a beautiful country and the best way to experience it is with your own wheels (home on wheels for that matter!) There are so many amazing places to see in NZ, I guarantee it’ll be a trip you remember for a lifetime!

Be sure to check out our blog that is a complete guide to renting a campervan in NZ for more detailed information!

-Bailey

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