15+ Essential Tips for Campervan Rentals in New Zealand

 

17 Tips for Campervan Rentals in New Zealand
In partnership with Britz New Zealand


Few countries are as equipped for road trips as New Zealand
. The diverse landscapes, friendly small towns, and seemingly endless list of things do and places to see make the perfect recipe for adventure. Now just add a campervan rental and you suddenly acquire the ultimate freedom of not having to conform to hotel check-in times. Plus, you’re basically carting around your bed AND your kitchen…so sign me up, amirite?

But hold up

There’s a lot to know about campervan rentals in New Zealand! Things like choosing the right campervan, knowing where to park overnight, and accounting for all necessary fees are important details to consider before you go booking your dream-worthy holiday.

So, here are 17 things you’ll need to know for campervan rentals in New Zealand – so you can adventure more and worry less.
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1. There are a lot of campervan companies in New Zealand

…so choose wisely.

Road tripping New Zealand in a campervan is – undoubtedly – the BEST way to tour the country. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that there’s a bunch of campervan companies to choose from. In fact, making your choice can be overwhelming, because, at first glance, there are too many options.

However, if you take a peak below the surface, you’ll see that not all campervan companies in New Zealand are created equal. Each company differs in important things like pricing, insurance packages, add-ons, vehicle type, fees, and inclusions.

Which campervan company should you choose?

Before you go feverishly comparing campervan packages, think about your budget. Are you a budget traveler or someone who likes to splurge on a bit more comfort?

Campervan companies in New Zealand range from budget-friendly to pretty luxurious. But if you know your budget and how much comfort you’re willing to sacrifice, it’ll be pretty easy to narrow your options down to a few budget-designated companies. In fact, Katie and Ben over at Two Wandering Soles do a great job at comparing companies and breaking down all the questions you need to ask yourself before you make your choice.

A word of caution:

On a related note, if you’re traveling on a budget, be careful not to pinch pennies too hard.

There are a lot of deals online that advertise campervans in New Zealand for as low as $19/day. But, for that price – more often than not – you’ll be stuck with an old van that’s falling apart at the seams or incur a bunch of hidden fees. So much for saving money, right?

My personal choice:

We chose to travel with Britz during our 3 weeks in New Zealand.

Britz campers fall between the mid-high price range compared to other NZ campervan companies. But, for me, road tripping NZ was a dream trip and I wasn’t willing to sacrifice comfort (or peace of mind) to save a few extra dollars.

Some things I loved about Britz was their exceptional customer service, amazing inclusions, and no hidden fees. Oh yeah, and they’re eco-accredited, committed to running sustainable business and aim to minimize environmental impact. And, as a millennial eco-warrior, these are the things that really win my heart.

Road tripping New Zealand in a campervan rental is the best way to see the country!
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2. Choose the right campervan model

There’s a lot to consider when deciding which campervan to hire in New Zealand. Britz made choosing a campervan super easy with their quick comparison guide. But there’s still a few questions you’ll want to answer before making your choice.

For example, you’ll want to take into account: how many people you’re traveling with, where you want to go, the time of year, if you prefer a self-contained campervan, what size van you’re comfortable driving, and (again) your budget.

Which campervan is right for you?

BERTH: The number of berths in a campervan is equal to the number of sleeping spaces. Campervans in New Zealand range from small 2 berth vans to huge 6 berth RVs. 2 Berth vans are perfect for solo travelers and couples, while 6 berth RVs can accommodate larger families (6 people to be exact).

Obviously, the more berths in your campervan, the larger the campervan is. Most people rent a campervan that’s juuuust big enough to suit their needs. But, if you can, I suggest going up at least 1 berth (i.e., rent a van that fits more people than you need!) – especially for longer trips or if you’re traveling when the weather is bad. You’ll be happy for the extra space if you end up spending more time than anticipated inside.

SELF CONTAINED VS. NON-SELF CONTAINED: This one’s important because its going to dictate whether or not you have to leave your van to pee in the middle of the night. But more importantly – its going to be the deciding factor in if you’re going to have pay for campsites every night. Keep reading for information on finding campsites.

BUDGET: At this point, you took your budget into consideration when you chose which campervan company to hire. Now you’ll have to think about it again when you choose your campervan model.

A large, self-contained campervan will be more expensive than a small, non-self contained one. So if you’re on a tight budget, perhaps choosing a small or non-self contained campervan is better for you.
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3. Prices of campervan rentals in New Zealand vary by the season

When I first thought of hiring a campervan in New Zealand, my heart was set on summer time travel. For obvious reasons.

My expectation: Relaxing outside in the folding chairs with a glass of white wine, lounging with a book by a river, and watching the stars with the back doors wide open.

Reality: We’d probably (definitely) be eaten by sandflies because its summer. And we’d also be paying about two times as much for our campervan hire.

I’ve said it once (or 100 times…whatever), and I’ll say it again. Traveling in the off-season is my favorite travel hack. And taking that campervan road trip is no exception. Most of the time, you can cut the basic cost of your campervan rental in New Zealand by almost half by traveling in the off season.

And, don’t worry, that doesn’t apply to just winter. We traveled with Britz in the spring (September – October) and saved almost half of what we would have paid for peak season (i.e. summer) travel. Plus, we didn’t get eaten by sandflies AND there were baby lambs bouncing around literally everywhere, so that’s a win.

You can check out Britz’s seasonal deals here.
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4. Relocation and one-way fees for your campervan rental in New Zealand

One-way rental fees

Road tripping both islands? Chances are that you’ll want to pick up on one island and drop off on another. But you’ll probably have to pay for it. Dropping your rental off in a different location usually incurs a one-way fee of up to $300NZD.

BUDGET TIP: Check with your rental company. Campervan companies in NZ will sometimes run deals that waive your one-way fee if you travel in the off season.

You could also try taking the path less traveled…by going backwards. A lot of people rent campervans from companies in Auckland and drop off in Queenstown. Those companies need to get their vans back somehow, so often times they’ll waive the one-way fee (or reduce it significantly) for you to pick up the van in Queenstown and drop it back off in Auckland.

Relocation prices

If you’re traveling from the South Island to the North Island, sometimes you’ll get lucky and be able to score a great deal on campervan relocation. Relocation deals on your campervan base rate go for $1NZD – $5NZD per day. You’ll just have to pay for a few inclusions, insurance, and fuel.

To find relocation deals, just type “campervan relocation deals New Zealand” into google.

However, relocation deals often come with time restrictions, limited availability, and hidden fees. Always be sure to read the fine print!

If your campervan rental in NZ is self contained, you'll be able to park in designated free spaces overnight.

5. Where to park your campervan in New Zealand

But you can’t just park anywhere? Nope. In fact, as tourism has increased, New Zealand has been cracking down more and more on freedom camping. If you’re caught just camping willy nilly, you might even get slapped with a $400NZD fine.

But that’s not to say you can’t freedom camp. You just have to do it in designated areas. Free and non-serviced campsites in New Zealand range from restaurant parking lots to beachside pull-offs. But free camping is restricted to self-contained campervans (campervans with a bathroom and running water) only.

If your campervan is non-self contained, you’ll have to pay to park in serviced campgrounds. Serviced campgrounds range from $15NZD/night per person all the way to $40NZD/night per person.

BUDGET TIP: Self-contained campervans are more expensive up front. But, to be honest, I think we actually saved more money by not having to pay $15-40NZD per person to park at a camp site every night.

HOW TO FIND CAMPSITES

Download CamperMate for a map of all free, cheap, and full-service campgrounds around New Zealand
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6. You need to know how to drive in NZ

“Allow for extra time”. I can’t even tell you how many times I came across that advice during my travel research. It was everywhere. In blogs, peppered throughout travel itineraries, and scrawled across the top of our Britz campers welcome brochure. And for good reason.

I’ve done a lot of road tripping, from the fjords of Iceland to the logging roads of Belize and British Columbia. But driving in New Zealand is on another level.

Driving in New Zealand

Don’t be fooled by how easy it is to acquire  a campervan rental in New Zealand (seriously, all you need is a drivers license). Driving in New Zealand is no joke. Especially in a van.

Aside from remembering to keep left and always using your blinker in traffic circles, driving a campervan in New Zealand comes with its own set of challenges. The larger (and taller) your campervan is, the more difficult it will be to maneuver New Zealand roads. Many roads are full of tight switchbacks, ill suited for the faint of heart. They’re also steep and narrow, adding to the importance of driving with extreme care. Then add the one-way bridges, blind turns, and wind gusts that blow across the open roads in the lowlands, and you’ve got yourself a quite the driving adventure.

Bottom line? Don’t think you’re going to get anywhere fast. Allow for extra time.

Road closures

Many of the most scenic drives in New Zealand are cut through high elevation mountain ranges or snake along the cliffside above the ocean. There are various hazards in these areas including avalanches, high winds, rock slides, and slippery roadways.

Before driving any mountain pass (Lindis Pass, Arthurs Pass, Haast Pass, the Road to Milford etc.), always check with the NZ Transport Agency for road closures and delays as a result of inclement weather or rock slides.

Be sure to carry snow chains in late fall, winter, and early spring!
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7. Accept insurance coverage

90% of the time, I decline excess liability coverage for car rentals because my travel credit card’s got me covered in the event of an accident.

Campervan rentals in New Zealand fall into the other 10%. Do not decline campervan rental insurance.

Your campervan base rate should include basic insurance coverage, which covers basic body and windshield damage. Free insurance coverage is great and all, but you’ll probably want to upgrade your package for peace of mind. Remember those rock slides and high winds I told you about? Or gravel roads you’ll definitely encounter? Upgrading your insurance package will ensure that you’re covered in the event of a roll-over or damage to the undercarriage…which, unsurprisingly, aren’t all that uncommon.

Liability coverage packages vary by company, so you’ll want to make sure you research them carefully.
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8. Road usage charge

Everyone using New Zealand’s roads contributes toward their upkeep. If your campervan runs on gasoline, you’ll pay a levy (or a flat-rate tax) when you buy fuel that contributes to road maintenance.

But, while some campervans in New Zealand run on gasoline, many campervans run on diesel. In New Zealand, diesel is cheaper than gasoline. But, while diesel is cheaper, you’ll have to pay a road usage charge (RUC) of about $7.50NZD per 100km travelled.  You’ll be charged the fee when you return your vehicle.

BUDGET TIP: As you can imagine, $7.50NZD per 100km adds up if you’re road tripping all of New Zealand. Just driving straight from Auckland to Queenstown is 1500km. The good news is that if you hire from Britz, you can choose to buy their Express Return Pack. Among several great other perks, Britz includes your road usage charge in the express return pack for a flat rate of $285NZD.

Considering we drove over 3500km during our 3 weeks in NZ, paying for the express return was well worth it for us.

Road tripping NZ in a campervan rental

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9. Get there the day before

Arrive in New Zealand the day before your campervan pickup.  Take the day to catch up on sleep and alleviate jetlag before picking up your van the next morning. Not only will you be mentally fresh(er) for orientation, but you also won’t be driving while your circadian rhythm is out of whack.

Need to save money on a place to stay? CLICK HERE SAVE $40 on your first Airbnb rental in Auckland
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10. Allow time for pickup

Don’t assume that picking up your campervan is like picking up a rental car. You won’t be in and out of there in a hurry. In fact, your campervan pick up orientation can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour…if there’s not a line of people ahead of you.

During your pick up process, you’ll be required to show your valid drivers license, take a short quiz on driving laws in New Zealand, and then receive a tour of how to operate your campervan.

The amount of information during orientation can seem overwhelming, especially if you’ve never driven a campervan before. But don’t stress – you’re not expect you to remember it all! Your van will come fully equipped with a user manual, assistance number, and instructional videos in case you forget anything.

TIME SAVING TIP: Arrange for pick up as early as possible. You’ll save yourself (potentially) hours of waiting in line for orientation.
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11. Pack light!

Your campervan hire will come with a lot of inclusions. Pillows, sheets, blankets, towels, dishes, pots and pans, and silverware. Everything you need to make your campervan your home away from home! Just focus on bringing clothes and your own essentials. And even then, bring less than you think you’ll need.

Space is limited in a campervan, and if you’re traveling with another person, things will get prettyyyy cozy. In a campervan, less is more, so try to keep your luggage to a minimum. If you run out of clothes, just do your laundry. Laundry facilities can be found at just about every serviced campground in New Zealand. One washer load costs about $4NZD.
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12. Maintain your campervan

If your campervan is self-contained, you’ll have to perform some basic maintenance every few days. To keep your van smelling fresh, you’ll have to empty your toilet cassette and gray water at designated dump sites. You’ll also have to fill up the fresh water tank for running water. You’ll find dump sites and fresh water taps at all serviced campgrounds. All of this information will be provided to you in your campervan orientation.

You don’t necessarily have to book a campground to dump your waste, though. You can use the CamperMate app to find free dump sites. But if you want fresh water (and/or electrical hookups to use any outlets in your van), you’ll have to pay to book a serviced campsite every few days.

You’ll also want to be diligent about picking up after yourself. Self-contained or not, your campervan won’t have a whole bunch of room in it. It’ll be extra important to stay on top of tidying up, throwing out trash, and doing your dishes. If you don’t, things will get cluttered really fast. They’ll also go flying around when you drive on those winding mountain roads! Just ask the coffee maker that shattered on the floor when we drove off and I forgot it on the countertop….
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13. Remember to book your ferry ticket

If you want to road trip across both islands, you’ll have to cross the Cook Strait. And since swimming isn’t an option, you’ll have to pay to take your campervan on one of the Cook Strait ferries. The larger your campervan is, the more expensive the trip will be.

We sailed with the Interislander and spent $400NZD for our 7m campervan. If you’re looking to save money, I’ve been told the Bluebridge Ferry is a bit cheaper, but less comfortable. You can check for money saving deals on their websites.

And don’t forget to book early! There’s limited space for campervans on the ferries and they do sell out, especially in high season.

 

Sunset in Abel Tasman National Park, NZ

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14. No campervans in downtown Queenstown 

This is something we wish we had known ahead of time.

We came back to our campervan to a $40NZD ticket stuck to our windshield. But you don’t have to – because I just told you that you can’t park your campervan in downtown Queenstown.

If you want to tour Queenstown, book a space in a nearby campground. Leave your van there while you go into town. The Queenstown Holiday Parks are close enough for you to walk.
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15. Download offline maps (or make sure you have a GPS)

In a country with so few main roads, its surprisingly easy to get lost when you’re driving your campervan rental in New Zealand. Or maybe I just have a really bad sense of direction. Totally possible. But either way, you’ll be happy to have a GPS. Luckily, our Britz camper came equipped with a GPS. But if your company doesn’t include one, you can opt to rent.

If you’re relying on your cell phone maps, that’s cool too. But don’t forget to download them offline before you leave! Cell phone service is bad and Wifi coverage is, arguably, even worse. Especially on the South Island. So make sure you’ve got your maps handy offline.
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16. Leave time to linger

New Zealand is breathtaking. And renting a campervan in New Zealand gives you the ultimate freedom to explore until your heart’s content. But knowing that you have this freedom at your fingertips makes it really easy to over plan.

Avoid over planning.

Allow yourself time to enjoy that hike, to take that detour, and safely assume that you’ll want to pause just a little longer to watch that sunset. And build in some rest days to linger just a little bit longer in the towns and places that touch your heart. Slow down. You’ll be glad you did.
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17. HAVE FUN

…and remember to wave to fellow campervans when you pass them on the road!

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Hopefully you’ve found these tips for campervan rental in New Zealand helpful! As always, if I missed anything, if you have any questions, or if you liked this post, please feel free to drop a comment below. I love to hear from you!

Happy travels!
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