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Top Tips for RV Rental in New Zealand

Updated on November 9, 2019
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Rob is an avid traveller and self-professed 'man of the world'. He is passionate about his home city, Manchester, & travelling the world.

Travelling Around New Zealand by RV

Travelling in New Zealand can be incredibly rewarding. In some countries visitors may hire an RV (a Recreational Vehicle) so that they can get from A to B and take in the sights and attractions. Hiring a good RV in New Zealand isn't just a way to get to all of the top sights and attractions, the actual act of hiring, driving and sleeping in an suitable RV in New Zealand is in itself a must-do activity when visiting this fascinating country.

Whilst one would normally get around via public transport when travelling outside of their own country there are a couple of major reasons why using public transport in New Zealand may not be your best bet.

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Public Transport Options in New Zealand

Public Transport in New Zealand is good within the towns and the cities but it's not so good when you want to cover longer distances or go places where few others venture. Options for using public transport are realistically limited to buses and maybe the odd flight. There is a New Zealand Railway network but it is slow, expensive and really only used for scenic journeys as a kind of attraction rather than as an efficient mode of getting from A to B.

Buses in New Zealand are a good option for backpackers and young people who aren't old enough to be able to hire a vehicle (the minimum age is 25). The long distance buses are operated by the following companies; Kiwi Experience; Naked Bus; Inter City; and Magic Bus. Travellers will generally buy a ticket for specified period of time or specified number of destinations in and can hop on and hop off at various destinations around the country. However, these buses aren't really a form of public transport, they're more like a budget no-frills tour.

Our Wicked Campers campervan at Purakannui Beach, NZ South Island
Our Wicked Campers campervan at Purakannui Beach, NZ South Island | Source

Venturing 'Off The Beaten Path'

Where there are options for public transport in New Zealand, it's likely that it will only go as far as a major town or city. This means that you may have trouble reaching some of the more remote and hidden away beauty spots and destinations. New Zealand is full of these. There could be a wonderful seal colony beach or a network of caves or an amazing waterfall at the end of 13km gravel track in the middle of nowhere.

These are often the best places to visit in New Zealand, places where travellers find the most satisfaction and really get to know the country and feel rewarded by special sights. Unfortunately, most travellers without an RV rental will not get to see some of these hidden gems. And for this reason I would recommend reserving an RV and going on a road trip during your vacation to New Zealand.

Our self-contained Britz Mercedes Sprinter RV in New Zealand
Our self-contained Britz Mercedes Sprinter RV in New Zealand | Source

Value for Money

When hiring an RV one of your main considerations is going to be whether this option offers sufficient value for money. Start your RV rental search by doing a search for online rental companies in New Zealand and visit their websites for quotes. There are several circumstances that may have an effect on the overall price of your vehicle hire:

  • Booking an RV well in advance normally gets you the best rate.
  • The longer the duration of the rental, the cheaper the daily rate.
  • Special deals are often given out of season. High season normally means high prices.
  • Some RV rental companies offer a discount if you can beat their quote. Shop around and play them at their own game.
  • A fully self-contained RV/camper van with toilet and shower may enable you to 'Freedom Camp' which you save you campsite costs.
  • Consider a relocation package. This means that you pick the van up from one location and drive it to another location within an allocated period of time. These deals often begin from only $1 per day and often include some free extras such as ferry crossing.
  • Ring around to see if there have been any cancellations. These won't be displayed online but the rental company may be willing to do a deal to make up for the income lost through the cancellation.
  • Choosing a diesel RV rather than a petrol vehicle may save you a lot of cash. A diesel engine can often travel an additional 200km on a full tank as opposed to a petrol engine.

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Enjoying a brew outside my Wicked Campers van
Enjoying a brew outside my Wicked Campers van | Source

Recreational Vehicle Excess Insurance Policy

Normally, when obtaining quotes for RV rentals you will be given a baseline figure. This will normally exclude insurance for the vehicle. When it comes to choosing the right RV insurance you really need to think carefully about the associated risks. Rental companies generally offer three options for insurance:

  1. High risk: No additional daily charge but you pay a £3000 bond which is fully refundable when you return the vehicle with no damages.
  2. Medium Risk: May involve paying a small daily rate of around $15 that covers you for some specified problems or damages. Some rental companies will still ask for a fairly large bond for this option.
  3. No Risk: Normally involves paying an additional daily rate of around $25 and ensures that you are fully covered for any eventuality.

As you can imagine, it's the 'No Risk' option that the rental companies really want you to take. A $3000 bond is a very scary risk. You could be the most sensible driver in the world but can you really guarantee that some other driver isn't going to damage your campervan?

But there is another option. Instead of taking out the insurance offered by the rental company, you can take out your own personal excess insurance. Unfortunately there aren't a great number of companies offering this type of insurance. Many companies will offer excess 'car hire' insurance but whatever you do don't make the mistake of thinking a campervan is a kind of car. By law it is classed as a 'Recreational Vehicle' (RV) and as such it must be insured as such.

As I'm from the UK I have previously used a UK company called Questor that covered me whilst driving in New Zealand. The daily rate worked out at around $15US per day which was a lot less that what the vehicle rental company offered for their 'No Risk' option. Just do a search online for campervan excess insurance and see what you find. Remember to read the policy carefully to see what it covers.

Enjoying a rest outside my Jucy Campers RV in Australia
Enjoying a rest outside my Jucy Campers RV in Australia | Source

Other Useful Information for Hiring an RV in NZ

Paying for the RV Rental by Credit Card (if an International Visitor)

If you plan on renting an RV in New Zealand, then chances are that you're a visitor to those countries. Therefore you need to consider the way in which you pay. Now, if you decide not to take out the rental company's insurance policy you will be forced to put down the $3000 bond on your credit card. In doing this your bank or credit card provider is likely to apply a rather unfavourable exchange rate. When you return the vehicle undamaged and the bond is credited back to your card your provider is going to apply a different exchange rate. Now the difference between the exchange rates may not appear much on paper but it could end up costing you over $300. Be warned!

Take a Cellphone when Travelling in New Zealand

New Zealand isn't a huge country, but in the South Island especially it can be sparsely populated and sometimes in order to get to some of the special sites of NZ you have to get a long way from civilisation. The last thing you want is to have some kind of emergency in the middle of nowhere and not be able to call for help. Take a phone!

Take Maps and/or a Road Atlas

The RV rental company will likely have some New Zealand maps to hand out to you before you set out and it's a good idea to take as many NZ maps as you can. New Zealand Tourist Information Centres and 'i sites' are generally located in every town and are always well stocked with good free maps and information about New Zealand. It's still a good idea to buy a good map of the country before you set off though so you can take some time to plot a journey.

RV Maintenance

You don't have to have any significant mechanical knowledge before hiring an RV but you need to know how to check the oil and water levels. Make sure this is demonstrated to you before you drive away and make sure they show you where the jack and jump leads are located.

New Zealand Landscape (photo taken from our Wicked Campers campervan)
New Zealand Landscape (photo taken from our Wicked Campers campervan) | Source

And Finally...

One Last Word of Advice for Hiring an RV in NZ

There is plenty to see in New Zealand. Information on New Zealand and the many places to see and visit can be found in guidebooks and travel guides. It's also nice to read personal accounts from other travellers on the places they visited and what made them so special. There may be some places that are still hidden from the eyes of the traveller. Don't be afraid to explore and don't be afraid to talk to the locals. The people in New Zealand are some of the friendliest people in the world.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Robert Clarke


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