What Campervan or Motorhome to Choose for New Zealand
Such a variety of landscapes in a small country makes New Zealand the perfect destination for a road trip! Complete freedom is the main reason many travellers opt for using a campervan (or caravan or motorhome) for transportation. It is certainly worth considering. However, what are the different types of campervans in New Zealand?
Before committing to buying or renting a campervan, consider the four different types: sleeping in your car, non-self-contained campervans, self-contained campervans or motorhomes. This article looks at the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
Make sure you have a legal driver’s license before hitting the road. Find out more in How to Drive in New Zealand and Why You Need an International Driving Permit for New Zealand. Plus, see if living in a campervan is right for you by checking out Vanlife in NZ: The Guide to Living in a Campervan in New Zealand.
Why Travel New Zealand in a Campervan?
Renting or buying a campervan (or sleeping in your car) is a good way to travel New Zealand for a number of reasons:
- Staying at campsites – cheaper than hostels if you are in a group
- Freedom – you’re not limited by bus routes
- Protect yourself from the elements – shelter yourself in a sturdy campervan instead of a tent
- Experience the outdoors – go to campsites in the wilderness
- Pack more things in your campervan – no need to lug around backpacks or suitcases.
Learn more about travelling New Zealand by camper in our guide, How to Plan a Campervan Trip in New Zealand.
Campercars: Sleeping in Your Car/Car Camping
This is a favourite amongst backpackers trying to save money. Just stick a mattress in the back of a car and be done with it.
The Advantages of Sleeping in Your Car
Although campercars are a cheaper option in terms of the cost of renting/buying and fuel price, you will need to rely on more facilities from hostels, campsites and holiday parks. This is also a more favourable choice if only travelling by yourself or one other person. If two of you are travelling, make sure you like each other enough to spend time in a small metal box together.
Some backpackers also prefer this option because it is easier to drive a car than a campervan. Especially, for those who have had to make the transition to driving on the left side of the road.
The Disadvantages of Sleeping in Your Car
You are more restricted in places to sleep, as freedom camping is limited, and some campsites require your vehicle to be self-contained (see below). Check out Car Camping NZ: Where to Camp if Your Campervan is Not Self-Contained for advice on where you can camp in your car.
Consider what time of year you are travelling, as you need to keep yourself warm in the winter. We have more tips for you in our guide, How to Stay Warm When Camping in New Zealand. Crank down the windows in the summer if you’re too hot, but mosquito netting is advised.
Where to Buy or Rent Campercars in New Zealand
As a popular backpacker-style camping vehicle, campercars can be found for sale on hostel noticeboards, as well as on backpacking Facebook Groups. Get more details on buying these vehicles in Where to Buy a Backpacker Vehicle in New Zealand.
As for renting campercars, a selected number of campervan rental companies have campercars in their fleet. Check out The Best Backpacker Campervan Rentals in New Zealand for comparisons.
Campercars for Sale at Backpacker Car
For a smooth buying and selling process when it comes to campercars in New Zealand, choose Backpacker Car. All of their vehicles for sale are pre-serviced with a WOF and REGO and are fully equipped with camping gear. You can reserve your campercar before you arrive in New Zealand and there’s even the option to sell the vehicle back to Backpacker Car, saving you weeks off the usual buying and selling process! Check out their vehicles for sale at backpackercar.co.nz.
A non-self-contained vehicle has some or all of the following missing: toilet, shower or grey water storage. They tend to have other facilities within them like a gas stove, fridge, seats that convert into a bed, blinds, etc. Plus, rental companies will include the dinnerware, kitchen utensils and bedding.
The Advantages of Non-Self Contained Campervans
With more room for extra amenities, campervans have an edge over sleeping in a car. Because these campervans tend to be smaller than self-contained vans, they are easier to drive. Plus, they are cheaper to rent and buy than a self-contained campervan.
The Disadvantages of Non-Self Contained Campervans
Like sleeping in your car, non-self-contained campervans restrict the number of campsites you can use by not having the self-containment certificate. Again, check out Car Camping NZ: Where to Camp if Your Campervan is Not Self-Contained for advice on where you can camp in your car.
Where to Buy or Rent Non-Self-Contained Campervans in New Zealand
Again, these types of campervans are popular backpacker-style camping vehicles in New Zealand. Therefore, non-self-contained campervans can be found for sale on hostel noticeboards, on backpacking Facebook Groups and with campervan dealerships like Backpacker Car. Get more details on buying these vehicles in Where to Buy a Backpacker Vehicle in New Zealand.
As for renting non-self-contained campervans, a selected number of campervan rental companies have them in their fleet, usually, rental companies targeting backpackers. Check out The Best Backpacker Campervan Rentals in New Zealand for comparisons.
The Easy Way to Install an Electricity Supply for Your Campervan
Whatever type of campervan you choose, an important consideration for living in your car, campervan or motorhome is to have an electricity source. You’ll need it to power any appliances, such as a fridge, electric barbeque or oven, for charging your devices or even to power a heater on those chilly New Zealand nights.
The most versatile and easiest electricity source for first-time van conversions is a portable power station. These are basically large power banks with multiple outlets to use for all sorts of appliances. Some of our favourites are the BLUETTI AC300 and AC500 with a huge 3,000 W or 5,000 W of power and a base 3,072 Wh of battery capacity with a modular system that can be upgraded to hold a massive 18,423 Wh! The power stations have dual charging; solar panels and AC inputs, as well as several output options, including four AC outlets, four USB-A, a USB-C, an RV port, a cigarette lighter port and a DC 5521 output.
To protect the environment and give you more options for campsites, use a self-contained campervan. A certified self-contained vehicle shows campsites and local councils that the vehicle has minimal impact on the environment and public health. Self-contained campervans are camping vehicles built onto the body of a van. They usually have amenities like a gas stove, fridge, seats that convert into a bed, blinds, a fixed toilet, etc. Plus, rental companies will include the dinnerware, kitchen utensils and bedding.
What is Self-Containment?
This is where wastewater is held in holding tanks within the vehicle and there is a toilet permanently fixed. You must dispose of the waste in a dump station. You can ask your nearest i-SITE for dump station locations. There is a special certification for self-containment in New Zealand, which you can learn more about in our guide to Self-Contained Campervans in New Zealand.
The Advantages of Self-Contained Campervans
The benefit of self-containment is that you have all the facilities you could need for living off the grid. Plus, you can take advantage of all New Zealand’s campsites including the approximately 340 free sites! Check some out in the 10 Free Campsites on the North Island and 10 Free Campsites on the South Island.
The Disadvantages of Self-Contained Campervans
A van with more facilities and more weight means it is much more expensive both in fuel, rental and retail price. They are also slightly more difficult to drive, as popular campervan models in New Zealand have a high-top extension that can make the van top-heavy. In other words, you’ll have to slow right down on corners. Compared to motorhomes, you have much less space in campervans, which is Ok for two travellers but not so great for some of the models that claim to fit three or four people.
Where to Buy or Rent Self-Contained Campervans in New Zealand
Self-contained campervans are the popular type of campervan to rent in New Zealand. You have plenty of options, so be sure to compare using The Best Motorhome & Campervan Rentals in New Zealand.
As for buying self-contained campervans, there are options to buy from the retired fleet of campervan rental companies, private sales from the New Zealand auction site, TradeMe, as well as backpacker Facebook Groups and campervan dealerships like Backpacker Car. Find out more in How to Find Used Cars & Campervans for Sale in New Zealand.
The largest type of camping vehicle that you can drive in New Zealand with a normal car license is a motorhome, also known as an RV. Because they have all of the amenities possible for a camping vehicle, motorhomes are almost always certified self-contained.
The Advantages of Motorhomes
You have all the facilities you could need for living off the grid. Plus, you can take advantage of all of New Zealand’s campsites including the approximately 340 free sites and freedom camping areas! The size means that they are usually comfortable for groups of three to five.
The Disadvantages of Motorhomes
However, motorhomes are the most expensive to rent and buy, costing tens of thousands more than campercars and campervans to buy upfront. Additionally, fuel efficiency is low and motorhomes are usually powered by diesel, which although cheaper at fuel stations in New Zealand, requires owners to pay an additional Road User Charge (RUC).
Motorhomes are significantly more difficult to drive than any other camping vehicle type. They take up a larger space for parking and driving on the winding New Zealand roads takes some getting used to. Because of this, some rental companies have an age restriction of either 21 or 25 years old for renting motorhomes.
Where to Buy or Rent Self-Contained Campervans in New Zealand
Motorhomes are a popular type of camping vehicle to rent in New Zealand, so most campervan rental companies have motorhomes in their fleet. You have plenty of options, so be sure to compare using The Best Motorhome & Campervan Rentals in New Zealand.
As for buying motorhomes, they are specialised vehicles so you’ll find motorhome rental dealerships, particularly in Auckland and Christchurch. There are options to buy from the retired fleet of motorhome rental companies and private sales from the New Zealand auction site, TradeMe. Find out more in How to Find Used Cars & Campervans for Sale in New Zealand.
More About the Different Types of Campervans in New Zealand
That’s it for our guide to the different types of campervans in New Zealand, as well as the pros and cons of each. For more advice, check out these other guides:
- Campercar, Campervan or Motorhome Rental: Which is Better for New Zealand?
- What Model of Car or Campervan to Buy for Travelling New Zealand
- The Essential Guide to Renting a Campervan in New Zealand
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in How to Plan a Campervan Trip in New Zealand.