How Car and Campervan Insurance Works in New Zealand


Understanding Your New Zealand Car, Campervan and Other Vehicle Insurance

In New Zealand, although it is not mandatory to have car insurance, a lot of backpackers and long-term travellers do decide to purchase some kind of cover so that they are able to afford the expensive costs of being in a road accident. On the other hand, purchasing car (or campervan) insurance in the first place can usually feel pretty expensive, so you should go into buying your car insurance understanding how car insurance works, therefore making sure you are not spending too much (or too little) on your car insurance.

To help you make an informed decision, we’ll go through the different types of vehicle insurance in this guide, as well as explain who is insured, the usual conditions of car insurance in New Zealand and more!

Do You Need Car Insurance in New Zealand?

Just to make it clear you do not need car insurance in New Zealand. Vehicle insurance is not mandatory by law, so it is your choice whether you want to purchase the extra cover or not.

5 Things to Do Before Getting Car Insurance

  1. Make sure you have a valid driver’s licence. Find out more in Driving in New Zealand: Everything You NEED to Know
  2. Learn about the road rules in New Zealand, starting with driving on the left side of the road! You can also find more tips in The 15 Essential Driving Rules in New Zealand
  3. Browse the Facebook Groups, TradeMe, hostels, supermarket boards and dealerships like Backpacker Car to find some vehicles to view
  4. Inspect the vehicle you would like to purchase making sure you inspect the car and take it for a test drive
  5. Fill out the appropriate car purchase paperwork to get ownership of the vehicle.©

What is the Difference Between Comprehensive and Third-Party Car Insurance?

Comprehensive car insurance covers the cost of damage to your own vehicle, as well as other people’s cars and property. This might also include any accidental injuries and/or deaths both in your car and in any other vehicles involved in the accident.

Third-party car insurance covers the damage to other people’s cars and property and sometimes injuries and/or deaths in the other vehicles. However, it does not cover the cost of any damages to your own car. For this reason, third party insurance is more affordable.

Third-party car insurance usually has an option to add fire and theft, which means your vehicle is covered if your car is stolen or damaged by fire.

How Car Insurance Works in New Zealand© Backpacker Car

Can You Buy Cars and Campervans Already Insured in New Zealand?

To alleviate the hassle of buying car insurance once you arrive in New Zealand, get it already included in the purchase of your vehicle. Dealerships like Backpacker Car renovate vehicles themselves so they’re road trip ready for your arrival. Vehicles are fully pre-serviced and have optional add-ons like insurance, roadside assistance and extended warranties. Then, at the end of your trip, you can sell the vehicle back to the team. Check out their cars and campervans for sale at

What are Your Other Car Insurance Options in New Zealand?

A good local insurance is with Frogs-in-nz. They offer comprehensive insurance in partnership with Star insurance and have tailored their plans to backpackers’ needs. Your options include Comprehensive policy, Third Party Fire and Theft as well as Third Party Only. As a new option, you can now also add Roadside Assistance.

New Zealand Backpacker Car Insurance Discount Code:

Get a 5% discount by using the discount code: POCKETGUIDE in the “promo code” field. You’re welcome!

Cecilia Lindqvist© Cecilia Lindqvist

Who is Insured with New Zealand Car Insurance?

Car insurance will either cover the driver or the vehicle. Who or what is insured should be pretty obvious in your car insurance policy.

When the insurance covers the driver, this means the driver is insured on any vehicle, whether it’s your own, your mates’, your WWOOFing hosts’, etc.

When the car insurance covers the vehicle, this means that just your own vehicle is covered. Nevertheless, that usually means anyone driving your vehicle is also covered. So, if you are on a lengthy road trip, then you can switch drivers with your mates and the car will still be insured. Just make sure that all drivers have a valid driver’s licence.©

Insurance Conditions

Make sure that you read the conditions of your insurance carefully, as there are some situations where your insurance may not be valid. It is pointless and a waste of money to buy car insurance if you or your car are breaching the conditions of the insurance policy before you even get started.

When is NZ Car Insurance Usually Valid?

For just a few obvious examples, your car insurance is only valid when:

  • The driver has a valid driver’s licence. Find out what licence is valid in Driving in New Zealand: Everything You NEED to Know
  • The car is used in a safe and roadworthy condition
  • The driver is not under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Your vehicle is only used for personal use, rather than commercial or business purposes
  • You have been truthful about your car’s condition, driving history and who is driving the car.©

What is Car or Campervan Insurance Excess?

On the wording and policy of your car insurance, you’ll see the word ‘excess’. In insurance terms, the excess is how much of the damages you pay when making a claim.

Insurance Excess Example

If you have an excess of NZ$500 and the damages bill is NZ$5,000, then you will pay NZ$500 and the insurance company will pay NZ$4,500.

Typically, cheaper car insurance policies have a higher excess amount, so be aware of this when you find a “good deal”.

How Car and Campervan Insurance Works in New Zealand© Unsplash

What You Need to Buy Car Insurance

Once you have decided on the car insurance you want to purchase, you’ll need to provide some information about the driver and the vehicle. The information asked for by the insurance company may vary depending on what type of cover you are getting, but generally, this is the information you need to have on hand:

  • The driver’s driving license
  • The driver’s passport – you may need your passport number if buying online
  • Year, make, model and registration number of the vehicle
  • Visa or MasterCard to pay online or just your debit card will do if paying in a store.
pixabay© pixabay

What to Do if You Have an Accident

The first thing any insurance company would say is: “Do not claim liability.” In other words, don’t say the accident was your fault. Before all that, call 111 in an emergency situation.

If you are involved in a vehicle accident, write down all the details about the accident, including the name and contact details of the other driver and the registration licence number (REGO) of the vehicles involved. In addition, get the names and contact details of any witnesses.

After collecting the appropriate information, contact your insurance company – the insurance company will have likely given you a phone number to make a claim.©

Do You Really Need Car or Campervan Insurance in New Zealand?

This question can crop up when you are looking at where to cut costs for your New Zealand road trip. Because it is not mandatory, car insurance might seem tempting to ignore. However, there is always a risk factor involved, as about one-third of car insurance customers in New Zealand make a claim each year. Even if you believe you’re a safe driver, the same cannot be said for all drivers on New Zealand’s roads. Cutting a couple of hundred dollars, then an extra few hundred dollars of excess if you do need to claim, might just cost you hugely in the unfortunate event of a road accident.

On the other hand, if you don’t purchase car insurance and you and your car are not involved in a road accident, then sure, you will have saved a substantial amount of money. In the case that you are involved in a road accident and it is your fault, however, you will have to come to an arrangement to pay the damages yourself. Failure to do this often results in getting settled in the Disputes Tribunal or District Court.


All in all, whether it is worth getting car insurance in New Zealand is a personal decision. You will save some money if you don’t get insurance and have road accident-free time here. However, getting car insurance is sure to give you more peace of mind if the worst should happen.

More About Car Insurance in New Zealand

Need more tips on driving and car insurance in New Zealand? Then check out these articles!

Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in the 10 Things to Know About New Zealand Car Insurance.


Robin C.

This article was reviewed and published by Robin, the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. He has lived, worked and travelled across 16 different countries before calling New Zealand home. He has now spent over a decade in the New Zealand tourism industry, clocking in more than 600 activities across the country. He is passionate about sharing those experiences and advice on NZ Pocket Guide and its YouTube channel. Robin is also the co-founder of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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