How to Budget for a Car or Campervan Rental in New Zealand
Choosing a self-driven option to travel New Zealand gets more and more popular every year, and for good reason. Travelling in New Zealand is all about discovering those off the beaten track hidden gems. A great way to get on the road fast is to rent a car when arriving in New Zealand. But how much does it cost to rent a car in New Zealand?
This article breaks down the cost of renting a car or a campervan in New Zealand. It is not rare to see cars advertised for rent in New Zealand for as low as NZ$9/day and campervan for as low as NZ$19/day. These promotional rates are in big letters online and on every brochure. However, those prices are only the tip of the iceberg and renting a car or campervan in New Zealand requires proper budgeting.
We have compiled tips and advice that apply to almost every car and campervan rental company in New Zealand to help you do the math and budget for the trip of your life properly! Please note that all the prices stated below are average indications only, prices vary often and are also scattered anything in between our scales.
What’s the Catch with $9/day Car Rental and $19/day Campervan Rental?
Cars and campervans are advertised at cheap prices all year round. Like in every business, companies like to promote their cheapest price first, no matter how relevant it is at the promotion time. Be aware that a NZ$9/day car rental and NZ$19/day campervan rental usually comes under some or all of the following conditions:
- Older vehicle model: this means a higher risk of breakdown and higher gas consumption
- The smallest model of the fleet: think “campercar” rather than a campervan
- Strict hiring dates in the low season: usually only 3 to 4 weeks in May
- Mandatory rental period: usually 14 or more days minimum
- Other extra fees apply: see below for a full cost breakdown
Despite those conditions, finding a car or campervan at those rates is still sweet and represents great value for money.
Car and Campervan Rental Daily Rate
The daily rate is the cost per day for renting a vehicle. The main factor influencing it is the type of vehicle that you will choose. Usually, the bigger the vehicle, the more expensive a vehicle is. The same goes for the age of a vehicle: the older, the cheaper.
Season Affects Price
Another factor influencing the daily rate of a vehicle is the season you are planning on travelling. In summer expect the prices to be at their highest while at their lowest in winter with May usually being the cheapest month. There are heaps of reasons to travel in the shoulder and off-season in New Zealand and saving money on car and campervan rental is a big one as rates can be slashed by up to 50%!
Price also varies between different car and campervan rental companies as they all compete for the same market. Inclusions vary, type, make, accessories of the vehicle vary and therefore rental prices vary as well. Shop around to find the best ride to suit your needs, there are 80+ car and campervan rental companies in New Zealand!
Find out how to compare them in How to Compare Car and Campervan Rental Companies in New Zealand.
The Demand for Rental Vehicles in New Zealand
Finally, the fourth main factor is demand. If there is only one car or campervan left in its category, you are bound to be paying full price or even premium for it. While there is a lot of availability on a vehicle, discounts are in order.
The Cost of Car and Campervan Rental Daily Rates
Car rental daily cost: From NZ$9/day (see conditions above) to NZ$150/day for people movers (8-seaters) in the high season.
Campervan rental daily cost: From NZ$19/day (see conditions above) to NZ$350/day for full RV (6-berth) in the high season.
The Cost of Car and Campervan Rental Insurance
Insurance cover is the extra that almost every traveller goes for. For this reason, it is important to include it when comparing your different options for car or campervan rentals. A simple NZ$5 difference on an insurance daily rate can add up to a lot at the end of your trip.
Some car and campervan rental companies have a free insurance option that has a high excess (NZ$1,500-3,000 excess, for instance)with the option to reduce this excess to, for example, NZ$250 excess and NZ$0 excess/no excess at an extra cost. Be aware that some accidents like window breaking are simply not covered.
Insurance Caps and Young Drivers
It is also worth noting that some companies cap their maximum insurance cost. This means that you will not be paying anything extra from their cap even if you rent your car or campervan for an extended period of time. For example, if a company has an insurance cap at NZ$500 and you are renting a campervan for 40 days with an insurance cover at NZ$15/day. You should pay NZ$600 but you will only be charged NZ$500 as it is their maximum cost or cap.
Finally, if you are under 25 years old, you may be obligated to take the full insurance by some companies as part of their young driver conditions. Keep that in mind when comparing the different companies.
Cost of Car and Campervan Rental Insurance
Car rental daily insurance cost: From NZ$0/day for high excess options (only available with selected companies) to NZ$35/day for a no excess option.
Campervan rental daily insurance cost: From NZ$0/day for high excess options (only available with selected companies and on small camper-car models) to NZ$60/day for a no excess option on bigger models.
Some extras are simply impossible to avoid and, despite not being included in the daily rate advertised, there is no way for you not to have to add them at the end of your budget. Not all will be applicable to your specific case, but here are a few mandatory extras that you may have to budget for:
Young Drivers Fee
If you are under 25 years old, you may be charged an extra NZ$5/day by some companies. Other car and campervan rental companies will make your insurance options mandatory or at a higher excess. Finally, some other companies will restrict the models of vehicle that you can hire. Find out more about Age Restrictions When Renting a Vehicle in New Zealand.
If you are planning an itinerary that includes dropping off your car or campervan in a different location than you picked it up you may be charged up to NZ$250 for it.
No doubt you will want to see both islands of New Zealand and for good reason- they are both absolutely amazing. In fact, the ferry ride itself is a stunner. Prices go from NZ$230 each way for a car with two passengers to NZ$420 each way for a full campervan with four passengers.
Extra Drivers Fee
Travelling with friends is the perfect excuse to share driving responsibilities. Some companies include one extra driver for free, others charge a flat NZ$10 fee, and some will charge up to NZ$5/day extra to have an extra driver.
Snow chains are absolutely mandatory if travelling in the South Island in winter or if you plan to drive to any of New Zealand’s ski fields. You will be charged between NZ$5/day to a flat rate of NZ$50 for those. However, some companies have started to include them free of charge to boost their hires in winter.
We consider optional extras as things that you don’t really need but that many people end up wanting anyway. All those little things can add up to quite a fortune if not kept in check. Here is what to look out for when budgeting for your trip:
Offered around NZ$5-$10 per day of travel, GPS hire is the most commonly purchased extra for car and campervan rental in New Zealand.
Outdoor Chairs and Table
Every campervan hire comes with the option to add a table and chair combo for a set price of NZ$40-$80 or NZ$10per day.
Smaller campervans or campercars come with the option to have a mains plug (New Zealand house plug) for you to charge your devices on the go. This often comes at a fixed rate at NZ$25-$50.
Full gas bottles are rare to find in a campervan nowadays, extra gas canisters (small camping style gas bottles) come at fixed prices at NZ$10-$20.
You will be charged for your consumption of data on the go from NZ$20 for 1Gb to NZ$60 for 5Gb.
Often overlooked when budgeting for a car or campervan rental in New Zealand, the fuel consumption of a vehicle is a core part of the expenses of a road trip. Gas prices have soared in the past few years reaching historical heights. For this reason, we suggest taking it into consideration seriously and looking at the average fuel consumption of the vehicle that you are planning to hire.
A good rule of thumb for a fuel-efficient vehicle is to go for as small as possible and as new as possible.
Cost of fuel in New Zealand: 91 Unleaded fuel is above NZ$2 per litre in New Zealand meaning that a full gas tank for a car is around the NZ$70 mark and for a campervan around the NZ$90 mark.
It is also worth noting that if you hire a diesel vehicle you are likely to have to pay an extra RUC fee at the end of your trip. This is usually between NZ$62 and NZ$68 per 1000km travelled.
A Quick Note About Camping
If you have hired a campervan in New Zealand, you’re obviously planning on camping around New Zealand. Be aware that you can only camp for free (freedom camping) in a campervan that is certified self-contained. If the campervan you are renting is not self-contained then you will need to stay in paid campsites and holiday parks.Check out the following links to dive deeper into freedom camping in New Zealand:
Tips to Save Money on Car and Campervan Rental
You are probably sweating over your old high school Casio graphic calculator machine right now trying to figure out how you will be able to make this trip work financially. Luckily, we have combined over 20 Tips to Save Money on Car and Campervan Rental in New Zealand for you to cut down on most of the costs above. And remember, the main tip to save money on car and campervan is to seriously evaluate what your needs are. You probably don’t need as much as you think you do.
If you are planning to stay in New Zealand for an extended period of time, you may also consider purchasing a car or campervan with the intent of reselling it before leaving. We also have a whole section dedicated to purchasing a car or campervan in New Zealand.
Finally, there are a lot of other budgeting tips in the budget section of our guide so you can start saving on your gap year before even your trip starts.