Campervan or Car New Zealand© Pixabay
Campervan or Car New Zealand

Should You Rent a Campervan or Car in New Zealand?

© Pixabay
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
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Which is Better, Car or Campervan Hire for New Zealand?

The image is in your mind: driving along the open road among some of the world’s most stunning landscapes and parking up for the night wherever the mood takes you… Until you hear a knock on your window and a fine for freedom camping! Although travelling by campervan or car in New Zealand is the method of transport with the most freedom, there are still a lot of practicalities to consider when choosing between the two. We’ll go through said practicalities to help you decide whether you should rent a campervan or car for New Zealand.

The type of accommodation you want to stay in while travelling in New Zealand plays a major factor on what type of vehicle to rent, as well as how easy the vehicle is to drive, how many people you are travelling with, and what costs are involved. When deciding whether to rent a car or campervan in New Zealand, let your personality push you. What type of experience do you want from this road trip around New Zealand? Only then will you be able to make the decision that’s right for you.

4 Questions to Ask Yourself When Deciding Whether to Rent a Campervan or Car in New Zealand?

  1. What type of accommodation do I want to stay in?
  2. Are you travelling alone or with how many others?
  3. How easy do you need the driving to be?
  4. How big is your budget?

We cover all of these in detail in the below guide to car vs. campervan for a road trip in New Zealand.

Campervan or Car New Zealand© Pixabay

What Accommodation Do You Want to Stay in?

While camping vehicles will allow you to stay at campgrounds and even in public places for free if your vehicle is self-contained, cars will force you to choose alternative accommodation types, like hotels, motels, hostels and more. If you’re deciding just on budget alone, be sure to check out Campervan Rental Vs. Car Rental + Stay in Hotel, Hostel or Airbnb in New Zealand.

Freedom Camping (for Self-Contained Campervans and Motorhomes)

If you have this image of just being able to park up anywhere and camp for the night, well, that isn’t exactly the case in New Zealand. There are strict freedom camping laws in New Zealand, meaning you can only camp for free in designated freedom camping spots. However, with a bit of research before you arrive at each location to sleep the night, you can find some places to park up for the night for free.

The pros – It’s free!
The cons – Usually freedom camping spots are in inconvenient locations with little to no nearby facilities, nowhere to plug your campervan in and limited choice for non-self-contained vehicles.

Sounds like your thing? Then really consider renting a certified self-contained vehicle. This widens your options a whole lot more for where you can legally camp for free.

Campsites or Campgrounds (for Campervans, Car Camping and Tents)

When you hear the term “campsite” or “campground” in New Zealand, assume it’s the most basic form of camping with facilities. These are usually low-fee, NZ$10-$20 per person, and have basic facilities like toilets, hot or cold showers, and may have a cooking station and/or barbecue. To find out more about the facilities, take a look at What is the Difference Between a Campsite and a Holiday Park?

The pros – Cheap facilities for those pitching a tent or sleeping in a rental car with little amenities.
The cons – Usually no powered sites for campervans and some can be hard to access with larger vehicles.

Sounds like your thing? You might want to rent a non-self-contained campervan to sleep in. Alternatively, rent a car and sleep in a tent. For more information on where you can sleep, check out Car Camping NZ: Where to Camp if Your Campervan is Not Self-Contained.

Holiday Parks (for All Vehicle Types and Travellers)

Commercial holiday parks usually have all the facilities: powered sites, toilets, cooking facilities, showers, laundry, and much more. These facilities come at a price with powered sites and tent sites often similarly priced between NZ$15-$50 for two people. Hell, you don’t even have to be in a vehicle to stay at holiday parks, as all of them have motel-style units to stay in. To find out more, check out our Accommodation Guide to Holiday Parks in New Zealand.

The pros – Often in convenient locations found along the main tourist route and have all the essential facilities.
The cons – The most expensive accommodation type for those staying in a campervan.

Sounds like your thing? If you are wanting to rent a campervan and make use of all its battery-run amenities, those often found in a self-contained vehicle, then holiday parks are a necessity to charge your batteries every 3-5 days.

Holiday parks also provide good options for non-self-contained vehicle renters needing facilities and car renters looking to stay in cabins and sometimes backpacker dorms.

Backpacker Hostels (for Cars, Campervans and Travellers on Foot)

The great thing about hostels is that they have beds too! Backpacker hostels are often the cheapest option for those who have rented a car. Hostel prices in New Zealand range between NZ$20-$35 per person per dorm bed, although, private rooms are also available at around NZ$80-$120 per room per night. Many hostels in New Zealand allow campervans and even tent campers to camp the night in their vehicle/tent and make use of the hostel’s facilities. Find out more about hostels in What is a Hostel? A Beginner’s Guide to Backpacker Hostels.

The pros – All the essential facilities including a bed at a budget price.
The cons – More expensive than the former accommodation types mentioned.

Sounds like your thing? Rent a car or even travel by bus. Simple!

Motels (for Cars and Travellers on Foot)

For travellers who prefer a little more privacy, motels usually come as private units with an ensuite bathroom and either tea/coffee-making facilities or a kitchenette with cooking facilities. There are units with sleeping arrangements of just a double bed up to multiple bedrooms. Prices for motels range from NZ$130 for two people to NZ$150-$250 for four people per unit. Check out what typical New Zealand motels are like by browsing our Motels category.

The pros – Complete privacy and comfort of having all the facilities you need in one unit.
The cons – More expensive than the former accommodation types mentioned.

Sounds like your thing? Rent a car or even travel by bus. Simple!

Hotels and Lodges (for Cars and Travellers on Foot)

Offering privacy and perhaps a little luxury, hotels and lodges are another popular choice of accommodation in New Zealand. Although less practical than motels, as they are less likely to have self-catering facilities, they may offer their own meal options, breakfast inclusions and experiences. Hotels can be found in New Zealand’s main cities, while lodges are boutique accommodations found in New Zealand’s towns and rural areas. Non-budget hotels cost around NZ$160+ for a room with just a double bed for sleeping arrangements. Have a browse of some of them in our Hotels and Boutique Accommodations categories.

The pros – Complete privacy and luxury and true holiday accommodation.
The cons – More expensive than the former accommodation types mentioned and they tend to lack self-catering facilities.

Sounds like your thing? Rent a car or even travel by bus. Simple!

Pexels© Pexels

How Many People are You Travelling With?

If you’re travelling solo or as a couple, you can usually easily get away with smaller vehicles, whether that be a car, campercar or small campervan. This is great to keep the price of fuel and rental down.

For those set on travelling and sleeping in a campervan, having three or more people will mean you’re likely to want to upscale. Even when you have upscaled to motorhome size, you’ll still want to be able to get along with your travel mates really really well to live in such a confined space. Bear in mind, when looking at the number of people rental companies say can fit into a campervan, the maximum number is always at a very tight squeeze.

If sleeping in the same confined space with all your friends or family sounds like a bit of a nightmare, then remember that car rental is cost-efficient, especially when the price is split 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8 ways. From there, enjoy a bit more space in a hostel, motel or hotel.

Pixabay© Pixabay

How Easy Do You Need the Driving to Be?

New Zealand’s roads are winding, often narrow and often gravel roads. Keep that in mind when deciding whether to rent a campervan or car in New Zealand.

If you’re not confident with big vehicles, then a car rental or a small campervan or campercar is a better option. The bigger your vehicle gets, the more you have to be aware of: how much of the road you’re taking, how top-heavy the vehicle is, how much space do you have to park, etc. It might take a few days to get used to medium to large campervans and motorhomes. Nevertheless, many motorhome rentals come with high-tech gadgets and cameras to see what’s behind you, as well as mostly automatic transmission.

For more information on New Zealand roads, take a look at the 12 Safe Driving Tips for New Zealand and How to Drive in New Zealand.

Should You Rent a Campervan or Car in New Zealand?© NZPocketGuide.com

How Much Do You Want to Spend on Campervan and Car Rental?

The thing on every traveller’s mind is how much is it going to cost? Rental prices are so varied that we had to write a whole guide on The Cost of Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand.

In a nutshell… Car rental daily costs between NZ$25 per day in the low season to NZ$150 in the high season. Campervan rental daily cost is from NZ$60 per day in the low season to NZ$260 in the high season. For a motorhome, prices range from NZ$230 per day in the low season to NZ$475 per day in the high season.

Along with the base price of your car or campervan rental, you need to consider the fuel price. The cost of fuel in New Zealand for 91 Unleaded fuel is NZ$2+ per litre meaning that a full gas tank for a car is around the NZ$120 mark and for a campervan around the NZ$150 mark.

You also need to add on the mandatory extras, like ferry costs, young driver fee, additional driver fee, one-way fees, etc. You may also want to get an insurance excess reducer. Finally, add in what type of accommodation you will be staying in along with its costs.

We make an example budget out of all of these cost factors in Campervan Rental Vs. Car Rental + Stay in Hotel, Hostel or Airbnb in New Zealand. Plus, to save on some of these costs, check out 20 Ways to Save Money on Car or Campervan Rental in New Zealand.

More About Choosing Between Car or Campervan Rental in New Zealand

That’s it for our comparison between campervan or car rental in New Zealand. If you’re still undecided, perhaps these articles will help:

Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in Renting a Campervan in New Zealand: The Essential Guide and The Guide to Renting a Car in New Zealand.

Sources:

The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Robin C.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Robin, who is the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. With more than 15 years of experience in the New Zealand tourism industry, Robin has co-founded three influential tourism businesses and five additional travel guides for South Pacific nations. He is an expert in New Zealand travel and has tested over 600 activities and 300+ accommodations across the country.

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