How to Get the Best Car (and Campervan) Rental Deals in New Zealand
Travelling New Zealand by car or campervan gives you the ultimate freedom to go where you want when you want. Seriously, check out the 10 Things We Love About Car Rental in New Zealand. On the other hand, you will find that prices differ widely between car and campervan rental companies due to a variety of factors that we’ll go through in this guide on how to save money and get the best car rental deals in New Zealand.
All the little extras add up at the end of a road trip, making the difference between a huge road trip full of excitement and a cent-counting nightmare. Sometimes the cheapest option is not necessarily the best option…
So scroll down this list of awesome money-saving tips so you are well-prepared to compare your options and find the best car and campervan rental deals for New Zealand.
1. Travel in the Shoulder or Off Season
It’s obvious: in summer, everybody wants a car or a camper but in winter, the demand is much lower. May, June, July and August are traditionally the cheapest months to rent a car or campervan. As well as car rentals being cheaper in the shoulder season, nature is all the more lively and the crowds are in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s literally like having the whole country to yourself! Book your car rental between March and October and you are likely to pay 30-50% less!
For more reasons to travel in these seasons, see 11 Reasons to Travel in the Shoulder and Off-Season in New Zealand.
2. Book Early
This one comes as no surprise as well. Early bookings are often rewarded with an early bird discount or simply a lower overall rate, while last-minute bookings suffer from the lack of stock and give you less choice for a higher price.
3. Book Direct
Start your new adventure the simple way by talking directly to your car or campervan rental company. Booking directly with a rental company as opposed to through an agent or a comparison website will ensure that you get the best rates that this company has to offer. This advice is true across the board from accommodation to activities to alternative transportation methods.
Get more advice on the subject at Travel 101: Booking Direct Vs. Online Travel Agents Vs. Travel Agents.
4. Play Around with Your Booking Dates
Sometimes, there will be one or two days on either side of your preferred booking date which can reduce your bill. Make sure to play around with your booking dates to find the best combo of dates that will make sense money-wise. Having flexible travel dates can make a real difference to your car rental cost. On the same note, we also advise you to look for rental and flights to New Zealand on the same day so you are flexible on both; you’ll find out why in How to Book a Cheap Flight to New Zealand.
5. Pick the Right Pick-Up and Drop-Off Times
Some companies will charge for each extra hour that you keep the car, some will charge you for an extra day, and some will not consider the return hour in their pricing at all. This can make a big difference when picking up your car at 9 am instead of 4 pm or giving it back at 5 pm instead of 10 am. Make sure to consider this when comparing car and campervan rental companies in New Zealand.
For more comparison tips, head to Compare Car & Campervan Hire in New Zealand: The ULTIMATE Guide.
6. Pick Up Your Car Only When You are Ready to Drive Off
When landing in New Zealand, you’ll probably be jet-lagged or at least exhausted by the 20+ hours flight if you’re coming from the Northern Hemisphere. Make sure to schedule your car pick-up for when you are ready to drive off, let’s say 11 am the next morning. This can save you a day rental or at least a few hours with some companies (see #5 above).
7. Choose a Small Car or Campervan
Selecting a small car or campervan can truly make a huge impact on your rental cost. From the obvious fact that they are cheaper to run to the long-term fact that they also use much less fuel, picking a small vehicle is just a smart choice. So sit down and evaluate what you truly need and how big you really need your car or campervan to be. On the same note, keep an eye out for the year and make of the vehicle, fuel consumption can vary a lot. Car and campervan rental comparison websites like Compare and Choose allow you to search and compare rental vehicles by age, so check out that handy tool!
8. Monitor Prices Regularly
Prices will vary depending on availability and some routes may even become much cheaper in some seasons. For instance, around the end of summer, most cars and campervans have been dropped off on the South Island, so picking a route from south to north may save you a few hundred.
By the way, you can check a whole lot of typical prices for your travels in How Much Does it Cost to Travel New Zealand?
9. Look Out for Deals
From a ski pass, free cave entry and even a 15% discount for hires longer than 30 days, there are all kinds of deals out there, especially in the shoulder and off-season (between March and October). Keep an eye open for what’s going on by checking the blog/discount/deals/specials tabs of the car rental companies that you are researching.
10. Avoid One-Way Booking Fees
In many cases when hiring a car or campervan in a location and dropping it off in a different location, you will be charged a one-way fee. Look for routes that do not have a one-way fee (often south to north) or make your itinerary a loop to save a few hundred.
We also mention when any campervan or car rental companies don’t charge a one-way fee in The Best Car Rental Companies in New Zealand and The Best Motorhome & Campervan Rentals in New Zealand.
11. Be Aware of the Youngest Driver’s Age
There is always a limit, from 18 years old (the youngest age somebody can hire a car in New Zealand) to 25 years old. The youngest driver’s age can impact pricing in two major ways: first, the daily price of the vehicle rental, and second, the daily insurance cost. Bear this in mind if any of the people driving the car or campervan is young-ish.
For more details on car rentals for young drivers, check out Age Restrictions for Renting a Vehicle in New Zealand: FULL Guide.
12. Browse Your Insurance Options
Most rental companies have standard insurance included in their daily rental rate but they will always push for you to upgrade your insurance. Some rental companies have reasonable insurance options and some even have them capped so you are not charged for the whole 60 days! Other companies have egregious insurance fees. Include insurance in your consideration when comparing prices. Consider their excess (is spending NZ$500 really worth reducing your excess from NZ$3,000 to NZ$2,000?) and keep your credit card policy in mind too. Many credit cards include a car rental cover if you book it with your credit card.
For more about car rental insurance, check out New Zealand Rental Car & Campervan Insurance: Explained!
13. Keep an Eye Out for an Additional Driver’s Fee
One car: one driver. That’s the policy of most companies. For some, adding an extra driver simply requires you to fill in their details when booking your car. For others, it incurs an extra daily fee. Any daily fee added to a rental, as small as it is, can really weigh a lot on a budget, so keep that in mind when deciding who’s driving.
14. Bring Your Own GPS
It is common in New Zealand to charge from NZ$5 to NZ$10 per day for a GPS. Although a GPS is incredibly convenient, you can use Google Maps on your phone or download a detailed GPS map of New Zealand from any named brand GPS for NZ$0.99-$2.99. If you are worried about suction cups, we found some great ones on sale on Amazon for under NZ$10!
15. Watch Out for All the Upgrades
Solar showers, camping chairs, snow chains, extra blankets… All the upgrades come at high flat rates or extra daily costs. We recommend skipping them and buying your own from local stores like K-Mart, The Warehouse or even op-shops (secondhand shops) – New Zealand is full of them! They should only set you back a fraction of the cost that a car rental company would charge you. You may even be able to sell them back. As per WiFi hotspots, check out our cellphone-related guides for big savings.
16. Avoid Airport Pick-Ups
Traditionally, picking a car up at the airport is slightly more expensive than picking it up in a suburb or city location. Although it is truer for mainstream car rental companies, this doesn’t apply to all car rentals. Double-check when booking your car or campervan whether it is cheaper to pick up from Auckland Airport or Auckland City, for instance.
17. Remember to Refuel the Vehicle
Like everywhere in the world, you will pick up a car full of fuel and should give it back full of fuel. Make sure to do so or face being charged with a refuelling fee plus the cost of fuel; not a great way to finish your road trip.
18. Do Not Fuel Up at the Airport
On the same note that #17, when refuelling your car or simply when fuelling up along the way, make sure to avoid pump stations located near airports. These are notorious for having the highest price ta, with some reports mentioning a difference of over 30%!
Extra tip: Collect and use those supermarket fuel discount vouchers.
Extra extra tip: Or simply rent an electric car in New Zealand for no fuel costs!
19. Go Through the Vehicle Inspection Thoroughly
Take the pre-hire car inspection seriously and write down any damage that you notice as you might end up being liable for them when returning your car.
How to? Every car rental has a small scheme of the vehicle along with your paperwork where you can mark down what and where you noticed damage prior to taking the vehicle for hire.
20. Consider Car or Campervan Relocation
Car rental is big business in New Zealand and the vehicle flow is extremely uneven around the country. For this reason, car rental companies need their vehicles moved around the country at a fast pace. They will often offer five days rental + ferry cost + a full tank of fuel for those willing to take a vehicle from Christchurch to Auckland, for instance. We have full pages dedicated to Car Relocation in New Zealand and New Zealand Campervan Relocationsso you can learn more about it.
21. Travel with Friends
A road trip is best enjoyed with a group of friends. Should it be your childhood besties, the love of your life, or a perfect stranger found on travellers’ Facebook groups, you are bound to create lifelong memories on the road with your travel buddies. Share adventures, laughs and (hopefully good) music along the most scenic roads of New Zealand while splitting the bills 2, 3 or even 4 ways so you can spend more on awesome adventures.
More on How to Get the Best Campervan and Car Rental Deals in New Zealand
That’s it for our list of ways to save money and get the best car and campervan rental deals in New Zealand. For more money-saving tips, check out our other guides:
- How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Car or Campervan in New Zealand?
- The Best Car Rental Companies in New Zealand
- The Best Motorhome & Campervan Rentals in New Zealand
Finally, if there’s anything that we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Guide to Renting a Car in New Zealand and Renting a Campervan in New Zealand: The Essential Guide.