Should You Rent or Buy a Vehicle to Travel New Zealand?
Should You Rent or Buy a Vehicle to Travel New Zealand?

Should You Rent or Buy a Vehicle to Travel New Zealand?

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Renting Vs. Buying for a Road Trip in New Zealand

There are so many options for getting around New Zealand, but when it comes to having ultimate freedom and making your own travel itinerary, travelling by car or campervan is the way to go. Renting a vehicle in New Zealand is an obvious way to travel by car or campervan, but actually buying a vehicle is also very common for backpackers to do in New Zealand thanks to the affordable prices of used cars and campervans. So that leads us to the burning question: should you rent or buy a vehicle to travel New Zealand?

Whether you rent or buy to get around New Zealand largely depends on how much time you have in New Zealand. While buying a vehicle, in theory, is the most cost-effective transport option, you don’t want to waste the time buying and selling the vehicle if you only have a short amount of time in New Zealand. Of course, there are other factors to take into consideration as well, which we will go through in the article below!

What Type of Vehicle to Buy or Rent in New Zealand?

Because of the price difference between buying or renting a car or campervan, you might want to consider deciding on what type of vehicle you want to rent/buy in New Zealand.

Why Travel in a Car?

  • Cheaper than a campervan to buy or rent
  • Easier to buy and sell
  • Easier to drive
  • More comfortable when travelling with a lot of people
  • Convenient if you prefer staying in hostel accommodation.

Why Travel in a Campervan?

  • Save money on accommodation by sleeping in the campervan
  • Ideal for solo travellers and couples (cramming too many people into a campervan can be uncomfortable)
  • Convenient if you prefer to stay in outdoor environments.

For an in-depth comparison between using a car or a campervan to travel New Zealand, take a look at Should You Rent a Campervan or Car in New Zealand?©

Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand

Ideal When You Have Limited Time in New Zealand

The first major advantage of renting a car in New Zealand compared to buying is that you can hit the road quickly. By renting a car, you can book prior to your arrival in New Zealand and pick up the vehicle on whatever day you choose (providing that you book far enough in advance as there may be less choice the closer you get to your desired pick-up date). What’s more, you can then drop off the vehicle at a selected date. Renting a car in New Zealand is ideal if you don’t have much time in New Zealand and you want to start travelling as soon as possible.

Affordable if You Choose the Right Season

Renting a car can be pretty affordable if you find the right price. Some cars can be hired for as little as NZ$30 a day and small campervans around NZ$100 per day. However, rental prices are sky high in the summer season (December – February), so for the best rental deals, consider travelling in the shoulder and off-seasons.

Check out 20 Ways To Save Money on Car Rental in New Zealand for more ways to keep the cost of car rental low.

More Likely to be Reliable Than a Bought Secondhand Car

When renting a car in New Zealand, you can usually rely on the vehicle to not break down. Rental vehicles have had mechanical checks and are deemed roadworthy. In the unlikely scenario that your vehicle does break down, it should be up to the rental company to pay for the cost – not you. (Check the terms and conditions before renting any vehicle).

Age Restrictions for Renting a Vehicle

If you are under 25 years old, you may experience a few restrictions or extra fees from some car rental companies in New Zealand. However, you will still be able to find a car or campervan rental that is affordable from companies that specialise in young drivers. It will just narrow your options. Find out more in Age Restrictions When Renting a Vehicle in New Zealand.©

Buying a Car or Campervan in New Zealand

Cost-effective for Long-term Travel

Why would you buy a car to travel New Zealand? If you plan to travel by car for more than a couple of months, then buying a car is, in theory, a lot more cost-effective than renting. Buying a used car or campervan in New Zealand is relatively cheap with some of the cheapest yet reliable used cars being around NZ$1,500. Used campervan’s vary in price depending on what features they have but cheap used campervans are usually between NZ$3,000 to NZ$10,000.

At the end of your trip, you should be able to sell your car for a decent portion if not the full price that you bought it for. Therefore, the investment into buying a car in New Zealand just includes the costs of running the car and the time taken to buy and sell it. Buying and selling a vehicle usually takes about one week for cheaper cars while campervans may take a couple of weeks. For advice on buying and selling, check out Where to Buy a Backpacker Vehicle in New Zealand and How to Sell Your Car in New Zealand.

The Risk of Buying a Crap Car

The disadvantage of buying a car, apart from the time and effort taken to buy and sell a vehicle, is if your car needs to be repaired. While there are plenty of used cars that are reliable for a road trip in New Zealand, it’s not uncommon to buy a car that has faults or breaks down during the trip. Repairing it can cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars. However, there are ways to greatly reduce this risk, such as having a pre-purchase inspection before buying the car. We recommend following our tips in Buying a Car in New Zealand Step 1: Car Inspection and Buying a Car in New Zealand Step 2: Test Drive. Both of these steps apply for buying both a car or a campervan in New Zealand. Furthermore, if you are buying a campervan, be sure that all the appliances work and that it has a valid self-containment and electrical certificate if you are wanting the option to freedom camp and use powered sites in holiday parks.

Another way to avoid “buying a dud” is to buy a car or campervan from a dealer that guarantees to buy the vehicle back from you. Generally, buy-back dealers invest in maintaining their vehicles to a high standard, so they have a lot to gain in having you sell the vehicle back to them once you have finished using it. As an added bonus, this relieves the stress of selling your car at the end of your trip.

Other car selling services offer a warranty on their vehicle that ranges from a few weeks to a few months and even basic mechanical training to avoid break downs on the road.

No Age Restrictions

Unlike renting a vehicle, you just need to be old enough to drive and have an appropriate driving license to buy a car in New Zealand. Make sure you’re driving license in New Zealand is legal for New Zealand by checking out Why You Need an International Driving Permit for New Zealand.


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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