What You Need to Know Before Renting Your First Motorhome or RV
A motorhome holiday is unlike any other type of travelling experience. You get the ultimate flexibility for your road trip by having your home on wheels. It’s an adventurous experience which is a lot of fun but if you have never rented or driven a motorhome before, there are a few things you’ll want to know before getting behind the wheel. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll tell you all the things you need to know about renting your first motorhome or RV.
This quick step-by-step guide to renting a motorhome will give you a few points to think about even before booking your motorhome rental. Use these tips, as well as the advice in 10 Things You Need to Know About Camper Van Rental in New Zealand so that you are fully prepared for an epic road trip.
Before we begin, don’t forget to bookmark How to Plan a Campervan Trip in New Zealand for even more advice.
11 Quick Tips for Motorhome Rental in New Zealand
- Season affects the daily rate of your motorhome rental, summer being the most expensive
- Be aware of age restrictions. Most motorhome rentals only allow drivers over the age of 25
- Be aware of the one-way fee. Different pick-up and drop-off locations often incur an extra fee
- Include the ferry crossing between the North Island and South Island into your budget
- Check out motorhome relocations for free motorhome rentals
- Check what’s included in your motorhome rental. You’ll be surprised at how much there is!
- Many motorhomes for rent are diesel, so remember the Road User Charge (diesel tax) that needs to be paid at the end of your trip
- If you want to camp for free in public places, make sure your motorhome is certified self-contained
- Know the New Zealand road rules
- Know how to park a motorhome
- Consider your needs carefully before choosing a motorhome. The choice of motorhomes to rent in New Zealand is huge!
For motorhome rental tips in video form, check out the NZ Pocket Guide YouTube Channel for videos like this:
Step 1 – Determine Your Group Size
Who is going with you on your New Zealand motorhome vacation? It’s kind of important to get the numbers right as it’s not like you can just book them and “extra room” at the last minute. Knowing how many people are coming on vacation means you can choose the right vehicle size and whether it’s best to rent one or two vehicles.
Because motorhomes are small spaces, even the largest ones available to rent can feel “cosy”. Make sure everyone in your group is aware and happy with this. Travelling in a motorhome is not your average holiday experience so if anyone is uncomfortable with that, they might need to sit this one out.
Step 2 – Choose Destinations Everyone Will Enjoy
New Zealand might be a small country but there’s an incredible number of things to do! The great thing about motorhome rental is that you can go just about anywhere! However, it’s impossible to see everything, so with that in mind, get everyone in the group to write down the locations or activities on their “bucket list” or, if travelling with kids, add some activities that the whole family can enjoy. Put these on a map to determine what routes to take around the country and incorporate things that everyone will enjoy.
For itinerary suggestions, check out the following:
- North Island in One Week: Road Trip Itinerary
- South Island in One Week: Road Trip Itinerary
- South Island Campervan Itinerary: 10 Days
- North Island in Two Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary
- South Island in Two Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary
- New Zealand in Two Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary
- New Zealand in Three Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary
- New Zealand in a Month: Road Trip Itinerary
We also have even more itineraries categorised by travel style, including budget and family itineraries, in our Trip Ideas category.
Step 3 – Select the Right Motorhome to Rent
Now that you know who is coming with you and where you want to go, you can now start choosing a type of motorhome to rent. You’ll need enough space for everyone to sleep, everyone to lounge, and storage space for your suitcases. New Zealand motorhome rental companies usually show a layout of their rental vehicles on their website. Take a look at Campercar, Campervan or Motorhome Rental: Which is Better for New Zealand? to see what kind of campervans and motorhomes you can rent in New Zealand.
For more details on the subject, check out this video:
Pro Tip: Just because a company claims a motorhome can sleep six, doesn’t necessarily mean that it sleeps six comfortably. Look at the layout plan to see where everyone can sleep.
Step 4 – Budget Accordingly
As you’ll see in the next few steps, there are a few different aspects that you need to account for in your budget. It’s a good idea to start making a budget now and add to it as you make more decisions like adding activities, the rental price, food, etc.
Your budget should not only include the motorhome you have chosen to rent, but extra costs that come along with the vehicle, such as campsite fees, amenities, fuel, meals, activities at each destination, and the ferry crossing between the North Island and South Island. Plus, always budget for “miscellaneous expenses” for those little things you might not be expecting. Keep all this in mind as you read through the next steps…
Step 5 – Be Aware of All the Rental Costs
Renting a motorhome means paying far more than just your base rental price. One-way fees are likely to be charged if dropping your motorhome in a different location from where you picked it up. Are there extra driver fees? Are there any extras that you want to rent, like a GPS? Have you budgeted for the cost of fuel? Are the basic amenities included in your rental or do you need to rent those too? All these need to be considered when budgeting for your motorhome trip. We list all the extra rental costs you’re likely to face in How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Car in New Zealand?
How do these costs compare to renting a car and staying in hotels? Find out in Campervan Rental Vs. Car Rental + Stay in Hotel, Hostel or Airbnb in New Zealand.
Step 6 – Research Camping Options
Camping in a motorhome is not as simple as parking anywhere and staying the night. Sometimes, you will need to be hooked up to a power supply to recharge your batteries, you’ll need to empty your waste, fill up your freshwater supply, and more. There are many holiday parks in New Zealand where you can do all this and stay the night on a “powered site” so you’ll have a full supply of electricity to your motorhome. This gives you a far easier motorhome holiday experience but means there will be a holiday park fee.
Department of Conservation (DOC) campsites, council-run campsites and “freedom camping” on public land means that you will need to rely on your motorhome’s own supply of electricity, water and wastewater tanks. The upside is that campsites are cheap and freedom camping is free. However, your motorhome will need to be recharged, emptied and refilled at least every three days.
Learn more about your camping options in our complete guide, Camping in New Zealand.
Step 7 – Expect Poor Fuel Mileage
It’s no secret. Those large vehicles guzzle up a lot of fuel. Petrol costs around NZ$2 a litre (approximately NZ$7.60 per gallon), while diesel is around NZ$1.40 per litre (approximately NZ$5.30 per gallon). While diesel is cheaper up-front than petrol, be aware of the Road User Charge (RUC) will be applied to your rental rate if hiring a diesel-run vehicle. The RUC charge is around NZ$62-$68 per 1,000km (621 miles) travelled. This will be charged to you at the end of your rental.
Update: There are now a good amount of electric vehicle motorhome options in New Zealand, as well as frequent charging stations around the country. Consider electric vehicles to save money on fuel and lower your carbon footprint, as detailed in NZ EV Guide: How to Travel Around New Zealand in an Electric Car or Campervan.
Step 8 – Remember that Driving a Motorhome is Different from Driving a Car
You need to be comfortable with driving a larger vehicle. Driving a motorhome is slower, less manoeuvrable and harder to park than driving a car. If you’re unsure, do a cheeky test drive at a motorhome dealership. When you pick up your rental motorhome, do some practice laps in a quieter part of town before hitting the highways.
If you have difficulty parking up in a holiday park, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The motorhome community in New Zealand is very friendly and will be happy to help. We also have some advice too in The Best Tips for Parking a Campervan or Motorhome in New Zealand.
Step 9 – Don’t Stress About the Motorhome Hook-Ups
Emptying the waste tank, using the power chord, filling the freshwater tank… It can all seem a bit confusing to start with when holding all these hoses and pipes. The motorhome rental staff will go through how it all works when you pick the vehicle up. If there are any appliances that they miss or don’t tell you how to use something, just ask! You should also be given a manual to take with you on the road.
Many of the New Zealand rental companies have a bit of a video on their website explaining how things work so you can get a headstart.
Step 10 – Prepare for a Messy Experience
Guess who has to dump all your waste from your campervan? You do! Yes, there are times when things aren’t too pretty on a motorhome trip, but it’s all part of the experience. Watch some YouTube videos on how to use dump stations in New Zealand and the different methods motorhomes have to dump waste (some have pipes, others have cassette toilets).
There are ways to avoid dumping your waste, by not using your motorhome’s toilet at all and relying on public toilets and campsite toilets for the whole trip. However, if you plan on freedom camping, you’ll probably have to use your motorhome’s toilet.
Step 11 – Cook Your Own Meals
Motorhomes come with all the essentials to cook up your own meals: stovetops, refrigerator, pots, pans, utensils and sometimes even a microwave and oven. Cooking your own meals is a huge money-saver when renting a motorhome. Look up what kitchen facilities your rented motorhome will have and plan a few meals around that. You don’t want to turn up stressed in a New Zealand supermarket with no idea on what to cook at the start of your holiday!
For more tips on what to cook and how to buy food in New Zealand, check out our guide to Food Shopping in New Zealand and The Best Camping Meals, Inc. Camping Food List.
Step 12 – Hit the Road!
At the end of the day, you don’t know if motorhome travel is right for you unless you do it! Enjoy the experience and everything that comes with renting a motorhome or an RV for the first time. You never know, you could end up buying your own motorhome when you get back home to keep the adventure going.
Renting a motorhome for the first time is the best way to decide whether motorhome vacations are the right sort of vacations for you and your family. It might not be the cheapest way to travel, but it’s a vastly different experience from your usual holiday and one that many easily find themselves getting hooked on!
More About Motorhome and RV Rentals in New Zealand
That’s it for our step-by-step guide to renting your first motorhome or RV in New Zealand. For motorhome rental tips, check out the following guides:
- The Best Motorhome & Campervan Rentals in New Zealand
- Freedom Camping Rules in New Zealand: Region by Region
- How to Compare Car and Campervan Rental Companies in New Zealand
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 How to Plan a Campervan Trip in New Zealand.