The Ultimate Guide To Renting A Budget Campervan In New Zealand

Abel Tasman Park

For our trip in New Zealand we didn’t have to think twice about our preferred way of transportation: we rented a van for 6 weeks and loved every second of it! The freedom of having your own wheels… going everywhere you want, driving twisting (gravel) roads, pulling over anywhere you want to enjoy jet another spectacular view… Amazing!

Budget Campervan In New Zealand
Great Coast Road

Where to find a budget rental campervan in New Zealand

After a lot of campervan research I found the company Rental Car Village, owned and run by the Thomlinson family. I liked them for several reasons:

• It is a family owned business which gives you a great and personal service. When I send in a request for more information I received a friendly and personal email from owner Grant Thomlinson. He not only explained their rental procedures very clearly, but also gave great advice about hostels in Christchurch and Auckland and a list of his favorite campsites.

• There is no advertising on the vans. When you drive around NZ you see a lot of campervans in all shapes, colors and sizes. What pretty much all of them have in common: they are plastered in big bold advertisements of the rental companies that owns them. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I really liked it that we blended into normal traffic with our plain white campervan.

• Their price is the best offer I have come across in my thorough search. They explain how they keep their prices low in the FAQ on their website and I think it’s awesome they are transparent about their cost structure.

Check the ultimate guide to renting a campervan in New Zealand! Read about costs, necessary additional items and insurance.

We hired the economy campervan, which in our case was a nice white Nissan Vanette (check it out here).

Our beloved campervan
Our beloved campervan

Unnecessary additional items in our camper van

Looking back on the six weeks we spend in our van, next time I would cut a few items for which we paid extra:

Linen pack: I would probably bring my own sleeping bag next time. Mind you, New Zealand can be really cold at night. We woke up with snowy mountain caps one day and this was the middle of NZ summer! So a thin travel sheet isn’t going to cut it… Obviously, the major downside of BYO sleeping bag is that you have to carry it around during your entire trip. Though with a small and light sleeping bag that shouldn’t be to much of an issue.

Combo B: the only things you need are a cooler, table and chairs and a map. We had a fridge but we mostly stayed at free or DOC campsites without any power. Made having a fridge a lot less useful. The GPS is a non-essential as well! It’s almost impossible to get lost in NZ since there aren’t that many roads to begin with, particularly on the South Island. Just use your phone as a GPS (Mapswithme is a great free app. Don’t forget to download the maps of the countries you’re planning to visit before you leave?. Or ask help from one of the friendly and helpful Kiwi’s.

All Day Bay recreation reserve, a seaview from our van!


Necessary additional items in our camper van

The items I would pay for again next time I’m renting a van are:

Zero Excess: I will definitely pay this fee again, because I had a teeny tiny parking accident with our rental van which resulted in this:

Oops...

Luckily we had paid a fee of 390NZD for 0-liability, so the damage I caused was paid by Rental Car Village. They were very kind about it, but I felt rather embarrassed nonetheless…

Of course you should decide for yourself if you want to spend money on insurance. We were certainly happy we did because we did not want to run the risk of having to pay up to 3000NZD dollar. My recommendation about travelling in general is to have a buffer for unforeseen expenses, say 10% of your total budget. Because a lot can (and will) happen on a long trip and it’s better to be prepared.

Additional driver: this depends on your travel situation, I really liked that both of us could drive our campervan. This meant that on the days I wasn’t driving I could fully enjoy the scenery without scaring my husband by almost driving of the road.

Lake Hawea
Lake Hawea

Alternatives to renting a camper van

We absolutely loved our campervan road trip in New Zealand but there are several alternatives to renting a camper van.

Rent a car

Renting a car car instead of a van is cheaper, plus you’ll spend less on petrol since mileage tends to be much better. We came across many people sleeping in their cars (mostly station wagons), but you can also buy a small tent if you prefer.

Buy a campervan

If you stay in NZ for more than 2 months I recommend buying a camper van or car instead of renting one, as rental fees really add up. For our 5 month North America road trip we bought a car in Canada and it saved us so much money!

If you are interested in buying a van, send me an email! I have a 100 NZD discount coupon for you to spend at Travel Cars NZ. This company sells campervans, station wagons and small cars and also offers a buy-back option (so you are guaranteed to sell your van at the end of your trip). Though there is a thriving campervan market in New Zealand so you’ll probably have no issues selling your car yourself.

Arundel Bridge Reserve, our first campsite in New Zealand!

Travel by bus

Other alternatives include going by bus (InterCity Bus has regular 1NZD promo fees) or hitchhiking for the really adventurous. If you are an active person and don’t mind traveling slowly, you can cycle of walk across the island. There is a 3000km trail called Te Araroa starting at Cape Reinga in the North of New Zealand all the way to Bluff in the South. This way of traveling definitely brings you to places you wouldn’t easily get to by car!


However, the main takeaway of this post: exploring New Zealand by campervan is absolutely amazing and something I highly recommend to anyone who loves road trips!

You can download my ultimate campervan guide below. Read more about the costs of traveling in New Zealand and where to find the best campsites. Also, check out this ‘Driving in New Zealand guide‘ by my blogger friend Isabel to read about road conditions and safety.

Looking for more travel planning resources? Check out the Phenomenal Globe Travel Planning Library and my Travel Resource page!

Check the ultimate guide to renting a campervan in New Zealand! Read about costs, necessary additional items and insurance. #NewZealand #Campervan #VanLifeCheck the ultimate guide to renting a campervan in New Zealand! Read about costs, necessary additional items and insurance. #NewZealand #Campervan #VanLife
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12 Comments

  1. February 1, 2016 / 11:06 am

    Super useful tips guys! Sounds like an affordable way to see some beautiful stuff!

    • Lotte
      Author
      February 1, 2016 / 11:53 am

      Thanks so much for your kind comment Hannah! I am happy to read you found my tips helpful and can totally recommend exploring New Zealand in a campervan:-)

  2. Kirby
    March 31, 2016 / 10:12 pm

    Hi Lotte! I just wanted to thank you for posting such a detailed review of your experience with a campervan, especially with Rental Car Village! I looked at about a gazillion different campervan hires in NZ but was ultimately convinced by this post to change our plans a bit and rent from RCV. Even with a one-way rental and a ferry ride, it’ll come out cheaper than our original plan, so thank you! We’re traveling in April and just can’t wait. 🙂

    • Lotte
      Author
      March 31, 2016 / 10:34 pm

      Hi Kirby, thank you so much for your lovely comment! You really made my day:-). I am very happy to hear my post helped you in finding Rental Car Village, which in my opinion is the best campervan deal in NZ. I am sure you’ll have an amazing trip in New Zealand, it’s the most beautiful country in the world… Wish you all the best and have fun! Lotte

  3. June 30, 2016 / 9:04 am

    Very useful tips! Great deal you got there. I was looking at ranker.co.nz. Also a very useful website with ratings of different rental companies and campsites!
    So this campervan is not self-contained right? And it doesn’t have dual power, because the fridge only works when your driving or have power. That’s why it’s so cheap! Will think about it if I’ll need it, other campervans are around 95 NZD self-contained with dual power…. That’s more expensive than this one!
    Would you recommend the solar shower? 😉

    • Lotte
      Author
      July 3, 2016 / 12:01 am

      Thanks Mellisa:-). No it’s not a self-contained van and it only has power for the fridge when you are driving. I didn’t mind not having power (or a fridge) but it would have been nice to have a self-containted sticker. I stayed at a lot of gorgeous campsite but with a self-contained van there are even more options to choose from. I personally never used the solar shower but you could give it a try. I am sure it would be an interesting experience;-)

  4. Franzi
    October 15, 2016 / 12:10 pm

    Hi, great and helpful post. I am planning on renting a campervan as well for my one-month trip through NZ. Are there any other things you would recommend in regards of living in a campervan? How about cooking/ kitchen / washing / packing utilities, which I should bring from home or buy over there?
    Thanks for your advice,
    Franzi

    • Lotte
      Author
      October 15, 2016 / 5:42 pm

      Hey Franzi, I am happy you find the post helpful:-) Awesome you’ll be traveling around New Zealand by campervan, it truly is the best! It depends on the company from which you rent the campervan. Cooking equipment was included in our rental price, but we paid extra for bedding, a table and 2 chairs. You can do laundry at most of the holiday parks (you can check my post about campsites to see where we stayed). Please let me know if you have more questions and enjoy your trip!

  5. Caroline Bell
    November 14, 2017 / 11:26 pm

    Hi Lotte,
    I have read your blog and found it all really useful. Me and my boyfriend will be travelling around NZ next January for 5 weeks and have booked with Rental Car Village. Are you able to give some advice on the storage in the economy campervan as we are looking to have 2 suitcases with us. Also if you had any problems with the campervan were you able to get hold of the company easily? I look forward to hearing from you. Caroline 🙂

    • Lotte
      Author
      November 15, 2017 / 2:47 am

      Hi Caroline,

      Awesome you’ll be going to New Zealand in January! I’m sure you’ll love it… Great to hear you booked a van with Rental Car Village, I was very happy with our van and their customer service. When I accidentally bumped into another car at a parking lot I could easily reach them and they gave me detailed instructions about what to do to resolve the issue. I’m not sure about taking 2 hard-case suitcases, we always put our backpacks in the front seats during the night so it depends on how big they are… Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions and enjoy your trip!

      Lotte

  6. Izan
    July 21, 2018 / 9:48 am

    Hi Lotte; thanks for the tips. I plan a trip in late Oct for myself, hubby and 20-yr old daughter. I have 2 questions about self driving in NZ:
    – If you aren’t using a selfcontained vehicle, where can you find toilets, are they widely available on most routes and are they clean?
    – Which is cheaper campervan + campsite or car+ backpacker hostel? (Self cook for both options).
    Thanks

    • Lotte
      Author
      July 23, 2018 / 7:24 pm

      Hi Izan,

      Thank you for reading my blog! About your questions:
      – Toilets are widely available in NZ and usually clean. On DOC campsites there are usually pit toilets, the same goes for the start of many hiking trails. Those don’t always smell so great but still most of them are pretty tidy.
      – I’m not entirely sure, I only know what we spent on our trip (see the budget breakdown here: https://www.phenomenalglobe.com/travel-new-zealand-on-a-budget/). Perhaps you can look around on the web to see if you can find a budget post written by somebody who did the car+hostel option and compare it with our travel budget.

      Enjoy your trip!
      Lotte

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