When planning a tour around New Zealand, it’s fairly obvious that the most cost effective way to do it is to drive yourself (or hitchhike?). There are a ton of companies out there that you can rent a car or a camper from. So how do you choose which rental is the best for your trip?
Many of the rental companies around New Zealand are great for people who are beginners at camping this way. My friends and I had never really travelled in a campervan before. A friend of ours who lives in New Zealand recommended we use Jucy Rentals. We took her advice and booked ourselves a Jucy Chaser. The Jucy Chaser we drove was an automatic *phew* and not a bad size. It felt quite small on the inside, but it did the job for a couple weeks driving around NZ. They are also a good size for drivers who aren’t used to driving some massive vehicle through all the twisty, hilly roads around the South Island on a windy day.
The rental process was easy. They arrange a shuttle to and from the airport, so we didn’t have anything to worry about! We showed up and met with friendly, helpful staff. We checked out our vehicle and got a brief explanation of different things to note on the camper. Soon we were ready to go! Our Chaser came with a TV, radio, refrigerator, dishes, stove, sink, bathroom, and two beds (sleeps 4). It had everything we could have wanted. There weren’t any sort of amenities that were missing. It wasn’t luxurious by any means, but it took care of all of the important things. It was pretty easy to set up at night and pack up in the morning, as well.
Not everything was perfect, though. We had an issue with one of our fuses blowing multiple times. The fuse controlled our radio, TV, and outlets. Lucky for us, it wasn’t anything really important. The first time it happened, we were close to the Queenstown airport and took the rental in for a quick fix. Unfortunately, it blew again. We were a little sad to not have our radio at times, especially because we had put together an awesome playlist for the trip. (Pro tip: Bring an auxiliary cord or portable speakers to play the music you spent so long putting together!) We also had troubles with the a/c. It just never seemed to work and the air from the front didn’t circulate well to the back. It got a little uncomfortable back there some days.
Overall, we had a pretty good experience, and I would definitely do another rental like this in the future. However, we did make a few mistakes when booking. We didn’t really know what we were doing when we made our decision. We definitely could have saved ourselves a little bit of money.
Our biggest mistake was not fully understanding the type of trip we wanted to take. It’s extremely important (if you’re trying to be wise about money) to decide if you want to do freedom camping, or are you staying at campsites and mostly treating your vehicle as a sleep-in car rental. For us it was the latter, but we booked as if we’d be freedom camping. This ended up being more costly for us.
If you plan to FREEDOM CAMP
+ Must be in a certified self-contained vehicle. In other words, the toilet and shower are contained within the vehicle, instead of simply popping out.
+ Free to camp anywhere unless there’s a sign stating otherwise. However, it’s good to be familiar with the rules in different areas. I’ve heard it can vary around the island.
+ Responsible for properly disposing of any wastes. Please be respectful to New Zealand’s beautiful environment and use the proper dump sites.
+ Don’t forget to find a place to charge your vehicle and refill any resources you use (easily found at campsites).
+ Save money by not paying nightly rates at campsites (roughly $70 NZD a night per vehicle for a powered site at a holiday park).
If you plan to STAY AT CAMPSITES (Holiday Parks)
+ Make sure the campsite your staying at accepts your vehicle. Not all places allow non-self-contained vehicles. I think all of the ones we stayed at did, though.
+ Use your vehicle mostly just to travel and to sleep.
+ Take advantage of the charging outlets and garbage services at your site.
+ Use the campsite facilities to shower, cook, wash dishes, use the toilet, etc. Doing this means you don’t have to refill or clean those parts of your camper!
+ Save money by not paying extra for a self-contained vehicle (at least $2-300 NZD depending on which vehicle is best for you).
These definitely aren’t your only options. You can rent a smaller vehicle and get a room at some campsites, or you can get a cheaper site and use a tent! Honestly, this kind of appeals to me. It would be significantly cheaper, and the holiday parks have everything that you need for the night. The only concern would be bad weather. I guess in that case, maybe splurge on a room somewhere?
In my opinion, the most important thing is to think about the kind of trip you want to have and decide the best vehicle for your needs. It’s not necessary to have the ability to freedom camp if you don’t plan on taking full advantage of it. I wish we had planned that out more thoroughly.
Think about how much room you’ll really need for sleeping. Do you actually want to clean up the toilet and shower when you’re done or would you rather use a campsite? Smaller vehicles will obviously use less gas. Each option has its pros and cons, so choose whichever is best for you!
Have you ever done a driving tour of New Zealand? What’s your favorite way to get around?