8 Things You Need To Know Before Renting A Motorhome In New Zealand

If you ask me what the ultimate road trip destination is, I wouldn’t have to think twice. New Zealand of course! And what’s a better way to do a road trip than in a campervan? 

I have friends that visited who loved every second of living in a camper and some who absolutely detested it. Admittedly though, they didn’t know what they were getting themselves into and did little research beforehand. 

Since the publication of my New Zealand Travel Guide, I receive emails from you on a daily basis often asking about tips on travelling in a motorhome in New Zealand. 

Are you thinking of renting a Motorhome in New Zealand? Here are 8 things you should know before.

After road-tripping across many different countries and even buying my very own campervan in Europe I can say with confidence that I have learnt the ins and outs of motorhome travel. Today I will finally share those tips with you, along with a few photos to make you excited about your New Zealand road trip!

1. Parking your campervan

Wharariki Beach 2

Believe it or not, you can’t just park overnight anywhere. The same parking restrictions apply regardless of the vehicle you are in. However, parking spaces are much easier to find, the smaller your vehicle.

There are often designated and signposted motorhome parking spots around tourist towns. I am not going to sugarcoat it though, in the high season they are pretty much always taken.

So just remember the bigger your vehicle, the more comfortable you’ll be, but it will limit you on your parking options. Getting to your destination early is essential if you don’t want to drive around looking for a parking spot. 

2. Dump stations

Purakaunui Waterfall Catlins 2

Vehicles that are self-contained, meaning they are equipped with a toilet, will have to be emptied regularly. Every time you flush the toilet, whatever was in the bowl is stored in your vehicle and has to be disposed of in the correct location.

Dump stations are found at many campsites and roadside pull-outs and for the most part, are free of charge or included in campsite fees. 

Different motorhomes have different processes for emptying your ‘black water tank’. I won’t be getting into it here. When picking up your motorhome you will be shown how to do it. Make sure to ask any questions you may have! 

It’s not a pretty job but absolutely necessary if you want to keep using your toilet and keep your van stink-free! Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds and you won’t have to do it every day either (unless you have some serious bladder problems). 

Personally, I’ve mostly avoided using mine as there are public toilets, cafes and campsites everywhere. I only really used it at night when I was too sleepy to go outside, oh and never for number 2! 

3. To rent a motorhome or to buy?

Tunnel Beach Sunrise 1

This is a tough one which pretty much boils down to one thing. How much time in New Zealand do you have? If you are buying a camper expect to spend at least a week beforehand looking for one, purchasing, registering etc and then up to a month on the end of your journey trying to sell it.

Do not fall into the trap of trying to sell your vehicle at the end of summer. Trust me, you won’t, or you will, but only for a fraction of the price that you bought it for. People don’t buy cars at this time. You’ll have no problems selling your car at the start of NZ’s summer though!

Buying certainly poses more of a risk but can be rewarding. If you can sell the vehicle for almost what you paid for it then effectively you’ve just had an almost free rental. If you can’t sell it then you’ll end up spending much more than a rental.

Rentals are way easier and have no risk but are more expensive. Depending on the season, cheap campers can go for as little as 25NZD a day but in the summer expensive motorhomes can be more than 500NZD a day!

I reckon unless you plan on travelling in New Zealand for at least 2-3 months don’t even bother with buying and just rent instead! 

4. Self-contained campervan vs non-self-contained?

Helibiking Mount Burke Wanaka 10

Being self-contained has many more advantages than just going to the toilet whenever you want. In most towns, there are often free-of-charge self-contained parking lots where you can stay overnight. Let me say that again. Free of charge.

You will find it hard to find free overnight parking lots if you are not self-contained. Non-self-contained vehicles are, for the most part, restricted to staying in paid campsites with toilets. Campsites can range from 5$ to 50$ per person per night depending on the facilities and location.

This should also be factored into costs when choosing between a self-contained versus a non-self-contained vehicle. Self-contained vehicles will be more expensive but could potentially save you from further campsite costs when you are on the road.  

5. What campervan size to pick?

Moeraki Boulders 16

I’ve been in everything from a tiny two-person van to a 5m luxury motorhome and whilst I was certainly more comfortable in the latter, it did cost more and was harder to park/drive. Although, not as hard as I thought it would be.

Big motorhomes are also designed to sleep 4, 5 or even 6 people, so if you’re travelling in a group this can be advantageous as you can split the costs. If you are a family looking for a motorhome this is an ideal option.

I went to the Jucy headquarters in Christchurch to photograph their fleet to give you an example of what you can expect from each different size.

Two Berth Sleeper van

From the cheapest and smallest option, you can expect a bed with some storage and a fridge underneath (roughly 0.04m3), cooking equipment but no kitchen, portable stoves, a fold-out table, camping chairs and a couple of USB charging ports. Nothing flash but certainly enough to survive. Usually included is a 10L or 20L fresh water tank.

Cheaper companies will have older models with more kilometres but all vans should be really well maintained.

  • Approximate Economy: 12L/100km or 20mpg (US gallon)
  • Price Range: 700$ a week during Christmas, 200$ a week during winter

2-4 berth high top

A two-birth luxury van will include everything that’s in the smaller sleeper van, but will also have a kitchen. The kitchen will usually include 2 hobs, a sink and therefore a grey water tank that will have to be emptied. Some extended versions will have a porta-potty toilet and even a shower! 

In my eyes the toilet in a small campervan like this is not intended for use, but only for the self-contained certification which permits the use of many free parking lots.

Another huge plus is that normally they are high tops so you can stand up inside. Absolutely great on a typical rainy day in New Zealand.

Often these will be described as 3 berths but realistically it’s big enough for 2 adults and a child or 3 smaller adults.  

  • Approximate Economy: 14L/100km or 17mpg (US gallon)
  • Price Range: 900$ a week during Christmas, 300$ a week during winter

4 Berth Motorhome

As you’ll be paying more for this option normally they are newer vehicles, that are more efficient per person and have done fewer kilometres.

They will include everything you need including two double beds. One of those beds will be formed from a day-use sitting area and a platform. Not ideal for the elderly or for those with back problems.

The big 4-berth motorhome will have toilets and showers in a separate space. The kitchen will also be equipped with an oven and you can even expect a microwave. 

The extra batteries installed in the van might even last up to 3 days, depending on the use, but if you want to continue to use the electricity you will have to stay in a paid campsite every few days to plug in your van and recharge the batteries. 

  • Approximate Economy: 14L/100km or 17mpg (US gallon)
  • Price Range: 2500$ a week during Christmas, 450$ a week during winter

5-6 Berth Motorhome

The biggest of all campervans these will be above 3m in height, and up to 8m in length and cost the most. The plus is that you can split the cost between lots of people. They will have fully functional kitchens including an oven, tables, seating, lots of storage, a toilet, a shower and maybe a TV. Although if you ask me I find it completely unnecessary. The views outside the car window will beat any reality show! 

Everything you need will be inside including plug sockets, several USB ports, lights, heating and air conditioning! This is a 5-star hotel on wheels!

  • Approximate Economy: 14l/100km or 17mpg (US gallon) (will be diesel)
  • Price Range: 4000$ a week during Christmas, 600$ a week during winter

6. What motorhome rental company to pick?

Mount Alfred 7

There are loads of companies offering campers in New Zealand. Jucy has always been reliable and well-maintained, I’ve had mixed experience with Spaceships aimed at budget-type travellers and would advise staying away from Wicked Vans.

Maui and Apollo are great for larger motorhomes and are usually aimed at families. 

For price comparison between them all as well as reservations, I always recommend Motorhome Republic. It will save you lots of time than going through each company separately.

Check the reviews. Especially on what people say about customer service in negative situations such as car breakdowns. It can happen and it doesn’t mean the company is bad if it does. Have you ever owned a car? They need constant maintenance and occasionally they do break! However, the efficiency in which the company reacts to a potential breakdown is very important!  

Check how old the car is. It’s tempting to get an older van, especially when the price is cheaper. Just remember that in general, the older the car is the less economical it is and the more chance it has of breaking down. 

In the end, you will spend the same amount of money or even more, but you’ll end up travelling in an old banger and the initial savings will bring nothing. Remember, generally you get what you pay for! 

7. How to find campsites

Mount Cook Road St.Peters Lookout 3

I know many people choose to travel in a campervan for the freedom it gives them. You don’t have to stick to a strict schedule and can choose to stay longer in a destination you particularly liked and vice versa. However, that’s not always the case. 

If your road trip in New Zealand falls within a busy period from December until February I would highly advise that you prebook your campsites, especially in the top tourist destinations such as Wanaka, Queenstown or Franz Josef. 

There’s a particularly handy mobile app called Camper Mate which I always use whenever I am road tripping in New Zealand. Another one which I used religiously is Park4night. Download them before your trip and familiarise yourself with them.

They both give information on what campsites are available in each area, pricing, ratings, whether they are for self-contained vehicles only etc. 

8. Additional things to look for when reserving a campervan

Hooker Valley Mount Cook National Park 6

With the recent surge of tourism in New Zealand the number of companies offering campervan rental grew accordingly. Remember these points  when searching for your rental:

Deposit

Look for what deposit you will need to leave. When you rent a van with basic insurance it usually involves a big excess and a big deposit. That means that a certain amount of money will be blocked on your credit card on the day your rental begins. This amount can sometimes be as high as $8000NZD!

Insurance

If you will be involved in an accident (your fault or not) the repairs will be covered by this amount. Anything above will be covered by the insurance (unless you breached the contract by driving on a road you weren’t supposed to drive on etc). You can buy extended insurance to lower the excess even down to 0. 

The small print in the contract

Read the rental contract to avoid any surprises. I really shouldn’t remind anyone of that, but from a personal experience i know, that many people don’t read the information they are given.

Is there something I forgot to cover? Do you have any more questions about motorhome travel in New Zealand? Leave them in the comments below! I always answer. 

Marta
Marta

Hi! I am the photographer and creator of www.inafarawayland.com. I come from Poland, but I've been living, travelling and working around the globe since I turned 18. A few years ago, during one of my trips to Scotland, I bought my first DSLR and my adventure with photography began. When I am not stuck to my computer editing photos, you can find me hiking somewhere in the mountains.

24 Comments

  1. Hi,
    Our family of 4 are considering a winter motorhome trip in the south island. We would love to take in some of the skifields. Do you know of any rental companies other than Wilderness that allow you to take their vehicles up skifield access roads?
    Thank you

    • Hi Laura. Winter trip sounds amazing. Make sure your campervan is equipped in heating because condensation inside a van during winter time can get very annoying. As for your question I reckon you would have to reach out to the rental companies directly cause I don’t know answer to that questions. You would also have to carry snow chains with you.

  2. Kia ora! My family (wife and 3 kids) and I just returned (yesterday) from 6 weeks in NZ (arrived and departed from Auckland) and we used your itinerary as a rough guide. After a lot of consideration, we opted for a standard van rental with motels/”holiday parks”/airbnb instead of renting a campervan. We also brought a tent and small backpacking-size sleeping bags, pads, and air pillows (in one large suitcase) for a few nights of tent camping. I think it worked out great. It gave us a lot of flexibility. The minivan had better fuel economy, was easier to park and maneuver, and was faster driving (logged 5200 miles from Cape Reinga Lighthouse on the North Island to Papatowai on the South). We were surprised to see how many family units (for 2 adults and 3 children) there are in motels and “holiday parks.” We did roughly 15 Airbnb’s (some multiple nights), 5 nights of tent camping (including Mt Cook!), and about 10 motel/holiday parks. Overall, our accommodations averaged $150 USD per night for 41 nights. So, others may want to consider this as an alternative if the campervan scene doesn’t quite fit your timing or budget. Top Ten Holiday Parks was a great budget alternative that we wished we would have known about sooner.

    • Hi Matt! Thanks so much for posting your feedback. I am sure it will be helpful to others in the future. I too travelled in a smaller campervan and a tent mainly because of the fuel economy and the ease of navigation. I am so happy to hear you had an amazing time!

  3. Hi Marta
    I am hoping to join my daughter (currently back packing round Australia) for 2 weeks in New Zealand in May.
    Is this a good time and are campsites still open? We’d probably start in the North island then head to the South.
    For a bit more space and comport I’d be looking to hire a 4 or 5 birth motorhome.

    • Hi David. Yes you can still travel in a campervan in May. The nights are already chilly though. Many campsites stay open year-round. North Island is warmer than the South so consider doing it the other way around so you visit South Island first.I hope that helps! let me know if you have other questions.

  4. Hi Marta,
    Love your tips overhere! We’re planning a 5 week trip to the South Island and thinking of renting a campervan this time (previous did a trip by bus and one with a car). But do you know/got advice on what to do with the campervan when we want to go for a multi-day hike/tramping? And this time I really want to go to Steward island for a few days, but I can’t find information on if I can leave the campervan anywhere…

    • Hi Wendy. Thanks for visiting. There are always parking lots in towns or at trailheads where you can leave the motorhome. As for Stewart Island I am afraid I can’t help you here because I haven’t been myself.

  5. Hello Marta

    Four of us; myself, husband, son and his girlfriend are planning to hire a motor home for 6 weeks from mid October through November in 2024. We will be touring from Aukland and ending in Christchurch. We have been advised to go for a 6 berth rather than a 4 berth to provide more room. What are your thoughts regarding the size and limitations of a bigger van? Also, how soon should we book the motor home before travelling?

    Your thoughts and advice will be much appreciated.

    Best wishes
    Marlene

    • Hi Marlene. Thanks for visiting my site. 6 weeks in New Zealand sound amazing. I do have a 4-8 week itinerary that you may find useful.
      As for your question. It depends on the campervan set up. Just focus on the bed set up. Ideally you will have an alcove above the driver cabin or a bed that can be lowered down and then one other bed at the back of the campervan. You also want a sitting area for 4 people. I just find it a lot more convenient when beds are not made from sitting areas, but are rather a part of a set up. Making beds every day and changing them into sitting area might become annoying very quickly. 4 berth campervans often already come with this kind of set up. It really just comes down to the campervan design rather then 4 berth/6 berth question. As for the size of a campervan there are always pros and cons, but if there are 4 of you then you want something of a decent size so you are not on top of each other and sleeping areas are separate. If you use my link in the article to Motohome Republic you can actually browse through different campervan set ups to see what would work best for you. As for booking I would recommend to do it as soon as you know the dates. The fleets are reduced because a lot of companies have sold their fleets during covid and now the demand is higher than the supply. I hope that helps!

      • Thank you very much for your detailed, practical and very helpful reply. You have confirmed what we thought would be best for us re the size of a camper van. We will also look at your itinerary which we are sure will provide a welcome guide. We now have our dates for travel so we’ll get busy researching firms for our travelling home. Thank you again. Your advice is much appreciated x

  6. Hello Marta, fellow Polish girl :)) I’d like to ask if you know if it’s possible to park a motorhome on a street, in a regular parking spot, in NZ for like 1-2 hours. I mean street parking to run some errands, not overnight stay. If I find a suitable spot on a street can I park there or are there any restrictions in NZ for parking motorhomes? I will appreciate your help a lot! Uściski! 🙂

    • Hey Eva! Thanks for visiting my site. As for your question. In general it is ok as long as you your wheels are within the marked parking space, however common sense needs to be exercised. If it’s a narrow road and your van is taking half of it then you probably shouldn’t park there 😉 But all in all same rules apply as to regular cars, unless otherwise stated. I hope you have lots of fun in New Zealand! Sciskam rowniez! 🙂

      • Thanks! I was in NZ before (not on a camper van trip though) but now I’m preparing a trip for my client (I’m a private travel planner) and I advised them to rent a motorhome. 🙂
        Buziaki!

  7. I am planning a 2 weeks canpervan/motorhome trip to South Island from March 22 to April 6th with 2 kids – 13 and 11.
    1. Is that a good time ?
    2. How much can I expect to shell out on fuel for these Mandy ATS in a 4 berth (big) motorhome.
    3. Will Milford sound be as beautiful in April ?

    • Hi Agrawal. Thanks for visiting. Yes March and April are still very good months for travelling the South Island, however the nights can already get quite chilly, so if you are travelling in a campervan you need to take it under consideration. As for fuel it is hard to say, this depends on so many things (how many kilometres you will do, what kind of Motorhome you will rent and also your style of driving) I am afraid I cannot give you a straight answer here.
      Milford Sound is stunning at any time of the year. I have been there many times and I think the light in the autumn and winter season is even better than in the summer.

  8. Hi, I’m going to NZ at the end of November with 2 other people. My friend wants to get a 4-6 person motor home for the 2 weeks. I’m just worried that it will be hard to drive it on mountain rds and park at trailheads, as we are planning to visit all the big NPs. What do you think? I have never driven a motor home, but I’m of the mind – that I can figure anything out. I’m only thinking that it might be going too slow uphill and downhill, hard to park and really slow us down 🤔

    • Hey Guzal. Thanks for stopping by. I like your can-do attitude. As for your question. All main places are accessible with Campervan. New Zealand has great infrustructure for it, however I will be lying if I said that it is easy to park. For example I wouldn’t drive a Motorhome in Queenstown and when there I would only focus on public transport. You also won’t be able to drive the van into Matukituki valley in Mount Aspiring NP (near Wanaka) because it is a gravel road. For that a 4×4 will be needed. All the rest though will be fine and you can easily manage as many people do.

  9. Hi Marta we are thinking of a month in the North and a month in the South with a mix of motorhome and car/BNB. Which would be the better island to use the motorhome in – we are both good drivers but have little motorhome experience. Cheers

    • Hi Lee. Thanks for stopping by. It does depend on the month you will be travelling in. Both can be great, but if you are going later in the season (March/April) then North will be better for campervan and South for staying in hotels and BnBs. South Island is colder and the nights can get very cool for sleeping in a campervan. I would also say it is less intimidating to drive on the North Island with a bigger car because the road system is more extensive as more people live on the North Island. However bear in mind that whichever you choose you won’t be disappointed. It’s also quite common to rent campers and drop them off at different locations. So you could even do 2 weeks in the van and alternate it with 2 weeks in Airbnb then again 2 weeks in the 2 and 2 weeks in BnB. I hope that helps!

  10. I am thinking of buying a motor home. Which motorhomes have the best steps to get in and have good sleeping arrangements without having to make beds up

    • Hi Denis. I am afraid my knowledge about motorhomes isn’t as extensive as your question. I would recommend that you contact dealerships in your area directly and they will be able to help you out with your question. Good luck with your search for a perfect motorhome!

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