Buy, Convert, or Rent? Cheapest way and time to travel around New Zealand

New Zealand is a beautiful country and despite its small size, there are a million things to see and do on both islands. One of the best ways to experience it all is by going on a road trip through the islands via campervan.

NZ is simply breath-taking. It's bounded by all sorts of picturesque landscapes and colorful attractions. And there are three main ways to fully experience and enjoy all of NZ's charms. One is to buy a van or car and convert it into a campervan. Another way is to buy a campervan that has already been converted or thirdly you can hire (rent) one from a company. There are heaps of things to consider when making your decision, especially when trying to stick to the budget and/or time constraints and still get the most out of your trip. 

Other things you may want to consider when planning a trip is if you are traveling solo or with a friend or partner. Obviously, when traveling with someone else, you have someone to split costs with but this may also need a bigger van, especially if traveling with kids. Though New Zealand doesn’t require you to have car insurance, it's still advisable to get one even if you think it's an extra cost. This will surely save you money in the end if something were to happen.

Buying a campervan

buy a campervan

One of the most popular and cheapest ways to experience New Zealand is to buy a van that has already been made into a campervan. However, this comes with both positive and negative consequences. There are several reasons this can be your cheapest option, especially if you can find someone selling their van because they are leaving the country and need to get rid of it. They are usually willing to sell for a super cheap price. You should also take notice of what island they are selling the car from. People selling from the South Island are sometimes cheaper. Most people will sell it with all the things you already need like kitchen utensils, pots and pans, linens, and other bedding needs which can help avoid additional costs. Some people have put in a lot of hard work building out their van so you can find some really cool ones to live and travel in. However, you should be aware of how many miles the car has already been driven, what kind of shape the tires are in, when you need to renew the WOF (warrant of fitness), and if the car already has a self-contained sticker. And before you buy any campervan, you should take it to the mechanic. 

Converting a van

build your own van

Another option is buying a van or car and building it out yourself. This takes a lot of time and a lot of work but is also really fun―especially if you have any carpentry skills. You can make it as comfortable and homey as you want. However, there are many extra expenses that could add up. Building materials, tools, a mattress and bed linens, pillows, kitchen utensils and pots and pans, a WOF (warrant of fitness) sticker as well as a self-contained sticker plus any other mechanical things that could go wrong. Another benefit of owning your own vehicle is not having to worry about wrecking the vehicle on the many dirt roads NZ has―unless you are trying to sell it for more money than you bought it for. The cheapest time to purchase an already made vehicle is at the end of someone’s trip as they are trying to sell it for anything before they leave the country.

Renting a campervan

rent a van

One of the easiest and most convenient ways to get a campervan is through an official campervan hire website. This is basically a one-stop shop for everything. The car will already come with a WOF and a self-contained sticker and most vans already come with everything you need for bedding and kitchen supplies. However, sometimes these hires come with extra fees. For example, if you are picking up in one location like Auckland and dropping off in a different one like Christchurch, you may have an extra fee. If you pick up from the airport it may be more expensive than picking up from somewhere outside the city. There may be extra fees for having multiple drivers or if you are under a certain age. Some companies also charge extra for returning the car late, if you return it without filling up the fuel tank, or if anything is damaged or missing.

Best and cheapest time to travel

cheap season for campervan hire

The cheapest times for renting is during the off-season and shoulder season, which is May through September. March and April are the two favored off-season months to visit as the weather is mild and costs are still affordable. October and November are a favorite as well. Winter is the cheapest―but also the coldest. June, July, and August tend to be the coldest months and thus make it the cheapest. The most expensive time is during the summer holiday as kids and families are off of school and traveling as well. These dates vary but tend to be about 6 weeks during December and January. If you plan to travel during these months, it is suggested to bring appropriate clothes as well as invest in a solid sleeping bag. Some rental places offer discount codes or deals during the winter. If you have flexible travel dates you are sure to find cheaper deals and if you are open to driving from the South Island to the North Island you can also find cheaper deals. As with any travel plans, you have to do a lot of research to see what suits you.

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