Road tripping through New Zealand is one of the best ways to see all the country has to offer. While I was hesitant to drive in New Zealand, it ended up being an amazing experience. Driving gives you the opportunity to visit and do things you just can’t do without a car. You’re able to stop at stunning locations, visit great parks and see the authentic New Zealand.
One of the most popular ways to visit the country is via camper van. Since this was my first time driving on the left side of the street and on the right side of the car, I wasn’t fully comfortable to drive a camper van. Not wanting to miss out we decided to rent a car. Renting a car still gave us the ability to hop from city to city and was a bit less daunting.
Now having done it I cannot wait to go back and do a more in depth road trip in a camper van. Whether you rent a camper-van, hop from city to city or do day trips renting a car is the best way to see the real New Zealand. With that being said there are some things to consider when planning your road trip in New Zealand. Below I have outlined a guide to driving in New Zealand to make sure you get enjoy every second of your adventure.
Guide to Driving in New Zealand
Type of Car
First off you should decide what type of car you would like to rent. Do you want to get a campervan or is car okay? Do you want a suv or sudan? These will all affect your budget. We got a beat up Nissan Tiida and drove all around the glacier areas and had no issues. If you are renting a campervan it will require you to be a bit more careful in the mountains and small dirt roads.
There are a ton of companies to choose from depending on your budget. I found a really good deal on booking.com with Lucky rentals in Christchurch. They were really affordable and easy to work with. Granted the car was pretty old and beat up which I did’nt mind as this meant if anything happened to it, it’s value would be lower. In Queenstown we rented with …. . A lot of people love JUCY and rave about them which is another great option in New Zealand.
I would highly suggest you get some sort of car insurance that covers your vechile. Keep in mind some credit cards like the Capital One Venture Card or Chase Sapphire reserve have built in care rental insurance so make use of them. If you do not have a credit card that offers this I would suggest getting insurance with a booking agency or even your travel insurance. A lot of car rental companies will also offer their own insurance. Be prepared if you do not purchase rental insurance with the car rental company directly they will often times require you to put down a “bond.” This is usually between 1,000 -2,000 $NZD as a security deposit. I learned the hard way that not all types of insurance cover you the same. Below are the common types of insurance.
- CDW short for “Collision Damage Waiver” provides coverage in the event of a collision or damage.
- LDW short for “Loss Damage Waiver” provides coverage in the event of theft or loss of use of the vehicle.
Make sure to read the fine print and disclosure of the your insurance agreement. If something does not make sense ask or call a representative.
Will I need an International Driver Permit (IDP) ?
If you are coming from an English speaking country and your drivers license is in english than you will not need anything additional. However if your license is not in english you will need to obtain an international driver permit before your trip. How you apply for one varies between countries so contact your local transport authority.
Study Local Driving Laws
I would highly suggest studying up on local laws and signage. While signs will be in english their roads and laws of different from that of other countries. Keep in mind that in New Zealand the driver sits on the right side of the car and drives on the left side of the road. If you are from America than beware as this is opposite of our roads. You can read up on more about the laws on New Zealand Transports Visitors Website.
Picking up Your Rental Car
The first thing you should do when picking up your rental is take photos and make note of any pre-existing damage. I have heard horror stories of people having to pay for other peoples damage because they skipped this. In New Zealand most insurance do not cover windshield and tires so make sure to get photos of those. Make note of what type of gas the car makes as each country varies. Be sure to ask what type of fuel your car takes as well.
Driving in New Zealand
New Zealand drive on the left side of the road and sit on the right side of the road. New Zealand roads are but different from the roads you may be used to. Most roads only have two lane roads, one for each lane. This means you can only overtake or pass cares in certain areas and can get stuck behind slow cars. It is also common for bridges to be one lane, be sure to make note of the signs prior to bridge which will tell you which direction has right of way. The speed limit is 100km on the open road and 50km in urban areas.
New Zealand Driving Tips
I found driving in New Zealand to pretty easy once I got used to driving on the opposite side of the road. I would highly suggest you download offline maps for New Zealand. Most cars charge more for GPS and you can lose service. I used download maps before hand and used google maps the whole time and never had any issues. While this is not difficult as you will want to stop pretty often to take pictures of the beautiful landscape, make sure to take breaks every two hours. Be sure to keep track of your fuel usage and plan your fuel stops. Keep in mind that roads are windy and estimated times may actually take much longer. Be flexible at one point we had to make a pit stop for two hours as a truck had turned over and we had to wait for the road to be cleared.
I highly recommend Rentalcars.com. I used them throughout New Zealand and Australia. They constantly had the cheapest prices and come with a lot of features other companies don’t have. If you don’t have rental insurance with your credit card they have affordable coverage on their website. Through rentalcars.com I used Europcar, Jucy and Aerodrive. They were all great and were all new cars.