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Car Or Campervan For New Zealand? Which Rental Is Best


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Dorelle Terrazas



When planning a trip to New Zealand, one of the important decisions you’ll have to make is whether to rent a car or a campervan. Both options have their advantages and it ultimately depends on your preferences and travel style. In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of both car rentals and campervans to help you make an informed decision.


New Zealand is known for its stunning landscapes and breathtaking natural beauty, making it the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts and road trips. Whether you’re planning to explore the North Island with its geothermal wonders and vibrant cities, or embark on an adventure in the South Island with its majestic mountains and picturesque fjords, having the right mode of transportation is crucial.


A car rental offers convenience, flexibility, and affordability. With a car, you’ll have the freedom to explore at your own pace and visit remote locations that might not be easily accessible by public transport. You’ll also have the option to stay in hotels or accommodations along the way, and enjoy the comfort of a proper bed and shower facilities.


On the other hand, a campervan provides a unique and immersive experience. It allows you to combine transportation and accommodation in one, offering the flexibility to park and sleep at stunning campsites surrounded by nature. Campervans are equipped with basic amenities such as beds, kitchens, and toilets, giving you the freedom to cook your own meals and save on dining expenses.


Now, let’s dive into a detailed comparison of cost, convenience, comfort, freedom and flexibility, and safety to help you determine which rental option is best suited for your New Zealand adventure.


Cost Comparison

One of the primary factors to consider when deciding between a car rental and a campervan is the overall cost. Here’s a breakdown of the cost comparison between the two options:

  • Rental Price: In general, car rentals are more affordable compared to campervans. The rental rates for cars are usually lower, especially for smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles. Campervans, on the other hand, tend to have higher rental costs due to the added amenities and space.
  • Fuel Costs: Both car rentals and campervans require fuel, but campervans generally consume more fuel due to their larger size and weight. This means you may need to budget more for fuel expenses if you choose a campervan. Keep in mind that New Zealand has relatively high fuel prices compared to some other countries.
  • Accommodation Expenses: With a car rental, you have the option to stay in hotels, motels, or other accommodations along your route. This can add additional costs to your trip. On the other hand, a campervan eliminates the need for separate accommodation expenses as you have your sleeping quarters on wheels.
  • Food Costs: While both options allow you to prepare your own meals, campervans have the advantage of having a built-in kitchen. This gives you the opportunity to cook your meals and save on dining expenses. With a car rental, you may need to rely on restaurants or takeaways, which can add up over time.
  • Insurance: Another cost consideration is insurance. Both car rentals and campervans require insurance coverage. The cost of insurance can vary depending on the rental company and the level of coverage you choose. It’s important to factor in insurance costs when comparing the overall expenses.

Overall, while campervans may have higher upfront rental costs and fuel expenses, they can potentially save you money in terms of accommodation and food costs. Car rentals, on the other hand, may have lower upfront costs but additional expenses for accommodation and dining. It’s essential to calculate your budget and consider your preferences to determine which option aligns best with your financial situation.


Convenience Comparison

When it comes to convenience, both car rentals and campervans offer their own advantages. Let’s take a closer look at the convenience factors associated with each option:

  • Easy Navigation: With a car rental, you can easily navigate through cities and towns as they are designed for regular-sized vehicles. This makes driving and parking more straightforward, especially in urban areas. Campervans, on the other hand, can be larger and may require more caution when maneuvering in tight spaces or busy city streets.
  • Flexibility in Itinerary: Having a car rental allows you to have greater flexibility in your itinerary. You can easily adjust your plans and make spontaneous stops along the way. If you’re looking to explore various destinations and attractions, a car rental gives you the freedom to change your plans without needing to worry about your accommodation.
  • Set-Up and Pack-Up: Setting up and packing up a campervan requires more time and effort compared to a car rental. Campervans have additional equipment, such as beds, kitchen facilities, and storage, which need to be organized and secured properly. If you prefer a hassle-free travel experience with minimal setup and pack-up time, a car rental may be more convenient.
  • Availability of Amenities: While campervans offer the convenience of on-board amenities such as beds, kitchens, and toilets, a car rental gives you the option to stay in different types of accommodations along your route. Hotels, motels, and resorts often provide additional amenities such as swimming pools, fitness centers, and complimentary breakfast. This can be advantageous if you desire more luxurious facilities during your trip.
  • Freedom to Explore: Both car rentals and campervans provide the freedom to explore at your own pace. However, campervans offer the added convenience of not needing to search for accommodation each night. You can park up at campsites or designated areas and wake up surrounded by scenic landscapes. This can be particularly rewarding for nature lovers and those seeking a closer connection with the outdoors.

Ultimately, the convenience factor depends on your personal preferences and travel style. Consider the level of flexibility, ease of navigation, set-up and pack-up requirements, and availability of amenities that align with your priorities. This will help you determine whether a car rental or a campervan is the more convenient option for your New Zealand adventure.


Comfort Comparison

When it comes to comfort, both car rentals and campervans offer different experiences. Here’s a comparison of the comfort factors associated with each option:

  • Seating and Sleeping: Car rentals generally provide comfortable seating options, with adjustable seats and ample legroom. However, sleeping in a car can be challenging, especially for longer journeys. Campervans come with dedicated sleeping areas, often equipped with mattresses or beds, providing a more comfortable sleeping experience. This can be especially beneficial for multi-day trips or overnight stays at campsites.
  • Kitchen Facilities: One advantage of campervans is the presence of a kitchen or kitchenette. This allows you to prepare your own meals while on the road, giving you control over your dietary preferences and potentially saving money on dining out. Car rentals, on the other hand, do not typically come with kitchen facilities, which means you’ll need to rely on restaurants and other dining options.
  • Bathroom Facilities: Another aspect of comfort to consider is bathroom facilities. Most car rentals do not have built-in toilets, requiring you to make stops at rest areas or public facilities. Campervans often come with small bathrooms or portable toilets, providing more convenience, especially during long drives or when camping in remote areas.
  • Storage Space: Campervans generally offer more storage space for your luggage and camping gear. This allows you to keep your belongings organized and easily accessible during your trip. Car rentals may have limited trunk space, which could require you to pack more efficiently or make use of roof racks or additional storage solutions.
  • Climate Control: Car rentals often come equipped with air conditioning and heating systems, providing comfort during varying weather conditions. While some campervans also offer climate control, it may be more limited compared to a car rental. Temperature regulation can be especially important during extreme weather conditions.

When considering comfort, think about your personal preferences and the level of comfort you desire during your trip. If a good night’s sleep and the ability to prepare your own meals are important to you, a campervan may provide a more comfortable experience. However, if you prioritize seating comfort, climate control, and access to amenities like hotels and restaurants, a car rental may be a better option.


Freedom and Flexibility Comparison

When it comes to freedom and flexibility, both car rentals and campervans offer unique advantages. Here’s a comparison of the freedom and flexibility factors associated with each option:

  • Exploration: With a car rental, you have the freedom to explore a variety of destinations, including remote and off-the-beaten-path locations. You can easily deviate from popular tourist routes and discover hidden gems along the way. Campervans offer a similar level of exploration but with the added convenience of being able to park up and stay overnight in remote and scenic locations.
  • Itinerary Changes: Having a car rental gives you the flexibility to change your itinerary at any time. If you come across an interesting attraction or want to spend more time in a particular place, you have the freedom to adjust your plans accordingly. Campervans offer even greater flexibility as you have the option to park and stay wherever you like, without worrying about booked accommodations.
  • Spontaneity: One of the advantages of both car rentals and campervans is the ability to be spontaneous. You can choose to take detours, make stops at scenic viewpoints, or embark on unplanned adventures along your journey. This spontaneity enhances the sense of freedom and allows you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of New Zealand.
  • Remote Areas: Both car rentals and campervans provide access to remote areas of New Zealand. However, campervans have the advantage of allowing you to stay overnight in these remote locations, providing a closer connection to nature and extended opportunities for outdoor activities such as stargazing or sunrise hikes.
  • Travel Pace: With a car rental, you have the flexibility to travel at your own pace. You can linger longer in places you enjoy or speed through areas that may not be of interest to you. Campervans offer a similar advantage, but with the added convenience of staying overnight wherever you choose, enabling you to fully embrace your preferred travel pace.

Both car rentals and campervans provide ample freedom and flexibility to explore New Zealand on your terms. Consider the level of spontaneity, itinerary changes, access to remote areas, and the ability to set your travel pace when deciding which option suits your travel style and preferences.


Safety Comparison

When it comes to safety, both car rentals and campervans have certain considerations to keep in mind. Here’s a comparison of the safety factors associated with each option:

  • Driving Experience: Car rentals are typically more familiar to drivers, as they are similar to their personal vehicles. This familiarity can contribute to a more comfortable and confident driving experience. Campervans, on the other hand, may require some adjustment due to their larger size and different driving dynamics. It’s important to be aware of the dimensions and be cautious when driving a campervan, especially in narrow or winding roads.
  • Visibility: Campervans, due to their larger size, may have reduced visibility compared to car rentals. It’s important to use the side mirrors effectively and be aware of blind spots. Car rentals, being smaller, generally offer better visibility, allowing for easier navigation and safer lane changing.
  • Parking: Finding suitable parking spots can be easier with a car rental due to their smaller size. Campervans, being larger in dimensions, may require more effort and time to find appropriate parking spaces, especially in congested areas or popular tourist spots.
  • Vehicle Maintenance: Car rental companies generally have well-maintained and regularly serviced vehicles, ensuring that the rental is in good condition. Campervans also undergo regular maintenance, but it’s important to check for any issues before embarking on your journey, such as tire pressure, fluid levels, and general functionality.
  • Night Drives: Night driving can pose its own challenges, including reduced visibility and fatigue. Both car rentals and campervans can be driven at night, but it’s important to exercise caution and be aware of any specific guidelines or restrictions from the rental company.

While both options can provide a safe travel experience, it’s important to prioritize safety by adhering to traffic rules and regulations, maintaining a safe driving distance, and being mindful of road conditions. Consider your level of experience with driving larger vehicles and factor in any specific safety concerns when choosing between a car rental or a campervan.


Additional Factors to Consider

Aside from cost, convenience, comfort, freedom, and safety, there are several additional factors to consider when deciding between a car rental and a campervan for your New Zealand adventure:

  • Camping Regulations: It’s important to familiarize yourself with camping regulations in New Zealand. Some areas may have specific restrictions on where you can park and camp overnight. Understanding these regulations will help you plan your route and ensure you are in compliance with local laws.
  • Driving License: Make sure you have a valid driver’s license that is recognized in New Zealand. International visitors may need an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to their foreign license, depending on the duration of their stay. Be sure to check the specific requirements before your trip.
  • Road Conditions: New Zealand offers a diverse range of road conditions, from well-maintained highways to narrow, winding roads. Consider your driving skills and comfort level when navigating different types of roads, especially when driving a larger vehicle like a campervan.
  • Travel Group Size: The size of your travel group can also influence your decision. Car rentals are generally more suitable for smaller groups or individuals, while campervans provide greater options in terms of sleeping arrangements for larger groups or families.
  • Duration of Stay: The duration of your stay plays a role in deciding between a car rental or a campervan. If you’re planning a shorter trip, a car rental may be more convenient and cost-effective. For longer journeys, a campervan can provide the advantage of having onboard accommodations.
  • Personal Preferences: Lastly, consider your own preferences and travel style. Think about whether you prefer the comfort and amenities of a hotel or the adventure and freedom of camping. Reflecting on what you value most in your travel experience will help guide your decision.

By considering these additional factors, you can make a well-informed choice that aligns with your specific needs and preferences during your time in New Zealand.



Choosing between a car rental and a campervan for your New Zealand adventure ultimately boils down to your personal preferences, budget, and travel priorities. Here’s a summary of the key points to consider:


If cost and convenience are important factors for you, a car rental may be the more affordable option with greater flexibility in terms of accommodation choices and dining options. It provides easy navigation and is suitable for shorter trips or explorations of urban areas.


However, if you’re seeking a unique and immersive experience, value the freedom to park in picturesque locations, and desire the convenience of on-board amenities like kitchen facilities and sleeping quarters, a campervan can provide an adventurous and nature-centric journey. It’s especially ideal for longer trips, families or larger groups, and those who want to embrace the camping lifestyle.


Ultimately, your choice should align with your travel preferences and priorities. Consider factors such as cost, convenience, comfort, freedom, safety, and additional considerations like camping regulations, road conditions, and the size of your travel group.


Regardless of your choice, it’s important to prioritize safety and adhere to local traffic regulations. Plan your itinerary in advance, research campsite availability, and be prepared for various road conditions in New Zealand.


No matter whether you opt for a car rental or a campervan, your journey through New Zealand will be filled with breathtaking landscapes, stunning vistas, and unforgettable experiences. Explore the beauty of the North and South Islands, immerse yourself in the vibrant cities and charming towns, and marvel at the natural wonders that make New Zealand a dream destination for travelers around the world.


So, pack your sense of adventure, hit the open road, and get ready for an unforgettable journey through the Land of the Long White Cloud!