One of the most challenging parts of planning your round the world trip – after setting your itinerary – is deciding how you’ll traverse each location. Whether by planes, trains, boats, buses or automobiles, it can all be very overwhelming. When we decided to add New Zealand to our itinerary, the obvious mode of transportation was a camper van as it gave us the most flexibility to see everything we wanted.
Camper vans are one of the most popular way to see New Zealand, and there is no shortage of companies willing to help you get on the road – Kea, Britz, Mighty, Escape, Maui..just to name a few. The tough part is finding what you want for a price your willing to pay.
After hours of research and numerous quotes, our camper van choice began to narrow down based on our requirements. The major variables to look at when choosing a camper van can be narrowed down to the following questions:
How big of a camper van do you need?
This is based mostly on how many people you’ll travel with, and let’s be honest..how much you actually like those people! Some of the smaller camper vans such as the Escape vans (pictured below) won’t allow much additional room aside from giving you a bed at night and table setting during the day. While it’s a great option for budget travelers and younger adventurers, it may quickly get old if your journey is more than a few days or your stuck inside due to the weather.
Do you need a self contained camper van?
Camper vans are either classified as self-contained or not self-contained. Basically, a self -contained camper van allows you to live out of it without the support of outside bathrooms.
Self contained camper vans are important in New Zealand because they allow you camping access to many places non self-contained contained units cannot go. We saved quite a bit of money by camping in free areas where only self-contained camper vans could go. Without a self-contained van, you are required to stay in a camper van park or risk a large fine from local authorities who don’t want a bunch of vans trashing up the place.
In addition to a toilet, the bigger camper vans also contain showers. We only used it a few times, but it came in handy when we needed it.
Do you need a camper van with a Kitchenette?
Most of the camper vans have some sort of kitchen set up. Some of the smaller camper vans have only a ice chest/cooler and not a refrigerator. The bigger camper vans contain a refrigerator that always runs – regardless of if you’re plugged in at a campsite or not which is nice for longer rentals. Most vans – big and small – have a camp stove of some sort which is usually powered by a small LPG gas tank.
We prepared most of our food in our camper van and saved a lot of money thanks to our refrigerator and stove. If you’re not the type who’ll cook food while traveling, you may not need the full kitchen set up.
How much do you want to spend overall on your camper van trip?
It may seem cheaper in the beginning to rent one of the small non self-contained camper vans, but after you factor in the costs of paying at each campground and eating out much more, it may end up costing you more. That doesn’t even factor in the emotional costs it could expel on your relationship! The small wicked vans have very little room to move about and even less for storage.
How much do camper vans cost in New Zealand?
Price varies based on a variety of factors such as the time of year, length of rental, and of course how big of a camper van you want. In the end, we narrowed our choices down to the Escape type camper van which is small and isn’t self-contained, and a bigger camper with most of the bells and whistles. We picked the bigger camper van since we were going on such a long trip (24 days) and we’re happy we did! Here’s the approximate cost breakdown:
Alpha 2+1 berth camper van – $90/day
Escape camper van – $60/day
As mentioned before we saved a lot of money by camping in free spots – rather than paying the usual $17-$24 per person that most camper van parks cost in New Zealand.
The final expense to think about is rental insurance – which can get quite expensive. We ended up never buying the extra coverage which is dangerous, but we were lucky enough to not have any accidents in our 40+ days of camper van rentals.
We continued renting camper vans after New Zealand when we visited Australia. While in Australia, we decided to go with the “medium” sized camper vans without a shower. There were many times we wished we could take a shower in it, and sometimes we even improvised by heating up hot water and using buckets to bathe! The “cozier” vans in Australia made life a little tougher because of lack of storage and smaller refrigerators, but we were ok with it because our rental periods were much shorter.