Motorhome Types Overview
Generally speaking, the larger the unit, the more space, privacy and comfort it will afford you. However, the larger the motorhome, the more it will cost to rent and operate. It's important to fit the motorhome you rent to your needs and desires, especially things like the level of privacy when sleeping. Be careful of small units which claim to sleep five, six, or more. Check the size of the beds. Adults need a full 6 feet of length for comfort.
There’s quite a difference between motorhome units available for rental and full range of units in New Zealand. For example the very large “Class A” RVs so common in the States are hardly ever found for rent, but there are still quite a few owned by private owners.
The basic types of units offered for rent in New Zealand (from most common to least common):
5 – 6 Berth Motorhomes
These offer the ultimate luxury for you to explore New Zealand. Built on a truck chassis of up to 7.2m in length and 2.2 – 2.4m wide, this type of motorhome comes with many different layouts and configurations, such as with either diesel or petrol engines, with auto or manual transmissions. (More diesel-powered vehicles with auto transmissions are emerging). These are perfect for families, a group of friends or even a couple who appreciate a bit of space. These units can sleep and seat up to 6 people. Inside, all have a toilet and shower in a combined cubicle, kitchen area with fridge/freezer, propane gastop elements and stove. Many also have other mod cons like microwaves and flatscreen TVs with DVD players. Sleeping in a 6 berth is by way of a large double bed in the overhead cabin, large double bed in rear lounge area, and a smaller double bed (typically for children only) through converting the dinette table. Most also have air-conditioning and heating through the driver’s cabin and living quarters. These vehicles have generous storage areas accessed from the exterior of the vehicle in addition to interior storage.
4 Berth Motorhomes
Very similar to the 5–6 Berth Motorhomes - many are slightly smaller than the 6-Berth at 5.5–6m in length, but others are reconfigured 6-Berths with the extra bed replaced by more roomy living/dining quarters. Many 4-Berths will have a shared table/lounge area at the rear of the vehicle that converts to a double bed and do not have the separate dinette table. All have an on board shower and toilet cubicle, and most other features and specifications are similar to the larger 5–6 berth units. These vehicles can have generous exterior storage areas.
2 Berth Shower and Toilet
Built on a van chassis, these units can still reach lengths of 6.8m. They are suitable for a couple and in some cases a couple plus a child. These smaller units offer great value and come with full kitchen facilities, toilet and shower cubicle. Sleeping is by way of a double bed at the rear of the vehicle which is also the table and seating/eating area during the day. Like the larger vehicles, petrol/diesel and auto/manual configurations can be found. The smaller size of this vehicle offers better maneuverability and better fuel efficiency than the larger 4–6 berth vehicles.
These are converted Minivans. Some have the ceiling of the living area lifted, allowing adults of up to 6 feet to stand upright inside. These are commonly referred to as “Hi-tops”. These vehicles will sleep and seat 2–3 people, although some will also sleep up to 4 people in an upper/lower double bed configuration. They do not have an inbuilt toilet and shower, although some will come with a portable cassette toilet and exterior solar shower bag. All have a sink with fresh water supply, a 2-3 burner gas top for cooking and a small fridge. Microwaves and other power points that can be used on hook up to 240 volts are common.
Very similar to Campervans but typically with less features. These do not have a dining/kitchen area, but will come with a portable gas cooker. Some will have in-built fridges and where they do not a chilly-bin or “esky” will be provided. Sleeping is by way of a double bed that occupies the bulk of the vehicle. These will sleep two adults, or three if you’re very good friends! These cheap and affordable vehicles are of course are popular with backpackers and those on a tighter budget.
These aptly named vehicles are purpose built for those who know they are going to go camping or exploring off-road in New Zealand’s great outdoors. Some come with interior living quarters similar to a 2–3 berth, with a dining area that converts into a double bed. Others are standard 4WD vehicles that can seat up to five passengers but all sleeping and living is done outside of the vehicle by way of tents and camping gear also commonly supplied by the rental company. These are the only rental vehicles typically allowed on unsealed roads and certainly the only vehicles allowed on unmarked roads or tracks. Good rental companies will provide a full safety kit including a locator beacon and equipment as well.
These might not be practical for overseas travelers or New Zealanders who fly to a pick-up point since they need a heavy-duty vehicle to tow them. Towable units, 13 to 35 feet in length, have full living facilities, but it's illegal to use them while driving. Best when parked at a campground for extended periods while you use the towing vehicle for local transportation and sightseeing. Check with your rental agent to make sure your tow vehicle, hitch and wiring are adequate.
Pop-Up Campers/Tent Campers
A lightweight, towable unit with collapsible sides which is about 10 feet in length when closed, and 15 to 23 feet when opened. When set up, they provide kitchen, dining and sleeping facilities for up to eight people. Check with your rental dealer to make sure your tow vehicle, hitch and wiring are adequate. This unit is an option if you want to spend part of a motoring trip camping out, using toilet facilities provided at campgrounds. You can also find durable off-road pop-up campers that are purpose-built for bush encounters!