Tips When Renting in New Zealand
There’s more to renting a campervan than there is to renting a car. Here are some tips to help you have a great experience and avoid disappointment when renting a campervan in New Zealand.
Book early to get your first choice of vehicle
In peak times of year, there simply aren’t enough campervans and motorhomes to go around. Anyone who hires campervans regularly (such as many Dutch, German and English tourists visiting New Zealand) will know how important it is to book a campervan in New Zealand four to six months or even more in advance.
If you’re looking to travel in shoulder seasons (October–November, March-April) and especially peak season (December-February), your chances of securing your first choice vehicle, dates and locations are greatly diminished the closer you get to your travel dates. Even if you’re booking for peak season 4-6 months prior to your travel dates there is a chance your first choice may not be available. You’ve got very little chance of getting your first choice if you are booking within 4–6 weeks of your travel date for peak season. The larger 4-6 berth motorhomes are especially scarce over the summer season. So plan ahead, book early, and get the pick of the fleet.
Book early to get the best specials
Many of the larger RV rental companies in New Zealand run special offers 6-4 months in advance of peak and shoulder periods to reward people who book early, and get strong advance bookings in for themselves. Often specials will be a 5-10% discount of the standard rate, or could be sizeable discounts on additional extras and upgrades. Some early-booker specials will require full payment of the rental 4-6 months in advance to qualify.
While the pricing of all vehicles from some companies are set once at the beginning of the year, other motorhome rental companies in New Zealand adjust their rates on a weekly basis as a season gets closer. Typically, rental companies increase or decrease the pricing on their vehicles based on the number of units they still have available as the peak or shoulder season approaches. If a firm has done well with their advance bookings, availability of remaining vehicles will be lower and their pricing is more likely to increase on the remaining units. If a company still has many units available as a season approaches, you’re more likely to see the asking price drop.
If you’re flexible with your travel dates or even location(s) you may pick up some bargains by booking closer to travel dates, but only if advance reservations are slower than anticipated. You are more likely to find that pricing is higher as shoulder and peak seasons get closer and the likelihood of getting your first choice vehicles, dates and location will diminish regardless of price.
Book your campervan before your flights
Do not book your flights first, especially if you are travelling inside of two months from placing your motorhome booking. There are far fewer campervans and motorhomes available in New Zealand than there are seats on planes coming into and out of the country!
By all means investigate flights before booking your campervan, but make sure you have secured a campervan before confirming your flights. You may find that your first choice campervan rental is not available but your agent has come back to you with alternative suggestions that may have variation in the pick up or drop off dates or even locations. If you have booked your flights first, you may now find it hard or expensive to change these to enable you to take the alternative campervan rental suggested. People who book very close to travel dates in busier seasons can even find they have their flights booked and paid for but never secure a motorhome or camper.
Further to above, do not wait for cheap last-minute deals on flights before booking a motorhome in New Zealand. Your chances of securing a motorhome that fits between your return flight dates and locations is greatly diminished the closer you get to your RV travel dates. And what money you save on a cheaper last minute flight will be more than swallowed up by a more expensive rental price on the RV which almost always increases as your travel dates get closer to booking dates.
Most popular models
There are fewer larger 4-6 berth motorhomes for rent in Australia than there are smaller 2-3 berth campervans or sleepervans. So if you need a bigger vehicle, then it pays to book further in advance. 4WD campers are also specialist vehicles and can get booked out early.
Understand the terms and conditions
Read terms and conditions, especially payment and cancellation fee clauses before placing your reservation. Because campervans are specialty vehicles, all rental companies need at least a percentage of your rental paid in advance. Some will expect full payment 35 days prior to travel dates, but most motorhome and campervan rental companies in New zealand will accept the remainder of payment on your arrival at their depot.
All campervan rental companies impose cancellation fees if a booking is subsequently cancelled. These increase dramatically as the numbers of days prior to the start date of your rental decrease. If you cancel within 7 days or “no show” you can expect to be charged for the full cost of your rental and most companies will still expect around 25-30% of the cost of the rental if you’re cancelling inside of 30 days prior to your pick-up date. If you do need to cancel your booking, let your booking agent know of your cancellation in writing as soon as you do. They may be able to negotiate better terms with the rental company on your behalf if there is a good reason for the cancellation and the notification period of your cancellation gives the campervan rental company a chance of renting your unit to another customer.
Don’t treat a motorhome reservation like a car reservation
Don’t make multiple reservations on different websites in an attempt to increase your chances of securing a vehicle. Doing this could result in you being chased for cancellation fees on more than one vehicle! Campervan rental companies do not work like car rental companies where they overbook fleet to counteract the percentage of customers who “no show”. A good online agent with relationships with multiple campervan rental companies should be able to search and find a vehicle for you, so sit tight and let them use their relationships to do the searching for you.
Be flexible in your plans, especially if you want a one-way rental
If you’re booking a one way rental between two different locations all of the above points become far more poignant. The number of vehicles assigned to one-way rentals are more limited than the numbers of vehicles that a rental company will be happy to rent back to the same location. Motorhome rental companies need to be very careful that large components of their fleet don’t end up in one or two locations due to too many one way rentals in the same direction. So book early and don’t book flights first if you’re looking to rent one-way.
With cross-country one-way rentals (e.g. Auckland - Christchurch) double-check pricing if you were to do the trip in the opposite direction. Motorhome rental companies often end up with too many vehicles in certain locations due to one-way hires. So essentially by renting in the reverse direction, you’re helping the motorhome rental company redistribute their fleet and can take advantage of some very cheap pricing. This is particularly prevalent half way through peak seasons (e.g. early February). Talk to your rental agent to see if they know of any “relocation specials” coming up.
Book with an agent like iMall Motorhomes Ltd who operate www.campervanhiresalefinder.co.nz
Their buying relationships with campervan suppliers can mean that their pricing is better than what you would get direct. A good booking agent can offer other knowledge and services relating to campervan rental and should also be able to find alternative vehicles for you should your first choice not be available.