Should you rent a camper van in NZ?

If you’re planning a trip to NZ and plan on staying near a lot of the national parks and hiking, odds are you’ve considered renting a campervan. Camping in New Zealand is incredible and there are tons of brilliant campsites however while most people would think that it’s more flexible and cheaper to rent a camper van… but that’s actually NOT the case.

One of our fave airbnbs in Queenstown, NZ

Renting a camper van could cost you hundreds more than staying in comfortable Airbnb’s and at least double staying in dorm hostels/ tent camping. What’s more, if you supplement some of your Airbnb costs with tent camping, not only do you get the best of both worlds with nature and luxury, but you save a lot of money on the cost of the rental and gas.

In NZ you aren’t allowed to just park your rig and camp anywhere- you either need to find specific free campsites or pay to stay in a campground- making it less of a flexible option than you may have been thinking.

Here’s the breakdown:

New Zealand Campground Costs:

All paid NZ campgrounds come with some sort of toilet and water. Most also come with a cooking facility/ kitchen area. Below are the general costs of NZ campgrounds:

  1. DOC/ nonpowered and no shower sites run $8-$15 NZD per person
  2. Holiday parks with power and showers run $25 NZD per person

There are some free campgrounds around the country with no services at all. These aren’t however as conveniently located to sites you might want to see and will require lots of additional planning.

Visit this site here to see free campgrounds

Another amazing airbnb near New Chum’s Beach and Cathedral Cove

New Zealand Camper-van Costs:

*The below costs are based on a 10 night, 2100km/1300 mile road trip on the south island
*The avg cost of gas on our was trip: $7 USD/ gallon or $2.80 NZD/ liter

Rental Cost of the Camper:
$407/ $637 NZD for cheapest option of a camper-minivan
or
$617/ $966 NZD for next size up rig (sleeps only 3)

Gas costs:
The minivan rig gets 21mpg or 11L/100km so gas will cost $433
or the larger rig gets 12mpg- 19.6L/100km which would cost $758

Cost range for camper-vans: $840 to $1375 not factoring in campground or rental gear costs

Our non- campervan budget

*We tent camped 2 nights at Mount Cook NP. Otherwise we stayed in very nice Airbnbs

  1. Rental Cost of the economy car: $207 – we got a Toyota corolla
  2. Gas Cost: $257 -we got about 35 mpg or 8L/100 km
  3. Campground costs when tent camping: $60 for 2 nights
  4. Airbnb costs: $608 for the other 8 nights around the south island

Our total cost: $1,132 including showers, toilets, and most of the time kitchens with breakfast

Note: We could’ve saved even more by staying in hostels (Avg cost $30/bed) or tent camping more nights (Avg cost $30/night)

Our tent outside the Pouakai hut on Mount Taranaki

Conclusion

So in the end you could rent a camper-van and pay at least $840 with no showers, toilets, or bedding- where you have to pay at least another $300 in campground fees OR find free campgrounds.

OR you could pay around $1100 for amazing airbnbs and a decent car with awesome gas usage. Plus tent camp when you want to be in nature, OR even better stay in one of New Zealand’s crazy beautiful mountain huts like the Pouakai hut!

Thanks for coming to my TED talk! For more articles related to saving money in NZ, see below:

My top tips for a budget friendly trip to NZ

Tips for renting a car in New Zealand

Award worthy Airbnbs in New Zealand

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One thought on “Should you rent a camper van in NZ?

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