Tips for road tripping New Zealand

How to get a good deal on Car Rentals in New Zealand

  1. Make sure whenever you search for car rentals, that you search incognito mode. This is similar even to searching hotels and travel. I’ve tested this with all 3 forms of bookings, and all 3 hold true. It always pays to use Google Incognito. 
  2. LOOK AROUND. I use sites Expedia, Kayak, Priceline, Holiday Auto, and Rental and compare them all. (some of them do that internally for you) and not one site always has the best deal. It varies quite a bit.
  3. Book with a travel rewards credit card that has built in rental insurance so you can decline the very expensive $11+ a day insurance at the counter.

Tips for driving on the North Island of New Zealand

Driving on the north island was unlike any where else I’ve ever A. traveled, and B. driven. You never drive more than hour before you’re crossing crazy mountain passes that have steep grades on both sides and make constant hair pin turns. It is positively nauseating. 

I can’t recommend enough that if you have experienced motion or car sickness at any time, pack some meds for driving on this island. And if you are especially prone, just plan on doing the driving. Braden and I split the driving about 50/50. Driving on the left side of the road is also a bit weird even for the passenger. So with that here/s my tips:

  1. Make sure to pack motion sickness meds.
  2. Plan A LOT of stops to help break up longer drives. It was much more tiring driving on the windy roads as well as opposite side of the car. 
  3. Don’t assume that because a town is on the map, that they will have a gas station. Fill up your car often when you have decently priced gas around. We missed a gas station and instead of just turning back like we should’ve, we finally found a gas station in the middle of no where while running on empty for 30 minutes. 
  4. Familiarize yourself with the street signs and their meanings, especially the right of way signs. The BIG red arrow means that direction has priority. 
  5. Pack a car charger and auxiliary cord for playing music. Our first car had a terrible radio connection and neither of our cars had bluetooth. The auxiliary cord saved us as far as having tunes. 
  6. Lastly make sure to have a couple back up credit cards or cash in case your first credit card doesn’t work at a petrol station. We never had any problems with my Chase Sapphire card but I’ve heard of others running into problems. 

Rental car company we used for the north island: Jucy 

This seems to be a major rental car service provider, especially for campervans. The rate was incredibly cheap at only $10 a day including unlimited miles and 2 drivers. The downside is this was definitely the worst rental car we’ve ever had in terms of luxury. It had the most road noise, a useless radio, no auxiliary or blue tooth hook ups, and no cigarette lighter or way to charge a phone. That being said- it got us around so it worked. 

Tips for driving on the South Island of New Zealand 

Luckily driving on the south island was much simpler than the north island, and thus less nauseating by a long shot. Google Maps was always pretty accurate for gauging the driving time and the roads were much longer and straighter with even the “challenging” Milford Sound Road being a piece of cake in comparison to the north island. So tips:

  1. If you’re worried about driving on the left side of the road, start with the south island. 
  2. Again familiarize yourself with the signs, particularly the right of way signs. 
  3. If you want to stay IN a city, book a place that includes parking. (some of the cities were pretty challenging to find parking in)

Rental car company we used for the south island: Drive NZ

Great pricing again on this vehicle at only $20 a day including unlimited miles and covering 2 drivers. It was also a mid size Toyota corolla with a good radio, phone hookups and cigarette lighter for charging. It was a spacious, smoother drive though the car was certainly a bit roughed up. The shuttle service to and from Christchurch airport was phenomenal. (We were running late on returning the car and we literally had 40 minutes from the time we dropped off until our flight DEPARTURE time, and they rallied and got our car checked in and us to the airport super fast) 

How to save money on gas in New Zealand

  1. If you saw my camper-van post than you know gas is a costly price for road tripping around New Zealand. The more you plan out where you will fill up, the more you will save on gas. Purchasing gas in larger areas is loads cheaper due to the demand. (for example, gas in Glenorchy was $1.50 NZD MORE than gas in Queenstown and it’s only a 46 km drive)
  2. Pick up an EXON Mobile rewards card at the start of your road trip. Exon stations were generally the baseline for price in the cities and with a rewards card you save $0.03 off each liter and once you accumulate enough points, you can cash in for $5, $10, $15 off your gas bill.

See related articles below:

Should you rent a camper-van in NZ

Top tips for a budget friendly trip to NZ

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