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Advice and tips for buying a car or campervan in New Zealand

Taking a road trip is undoubtedly the dream of any backpacker who sets foot in New Zealand. Discovering this incredible country, a new culture, new people, sharing, having conversations, learning, discovering new things and discovering yourself, letting go and living, simply. I can confirm that this must be done at least once in your life. But actually, it's easy to get lost in of all this information found on the internet: to hire or buy ? A car or campervan ? What insurance should you get ? Where do you look ? Don't worry! You are not alone in asking all these questions, and below, you will find all the information you need for purchasing your car or campervan in New Zealand.

Advice and tips for buying a car or campervan in New Zealand


1. Driving in New Zealand

The first and certainly most important piece of advice concerns your driving licence. This may seem obvious to some people, and less obvious to others: remember to take your national driving licence before leaving for New Zealand. In fact, the international driving licence is only a simple translation and has no value in the eyes of rental agencies. In my case, we had hired a campervan for a month-long road trip, and my friend had forgotten her licence. The rule is simple and non-negotiable, even with a photo: no driving licence means you will not be able to drive. Fortunately, I had mine. Otherwise we could not have left... As for the police, some accept only the international driving licence, and some do not. I advise you not to risk it, and always have your driving licence with you.

As far as driving on the left in New Zealand, obviously it’s a little surprising at first, because in our country we drive on the right. Suddenly, everything seems backwards, but like everything, you get used to it quickly, and it’s all a matter of habit. We are sometimes reluctant to change; we often like to stay in our comfort zone, but change opens new horizons, and it makes us grow and evolve.

Also remember to be careful, especially when overtaking another vehicle: look on the correct side. Remember also to look on the correct side of the road before crossing – that is to say, the opposite side from what you’re used to. Soon, it will become automatic and seem natural.

2. Buying or hiring a car or campervan in New Zealand

This is a big question for many people (including me). I hesitated for a long time. It can be frightening, especially when we know nothing about it. You may experience the fear of not understanding anything, having mechanical problems, losing money, or making the wrong choice. We made the choice to hire a campervan for these reasons, but it is only a personal choice, and I think in some cases it may not be the most economical. In my opinion, it all depends on the length of your trip to New Zealand and your budget. If you plan to leave for at least two months and you are here for a long period, it is best to buy a car or campervan.

Also keep in mind that if you want to buy, do not go about it at the last moment. Depending on the period, this may take more or less time. But above all, if you have plenty of time, do not rush to get your rare find; the market is rich in supply.

3. Administrative procedures to buying a car or campervan in New Zealand

There is nothing too complicated for administrative procedures here. First of all, when buying a campervan, it must be registered, which does not take much time and is easy to do. It is also inexpensive.

Next, you’ll need to get the WoF (Warrant of Fitness), an official document from New Zealand, which certifies that a light motor vehicle has passed a technical safety inspection. It is valid for several months, and it must be performed every 6 months for cars and campervans over 20 years old and every 12 months for those less than 20 years old.

Vehicle registration and licensing”, more commonly known as “rego”, is, in fact, simply a tax allowing you to put your campervan on the road. It is generally renewed every 6 months and is not expensive: it costs around 70 NZD for 6 months, but it can vary depending on the campervan.

The last administrative procedure only relates to diesel vehicles: the "RUC" tax is a fee you must pay for every 1000 km driven.

4. The best time to buy a car or campervan in New Zealand

You should be aware that, as with just about everything, there are seasons in New Zealand, in this case tourism. They are obviously not the same as ours; here, the seasons are the opposite of ours. Indeed, depending on the season, the prices, as well as supply and demand, can vary enormously. For example, in general the period from December to February, or during the summer here, there are more people looking to buy a car or campervan, and the prices are at their highest from November to March. Conversely, from April to August, prices tend to drop. To conclude, I would therefore say that the best time to buy a car without too many problems is during the winter, or before the peak season.

Above all, take your time and do not rush to buy the first campervan you see. Wait and compare. And beware of scams; some old campervans are sold for a much higher price than they are worth on the pretext that they have been renovated.

5. Where to buy a car or campervan in New Zealand

It is true that it is easy to get lost with all the available sites to buy your campervan in New Zealand, without always knowing whether they are reliable or not.

5.1. Social networks

Social networks are actually practical, because they often have several various offers, and many backpacker groups have been created on Facebook in recent years. Indeed, it is easy to create your advertisement and post it rather quickly.

5.2. Car fairs

This is what we might call a “used vehicle market”. Car fairs are generally held on weekends in car parks. In New Zealand, the most famous car fair is ELLERSLIE. But if you go to this type of place, as previously stated, take the time, because it is easy to rush into buying the first car we like, without doing all the necessary inspections first. Along the same lines, there are also AUCTIONS.

5.3. Garages

There are also garages that sell campervans, either to renovate or ones that have been fitted out.

5.4. SleepInVan

And finally, the simple and efficient SleepInVan ad page, you can search for your car or campervan based on your criteria (price, kilometres, city, date of publication, etc.).

There is internal messaging on the site, so you won’t get lost with the number of offers.

You can put the car or campervan ads that interest you in “My Favourites” so it’s easier to find them later.

You can even create alerts, and you will receive an e-mail when a vehicle is posted that meets your chosen criteria.

And what's more, it's free to place an ad.

Every effort is made to best help backpackers buy a car or campervan in New Zealand.

6. A self-contained or non-self-contained campervan ?

6.1. How to obtain the self-contained certificate

In order to obtain the self-containment certificate and meet the NZS standard, you must be able to live in your campervan for at least 3 days without having to get water or dispose of waste. The campervan must be equipped with a toilet, freshwater storage, wastewater storage, and a rubbish bin with a lid. Finally, a certified person, either a plumber or a gas installer, must verify that your campervan meets all the criteria mentioned above, which will allow you access to the Holy Grail – the self-containment certification sticker.

6.2. Authorisation to use campsites

The government has implemented this measure to respect the environment as well as campsites, including free camps. You should know that most free camps are “self-contained only”, which means that if your campervan is not self-contained and does not have the famous sticker, you are not allowed to stay there for the night. If you do, you risk getting a fine of 200 NZD.

7. What type and model of vehicle should you buy for a road trip in New Zealand ?

7.1. A car, campervan, 4x4, or motorhome ?

It all depends on the type of New Zealand trip you want to take. In my opinion, it is essential to find out about the route by downloading “Mapsme”, so you can see which routes are accessible by car, campervan, or 4x4. You don’t want to have any unpleasant surprises! In fact, this happened to us during our road trip when we tried to go to a place on our To Do List, which we could not do, because it was not accessible by campervan.

Granted, there are numerous choices on the market, which can suit everyone's needs. You have the option to buy a cheaper, obviously less comfortable vehicle, or the option to buy a more expensive but more comfortable one. Again, it all depends on your desire to travel. The different options available to you: the small estate car with a mattress or a car + tent, obviously the least expensive, as well as the least practical option (between 1000 and 3000 NZD); the famous Toyota Estima, very popular among backpackers, because it can be self-contained, reasonably priced (between 2500 and 4000 NZD). Next, you have the option of larger, standard-size campervans like the Toyota HiAce, Mitsubishi L300, Nissan Caravan, or Ford Econovan. If you are looking for something more spacious, (for example, between 5 and 5.5 m long), there is the Toyota HiAce LWB or the E Mazda L300. And finally, for those with a larger budget, there are RVs and motorhomes.

7.2. Most reliable models

You should know that the campervans on the backpackers’ market in New Zealand are often "old", in the sense that they are around 15 years old with 200,000 kilometres on the odometer. But some makes and models are indeed more reliable than others, such as Toyota, which is the benchmark, Nissan, and Mitsubishi.

8. A fitted-out campervan or non-fitted-out one ?

I think the bare minimum is enough, being attached to my comfort, I had no trouble going a few days without a shower or a month without makeup... This allows you to focus on yourself, to connect with nature and the essential things in life. A bit of advice: if you can, I recommend that you get a portable shower and a 10-litre tin, which are especially useful for the showers at free camps. Again, it always depends on how long your road trip is and the amount of time you want to stay on-site.

The best plan is to fit out your empty campervan yourself (or with the help of a garage that also offers these services) so it can be done according to your needs and desires.

9. Checking up the campervan before buying

Of course, you should beware of scams. As I’ve said several times already, take the time and do not let yourself be fooled by only the aesthetics when you make a purchase. First, remember to test the campervan yourself, looking at all the invoices and latest inspections. Also remember to check for leaks or wet marks around the engine. What parts were replaced or changed most recently ? How is the timing belt ? Does the engine start easily ? What’s the condition of the tires ?

10.  Insuring a campervan or car for backpackers in New Zealand

Indeed, it is essential and not negligible to insure your campervan in New Zealand.

There are a lot of car insurance options, and it's easy to get lost quickly. For backpackers, the most popular option is AA, which offers the possibility of paying every two weeks and cancelling at any time. The rate is approximately 30 NZD every two weeks. As far as plans go, there is the “comprehensive” option, which is particularly useful because, no matter what the situation may be, everyone is insured. The “fire and theft” option covers thefts. The “roadside assistance” option offers help during breakdowns 24/7, and it may come in handy in the event of problems during your road trip.

11. Selling your campervan in New Zealand

11.1. Best time

Summer allows you to sell your campervan at almost the same price as you paid, and sometimes you can even make a profit, because most backpackers arrive at that time. You can close a sale at a favourable price. Therefore, the right time to sell your campervan or car is from November to February. Remember to set a reasonable price if you want to sell it before you leave, and always beware of scams.

11.2. Where and how ?

I recommend social networks, car fairs, and of course the SleepInVan ad page, where you will easily find buyers.

11.3. Last chance

And finally, as a last resort, if your flight is soon and you need to sell your campervan quickly, there are garages that will take your vehicle for an exceptionally low price. Choose this solution only as a last resort.


To conclude, even though I am aware that adventure is calling you, you should take your time. Road tripping in New Zealand is certainly one of the most beautiful human experiences possible. It allows you to focus on yourself and your inner desires, as well as the important things in life. I sincerely hope you enjoy every moment, every second, every landscape, and every encounter, so you will have wonderful memories to hold onto forever.

Très bien pour cette partie, je te tiens quand même à t'informer que dans cette partie, je vais modifier régulièrement des choses.