Newzealand south punakaiki curvy road
Newzealand south alps lake road
Nz cars en roads medium car
Newzealand south punakaiki curvy road
Newzealand south alps lake road
Nz cars en roads medium car

Travelling in New Zealand | Motorhome vs Rental Car

Do you dream of discovering the diverse landscapes of New Zealand on a road trip? Is a motorhome your first choice? Read what TravelEssence's experienced travel specialists think.

At first glance, New Zealand's dimensions are manageable - especially when compared to its gigantic neighbour Australia. However, if you put New Zealand over the map of Europe, many travellers are surprised by its size: the northern tip is in Denmark and the south island is in France - there are around 1,100 km from north to south per island! The best way to explore the ever-changing destination is by going on a road trip. Look forward to fern forests, ancient giant trees, volcanoes, bubbling mud springs, and turquoise glacial lakes.

Which is the best way to explore New Zealand?

Many visitors choose to travel through New Zealand in a motorhome - that's no secret – this is especially true in peak season.

The flexibility of being able to set up camp at night in the middle of New Zealand's nature, and keeping travel costs as low as possible are the most frequently mentioned arguments for choosing a motorhome or camper van to explore New Zealand. Let's explore together the advantages and disadvantages of travelling in New Zealand in a motorhome vs a camper/car rental coupled with local accommodation and work out which one is the best option for your trip.

An overnight stay in the middle of nature is on the wish list for many travellers to New Zealand
The best way to discover New Zealand is on a road trip

Road trip with a motorhome

Where are you going?

We understand the appeal of a motorhome, the commodity of having everything in one place, and you can get around New Zealand in a motorhome travelling through Highway 1. However, some of the best-kept secrets tend to be further away from built-up areas, plus the wilderness and natural landscapes most people want to see when visiting New Zealand are usually located in more remote locations. Think unpaved roads to a secluded lighthouse or along narrow, winding roads with panoramic 360 views. Sadly, you are not allowed to travel on some of these dream routes with a motorhome. The dimensions of the vehicle and the way these roads have been developed quickly become a nightmare if you lack thrust or your three by nine meters on wheels protrude significantly above the road boundary.

What do we suggest instead? Do as the New Zealanders do and drive an off-road SUV! This means there are no limits to your exploration and finding a parking space is also easier on your nerves.

At Destinations 2020, a trade fair guest spoke to me and said that his wife kept screaming at him because the motorhome seemed to be getting dangerously close to the ditch. He found it extremely stressful to have to do manoeuvres with a large vehicle, with his wife screaming at him, and with drivers on the other side of the road staring at him.

Kieran, Travel Specialist
Many of the small side streets are unpaved
Narrow-lane roads often lead to hidden highlights

Adventure in Nature vs Privacy

Yes, there are small campsites in the middle of nature with a view of the mountains or the sea. However, in order to get a view of this backdrop among the many competitors, you have to head to the campsite early in the afternoon. If you have a trip planned the next day, then you need to give up your space and start it all over again that afternoon. This way you end up sacrificing flexibility.

Everybody knows that New Zealand’s weather changes and can at times be unpredictable. While a rainy day can be wonderfully cosy to spend in a motorhome, watching the rain falling and the day go by, if the rain continues for a long period of time, the previously enchanting place on the green meadow can quickly become a muddy trap: a New Zealand adventure of a different kind that was definitely not planned.

TravelEssence, on the other hand, relies on self-drive travel with rental cars and pre-booked accommodation. The joint planning based on your individual preferences and ideas takes place well in advance before you start your trip which means that when you are on your holiday you have time on site to go on excursions and make the most of your time there. In the evening all you need to worry about is getting to the accommodation which has been hand-picked to meet your requirements. Once there you can choose to relax and enjoy the beautiful view all to yourself or be enchanted by the New Zealander hospitality.

Motorhome & Holiday Budget

Depending on the motorhome model, rental period, booking time, and the season the booking is made for, rental prices vary greatly. Additional services need to be added such as comprehensive insurance, and surcharges for unlimited kilometres. In some cases, one-way rental and an additional driver need to be added. On top of this, you need to add campsite fees which range between 10-25 NZ dollars per night, even for the most basic campsites. For the larger holiday parks, you will be looking to pay between 50-70 NZ dollars per night.

In addition, there are significantly higher fuel costs compared to rental cars. On average, a smaller motorhome needs around 23 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres, a mid-range model needs almost 26 litres, and the larger models consume more than 30 litres of fuel over the same distance. A new rental car, on the other hand, uses 8-10 litres of fuel per 100km and is therefore easier on your wallet.

As soon as you add up all the costs for a trip to New Zealand with a motorhome, you will quickly realise that they are usually not cheaper than renting a car and booking holiday accommodation.

Everyday life in a Motorhome

Living in a motorhome requires performing recurring duties such as filling the water tank or cleaning the toilet cassette. Each evening you will also spend time searching for and setting up the perfect camp. Ultimately, it needs to be upright and have the best view – which should be fine, as long as no late arrivals are setting up right in front of you. When you set off again, you need to ensure that everything is tied down before you set off. With a motorhome, you spend part of your holiday working.

Instead, if you are travelling in a rental car and staying with local accommodation providers all you need to worry about is enjoying a hearty breakfast in your bed and breakfast, hopping straight into your rental car and starting another day of exploration - with the priceless insider tips from the local hosts in your luggage.

Rental Cars & Local Accommodations

The advantages of a rental car are obvious to us – it’s not only easier to experience the impressive landscapes of New Zealand, but also to get to know the warm hospitality of the New Zealanders. Here at TravelEssence we believe that a trip with a rental car and typical accommodation is a much better option.

With a rental car, you can reach your actual destination beyond the highway: to experience New Zealand's nature off the beaten track. You can get additional tips for your authentic travel experience from our Kiwi hosts, who know their homeland like the back of their hand and are happy to share insider tips with you. We don’t book you with impersonal hotels or castles, instead, our partner accommodations are located in the middle of nature and allow you to immerse yourself in the region the way the locals do, a true local experience.

Return to your cosy accommodation in the evening
Enjoy the breathtaking views

Special Accommodations

There are no off-the-shelf accommodations at TravelEssence - and that's a good thing. Because our travel planning and thus the selection of the right hosts is based on your wishes and ideas and these cannot be pigeonholed. Would you rather stay in a rural B&B or a tiny house with a sea view? How would you like to stay on a sheep farm, or would you prefer a spacious holiday home for the whole bunch? Together we will find your perfect accommodation.

For almost all travellers, the view is particularly important. From our typical accommodation, you look into the green garden or into the distance and not at the motorhome two meters away.

Holiday without a routine

Packing your suitcase every day and lugging it to the rental car can be annoying on a typical rental car trip. Since we are looking for regions where you can experience a lot, you will spend an average of two to three nights in one accommodation. This way, this annoying routine doesn’t even arise. Quite the opposite, you will be returning to your accommodation at the end of the day and have the feeling of coming home. This way you can relax and reflect on the day.

A New Zealand trip in a rental car - The Conclusion

For us at TravelEssence, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages of taking your New Zealand adventure in a rental car:

Find out more about New Zealand as a travel destination