Renting or Buying a camper van in New Zealand

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding on renting or buying a camper van in New Zealand.

Having done both, we’ll take you through the pro’s and con’s of renting vs buying.

Factors to consider

Anyone making this decision will have to balance each of the following factors.

How long are you going to be in New Zealand?

Otherwise translated as, can you afford to spend some of your time finding and buying a van when you arrive? You’ll also need to sell it again before you go.

There’s a LOT to see in New Zealand.

If you have 6 weeks, and you want to see both islands, every day will be vital in making sure you can get around the entire country.
If you have 8 weeks or more, losing maybe a week to buy and sell a van might be an acceptable option.

How strict is your budget?

And do you can afford to pay up front for a van, considering this may cost more than the total of rental (though you’ll get most of this back at the end)

Any money you spend on renting a van is gone, and the longer you’re here, the more you’ll spend.
If you buy a van, you can make most of this back at the other end, maybe more if you’re lucky!

With this in mind, buying and selling will normally be the most budget friendly option compared to renting.

Depending on the van you buy, there may be additional running costs to consider. WOF (MOT), Rego (registration), servicing, any repairs.

What type of van are you after?

If anything will do, buying becomes more attractive.

There’s a lot on the market, especially in air travel hubs like Auckland and Christchurch. You’ll be able to pick something up fairly quickly if you’re not too fussy.

If you have any specific requirements, the looking and buying process might take longer. You might also have more trouble selling quickly for the price you want (if there aren’t others with the same requirements looking to buy, and you’re competing with every other van)

There are a lot of characteristics that you might want to consider.

  • Mileage
  • Age
  • Self contained
  • Model – rarer models may struggle with spare parts
  • Automatic vs manual
  • Standing room
  • Indoor kitchen
  • Shower/toilet

A 20 year old Van with 300,000+ km will be easy to find

A 10-15 year old van with less than 150,000km, and room enough to stand in might be slightly less common.

The more common van will be cheaper, and you’re more likely to get a similar price when you sell. Though you may need to spend more on repairs on the way round.

The newer van with less km will be more expensive from the outset, may depreciate quicker if you have it for a year, and you may be selling to buyers who are happy with any van, and not looking to pay a premium.

Piece of mind

Things can go wrong. You might buy a van and immediately find something wrong that’s going to be costly to repair, or put you out of action for a few days.

If you’re in a rental, you can take it back and get a new one. you might lose a day but can carry on your trip as normal.

Making your decision

Based on the above factors, you need to choose what’s best for you.

If you choose to rent, there are plenty of options available. Check out comparison sites too, you can sometimes get a better deal there than going direct.

If you’ve decided that buying is best for you, we’ll take you through what you can expect.

Finding a van to buy

You’ve decided you want to buy, and what you’re looking for in a van.

Get online

You can look for vans on Trade Me (New Zealand eBay equivalent), but one of the best places to find your van is on Facebook!

There are a lot of Facebook groups for travellers in New Zealand, and a few that are dedicated to buying an selling vans.

Arrange a viewing

You find the right van (or vans) that meet you criteria.

The next step is to arrange a viewing to see the van in person.

A lot of travellers can be very creative with photos. You’re going to want to check that everything looks as good as it did on the ad, and see the parts of the van that weren’t in the pictures.

Ideally you’ll also be able to take it for a test drive to see how it feels before you commit.

Make an offer

If everything checks out and looks good, make an offer!

If you’ve got other vans to see, maybe you want to hold off, but don’t let it go if it seems like it might be perfect you. #BirdInTheHand

Buying a camper van in New Zealand

You offer has been accepted. At this point it may be that you’re asked to pay a deposit. 10-20% is normal. It also means that both parties can see that the transfer method will work as expected on completion day.

On the whole, the buying process is very simple in New Zealand.

Vehicle inspection

Before completing any sale, it is recommended you get it independently checked. Even if the van has recently passed it’s WOF (MOT), there are things that will be checked in your inspection that wouldn’t be picked up in the WOF. Further to this, the garage will be reporting directly to you and not via the buyer.

Many garages will offer this service but we went with VTNZ as we found one that was right next door to a post office (where you’ll do the transfer paperwork).

The check will take an hour or so and, based on the report, you can choose whether to go ahead, or adjust your offer price based on work that might nee to be completed.

Paperwork – completing the sale

On the vehicle registration paperwork will be a section that you can fill in with the buyers details. Fill it in, take it to the post office counter, pay them a few bucks (maybe $9), and it’s done!

Now you just need to pay the sellers the rest of the cost by whatever means you’ve agreed and you’re on your way!

On the Road

Things to think about when you’re on the road

Look out for our New Zealand Van Life Budget Hacks, coming soon!


You don’t need insurance in New Zealand.

Even if you don’t get insurance, it might be worth getting windscreen cover. The roads aren’t always great, plenty of overtaking, and there’s a good chance of getting a chip.


There are plenty of ways to save on fuel

  • Mobil Smiles card for 6c/l off nationwide
  • Sticky Card from Pak n Save in the South Island for 1c/l off for every $20 spent
  • Onecard from Countdown and get money off when you spend so much in a month
  • Shopping in New World gets you a local fuel discount on the receipt

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