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Different Types of Campervans in New Zealand


Backpackers on the road.

Such variety in a small country makes New Zealand the perfect destination for a road trip! Complete freedom is the main reason many backpackers opt for using a campervan (or caravan) for transportation. It is certainly worth considering when you have two or more friends willing to explore New Zealand together.

Before committing to buying or renting a campervan, consider the three different types: sleeping in your car, non self-contained and self-contained. This article looks at the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

Make sure you have a legal driver license before hitting the road. Find out more in How to Drive in New Zealand and Converting Your Driver License into a New Zealand Driver License.

Why a campervan roadtrip is awesome

Renting or buying a campervan (or sleeping in your car) is a good way to travel New Zealand for a number of reasons:

  • Stay in campsites – cheaper than hostels if you are in a group.
  • Freedom – you’re not limited by bus routes.
  • Protect yourself from the elements – shelter yourself in a sturdy campervan instead of a tent.
  • Road trip bonding – road trip buddies for life!
  • Share costs – sharing food, for example, saves money.
  • Experience the outdoors – go to campsites in the wilderness.
  • Pack more things in your campervan – no need to lug around backpacks.
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Sleeping in your car

This is a favourite amongst backpackers trying to save money. Just stick a mattress in the back of a car and be done with it. Although it is a cheaper option in terms of the cost of renting/buying and fuel price, you will need to rely on more facilities from hostels, campsites and holiday parks. This is also a more favourable choice if only travelling by yourself or one other person. If two of you are travelling, make sure you like each other enough to spend time in a metal box together.

You are more restricted in places to sleep, as freedom camping is limited, and some campsites require your vehicle to be self-contained (see below). Consider what time of year you are travelling too – you need to keep yourself warm in the winter. Crack down the windows in the summer if you’re too hot, but mosquito netting is advised.

Some backpackers also prefer this option because it is easier to drive a car than a campervan. Especially, for those who have had to make the transition to driving on the left side of the road.


Non self-contained campervan

A non self-contained vehicle has no toilet, shower or grey water storage. They tend to have other facilities within them like cooker, fridge, seats that convert into a bed, blinds, etc. Plus, rental companies will include the dinnerware, kitchen utensils and bedding. So this gives campervans an edge over sleeping in a car.

Because these campervans are smaller than self-contained vans, they are easier to drive. Plus, the fuel and rental costs are cheaper. However, like sleeping in your car, this restricts the amount of campsites you can use by not having the self containment certificate.


Self-contained campervans / motorhomes

To protect the environment and give you more options for campsites, use a self-contained campervan. A certified self-contained vehicle shows campsites and local councils that the vehicle has minimal impact on the environment and public health.

What is self containment? This is where waste water is held in holding tanks within the vehicle. Then you must dispose of the waste in a dump station. You can ask your nearest i-SITE for dump station locations.

The benefits of self-containment is that you have all the facilities you could need. Plus, you can take advantage of all New Zealand’s campsites including the approximately 340 free sites!

However, the option with the most facilities means it is much more expensive both on fuel and rental. Additionally, if you are renting a larger campervan or a motorhome, they are more difficult to drive, especially on New Zealand’s winding roads. Because of this, some rental companies have an age restriction of either 21 or 25 years old.

To find out more about self-contained campervans, have a look at our article: Self-Contained Campervan in New Zealand.

Drive safe in New Zealand

Articles on driving and sleeping in your campervan.

Take a look at these articles to learn about how driving might be different in New Zealand than your own country. You can also find information on the different types of campsites.

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