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Step-By-Step Guide to Renting Your First Motorhome

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What you need to know before renting your first motorhome.

A motorhome holiday is unlike any other type of travelling experience. You get the ultimate flexibility for your road trip by having your home on wheels. It’s an adventurous experience which is a lot of fun, but if you have never rented or driven a motorhome before, there are a few things you’ll want to know before getting behind the wheel. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll tell you all the things you need to know about renting your first motorhome.

This quick step-by-step guide to renting a motorhome will give you a few points to think about even before booking your motorhome rental. Use these tips, as well as the advice in 10 Things You Need to Know About Camper Van Rental in New Zealand, so that you are fully prepared for an epic road trip.

10 Quick tips for motorhome rental in New Zealand

  • Season effects the daily rate of your motorhome rental, summer being the most expensive
  • Be aware of age restrictions. Most motorhome rentals only allow drivers over the age of 25
  • Be aware of the one-way fee. Different pick-up and drop-off location often incur an extra fee
  • Include the ferry crossing between the North Island and South Island into your budget
  • Check out motorhome relocation for free motorhome rentals
  • Check what’s included in your motorhome rental. You’ll be surprised at how much is included!
  • Many motorhoms for rent are diesel, so remember the Road User Charge (diesel tax) that needs to be paid at the end of your trip
  • If you want to camp for free in public places, make sure your motorhome is certified self-contained
  • Know the New Zealand road rules
  • Consider your needs carefully before choosing a motorhome. The choice of motorhomes to rent in New Zealand is huge!
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Step 1 – Determine your group size

Who is going with you one your motorhome vacation? It’s kind of important to get the numbers right as it’s not like you can just book them and “extra room” at the last minute. Knowing how many people are coming on vacation means you can choose the right vehicle size and whether it’s best to rent one or two vehicles.

Because motorhomes are small spaces – even the largest ones available to rent can feel “cosy”, make sure everyone in your group is aware and happy with this. Travelling in a motorhome is not your average holiday experience so if anyone is uncomfortable with that, they might need to sit this one out.

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Step 2 – Choose destinations everyone will enjoy

New Zealand might be a small country but there’s an incredible amount of things to do! The great thing about motorhome rental is that you can go just about anywhere! However, it’s impossible to see everything, so with that in mind, get everyone in the group to write down the locations or activities on their “bucket list” or, if travelling with kids, add some activities that the whole family can enjoy. Put these on a map to determine what routes to take around the country and incorporate things that everyone will enjoy.

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Step 3 – Select the right motorhome to rent

Now that you know who is coming with you and where you want to go, you can now start choosing a type of motorhome to rent. You’ll need enough space for everyone to sleep, everyone to lounge, and storage space for your backpacks/suitcases. New Zealand motorhome rental companies usually show a layout of their rental vehicles on their website. Take a look at our What is the Best Type of Vehicle to Rent in New Zealand? to see what kind of campervans and motorhomes you can rent in New Zealand.

Pro tip: Just because a company claims a motorhome can sleep six, doesn’t necessarily mean that it sleeps six comfortably. Look at the layout plan to see where everyone can sleep.

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Step 4 – Budget accordingly

As you’ll see in the next few steps, there are a few different aspects that you need to account for in your budget. It’s a good idea to start making a budget now and add to it as you make more decisions like adding activities, the rental price, necessities, etc.).

Your budget should not only include the motorhome you have chosen to rent, but extra costs that come along with the vehicle, such as campsite fees, amenities, fuel, meals, activities at each destination, and the ferry crossing between the North Island and South Island. Plus, always budget for “miscellaneous expenses” for those little things you might not be expecting. Keep all this in mind as you read through the next steps.

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Step 5 – Be aware of all the rental costs

Renting a motorhome means paying far more than just your base rental price. One-way fees are likely to be charged if dropping your motorhome in a different location to where you picked it up. Are there extra driver fees? Are there any extras that you want to rent, like a GPS? Have you budgeted for the cost of fuel? Are the basic amenities included in your rental or do you need to rent those too? All these need to be considered when budgeting for your motorhome trip. We list all the extra rental costs you’re likely to face in How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Car in New Zealand?

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Step 6 – Research camping options

Camping in a motorhome is not as simple as parking up somewhere random and staying the night. Sometimes you will need to be hooked up to a power supply to recharge your batteries, you’ll need to empty your waste, fill up your fresh water supply, and more. There are many holiday parks in New Zealand where you can do all this and stay the night on a “powered site” so you’ll have a full supply of electricity to your motorhome. This gives you a far easier motorhome holiday experience but means there will be a holiday park fee.

Department of Conservation (DOC) campsites, council-run campsites and “freedom camping” on public land means that you will need to rely on your motorhome’s own supply of electricity, water and waste water tanks. The upside is that campsites are cheap and freedom camping is free. However, you motorhome will need to be recharged, emptied and refilled at least every three days.

Learn more about your camping options in Camping in New Zealand.

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Step 7 – Expect poor Fuel mileage

It’s no secret. Those large vehicles guzzle up a lot of fuel. Petrol costs around NZ$2 a litre, while diesel is around NZ$1.40 per litre. While diesel is cheaper up-front that petrol, be aware of the Road User Charge (RUC) will be applied to your rental rate if hiring a diesel-run vehicle. The RUC charge is around NZ$62 per 1,000km travelled. This will be charged to you at the end of your rental.

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Step 8 – Remember that driving a motorhome is different from driving a car

You need to be comfortable with driving a larger vehicle. Driving a motorhome is slower, less maneuverable and harder to park than driving a car. If you’re unsure, do a cheeky test drive at a motorhome dealership. When you pick up your rental motorhome, do some practice laps in a quieter part of town before hitting the highways.

If you have difficulty parking up in a holiday park, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The motorhome community is very friendly and will be happy to help.

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Step 9 – Don’t stress about the motorhome hook-ups

Emptying the waste tank, using the power chord, filling the fresh water… It can all seem a bit confusing to start with when holding all these hoses and pipes. The motorhome rental staff will go through how it all works when you pick the vehicle up. If there are any appliances that they miss or don’t tell you how to use something, just ask! You should also be given a manual to take with you on the road.

Many of the New Zealand rental companies have a bit of a video on their website explaining how things work so you can get a head-start.

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Step 10 – Prepare for a messy experience

Guess who has to dump all your waste from your campervan? You do! Yes, there are times when things aren’t too pretty on a motorhome trip, but it’s all part of the experience. Watch some YouTube videos on how to use dump stations in New Zealand and the different methods motorhomes have to dump waste (some have pipes, other have cassette toilets).

There are ways to avoid dumping your waste, by not using your motorhome’s toilet at all and relying on public toilets and campsite toilets for the whole trip. However, if you plan on freedom camping, you’ll have to use your motorhome’s toilet.

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Step 11 – Cook your own meals

Motorhomes come with all the essentials to cook up your own meals: stove tops, refrigerator, pots, pans, utensils and sometimes even a microwave and oven. Cooking your own meals is a huge money saver when renting a motorhome. Look up what kitchen facilities your rented motorhome will have and plan a few meals around that. You don’t want to turn up stressed in a New Zealand supermarket with no idea on what to cook at the the start of your holiday!

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Step 12 – Hit the road!

At the end of the day, you don’t know if motorhome travel is right for you unless you do it! Enjoy the experience and everything that comes with renting a motorhome for the first time. You never know, you could end up buying your own motorhome when you get back home to keep the adventure going.

Renting a motorhome for the first time is the best way to decide whether motorhome vacations are the right sort of vacations for you and your family. It might not be the cheapest way to travel, but it’s a vastly different experience from your usual holiday and one that many easily find themselves getting hooked on!

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