Ultimate Guide to Renting a Motorhome in New Zealand

At Wilderness, we truly believe that a motorhome or campervan is the best way to explore New Zealand.


We want to supply you with the equipment and knowledge you need to create remarkable moments during your stay—from the time you create your booking, until you say farewell to your New Zealand home away from home. In our Ultimate Guide to Motorhoming in New Zealand, we answer the most common questions our adventure support team has heard from guests over the years.



Benefits of Travelling by Motorhome

Let’s face it, any trip to New Zealand is going to be great, so why choose a motorhome for your adventure? At Wilderness, we believe that hiring a motorhome is the best way to collect your remarkable moments while experiencing all that our country has to offer. You’ll get to explore at your own pace with all the comforts of home, while still having the option to get off the beaten path.

Freedom and Flexibility

Holidaying in a campervan means freedom and flexibility. Fell in love with Lake Wakatipu? Stay an extra night. Want to see the place where the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed? Plug Hobbiton into your GPS and hit the road. There’s always an amazing experience to be had, and hiring a motorhome lets you be spontaneous.By hiring a Wilderness motorhome for your adventure, you'll be free to take on New Zealand on your terms. You get to set your own schedule and roam wherever the road takes you. 


You can’t beat the convenience of a motorhome—you can come and go as you please with your hotel room on wheels. Imagine pulling over whenever you like to pop on the kettle for a cup of tea while the kids use the bathroom and stretch their legs, or parking up to watch the sunset over the ocean.

When you hire a Wilderness motorhome, you’ll have transportation and accommodation covered in one convenient step. You can say goodbye to the hassle of booking rental cars, managing hotel reservations, or struggling to find an Airbnb. Hiring from our fleet is like having an on-the-go, luxury hotel room as your home away from home. 

Our motorhomes have full-service bathroom, fully equipped kitchen, and comfortable sleeping and living areas. You’ll enjoy all the creature comforts you need to make your time on the road enjoyable. (And you won’t need to get any sort of special licence to drive our motorhomes.)

New vista everyday

Why be stuck with the same view from a hotel room window when you’re on holiday? In a Wilderness motorhome, you can bask in new vistas each and every day without the hassle of packing and unpacking each time.

New Zealand has a fantastic range of campgrounds and holiday parks where you can stay in your motorhome (many of which are beside beaches or lakes). If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can even try freedom camping and take the road less travelled on your path to remarkable moments.

With a Wilderness motorhome, you’ll be able to traverse the wilderness in luxury and experience a new vista every day. Our commitment to helping adventurers create remarkable memories is a huge part of the answer to the question: “Why Choose Wilderness?


Freedom camping

Freedom camping is when you stay on land that has minimal or no facilities. Many freedom camping spots are on beaches, near lakes or native bush, or have spectacular mountain views. Some are even within a stone’s throw of New Zealand’s best day walks.

You’ll find freedom camping spots all around New Zealand, but rules differ from region to region, so be sure to check signs or stop by the local visitor centre (i-SITE) if you’re unsure. (You can be fined if you stay in places where freedom camping isn't allowed.)

Freedom camping requires that your vehicle be certified self-contained. The entire fleet at Wilderness has this certification, so when you hire one of our motorhomes you’ll be able to freedom camp overnight at incredible locations other travellers might never get to see.

Not sure if motorhoming adventure is right for you? Check out our blog post “Why travel NZ in a campervan? ” to learn more about why we think it’s the best way to see New Zealand. Not sure about driving a vehicle much larger than your average automobile? Read our blog post How easy is it to drive a Wilderness motorhome?


Weather in New Zealand

It’s important to consider what time of year you’d like to visit New Zealand, since each season has its own unique opportunities and challenges. If you’re from the northern hemisphere, it’s important to bear in mind that the seasons in New Zealand are opposite of those you’re familiar with.

Summer (December, January, and February) is the busiest time for travel in New Zealand. This is the time of year with the most consistent weather and lends itself to activities involving the sea, rivers, and lakes.

Winter (June–August) features affordable rental rates and access to additional winter sports activities.

Spring (September–November) and autumn (March–May) are good seasons to travel in because they feature lower rental rates and fewer crowds than summer. The weather in spring and autumn is typically pretty fair, but be prepared for rain.

Want to learn more about the seasons in New Zealand? Find more information at:

New Zealand Seasons and Travel.


How to Choose the Right Motorhome

There are a lot of motorhome providers in New Zealand, so it might seem like a challenge to decide which one is the right one for you. There are many things to consider when choosing a provider:

  • Do models in their fleet allow you the flexibility to freedom camp? (Are they certified as self-contained?)
  • Do they offer roadside assistance?
  • Do they have the tools and knowledge to help you plan your ideal adventure?
  • Are there any restrictions on where you can take their motorhomes?
  • What extras and accessories do they offer, so that you are able to make the most of your motorhome adventure in NZ?

Part of the Wilderness Difference is giving you all the information you need to make an informed decision up front. All Wilderness motorhomes are certified self-contained, so you can make the most of NZ's many freedom camping spots without the worry of a fine for camping illegally (sometimes as much as NZ$200.)

Certified self-contained motorhomes and campervans:

  • Have the capacity to look after the full cooking and sanitary needs of everyone onboard for at least three nights
  • Can stay in a location without leaving any evidence of having been there
  • Give you access to even the most secluded camping areas

Want to learn more about freedom camping with a self-contained motorhome? Check out our blog post on how to freedom camp in New Zealand.

Upon request, your rental also includes a SIM card that gives you access to our adventure support team should you need help while out on the road. Our experienced team members have the tools and guidance to help you plan your perfect New Zealand vacation. There are a lot of loose-gravel roads in our country, but unlike most other motorhome providers, we allow our guests to wander wherever the road takes them. We have extras and accessories for you to buy/hire that enable you to make the most of your motorhome and NZ adventure (such as bikes, barbecues, ferry tickets to travel between islands, and even mobile WiFi).

You might be wondering about the differences between motorhomes, campervans, and RVs. While many providers might use the terms interchangeably, our team feels it’s important to make the distinction so you can choose the best one for your trip. A motorhome is a larger mobile home with more living space. They typically have more space and amenities than the other options. RV is the term typically used by people in North America to refer to large, bus-like mobile homes. Motorhomes are similar in size to RVs and often feature a proper kitchen and bathroom/shower as well. Campervans (or simply campers) are smaller panel vans that typically don’t feature the distinct interior areas or onboard bathrooms/showers of a motorhome. In NZ, the term campervan is also commonly used to refer to any sort of mobile home (whether small or large).

It’s also important to think about the layout of your motorhome or campervan so that you can enjoy your adventure in comfort, especially if you’re taller than average or are travelling with children. Each of our premium fleet comes with unique layout options to best fit your needs. Think about each of the main areas (bedroom, bathroom, and living area) individually when choosing the perfect motorhome.

For the bedroom, consider:

  • How many people are you travelling with?
  • Are you travelling with children?
  • Do people want their own separate beds?

Our fleet offers flexible options when it comes to sleeping configurations, so you can choose the model that best fits your needs.

Our bedding options include:

  • Permanent single (that can be converted to king) and double beds with slatted bases and high-quality mattresses (no need to muck about converting the lounge into a bed at night)
  • Drop down double beds that are stored in the ceiling cavity when not in use (typically found in the models with larger dining/living areas)

Not sure which motorhome bed is right for you? Check out this Length, Layout and Bedding Guide for more information about choosing the right bedding configuration.

There are two general choices when it comes to bathrooms in motorhomes: combined or separate. Combined bathrooms may lead you to think that after taking a shower, the whole bathroom gets wet and you'd have to wipe everything down. However, in most of our motorhomes, clever design allows for the toilet area to remain dry even after using the shower (which isn’t always the case with motorhomes from other providers). Having a combined bathroom frees up space for larger sleeping or living areas.

The living area in most modern motorhomes feature what’s known as a walk-through cab, allowing you to access the living area without having to go outside (which is a definite plus during the sometimes wet and windy weather in New Zealand). Some models might feature swivel front seats which allow the driver and passenger seats to rotate and serve as additional dining seating when parked.

With so many options available, selecting the ideal motorhome for your journey can feel overwhelming. No need to worry—we’ve got you covered. Check out our Motorhome Selector Tool to help take the guesswork out of choosing the perfect motorhome for your upcoming New Zealand adventure.


What’s Included in Your Daily Rate

The little things are what help you make remarkable moments. When choosing a motorhome provider, it’s important to consider what extras they include in their daily rental rate (and what’s going incur additional fees) so you have set expectations for your provider. Things such as liability reduction options, bedding and linen, on-road support, or any extra hidden fees (like extra driver or one-way fees) may or may not be included in your rental depending on which provider you choose.

Wilderness provides transparent pricing that allows our guests to see the value they are getting for their money. We also offer loads of extras and accessories to further enhance your experience.


Additional Costs to Consider for Your Trip

Aside from the rental hire, it is important to think about other costs that will be part of your motorhome adventure. You may incur extra fees for additional perks and services, such as:

  • Extras and accessories (such as bikes, mobile WiFi, or camping tables and chairs)
  • Liability Reduction Options (to cover repair costs in case of an accident)
  • Ferry tickets (if you’re visiting both islands)
  • Toll roads
  • Fuel
  • Campsites and holiday parks (some spaces require a small fee to stay)
  • Groceries
  • Unique NZ experiences

The additional cost of these and other similar items and services should be taken into consideration when planning your New Zealand vacation. Check out our blog post to learn more about how to have a hassle-free New Zealand motorhome holiday.


Preparing for Your Motorhome Trip

After you’ve completed your booking, Wilderness has a Pre-Arrival Checklist and other Resources and Travel Planning Tools to set you off on the right path—especially if this if your first motorhome adventure. (Don’t forget your license!)

Not sure what to bring? Check out this helpful blog post on what to pack for your Wilderness trip.


Driving a Motorhome in New Zealand

Driving a motorhome can be a challenge, especially if you’re not used to larger vehicles. Most of our fleet also comes with additional safety features (such as reverse cameras). We encourage you to also use a spotter outside the motorhome for any tight spots or in campsites where there are low hanging trees or barriers. Check out our blog post about how easy it is to drive a Wilderness motorhome to learn more about safer motorhoming.

Even though New Zealand is only about 2050km (or 1274 miles) in length, you could tour for years and still not see everything the country has to offer. While you may think the best choice is to see as much as possible while you’re there, travel times can be skewed because of our diverse landscape. We recommend you choose a few of your favourites and really take the time to experience the locations during your vacation (our motto is: drive less, see more).

Curious how long your ideal adventure might take? Use this New Zealand travel time and distance calculator to explore your options.


Planning an Itinerary for Your New Zealand Vacation

New Zealand has two islands to choose from when planning your vacation: the North Island and the South Island. The North Island (home of Hobbiton) features rolling green hills and volcanoes, while the South Island is more akin to the Southern Alps (think Lord of the Rings).

Not sure which one to choose? Check out some of our guest stories to help you decide:

5 Views that Will Make You Fall in Love with Northland

How to Spend 3 Weeks in the South Island of New Zealand

While each has its own unique appeal, the country is set up in such a way that a one-way trip from Auckland and Christchurch allows travellers with more time to see both islands during their adventure. To make this trip, you’ll need to budget for one-way ferry tickets to get you and your campervan across the Cook Strait.

Trying to plan your perfect itinerary? Check out our NZ Frenzy guide books after you complete your booking for inspiration for your next New Zealand adventure (included for free with our VIP liability reduction option).


The Tiaki Promise and Responsible Camping in New Zealand

At Wilderness, we are committed to the Tiaki Promise, which is all about preserving the pristine wilds of New Zealand for future generations. We strongly encourage our guests to engage in responsible camping to help us keep this promise. Check out our Guide to Responsible Camping for more information.

When it comes to choosing where and how you want to camp in New Zealand, you have plenty of options:

  • Freedom camping
  • Holiday parks
  • Department of Conservation (DOC) and regional park campsites
  • Campable Sites

Holiday parks are commercial campgrounds that feature both powered and unpowered campsites. They offer a wide range of amenities, from the very basic to a full-on resort experience (think Internet, communal kitchen/laundry, barbecue areas, TV lounges, fresh water filling stations, wastewater dump stations, and more) all in a secure site. Some holiday parks even offer heated pools, shops, and restaurants, or allow you to hire bikes or boats during your stay. There are hundreds of such sites across the country, many of which are family-owned. Staying at a holiday park gives you the opportunity to meet other travellers. These sites are popular, so we recommend you book in advance (especially if travelling during summer).

New Zealand features 14 national parks and over five million hectares of protected land in parks and reserves. The national parks feature more than 250 motorhome-accessible camping areas which are managed by the DOC. While these sites are quite simple (some having no or only basic facilities), they provide clean, reliable, year-round camping to travellers utilising motorhomes. If you’d like to utilise this option, the Wilderness fleet is approved for use at these conservation campsites.

There is also the Campable app for our more tech-savvy adventurers, which helps you craft your own unique experience of New Zealand using your mobile device or computer. Get up close and personal with Kiwi life while staying at private properties around the country, including working farms, vineyards, beaches, resorts, and much more. Using Campable will give you an even more authentic New Zealand experience.


Returning Your Motorhome

They say all good things must come to an end. When it’s time to return your motorhome or campervan, most providers will have you run through a return checklist to make sure you’ve followed their rental terms and conditions. The check-out process can take additional time, so be sure to plan for it (especially if you’re flying home after your trip is over).

  • These are the most common return requirements for motorhome rentals:
  • Refuel with diesel
  • Top up fresh water/empty waste tanks
  • Top up LPG (propane bottles)
  • Clean motorhome (don’t leave anything behind)
  • Empty toilet cassette

Your provider will also likely inspect the motorhome for any damages during the check-out process. Some motorhome rental providers may offer services to help organise your transfer to the airport or hotel after dropping off your motorhome, but be sure to check ahead of time in case you have to make arrangements yourself.

Plan Your Motorhome Holiday in New Zealand

North Island, South Island or the whole of New Zealand. From short escapes to in-depth adventures, we have a travel itinerary perfect for your journey.


See Our Itineraries