We’re here to supply you with all the knowledge and tools that you’ll need to plan and enjoy a remarkable New Zealand motorhome holiday. In our Ultimate Guide to Motorhoming in New Zealand, we answer the questions we get asked most frequently.
Let’s face it, any trip to New Zealand is going to be great, so why hire a motorhome for your adventure?
At Wilderness, we believe that a road trip is the best way to experience all that New Zealand has to offer. You can explore at your own pace and get off the beaten track with all the comforts of a hotel room.
Holidaying in a motorhome 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.
Hiring a motorhome lets you be spontaneous, set your own schedule and take on New Zealand on your terms.
You can’t beat the convenience of a motorhome tour. When you book, you’re sorting your transportation and accommodation in one convenient step.
Say goodbye to organising a rental car, stressing about hotel check in and out times, and struggling to find an Airbnb in your chosen area. Hiring from our fleet is like having a mobile luxury hotel room with a full-service bathroom, fully equipped kitchen, and comfortable sleeping and living areas combined with a generously sized rental car.
You can stop anytime. Imagine pulling over to make a cup of tea or use the onboard bathroom while the kids stretch their legs, or parking up on the coast to enjoy a sunset across the ocean.
Why settle for the same view each day? In a Wilderness motorhome, you can bask in new vistas 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 a bit more adventurous, you can try freedom camping and park up in any number of scenic locations.
If you time it right you can experience your sunsets and sunrises with a new backdrop every day.
Still not sure if a 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.
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, bear in mind that seasons in New Zealand are the opposite of those you’re familiar with.
(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. Daylight hours are also the longest allowing you plenty of time to do the most activities in a day and find the perfect place to park your motorhome.
(June–August) features affordable rental rates, access to winter sports activities, gorgeous photography opportunities and lots more. Keep in mind if you’re motorhoming in snowy conditions, you’ll need to add snow chains and consider the costs of extra gas for heating your motorhome rental.
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 and the potential to get stuck in the mud if you’re parking on unsealed ground.
Find out more about New Zealand seasons and motorhome travel.
First time driving a motorhome? Relax, it’s not so different from driving a car. Motorhomes are generally significantly longer than a standard car, reaching up to 9m in length but this does not affect the driving experience significantly.
We do encourage you to use a spotter outside the motorhome for maneuvering any tight spots, or in campsites where there are low hanging trees or barriers.
Here at Wilderness, we prefer European motorhomes for their comfortable drive with automatic transmission and plush, adjustable driver seats. Some new drivers may worry about a lack of rearview mirror - but in fact a great reversing camera and large wing mirrors make reversing easy. Combined with good visibility out the front and minimal blindspots, driving a European motorhome like those on the Wilderness fleet is a fun and comfortable experience. Read more about how easy it is to drive a Wilderness motorhome.
All you need to start driving is a current driver’s licence from your home country. If your licence isn’t in English, you’ll also need an English translation or International Driving Permit (IDP) with you when driving in New Zealand. You can have a translation issued by a translation service approved by the NZ Transport Agency (a list is available here), a diplomatic representative at a high commission, embassy or consulate; or the authority that issued your overseas licence.
With your full car driver’s licence, you can drive a rental campervan or motorhome with a TARE weight (the weight when empty) of up to 4.5 tonnes, even if there’s a lower weight limit on your licence. This covers all Wilderness rental motorhomes (at the time of writing). You can only drive vehicles covered by your driver’s licence or International Driving Permit.
Learn more about the type of licence you need to drive a motorhome in New Zealand.
In New Zealand, we drive on the left hand side of the road.
We also have many winding roads and a diverse landscape that means travel times can be skewed and trips are likely to take longer than expected. 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. Because of this we recommend you choose a few of your favourite destinations and really take the time to experience these 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.
It’s also worth noting that some of our railway crossings do not have active warning bells or lights so you must always stop at these to check before crossing.
Additionally, we have some strict road rules worth learning and exploring in more detail. When driving you will need to carry your license and accompanying documentation with you at all times. You must always wear a seatbelt at all times (or suitable child restraint for children aged 0-7). You can chat to our Wilderness reservations team about hiring car seats for children.
When driving you cannot use handheld mobile phones. You also will be heavily penalised for driving under the influence of alcohol and driving above the speed limit.
First time motorhomer? Check out our guide to driving a motorhome in New Zealand.
With a number of different companies offering campervan rentals in New Zealand, it can be challenging to understand your options and choose a rental provider. Luckily we’ve created a list of considerations to make that will guide you to the ideal rental company for your trip.
To get started with your research, we recommend you first take our quiz on what budget category of campervan will suit you best. This quiz will give you a quick idea of whether you should be choosing a premium, mid-range or low budget motorhome rental company to hire from. Remember that rates vary depending on season and company.
Most companies have some restrictions like driver age, license type, distance you can drive and roads you can drive on. They may also have additional costs such as road user charges and insurance. A lot of this information will be captured in terms and conditions which it always pays to read. This comprehensive article can guide you in understanding motorhome and campervan rental terms and conditions in New Zealand.
Make sure you’re happy with the terms, restrictions and any costs before you make your choice.
Were you intending on paying for wifi, bikes, a BBQ, camping chairs or baby carseats for your trip? Wilderness offers all of these extras as well as a free sim card to get in touch with our on-road support team. However, not all campervan rental companies will have these available and those that do may be charging more than you’re prepared to pay. Make sure the company you choose offers the extras that you need for a memorable trip.
As you start doing your research, you might find this rental comparison worksheet helpful to keep track of key differences in rental inclusions for various companies.
The budget category is often associated with a particular size and amount of space. Budget rentals will generally be smaller and suit one or two people. If you have a family of three or more, you’ll likely need to choose from mid-range or premium rental companies with more beds. Make sure that there is ample availability for the size of motorhome you want to rent too - there’s nothing worse than making a decision only to find there is no availability.
Qualmark is a grading system for activities, accommodation, service and transport owned by Tourism New Zealand. Before choosing a motorhome provider you should check what rating they have been awarded to ensure you are booking the experience you’re hoping for.
Reading reviews is a great way to explore genuine experiences from customers of the company you’re considering. It’s best to check Google reviews of the company as well as additional places like Facebook ratings for their page and using Google to find any other review sites.
Groups, travel forums and websites are great resources for asking questions from people who are also planning trips or keen to share their own experiences. Try websites like TripAdvisor, Quora and Lonely Planet as well as Facebook groups.
To find out more, check out our full guide on choosing the right campervan company.
If you’re thinking about hiring a private campervan through a sharing platform, check how a private campervan hire is different from a rental.
Once you’ve chosen one or two companies that you’re excited to rent from, it’s time to pick you perfect motorhome from their fleet.
The layout of your motorhome or campervan is a very important choice. If you’re taller than average, are travelling with children or have unique needs, not all layouts will be suitable for you. Make sure to consider the bedroom, bathroom and living area separately before making a choice. At Wilderness, each of our premium fleet comes with unique layout options to best fit your needs.
Want to find out more? Use our comprehensive guide for more information about how to choose the perfect motorhome.
Our fleet offers flexible options when it comes to sleeping configurations, so you can choose the model that best fits your needs. You should consider things like:
How many people are you travelling with?
Are you travelling with a baby or children?
Do people want their own separate beds?
At Wilderness, our various bedding options include:
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.
Daily rate inclusions
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.
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:
The additional cost of these and other similar items and services should be taken into consideration when planning your New Zealand vacation.
Check out this list of what we include in the price when you rent a Wilderness motorhome.
If you’re looking for a low cost rental option, are flexible with your dates and want to pick up and drop off in different cities,, it’s worth looking into available motorhome relocations. At Wilderness, our relocations typically include a ferry ticket, 1200km of travel free and standard insurance. Always check relocation terms carefully and be aware that relocation offers are sometimes withdrawn so may not be as secure as booking through conventional means.
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:
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.
Learn everything you need to know about motorhome ferry travel.
We have created a few itineraries to get you started including this full-circle three week itinerary that spans the North and South Islands showing off the best that NZ has to offer as well as this ten day itinerary of South Island must-sees.
Want to plan your own unique motorhome itinerary? Our free Wilderness NZ app helps give you the confidence to explore the country well off-the-beaten-track. It’s ideal for planning where you want to park up each night on your journey. Download Wilderness NZ from the App Store or Google Play. Also check out our motorhome trip planning tips.
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 is your first motorhome adventure.
We suggest that you arrive early to pick up your motorhome leaving plenty of time to consider adding additional extras, paying any outstanding balance and checking paperwork. Our friendly team will also take the time to teach you all about using your motorhome.
We also suggest that you take the time to snap some photos of your motorhome including any existing damage, and the number plate so you have records of how your motorhome looked before you drove away for insurance purposes,
Not sure what to bring? Check out this helpful blog post on what to pack for your Wilderness trip.
When it comes to choosing where and how you want to camp in New Zealand, you have plenty of options.
Choosing a rental motorhome that is certified self-contained allows you to take your pick of campsites in NZ and gives you access to freedom camping. 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.
Freedom camping, or responsible freedom camping as it is called in NZ, is defined as camping in a tent, campervan or motor vehicle on public land with minimal or no facilities such as toilets. Responsible freedom camping is free of charge.
You’ll find freedom camping spots all over New Zealand. Many have spectacular views of beaches, lakes, native bush and mountains. Some are just a few steps from some of New Zealand’s best day walks.
Keep in mind that freedom camping rules differ from region to region. When you visit a new area, be sure to read all signs, check out official government info and drop by the local visitor centre (i-SITE) to check rules in that region. You can be fined if you stay in places where freedom camping isn't allowed or that only allow self-contained vehicles to camp.
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.
As part of the Tiaki promise there are a series of rules that apply to freedom camping anywhere in New Zealand:
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 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.
For a really authentic New Zealand experience, you can also choose to camp on private properties using the Campable app. At a Campable campsite you can get up close and personal with Kiwi life while staying at places like working farms, vineyards, beaches, resorts, and much more.
You can find camping spots of every variety through several travel apps including Campable, Camping NZ and CamperMate. Make sure to check the availability of each campsite on multiple sources to ensure that it is open for campers including checking the Google Map listing, checking the local iSITE and reading the listing and reviews on various apps or websites.
We know how important freedom camping is to both our international and domestic tourists. That’s why we’ve joined forces with experienced travel guide author Scott Cook to create a list of the most exceptional freedom camping (and low cost) spots around NZ exclusively for our customers. We call them Wildernessts.
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).
Also be aware if you want to change your drop off location when you’re already on the road, you may need to pay a substantial fee to cover the rental company relocating this vehicle back to the branch you picked it up from.
These are the most common return requirements for motorhome rentals:
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.