Blue skies and warmer temperatures can only mean one thing… summer is coming! And what better way to spend summer, than by exploring some of New Zealand’s epic landscapes. Whether you’re a born and bred Kiwi, or a backpacker who just stepped foot in this country, there’s something for everyone. There’s just one problem though – you’re going to need a set of wheels to get around! Some of the best parts of the country are only accessible in a vehicle and having one that can double as accommodation if need be is an attractive option.
If you’re planning on buying a vehicle that’s fit for crossing our range of terrains, it’s worth getting a head start on your search. But what do you look for? Here are some key things to consider ensuring your experience is as exciting and satisfying as possible.
Find a safe, spacious option
More often than not, those heading off on a tiki tour of New Zealand will want a more spacious vehicle to pack in their belongings or even rest their head at night. It’s no surprise then that vans and station wagons are the perfect starting point.
The growing MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) market has opened up a raft of choices including the popular Honda Odssey, Toyota Estima and Nissan Elgrand. All you need to do is drive around Queenstown for an hour or two and you’re bound to pass a few of these vehicles converted into campers. These vehicles offer a similar amount of room to what you’d expect in a van, and they often come with a cheaper price tag. More often than not, the MPVs available tend to be later models and these of course boast the type of safety features that you should certainly be looking for as a priority, such as air bags and anti-locking braking systems.
MPVs with seating configurations that transform the seats into a double bed are a good bet from a comfort perspective but be careful not to take on a vehicle which looks like it’s been extensively modified to add space to lie down. Modifications must fall within the NZTA Warrant of Fitness requirements, for it to be deemed fit to drive.
A station wagon is another popular option on New Zealand roads - you get the length and better handling, but at the cost of space and headroom. If you’re planning to clock up some ks around the country, you might be better searching for a 4WD or AWD model like the Subaru Legacy or Audi A4. You’ll be able to attack some rougher terrain, especially if you’re planning some off-roading.
The best option if budget allows is the fully fledged van. These vehicles tend to be more expensive because they’re favoured by tradespeople for commercial purposes but once these vans are setup for camping purposes, you’re in for a great trip.
Finding a reliable vehicle on a budget
It can be all too tempting to simply pick up where a group of other tourists left off, and inherit some fellow travellers well-worn wheels. Sure you’re going to get some free pots and pans maybe a couple of blankets, but do you really want to be driving a car whose past owners haven’t necessarily been incentivised to look after it?
We recommend you buy a vehicle with a good ownership history trail and service documentation, with up-to-date registration and road user charges (RUC), if applicable. Yes, these kinds of vehicles might cost more but it’s worth the extra money investing up-front. You don’t want to end up broken down – not only is it stressful, it can be a costly and arduous process, especially if you’re in the middle of nowhere.