Exploring New Zealand by Rental Car

Last updated: August 8th, 2014 | in Beyond Thailand

Even though the public transport system in New Zealand and especially bus services between major cities are frequent and reasonable priced, the best way to explore New Zealand is definitely by renting your own vehicle and driving around in your own pace, stopping wherever you want.

After having traveled around the north island for two weeks with all sorts of different public transport (bus, train and minivan) I decided to rent a car just after landing on the south island’s biggest city, Christchurch. Driving on the country’s beautiful roads has been one of my highlights in New Zealand.

Exploring New Zealand by rental car 2

I had the car for ten days and this was my route: Christchurch – Arthur’s Pass – Franz Josef Glacier – Wannaka – Queenstown – Milford Sound – Queenstown – Mount Cook – Lake Tekapo – Christchurch. This route and the time frame was long enough to drive all around the south island and vistit most of the popular tourist destinations but at the same time didn’t “waste” money for renting the car by staying at one place for more than two nights. So I think ten days to two weeks is just about the right time to go around New Zealand’s south island by rental car.

Exploring New Zealand by rental car 3

I was only 19 years old when I rented the car and there was no problem with being below the age of 21 or 25 as some rental companies have require a minimum age for customers. I decided to take an insurance as well, there were three options and I took the medium one that covered most of the bad scenarios that could have happened on my trip.

How much is it to rent a car in New Zealand?

If you rent a small but fine car like me (see picture) you can get a daily rate of only 25 NZD. I paid another daily 25 NZD for the insuance.

Exploring New Zealand by rental car 1

Drive carefully

It’s so much fun to drive on New Zealand’s scenic roads in your own vehicle but that can also be a little bit dangerous as there are many situations where you are tempted to drive fast. I often was overwhelmed by the landscape and so it’s always better to stop for a while when you think “oh my god that’s so beautiful, I want to take a picture of that”. There are so many mountain roads with lots of sharp curves and almost all the streets in New Zealand have one line per direction so you have to drive extra carefully.

It’s also important to mention that the distances from one town to another always turn out to be longer than they appear on the map, mainly because of the numerous curves and you can’t (or shouldn’t) drive as fast as you can on a highway (there is only one highway in New Zealand which is located in and around Auckland). Therefore I always left in the early morning after breakfast to make sure I had enough time not only to take numerous stops on the way to my destination but also to arrive there before sunset and have enough time to look for a parking space and a bed in hostel before sunset.

Exploring New Zealand by rental car 4

Take your time – and enjoy

So a good example would be the drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound, that is supposed to be one of the most beautiful roads in the country. I took at least ten stops on this drive, took lots of pictures and just enjoyed the scenery with most of the time no other people around. That’s the great thing about driving in New Zealand – it’s not just fun to drive by yourself but you can also take as many stops as you feel like, stop how long you want and are thus much more flexible than if you travel by bus.

Exploring New Zealand by rental car 5

Popular car rental companies in New Zealand

There are so many car rental companies in New Zealand and it’s hard to say which one has the best offers as they change their services and price structure on a regular basis. Just check out their offers on the websites below to get a first idea and then make up your mind. I wouldn’t book it online though, just get the infos and then give a few of them a visit and make a specific inquiry when you are actually in New Zealand and ready to rent a car. If I missed a big company on the list please let me know and I’ll add it here.

I hope with this post I could give you some incentives explore New Zealand by car as well if you are planning your trip there, it’s really worth the little extra money you spend compared to a bus ticket as you will not just experience the places you intend to visit but also discover all this stunning scenery between these places.

Are you planning on renting a car in New Zealand? Or have you already been cruising around the country’s scenic roads by yourself? Let us know in the comments.

About Stefan


Stefan lives his dream by living and traveling in Thailand. On Thailand Redcat he shares his experiences and advice to all aspects of (night)life in Thailand. Stefan is also fluent in Thai both spoken and written and is author of the books Thai Beginner’s Course and Thai Love Course.

Speak Your Mind