Before you hire a car for your kiwi road trip we have a few tips and tricks we would like to share with you so you can save money renting a car in New Zealand. It will also save you heaps of time when choosing the right hire car for you. These are things we have learned from the numerous times we have hired a car in New Zealand for our kiwi road trips.
There are heaps of added extras car hire companies want to charge you when you are booking your rental car for New Zealand and half of them you don’t need to bother with as long as you get organised ahead of time!
Let’s start with the important and often confusing thing – insurance!:
Get the right insurance:
Did you know its actually not a legal requirement to drive with insurance in NZ? And because of this a lot of kiwis don’t both with insuring their vehicle. Crazy right?! Don’t get caught short this is the only thing we strongly suggest adding to your hire car purchase – opt for that extra insurance that the car hire company offer. Even the slightest scratch of the vehicle will make the car hire company want to charge your credit card. And please do make sure you reduce your accident excess reduction (AER) all the way down to nil. Not $1,000, not $500, but to NIL!
Don’t both with a GPS Unit:
Who uses physical maps these days anyway, anyone? You can hire a GPS unit from the car hire company for around ten dollars a day but Google Maps on your smartphone is more than sufficient these days! Don’t bother with the car hire companies GPS, often they are outdated, slow and something out of the ’90s! Make sure you also sign up to a mobile phone network that has good mobile phone coverage…we swear by Vodafone for NZ there coverage here has never let me down!
Don’t purchase the fuel top-up service:
When you pick up your vehicle you will be asked if you want the hire car company to fill the tank up for you upon your return so you don’t have to. At this point shoot over a stern NO in response to them. They can be insistent so you do have to stand your ground. And this is because they profit from this service. They charge a ridiculous amount (almost a third more) per litre for this service. Just allow a bit of extra time when you are due to return your vehicle for a quick pit stop at the gas station and use Google Maps at the end of your time in New Zealand to find out where a fuel station along the route.
Also, make sure you know what fuel your rental vehicle requires, a nasty surprise may follow else!
Bring the right Credit Card:
The car hire company will take an imprint of your card (usually around 250 dollars if you have purchased the extra AER (more if you opted for no insurance) and return it at the end of your rental. It’s important not to forget your credit card, they can accept debit card but they will actually take the money and then you are at the mercy of the exchange rate once they return the funds.
Don’t get stung by Administration Charges:
These charges are the type of charges that will be charged to you after you have returned home and have been at home for at least the last 3 weeks. You have to look out for them on your credit card over the next few weeks. They could be:
A speeding fine you incurred;
A parking ticket you incurred or;
A road toll charge (there is only two of them in the country).
On top of the fees that the car hire company pass onto you then will include an administrative fee a cost which covers the admin work carried out whilst they pass on your details and fees to you. Annoying right? So what do you do if you get a charge like this?
If it’s a toll fee or a parking fine then, unfortunately, you can’t really escape this charge. The car hire company will automatically take it off your credit card plus the admin fee they charge.
With the speeding fine, you must pay it, unfortunately, it’s as simple as that. The car hire company will email you information of how to do this and pass your information onto the relevant authorities and it is technically up to them to chase you for the fine. However, it has been known that if you get a speeding fine in NZ and you are from overseas it is highly unlikely they will ever chase you for it. You may never hear from the NZTA again…, but then again you might…
How to avoid a fine like this?
Don’t speed is one answer, but brushing up on the NZ road rules would help illuminate the chances! The good news is that the country doesn’t have many machines on the roads that monitor your speed – only really police on the side of the road in their cars and sometimes unmarked slick/modern looking minivans.
Our roads are a little different here so please drive to the speed limit and the conditions, NZ does have a high car crash rate and it is our country’s biggest killer so please take care out their – this country is full of beauty around every corner, there really is no rush!
For parking fines, every roadside has notice of the parking limits, in small towns, you won’t really have to worry about this one, it is only really in large cities you might find restrictions.
For the toll roads, there are only two in the country, one in Tauranga and one heading north of Auckland towards The Bay of Islands. Visit the xxx website after you have traveled on this road and pay your toll, if you don’t pay it after 5 days the prices increases and then just keeps going up, so by the time the car hire company have charged your card it can be in excess of $50 plus admin fees, instead of the simple $2.40 you could have paid the day after you drove on the road!
Read the small print
Cover Your Ass: Read all the terms and conditions before hiring your car, things such as returning the hire car late (usually a half-hour grace period, but do check this!), or with an empty tank will all get you extra charges when you return the car. Protect your wallet and read the small print! Also, note down and take pictures of any marks or scratches you see on the car when you first pick it up if you are concerned about anything before you leave talk to someone at the hire car company and make them record the mark or scratch you have noticed.
Don’t hire a car bigger than is actually needed
This is where we get a little more blunt, put any ideas of driving down the Pacific Highway in an open-top convertible out of your mind! The most reputable car hire companies all to have only a few different cars available to you. The most affordable will be something like a Toyota Corolla and mic whilst the highest daily rate of the vehicle will be something like a Rav4 or Highlander. You can hire a fancy convertible if you wish but the daily rate will be ridiculous, availability will be limited and don’t get me started on the insurance costs!
Do I need a 4WD?
Unless your travelling in winter (May – September) then no. Forget what you read in the forums, our roads are nicely tarmacked and a little Corolla will handle the roads quite well.
What size car do I need?
Base your decision on boot space for your luggage and then how many people you are bringing on the adventure with you. We have hired a Toyota Corolla with Isaac, myself and my parents before and with two medium-size suitcases and 4 pieces of hand luggage it was quite a squeeze. As a general rule of thumb for 2-3 people, a smaller car like Toyota Corolla will suffice, for 4 people or more I would suggest the Toyota Rav4 or a Toyota Highlander. Don’t underestimate how much 4 pieces of luggage and hand luggage takes up!
Avoid the location charges
And finally our last top tip is regarding location charges. Avoid picking up your car at airports and ferry terminals. If Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington or Queenstown is your first port of call the likelihood is that you will be staying their a few days to explore the city and recover from your flight. You won’t need a vehicle for these first few days plus the parking charges would be ridiculous!
There is a mixed debate here in NZ whether or not taking your car on the ferry is a quicker process than returning your vehicle at one port and collecting another vehicle at the other side. A few rental car companies in NZ don’t have the necessary insurance to allow their fleet on the ferry. In our opinion, it is quicker to return your vehicle at the port, get on the ferry as a foot passenger and then pick up another vehicle at the other end.
Even though this means you have to lug your luggage around it still make the journey considerably shorter. Getting all the cars off the ferry is a long process once a 3-hour journey turned into a 6-hour ferry journey for us as a lorry got stuck trying to get off!
If you opt for this just book your journey from point A (for example Auckland) and then organize the return at point B (for example Queenstown), this way ferry location charges will not be charged to you.
And that’s about it for our money-saving tips and tricks of hiring a car in New Zealand, we highly suggest that Rental Cars should be your starting point for looking at cars, often they are more affordable than going direct. Also, don’t expect to bargain or barter on the price here in NZ, the best way to see NZ is by hiring a car so this means the car rentals companies don’t have to compete for your business!
Start your search today 🙂