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Comprehensive Guide to Car Hire in New Zealand

car rental guide in new zealand

New Zealand is a popular road trip destination amongst Aussies. What's not to love about a short flight to a country full of lush and varied scenery, strong culture, and endless activities. The distances between major tourist spots are rarely more than half a day's driving. For example, getting to Tauranga will only take you less than three hours coming from Auckland.

Sure, you can get around by tour bus or public transport to main centres like Wellington and Christchurch, but the best of New Zealand is often found on the road less travelled. With your car hire, you can find the boutique wineries in Marlborough, secret beaches down hidden roads such as the New Chums Beach on the northeast coast of the Coromandel Peninsula and Awanah Beach on the Great Barrier Island, and even wild hot springs like the Welcome Flat Hot Pools on Copland River and Kawhia Springs near Waitomo.

How to find the right rental car for your New Zealand road trip

Some people spend hours researching and comparing rental cars just to find the perfect vehicle for their next trip because this could make or break their driving experience in New Zealand. If you are this type of person, we suggest that you compare rental cars from major brands including Avis, Budget, Hertz, East Coast Car Rentals, Enterprise, Europcar and Thrifty at VroomVroomVroom instead of going through each car hire company’s website. This will not only save you time but also provide you with a wide selection of vehicles to choose from. However, some people get overwhelmed with the number of choices that’s why we have listed down our recommended vehicles for different types of travellers.

  • Economy Car or Compact Car: Perfect for backpackers looking for an affordable rental car to get them around New Zealand.
  • Passenger Van: Ideal for large groups travelling together since this can accommodate from 8 to 12 people.
  • SUV: Families travelling with small children can find comfort going on road trips with this type of vehicle.
  • Premium Car: Business travellers or those attending a special event in New Zealand can still travel in style with this fancy ride.
  • Campervan : For the ultimate road trippers, nothing beats hiring a motorhome for your next journey.

Things Australians need to know about hiring a car in New Zealand

  • Your Australian driver's license is fully recognised in New Zealand. Just show it to the rental car agent when you pick up your car and let the road trip begin.
  • People drive on the left-hand side of the road in New Zealand.
  • The motorways around Auckland including Southern Motorway - which spans from Papakura to the city - get congested especially during the morning rush hour, but generally, the highways and byways are free-flowing. We have useful driving tips in New Zealand​ to help you out.
  • If you are travelling with children, you can use your own child restraint as long as it has a joint Australia/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 1754 mark. Click here​ for other requirements for using child restraints in New Zealand.

Advice on renting a car in New Zealand from Antonette of We12travel​​

road to rob roy glacier of we12travel

For those wishing to rent a car in New Zealand, there are a couple of things to consider. For one, don’t forget that you will need an international driver’s permit in order to be able to pick up your car. You can usually obtain one in your home country, getting one in New Zealand is trickier so there for I do not recommend it.
Once picked up, you need to get used to driving on the left side. Unless you’re from a country where driving on the left is the way, of course. I’ve rented a ton of cars in New Zealand and although generally it’s not difficult, take your time finding out what driving on the left works like. Especially roundabouts can be a little tricky but after a while you won’t notice anymore.
Driving in New Zealand is generally easy and not too demanding. However note that distances are long and that Google Maps is almost always off when giving you approximate driving times. Especially in the South Island the roads can be narrow and windy and take a lot of time, especially when you are stuck behind a motorhome or other slower vehicle. There for always plan enough time while driving.
Finally, always make sure to check whether driving on unpaved roads is insured. Many beautiful locations are reached only by gravel road. Such as the Rob Roy Glacier, the Greenstone Caples Track and Moke Lake near Queenstown. Especially the track to Rob Roy Glacier​ is tricky since there are various rivier crossings. You wouldn’t be the first who’d needed to be picked up by the AA and receive a huge bill as it’s not covered by your insurance. It’s better to avoid those roads and take a shuttle service or get a ride with a 4WD car.

How much does a car rental in New Zealand cost?

The price depends on a lot of factors including the rental car company you are renting from, the number of days, the type of vehicle and the location. To give you an idea of how much a car hire will cost in New Zealand, we have calculated the average cost of a rental car per month in top three locations.​

Cheapest Daily Car Hire Cost for Auckland Airport per Month

​January​$56
February​$64
​March$61
April$62
​May$62
​June​$48
​July​$45
​August​$45
​September$53
​October​$44
November$58
​December​$62


Cheapest Daily Car Hire Cost for Christchurch Airport per Month

​January​$50
February​$57
​March$54
April$50
​May$51
​June​$36
​July​$51
​August​$32
​September$47
​October​$41
November$53
​December​$53


Cheapest Daily Car Hire Cost for Queenstown Airport per Month

​January​$54
February​$66
​March$57
April$65
​May$47
​June​$47
​July​$40
​August​$50
​September$41
​October​$47
November$64
​December​$64

Most popular road trips in New Zealand

road trip routes map in New Zealand

New Zealand is definitely a road tripper’s paradise! With so many amazing routes to take and breathtaking scenery to enjoy, all you need is a rental car to start your epic driving journey in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Check out some of our recommended road trips below:

Queenstown to Milford Sound : This is one of the most scenic routes on the planet and was even included in The World’s Top 10 Road Trips by CNN Travel​. You can pick up your hire car in Queenstown and drive around 4 hours to reach Milford Sound.

Auckland to Wellington​: This is probably the best route to take if you want to explore the North Island. One of the highlights of this road trip is a trip to the film set of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Christchurch to Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers​: For the ultimate winter adventure, take this road trip and be amazed by two of the world’s most amazing glaciers. You can park your rental car at Franz Josef Glacier Village and go for a guided ice walk or heli-hike.

Best things to see on a New Zealand road trip

What makes a road trip to New Zealand special is its stunning views. Get ready to be inspired by these beautiful images taken by our Instagrammer friends during their NZ adventure.

Coromandel

Aoraki/ Mount Cook

Lake Wanaka



Other useful articles when visiting New Zealand


New Zealand Guide FAQs

What do you need to rent a car in New Zealand?

In order to rent a car, you'll need a valid driver's license and a credit card. The car rental company may also require other documents such as International Driving Permit, so make sure to read their terms and conditions.

How can I save money on a rental car in New Zealand?

Be sure to book as soon as you can, rent outside the airport and compare the latest car rental rates from major rental companies using our price comparison tool​.

Is it cheaper to rent a car for a week in New Zealand?

The price for booking a weekly car rental in New Zealand can be quite cheaper especially if you book in advance as compared for the days you actually need it. To easily compare the daily and weekly rental rates, just type in your preferred location (e.g. Auckland) using our price comparison tool​.

Can I use a debit card to rent a car in New Zealand?

While most car rental companies prefer you to rent their vehicles using a credit card, some suppliers accept debit cards as a payment method and as a security bond if they have the Mastercard or Visa emblem.

Is Australian drivers licence valid in New Zealand?

Yes. Any holder of a valid Australian driver's licence will be allowed to drive in New Zealand for up to one year without having to do anything else. Just make sure to carry your licence with you at all times while driving. Other rental companies also accept P-platers as long as you have held your P-plate for more than 12 months.

Do you need an international drivers licence to rent a car in New Zealand?

No. As long as your driver’s licence is valid, then you can use that. If your licence is not printed in English, an International Driving Permit (IDP) or an official translation in English will be required.

What is the most popular car hire in New Zealand?

The most popular car hire in New Zealand is Toyota Corolla Hatch or similar.

How old do you have to be to hire a car in New Zealand?

You must be 18 years of age or over to rent a vehicle. To avoid paying for an age surcharge, you need to be at least 25 or in some cases 21. Note also that restrictions on drivers' ages may vary between car rental companies, so always check the small print on the hire arrangement before booking.

How can I find a car hire near me in New Zealand?

Simply type in your location (e.g. hotel or landmark) using our search form to see a list of rental cars near you. You can also view the depots using our map to determine which is one is the closest.

What is driving like in New Zealand?

Driving in New Zealand should be a fun and safe experience. Make sure to keep left when pulling out onto the road and always wear your seatbelt. Since New Zealand has roundabout intersections, ensure to give way to the right and turn clockwise when moving through the intersection.

Do I need insurance when renting a car in New Zealand?

Yes, in fact, this is very important if your rental car is involved in an accident or gets stolen as you could be responsible to cover the cost of the vehicle, which of course, could cost you thousands of dollars.

Customer Reviews
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