Car Hire In New Zealand – Choosing The Right Vehicle

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

Read about 'Car Hire In New Zealand – Choosing The Right Vehicle' on USAVE, the place for all things car rental.

Wherever you plan to travel in New Zealand, choosing the best rental car for your needs means you are on the right track to making the most of your holiday. Read on for our comprehensive guide to choosing the right rental car for New Zealand roads.

Choosing The Right Rental Car

If you’re renting a car, van or camper for your holiday in New Zealand, it is important to think about the needs of your group in advance to avoid hiring the wrong vehicle. Ask yourself the following questions before deciding which hire vehicle suits you best.

  • Is it comfortable?
  • Is there sufficient space for all passengers, baggage and equipment?
  • Will it get us to where we want to go? (Consider a 4WD hire vehicle for off-road driving)
  • Can I drive it and are there any driving/licence restrictions?

Rental Car Options In NZ

Now of course there are a wide range of different types of vehicles available for hire in NZ, but generally speaking most vehicle hire companies will provide the following options with a few variations. The following car types are popular choices.

4 Wheel Drive Car Hire In New Zealand 

In NZ you will find many of the locals drive 4WD vehicles – this is a good indication of how handy they can be. 4WD’s are perfect for heading up the mountain for a bit of skiing or snowboarding, getting off the beaten track and taking it rural.

Much of New Zealand’s most beautiful scenery lies in remote areas, and a powerful engine is great for traversing steep hills and taking on the winding roads at a slower pace. The 2 most common 4WD hire car options in NZ are the:

  • 4WD Station Wagon. Commonly a Subaru Legacy Outback or something similar, these vehicles provide the comfort and drivability of a car with extended luggage room. The addition of 4WD means you are prepared for any circumstance.
  • 4WD SUV. Commonly a Honda CRV, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Santa Fe or something similar, these vehicles offer everything you would expect from an SUV including good leg room, a solid presence on the road and great visibility while travelling.

Minibus Hire In New Zealand

For those with larger families or groups of friends travelling together, a people-mover, minivan or minibus provides plenty of room and comfort for everyone. These vehicles seat between 8 to 12 people plus luggage, making them perfect for combined group travel.

Travelling by minibus also means the driving is able to be shared among the occupants – allowing you to cover more ground without the fear of the driver becoming overtired or burnt out. And when you aren’t driving it means more time to enjoy the stunning views! The 3 most common forms of minibus hire in NZ are:

  • 8 Seater Minivans. These vehicles drive similar to a larger car and contain seating for eight people (including the driver) with some extra room for luggage. Common examples of vehicles include the Toyota Estima and the Hyundai Imax.
  • 10 Seater Minibus. Commonly a Toyota Hi-Ace these vans are good for school trips and sports groups. Limited luggage space is available when the van is full. These vans are easy to drive and comfortable for any trip, these are available in manual or automatic transmissions.
  • 12 Seater Minibus. The perfect choice for larger groups, the 12 Seater minibuses offer the ultimate in comfort and space. Rear luggage compartments mean there is plenty of space for all the extras. Common examples are the Ford Transit and the larger Toyota Hi-Ace.

Budget Car Hire New Zealand 

For those travelling on a tight budget or just planning on spending most of the time in the city or day tripping, a budget rental car is the perfect solution. These cars can still easily accommodate 2 adults and 2 children plus some luggage room in the back, and are compact and affordable.

An economical option, a small hatchback or sedan will provide reliable, affordable car hire for couples, small families, and two or three friends travelling together. The most common examples of budget car hire in NZ are:

  • Hatchbacks. 2 or 4-door hatchbacks is a great option for the budget conscious. Comfortably fitting two adults and 2 children while still being compact and inexpensive, they are perfect for a quick whizz around the major tourist sites or day tripping from the city. Common examples include the Mazda Demio, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Tiida and the Hyundai Getz.
  • Sedans. 4 door sedans are a popular choice for many budget conscious tourists as they offer the addition of a larger car boot and easy drivability on New Zealand roads. At 1500cc these cars have enough pep to get you almost anywhere in New Zealand, and can accommodate 2 adults and up to 3 children. Examples may include Nissan Sylphy, Nissan Tiida and the Toyota Corolla.

Touring Car Hire New Zealand 

A touring car is popular for exactly the reason it states – touring. Comfortable and roomy with a powerful engine, a touring hire car can handle New Zealand’s notoriously meandering roads with ease, great for longer road trips. Commonly rated 1800cc to 2400cc or above these cars offer that little bit more power out on the open road.

These cars may come in a bit more pricey but they are worth it when travelling for extended periods, particularly when your journey includes covering both the North and South Islands. Extra leg room, more luggage space and additional extras will mean your travel in comfort and style.

  • Sedans. These larger style touring sedans offer all the comforts and extras you would expect along with easy manoeuvrability and handling on New Zealand roads. They are the perfect choice for the safety conscious and those who prefer a bit more power under the hood. Common examples include the Toyota Camry,  Toyota Aurion and the Nissan Bluebird.
  • Hybrids. For the environmentally conscious New Zealand also has a number of hybrid vehicles available for hire. These cars are able to run either on electricity (battery) or using the petrol motor – meaning you have got it covered when it comes to both fuel economy and longer trips. Common examples include the Toyota Camry Hybrid and the Toyota Prius.
  • Station Wagons. Additional luggage rooms always comes in handy when you are on holiday right? Hiring a station wagon will mean you have all the space you need as you make your way around New Zealand without the bulk of an SUV or towing a trailer. A common example is the popular Nissan Wingroad.
  • SUV’s. A popular choice for durability and convenience all rolled into one. The SUV provides a slightly higher ride with great views as well as all the comforts of a car. Common SUV’s for hire in NZ are the Hyundai Tucson and the Honda CRV.

New Zealand Rental Car Optional Extras

Many New Zealand rental car companies provide the very basics with their hire vehicles, so if you’re renting a car for a Kiwi road trip or self drive holiday, adding a few optional extras can make your journey easier, safer and more comfortable.

In particular children under 7 in NZ will need to be seated in an approved car seat, these seats along with other things you might need are available for hire from all good car rental companies. These extras will usually come at an additional cost, but they are very affordable and can prove invaluable depending on the type of travel you want to do. Here are some of the optional extras when hiring a car in NZ.

GPS Navigation Units

If this is your first time in New Zealand and you plan on leaving the main highways, a GPS system can be a great investment. While New Zealand has adequate sign posting it’s still advantageous to consider using a GPS system to optimise travel times increasing efficiency and avoiding any unintentional detours.

GPS navigators are also great for planning ahead as they provide useful trip time calculations. GPS navigation units are available for hire in any class of vehicle, some will come equipped with these units already installed – check with your car rental company.

Roof Racks

Usually available on station wagons, SUV’s and 4 wheel drive vehicles, a roof rack provides you with lots of extra storage space. This can be particularly handy if you’re planning on camping or transporting extras such as kayaks and camping gear.

Ski Racks

If you’re planning on bringing your own snow gear up to the slopes or hiring off-mountain to save money, a ski rack is an absolute essential for your hire car. They’re specially designed to carry skis without damaging them, saving you room inside the car – and money!

Snow Chains

If you’re planning to head anywhere inland or far south during winter, carrying ski chains is an absolute essential. Every year we hear stories about drivers slipping off the road or becoming stuck because they didn’t have snow chains. Snow chains are available for cars, four wheel drives, minibuses and people movers, so whatever model rental car you choose you can be sure of safe driving in any conditions.

Baby And Child Booster Seats

If you’re driving with children, their safety is absolutely essential. Any child under 7 years of age must be properly restrained by an approved child restraint. Having a booster seat of the correct size ensures that the seat belt is able to secure them properly in an accident. Your rental car company will provide both kinds of seats and help you fit them properly into the car.

Chilly Bin (Esky)

Also known as an Esky, or a portable cooler, a chilly bin is a portable cooling storage container for your drinks and food. Perfect for a hot summer trip or storing your food for longer trips.

4 Minibus Driving Tips

Sometimes it can be a bit daunting driving unfamiliar vehicles such as minibuses. Travelling by minibus provides ample leg room and luggage space, and they are the perfect choice for going longer distances when you want to make the journey more comfortable for everyone -although they are larger and heavier than a regular car. In general minibuses are easy to drive and manoeuvre, but there are some driving tips you should observe for the sake of safety and economy.

1. Understand The Limitations Of Your Field Of Vision

Before you start driving, take a moment to fully inspect your mirrors and understand the limits of your vision in this larger vehicle. If you’re used to only diving cars, you may find the lack of rear view mirror in larger models unnerving.

Get used to using the side mirrors to see behind you, and make any adjustments before you set off. Similarly, it’s also a good idea to get used to the size of the vehicle with regards to parking, passing and positioning on the road.

2. Take It Slow

Minibuses are heavier vehicles and will take longer to slow down than smaller vehicles, especially once you’ve stacked your minibus full of people and luggage. So ease your foot off the gas and drive a bit more slowly than you would in your usual ride.

Make sure you keep plenty of distance between you and the vehicle in front providing ample allowance for stopping distances. Break steadily and calmly, and take turns carefully.

3. Remember Your Size

Minibuses have larger engines to match their larger size, but once they’re weighed down with people and luggage there’s a lot to slow them down. Keep to the left as much as possible when driving so that other people can overtake you when you’re driving slowly, and don’t try to overtake others unless it’s absolutely safe to do so.

You may also find some difficulty on steep hills, so go slowly and use gears carefully to ensure you don’t loose control, especially in icy or wet conditions.

4. Keep An Eye On Fuel

Since minibuses have larger engines, they will use more petrol, more quickly. Make sure you won’t be stuck in the middle of nowhere with an empty tank by refuelling regularly and ensuring you have enough to get you to the next pitt stop.

New Zealand Car Rental vs Flying

There are many ways to get from A to B in New Zealand but the two main methods of transport are by car and by plane. Every holiday is different and you should weigh up a number of different factors before deciding how you want to travel but keep in mind that although travelling by air is quicker and more direct, there are some great reasons to consider car rental instead.

Why Choose To Travel by Car In NZ

You already know why air travel in NZ is great here’s why travelling by car is the best way to see New Zealand.

  • Greater Convenience. Let’s face it everything is pretty close together in NZ and traffic is far lighter than most other countries – therefore travel times by road are comparatively low. Unlike huge landmass countries such as Australia or the USA, it’s possible to traverse the entire length of the country in a few days if you really wish.
  • The Stunning Scenery. Ask any of the locals and they will tell you the best scenery is accessible by back roads. And what amazing scenery it is! Not only is the New Zealand landscape incredibly beautiful, it’s also extremely diverse. You’ll encounter wide plains, snowy mountains, lush native forests, rugged coastlines and spectacular beaches all in the same day. There’s a reason Hollywood keeps filming movies here – the natural splendour of the country is easily accessible and totally unique.
  • You Can Get Off The Beaten Track. You can avoid the beaten track by visiting smaller, less well known towns and attractions along your route when travelling by car. Most tourists will see all the main sights, so to make your holiday stand out from the rest head off the tourist trail to experience something different.  
  • It’s Less Expensive. Although there are some budget airlines such as Jetstar, air travel in New Zealand can get expensive, especially if you want to visit several regions. New Zealand car rentals can be more cost effective and allow you to travel exactly where you want, when you want. No rushing to catch your flight, no cramped seating and waiting in line – just jump in your hire car and go!

4 Top Tips For Your Road Trip

Travelling around New Zealand by road is a great way to see the best parts of the country, especially if you plan your road trip or tour beforehand to find the best destinations and available accommodation. Before you hit the road, we’ve put together some top tips to help you make the most of your self-drive tour.

1. Be Prepared – 12 NZ Travel Essentials

If you’re planning on staying at campsites or holiday parks, pack all the usual camping gear (tent, sleeping bag, pillows, cutlery and crockery, etc), and make sure you have some travel essentials such as:

  • Portable light
  • Chilly bin (esky)
  • Mallet and spare tent pegs
  • Bags for rubbish and storage
  • Baby wipes for easy clean-ups
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Swimming togs and extra towels
  • First aid kit
  • Hats and sunscreen
  • Toilet paper
  • Corkscrew, bottle opener and can opener
  • Detergent (for clothes and dishes) and bowl

Many campsites have barbeques and kitchens for cooking, but a travel stove, fuel and cooking pans would be handy just in case. A portable table and chairs will also make your stay more comfortable if you have room in your vehicle. If you’re staying in hotels or going on a day-trip, make sure you have some basic supplies for your hire vehicle, such as a torch and spare batteries, jump cables and a towrope, and water just in case.

2. Check Your Vehicle

Always give your car the once-over before setting out, run through these basics to cover your bases.

  • Check your tyres are inflated correctly and have enough tread.
  • Check your spare and the tyre-changing equipment located in the boot of the vehicle.
  • Check the oil, water and washer fluid,
  • Ensure your windscreen wipers work properly.
  • Familiarise yourself with the lights, air conditioning and indicators etc.

3. Fuel Up

In some parts of New Zealand petrol stations can be scarce – it is always a good idea to fuel up the car before heading out even if you still have fuel left in the tank. Ensuring you have enough fuel for your journey and checking out where some of the nearest gas stations are along your route is essential when traveling in New Zealand.

4. Avoid Car Stereo Madness

We all know how hard it is to agree on the right radio station when going for a drive. Whether you prefer rock, rap, or R&B all rental vehicles in New Zealand will include car stereos. Now if only you could get everyone else in the car to agree with your musical tastes …

Need More Help?

With such a great range of affordable rental cars to choose from, you can be sure there’s one to meet the specific needs of your trip and your passengers.

If you’re having trouble deciding which one to go with, talk with the team at USAVE Car Rentals and they’ll be able to give you a helping hand. Or take a look at their large car hire vehicle fleet available from handy New Zealand locations in Auckland, Palmerston North, Christchurch and Dunedin.



USAVE Freephone