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Car Hire in New Zealand: 5 Things to Know

New Zealand is one of the most popular places for Australians to visit. It’s nice and close, easy to get around and its living costs are slightly cheaper than taking a domestic trip. Because of its small size, it’s also a good destination for a road trip. Skyscanner Australia has listed a few things you need to know about car hire in New Zealand.

Hiring a car in New Zealand comes with all the same considerations as it does in Australia – such as returning your vehicle with a full tank – but there are a few things to consider next time you head over the Tasman.

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Book car hire in advance to save money

Although with flights there are definite best times to book (for flights to Auckland, it’s cheapest to book five weeks before you travel), with car hire the general rule is that you book as soon as you can. For most people, this means you do it once you’ve booked your flights.

By leaving it until the last minute, you’re more likely to find that not only have prices gone up, but you have a more limited selection available.

Prices for car hire in New Zealand also fluctuate throughout the year. Summer and winter car hire prices tend to be higher than shoulder and off-season charges.

You can drive between the islands

Because of New Zealand’s relative small size – it takes a touch more than a day to get from Cape Reinga in the very north down to Invercargill – many people like to explore as much of the country by car as they can.

What many don’t realise is that you can drive from the South Island to the North Island (or vice versa) thanks to the ferry between Picton and Wellington. Not only is this a convenient option, it’s often described as one of the world’s most beautiful ferry rides.

Choose your drop off time carefully

If you’re dropping your car off at the airport, it makes sense that you’d return it just before you check in. However, if you have any flexibility in your schedule, you may want to pick a time more tactically.

Firstly, you’re likely to get charged for a full day’s rental even if you only use the car for a couple of hours on that day. So if you pick it up at 12 but return it at 3 the next day, that counts as two days. By changing your pick up or drop off time, you can avoid this bridging period and save yourself some coin.

When searching for car hire in New Zealand, another consideration is that some companies charge extra for an after hours drop off. If you can return your car within office hours, you can save yourself a bit of money too.

Watch out for one-way booking fees

A classic road trip in New Zealand goes from one city to another – such as the classic Christchurch to Auckland road trip – but be aware that some companies and some one-way trips will incur a one-way booking fee.

When you’re looking for car hire in New Zealand, be sure to check with your car hire company before you make a booking but you can have better luck by driving from south to north or by finishing in a big city.

Snow driving advice

Driving through snow is something very few people have to do in Australia, but if you’re heading to New Zealand for the ski season then it’s a very real possibility.

So what do you need to know about car hire in New Zealand? First, it’s important to be prepared. Pack your car as if you’re going to be stuck in the snow for a while – warm clothes, a fully charged phone, food and water, a torch and a small spade are a good place to start.

Depending on where you’re travelling, you might also want to consider snow chains for your tires. Your car hire provider can help you with this.

When actually taking to the road, it’s important to drive more slowly than normal, to give yourself longer than expected to make your journey, to increase your following distance and to keep your lights on for your entire journey.

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