To rent a car in New Zealand is a common thing that many travellers would do. We had spent three weeks in New Zealand and rented two cars during the period, one in Auckland Airport, and the other in Christchurch Airport.
Though we have hired cars in different countries already, what had happened to us during the our New Zealand road trip was still a unique experience. Other than some common things, such as insurance or driving license, etc. there are things that we did not expect.
Here are a few things you should expect in general when you rent a car in New Zealand:
- The price of a rental car could be very high
- Check the rental car thoroughly, including the bottom
- A rental car could be very old
- Expect to fill up the tank frequently
The price of a rental car could be very high
Price differs dramatically between the old and new models
When we selected our car, we noticed that most rental prices were pretty low, but the model of cars was also old. If we picked a car that had up-to-date equipment, then the price was rocket high, doubled, or tripled. It could be so expensive that the value and price are out of proportion.
After a serial of researches, we got to know that the cheap cars were those old models. Some of them were no longer in production. But we believed that It should be okay as long as the car was not defective and in good condition. Thus, we opted for a cheaper one.
The extra cost of a child seat
But what we felt unhappy was the rental of a child seat. The rental cost of a child seat was ridiculously high that a new one would be cheaper. In the end, we carried a push-up seat from Germany and saved the cost.
Expect to pay a high rental fee for a proper car
The total costs of the two rental cars with maximum coverage was around five-hundred Euros for three weeks, including unlimited mileage, which was a bargain price. But, if you want to be on the safe side, you should expect to pay a high rental fee.
Check the rental car thoroughly, including the bottom
Our 1st rental car was from a local car rental company. According to the booking, we would get an old car. We were quite confused when the staff handed us a brand new silver Toyota with only 3000 km. All modern facilities (except navigation system) such as USB slot etc. are available.
But it wasn’t mistaken. The rental company had just replaced all the old cars a short while ago. That was a lucky situation.
However, our luck did not last long. The bottom of our car was not attached properly and was hitting the ground. We couldn’t drive anymore as we were afraid of causing the further problem. So, we used a shoestring to fix the bottom so that it did not hit the ground. But the fixing was not stable, and we had to fix it every other while.
Back to the rental company, they could not believe what had happened and insisted that we broke the car. We told them that we only drive to Paihia and the road was in very good condition. Then, they called our hotel in Paihia to verify if the parking area of the hotel was proper. After an hour of questions, the manager of the rental company agreed that we should not pay for the damage. It was obvious that the car was broken before already. And, we got a brand new blue Toyota as the replacement.
Many roads in the rural area are not even and unpaved. You should expect that the chance to break the bottom is quite high. So, even if you get a car in good condition, make sure to check the bottom as well.
A rental car could be very old
At the rental office near Christchurch Airport, while we were waiting for the car to be ready for us, we saw a very old white Nissan parked aside. We thought it would be scrapped.
When the staff, a nice girl, carried us to that car, we realized that we were going to drive this “car” for the next 15 days in the rural area of the South Island. My husband, a German, perhaps had never seen a car in such a condition in Germany, questioned again. The girl confirmed us with a friendly smile and assured us that the car was in “good” condition.
What is so-called in “good” condition? First of all, it had nearly 300,000 kilometres already. Then, the rubber parts of door frames were broken. One of the doors was not attached properly. The seat covers were worn out. And, the child door lock did not work. Finally, having checked outside, we saw countless scratches, the paint at some places were also gone. The cover of the tank was broken, either.
We realized that there was no alternative for us, as all cars had similar situations, perhaps worse. So, we checked two things, the tires, and the brake. Luckily, they seemed to be newly replaced and work well.
It was impossible to document all the broken parts on the rental document. The girl still smiled at us and commented that she had already filled in all information for us. With the old Nissan, we ventured into the South Island of New Zealand.
So, if the rental cost is very cheap, you should expect to get such an old car.
Expect to fill up the tank frequently
There are only several cities or towns with sizable inhabitants. In these places, it is easy to find gas stations. But it is quite often, the distance between the two places is quite far, especially in the South Island. You need to make sure that you have enough fuel to reach the next town since there won’t have any gas station on the way. The best way is to fill up before you leave the town.
On the day we drove to Milford Sound, about fifty kilometres away from Te Anau, we realized that we might not have enough fuel to get back from Te Anau. Since Milford Sound is a nature protection zone, it is unlikely to have a gas station. To be on the safe side, we drove back to Te Anau and filled up our tank.
Our rental car was an old Nissan. Sometimes, after a few minutes of driving, the fuel display could reduce to a significantly low level. It could be that the display of the fuel consumption was broken and not precise. Unsure of the situation, we tried to fill up the tank before starting the journey of the day.
So, you should expect to add fuel more frequently.
The alternative to rent a car in New Zealand
What we learned from our experience is not to rent a too old car in New Zealand. A few weeks of a road trip in New Zealand is not a short trip. You might need certain comfort for the entire trip while avoiding potential problems.
It is probably a better practice to rent a car in New Zealand form an international chain with newer models. We always rent a car from several large chains and have never had the above issues.
But if your budget is tight, perhaps take a bus trip or join a tour is a better alternative for the rental car.