The Difference Between a Campervan and a Motorhome

Before you decide on a car rental in New Zealand or a motorhome or a campervan hire in New Zealand, it’s important to understand the difference between a campervan and a motorhome. The main difference is the size. Campervans are often converted vans with limited space and no shower or toilet facilities. On the other hand, motorhomes are larger and have these facilities. The largest motorhomes can accommodate up to six people.

Considerations for Your New Zealand Travel Itinerary

As a professional travel designer, I recommend considering six key points when deciding between a rental car, campervan, or motorhome for your New Zealand travel itinerary. Let’s go through them step by step.

1. What is Your Holiday Style?

Some travelers are familiar with traveling in a motorhome or RV, as it’s called in some places. However, if you’re renting a large motorhome for the first time, it can be a challenge to navigate tight spaces. The key benefit of renting a motorhome in New Zealand is the flexibility and independence of having your own home with you. You can have food supplies on board and provide your own meals along the way. Keep in mind that many motor parks and camping grounds in New Zealand already have shower and kitchen facilities, so you may not need to use those on board your motorhome.

On the other hand, if you prefer flexibility and convenience, a rental car might be the way to go. With a car, you can easily navigate through cities and park in tight spaces. Additionally, you have a variety of car rental options to choose from.

2. Traveling with Children or as a Couple

If you’re traveling with children or as a couple, renting a motorhome can be a lot of fun. It’s an adventure being out and about in New Zealand, and you don’t have to pack and unpack every day. This can reduce family stress and allow for more time to enjoy your trip. On the other hand, if you’re traveling as a couple and crave the freedom to explore off the beaten path while enjoying the comforts of home on the road, a motorhome might be the better option. With a motorhome, you have accommodation and transport in one, allowing you to travel at your own pace and stay at scenic locations.

3. Timing

How much overall time do you have available for all the locations you want to visit in New Zealand? Traveling in a motorhome requires adjusting to unique road conditions, such as narrow and windy roads, which can make travel slower. Additionally, there are fewer depot locations to pick up and drop off a campervan or motorhome. If you’re short on time, a rental car is a better option, as you can cover more distance by using domestic flights.

4. Depot Locations, Travel Distances, and Speed

With a rental car, you have over 60 depot locations throughout New Zealand, making it convenient to pick up and drop off your vehicle. On the other hand, campervan and motorhome operators only have three depot locations: Auckland, Christchurch, and Queenstown. When planning your trip for both the North and South Islands, you need to rent from Auckland to Auckland or travel from Auckland to Christchurch or Queenstown. It’s also important to note that during the peak summer season, there are often minimum rental periods of 14 days. The overall realistic speed with a motorhome is about 60 km/h, so you’ll need to plan for longer driving times.

5. Staying While Traveling

When traveling in a motorhome, most travelers use campgrounds or motorhome parks for convenience. However, there are sometimes restrictions on parking at some of the most scenic spots. Camping grounds and motor parks will incur additional costs. On the other hand, with a rental car, you have the flexibility to choose your accommodation arrangement in terms of style, cost, and location. Staying in smaller local accommodations, such as bed and breakfast lodges, cottages, motels, and hotels, allows for access to local knowledge and a more authentic and personal travel experience.

6. Weather and Seasons

The climate in New Zealand during the peak summer season is generally moderate, although it can rain. If you’re traveling earlier in spring, later in autumn, or during the winter season, the weather conditions may be colder and wetter, especially in the southern parts of the South Island. Motorhomes have built-in heaters, but it can still be uncomfortable if the weather conditions are constantly cold and wet. On the other hand, with a rental car and staying at accommodations with heating and more space, you can enjoy a comfortable travel experience regardless of the weather.

Calculating Costs: Motorhome vs. Rental Car

To fully understand the cost difference between a rental car and a motorhome in New Zealand, let’s compare the costs for two travelers on a 20-day trip from Auckland to Queenstown in November.

For a rental car, the estimated costs include the daily rate for a midsize car with insurance, mid-range bed and breakfast accommodations with breakfast, two domestic flights, and fuel for 2,500 kilometers. The overall costs for 20 days is approximately 5,700 New Zealand dollars per person.

For a motorhome, the estimated costs include the daily rate for a two-berth motorhome with shower and toilet, full insurance and equipment, powered site fees at campgrounds, ferry fees from the North to the South Island, fuel for 4,000 kilometers, Queenstown sear charge, oneway fee, and road user charge. The overall costs for 20 days is approximately 7,300 New Zealand dollars per person.

As you can see, the cost difference between a rental car and a motorhome can vary depending on factors such as the type of vehicle, the season, and the duration of the trip. It’s important to consider your travel style and preferences when making this decision.

In Conclusion

Ultimately, whether you choose a rental car or a motorhome for your New Zealand travel adventure depends on your travel style, preferences, and the amount of time you have available. If you have more time and want to embrace the motorhome experience, renting a motorhome can provide flexibility and independence. On the other hand, if you’re short on time and want to cover more locations with less driving while experiencing local hospitality, a rental car is a better option. Consider the six key points discussed in this blog and use them to make an informed decision for your New Zealand travel itinerary.

2 responses to “Choosing the Right Vehicle for Your New Zealand Travel Adventure”

  1. Ginny says:

    Having heard that there are lots of winding roads I opted for a car over a camper. Initially was going to go electric but the prospect of having to find places & wait around to charge didn’t seem like the best option. Went with a hybrid & highly recommend! With petrol expensive in NZ its cheap to run & no charging time hassles.

    • GuestNZ says:

      Yes, you are right. The hybrid cars are a good option for rentals. Our guests use them all the time, e.g. Toyota RAV’s are available as an hybrid. Cheers Michael

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