I spent the last year living in Queenstown, at the bottom of the South Island of New Zealand. Because I was on a working holiday visa, I had a full time job so didn't actually have that much time for travelling around during that year! My boyfriend and I only had one day off a week together, so we mainly stayed local, checking out all the beautiful spots that Queenstown itself had to offer. For my blog on the best things to do in Queenstown, click here! Or for some more visual ideas, click here.
So I was so excited to reach the end of my working holiday and explore the whole of New Zealand! Over the course of 7 weeks, we travelled across both islands- and it only cost me £300. Here's how.
Road Trip It!
Driving is 100% the best way to explore New Zealand. Because there aren't really any trains, it's kind of difficult to see everything on public transport. Plus, often the most beautiful beaches and sights are a little off the beaten track. So having your own transport is a must! After having done a previous road trip up the East Coast of Australia, we decided straight away that this is how we wanted to explore New Zealand. In Australia, we had rented camper-vans from two different companies- Travellers Autobarn and Jucy. We loved the Travellers Autobarn camper- we got the 'Chubby' camper it was so spacious and had enough room for us plus our big travelling backpacks. However, it was expensive- about £250 for ten days!
For the Jucy van, we did a 'relocation' deal, where you pay less daily because they need the vehicle moved from one city to another. It seemed like a good deal at the time of booking, but when we arrived to collect the van in Cairns, we found there was a TON of additional hidden costs which made the trip way out our budget. My boyfriend literally had to empty his bank account to pay for it, and I had to use my overdraft. So not a good experience at all!
So for New Zealand, we were kind of hesitant to rent another camper. We knew we wanted to travel for about 7/8 weeks and when I looked up prices they were absolutely insane- my average quote was around $5,000 NZD. Renting a vehicle also felt like throwing money down the drain a bit, because there is 0% chance of return on it. So we decided to look at buying instead.
Buying VS Renting:
There was several reasons behind this decision but probably the key ones were: we were still living in Queenstown at this point, so it would be useful to have a car for our last few months there. There was the option to try and sell it on at the end of our trip and make some money back, and we also found that even buying one second hand would be cheaper than the quotes we had been given to rent, even if we didn't manage to sell it at the end!
So we did a lot of research and went to view about ten different cars before settling on our favourite- a white 2002 Mitsubishi Grandis. I've written a proper blog post on the whole process of buying the car, top tips and doing it up, ready for our travels! Check that out here.
We ended up paying $2700 NZD, which equates to £1300 pound sterling. We also loved the fact that by buying our own car, we had the freedom to design the interior exactly as we wanted it! For example, with the Traveller Autobarn camper, we liked the fact we could sit up in the back- useful for when it rained for an entire evening. When we originally got our car, the bed in the back was too high to sit up comfortably in, so we lowered the bed. We also put the back of the bed on hinges so we could fit a cool box in the boot, and created extra room for storage. We were super lucky as our housemate helped us out with these small adjustments so it didn't end up costing us anything.
(DISCLAIMER: these are definitely not the most 'instagram worthy' photos, nor was it the most 'instagrammable' car- I was dying for one of those really old fashioned beautiful camper-vans- but it was super comfortable and did the job!)
We needed to try to sell the car on at the end of our trip. After doing some research, we found Auckland seemed the best place to try and sell the car. Before arriving, we joined all the pages on Facebook and rang a lot of garages, to try and gauge what kind of prices garages would offer us. It was so low- around $400 NZD- which is about £200! I will write about selling the car in Auckland in more detail in another blog post, but let's just say it was HARD. We were trying to sell it out of season, and as an extra little treat, Corona virus was starting to rear its lovely head so obviously there was a lot less travellers around, and people were very hesitant to buy.
Luckily, we finally managed to sell the car! We'd hoped for a higher price for it, but in the end we sold it for $1500 NZD. This meant our total losses was $1200 NZD, which was higher than we had hoped, but still worked out as just £300 pounds each!
So overall, I would 100% recommend that if you are going to do a road trip across New Zealand, buy a car rather than rent! There is obviously some risks involved- I lost sleep worrying about the car breaking down, which is something that wouldn't be a stress if we had rented. We also had the struggle of trying to sell it at the end of the trip, but as I said, I do think this was made particularly difficult by situations outside our control (I'm looking at you, Corona).
But overall, it was so amazing having the total freedom of not having to rush back to return the car on a certain date and I couldn't believe how much cheaper it was to do it this way- we worked out we actually saved up to $4,400 NZD!