New Zealand is an idyllic travel location - quirky cities, incredible waterfalls, thousands of km of breathtaking hiking trails. And one of the most awesome and convenient ways to get around this two island nation is with your own wheels.
You can opt to rent a van from one of many local companies. Fan favourites include Jucy, Travellers Autobarn, Wicked Campers and Mad Campers. Make sure you pick one that suits your budget and your space, has the amenities you're looking for and offers good insurance and roadside assistance packages.
For those of you traveling New Zealand longer-term (perhaps you're on a Working Holiday Visa like us!), you may decide instead that you'd rather purchase your own van, do it up a bit and roam around the country with it.
We chose to buy a van for a couple of reasons:
- We can sell the van and make some money back on what we spent
- Van rentals typically require a bond to ensure the vehicle is returned; this can be in the region of $5000
- We can personalize the space and deck it out with exactly what we want
- There's no set return date to the rental company meaning we have a lot more freedom
So, we set off on the mission to find ourselves the perfect van. And naturally, along the way, came up with a number of questions about just how to go about buying (and then selling) a van in New Zealand. Read on for all the tips we've discovered to make your purchase a breeze!
Buying a Vehicle in New Zealand
1. Start looking for a vehicle
Where to start!? Thankfully, the backpacker community is vast in New Zealand meaning there's plenty of platforms that are used to buy and sell a whole variety of things that may (or may not) be useful to those of us with backpacks on our backs and limited pockets 😉 Here's everywhere we looked:
- Facebook Marketplace (this is where we found ours!)
- Trade Me
- Backpacker Board
- any number of Facebook groups offering vehicles for sale
- Travel Cars
You'll find the biggest range of options in Auckland, the main city that international visitors arrive to and depart from. Peak season for travel is the summer months, between November and February. This is when vehicles are more expensive because people know they're easy to sell!
We got ours in Wellington which, although meant fewer options, it also meant cheaper vehicles since the buying pool is smaller!
The best time to buy is in fall when all the summer travelers are heading home and wanting to sell (March-June) and the best time to sell is in the spring when the new season of travelers show up keen to get their hands on a vehicle (Aug-Oct).
2. Decide what sort of vehicle you want
We were in the market for a decent sized van that allowed us to have a cooking space as well as a bed fully set up in the back. While road tripping around the South Island in the winter of 2019, we were in Nico's smaller car which meant every morning and every night we had to set up or take down all our gear for space reasons.
One day, we want to buy a beautiful large Sprinter van that will allow us to properly live in it like an apartment and stand up in it...but that's for later down the line! 😉
There's a number of converted camper vans that make the rounds through the online platforms of New Zealand. You're most likely to find the soccer mom minivan style, a larger white van that may have originally had 8 seats in the back or the large motor homes. Of all of these, the van provides enough space, while still allowing you to park in regular car parks and get through height restrictions or tight roads!
3. Self-contained vs. non-self-contained
New Zealand offers a program wherein if your vehicle is certified self-contained, you can stay in many places across the country for free. This is a massive perk, when you consider that camping in New Zealand can range from $10-$50 per night, which adds up quickly on a road trip!
What does it mean to be self-contained? Well, most importantly it means that you have your own toilet. Our van has a small toilet that lives underneath the bed in the back of the van. Along with your toilet, you'll need to ensure your van has the blue sticker certifying it to be self-contained, else it won't count!
4. Warranty of Fitness
The Warranty of Fitness, or WoF as it's most commonly known, is a legal mechanical requirement that is renewed annually on all vehicles in New Zealand. WoF's can be completed by many local car garages or an AA; most businesses offering this service make a point to advertise it outside! It's in place to ensure that your vehicle is safe to drive.
They'll check all sorts of things such as rust, the engine, the battery, all lights, tires, breaks and doors. A complete list and guide to a WoF is available here.
I highly suggest avoiding purchasing a vehicle that either does not have a WoF at all or has one that expires very soon. You cannot drive a vehicle without a valid WoF (which includes a sticker) which may see you forking out a couple of grand to make repairs! Your best bet is to ensure you buy a vehicle that recently passed a WoF.
All New Zealand vehicles must be registered by law in order to be able to use the country's roads. It's typically $8-$15 for petrol vehicles and closer to $25 for diesel vehicles per month. Diesel vehicles also pay Road User Charges which is about $60/1000km.
You will be liable for any outstanding RUCs or REGOs, so be sure they're up to date before you buy!
New Zealand does not actually legally require car insurance, but it is highly recommended for any unforeseen events that happen while you're on the road. AA offers monthly or longer term packages.
7. Buyer's Forms
In order to transfer vehicle ownership, you'll need to complete a MR13B form. If you have a New Zealand driver's license, you can submit these forms online; otherwise you'll need to go any NZ Post Office or an AA and show ID and pay $9.
The seller will need to complete a MR13A form which is the accompanying seller's form. This can also be submitted at NZ Post or an AA.
8. Camping Gear
The most important bit? What you take with you! Here's the most important essentials that we have in our van:
- water tanks (grey water + drinking water) connected to a sink
- gas stove with gas cans + a lighter
- pots, pans, cutlery, tupperware + dishes
- cutting board
- biodegradable dish washing soap + sponge
- dry food box
- reusable grocery bags
- hand sanitizer
- campa-potti toilet
- biodegradable wet wipes + toilet cleaner
- toilet paper
- dry shampoo + body wash + shampoo
- toothbrush + toothpaste tablets
- toner + reusable face cloth
- sun cream
- bug spray
- portable speaker
- USB charger
- water bottles
- garbage can with lid
- phone holder that clips onto the AC
Under the bed
- power inverter to charge stuff
- stationary (pens, tape, paper, sewing kit)
- a box of emergency gear ie. jumper cables
- clothes + jackets
- two camping chairs + foldable table
- comfy mattress
- two thick duvets
- curtains for all windows
- twinkle lights + lamp
- deck of cards + books!
Selling a Vehicle
1. Clean up and take photos
Get your vehicle in the best shape possible - take time to vacuum, wash, clean and organize. Then, get your camera out and take photos. The more photos the better, as buyers can get a really good idea of what the vehicle looks like and if it's worth a viewing. Ensure you have photos of all angles of the exterior, the tires, the front seating area, the back, any cooking spaces, photos from afar and photos up close.
2. Put a new Warrant of Fitness (WoF) on it
If you sell a vehicle with a WoF less than a month old, you won't be held accountable for any issues the vehicle has under its new owner. Older WoF's might place you in a sticky situation.
3. Post it well in advance of when you need it sold by
Once you know when you're planning to leave the country, give yourself plenty of time to post the vehicle, communicate with potential buyers, set up viewings and transfer the ownership. When you post your ad, give plenty of information:
- Selling price (expect people to negotiate)
- Location of sale
- Number of owners and other useful tidbits of information
- WoF date
- REGO date
- Reason for sale
- Whether or not it's self-contained
- If anything doesn't work
- What's really great about the vehicle - selling points!
4. Find a buyer
Once you've posted the ad, you'll need to hold some viewings so people can come and check it out. People will want to test drive and you should be ready to answer any questions they have about the vehicle and its history.
Then, negotiate a price. Expect your listed price to not be your selling price as people will always try to make an offer, so bear this in mind when you choose what you want to list it at! Also take into account the time of year you're trying to sell and location.
5. Transfer ownership
In order to sell your vehicle, you'll need to complete a MR13A form. You can do this online if you have an NZ driver's license. Otherwise, pick up the form at any NZ Post Office or AA and mail it in.
The buyer will need to complete a MR13B form.