The Car Rental Guide - Great advice before renting a car in NZ

Need a Hire Car? - the best advice is right here.

Car Rental Guide - Great Information About Car Rental in New Zealand

Helping you find Car Rental companies in New Zealand

Driving in New Zealand

Driving in a foreign country is always different to driving in your own country. Here are some general points regarding driving in New Zealand.

  • Vehicles drive on the left-hand side of the road as they do in Britain, Australia, and Japan.
  • Visitors wishing to drive in New Zealand do not require an international driver's licence but are required to carry their local driver's licence whenever driving.
  • Speed limits are in kilometres per hour (kph), not miles per hour (mph).
    Speed conversion to imperial: 1 kph equals 0.621 mph.
    Speed conversion to metric: 1 mph equals 1.61 kph.
  • The speed limit in towns and cities is usually 50 kph (31 mph).
  • The speed limit on the open road is 100 kph (62 mph).
  • New Zealand has strict drug/drink-driving laws. Only very low blood/alcohol levels are permitted.
  • Seat belts must be worn at all times whilst driving in New Zealand. This stands for the driver and passengers. It is also the driver's responsibility to make sure all passengers under the age of 15 are correctly restrained.
  • In general, New Zealand road rules follow international standards.
  • There are very few multi-lane highways in New Zealand and travelling times per distance travelled are often longer than in other countries.
  • Petrol (gasoline) costs approximately NZ$2.00 per litre (Dec '12) and is available in at least two grades (96 octane and 91 octane).
    Fuel conversion to imperial: 1 litre equals 0.26 US gallons or 0.22 UK gallons.
    Fuel conversion to metric: 1 US gallon equals 3.79 litres and 1 UK gallon equals 4.55 litres.

For further information on the New Zealand road code and general motoring rules visit the Land Transport Safety Authority's web site:

Rental car operators in New Zealand

These businesses are controlled by strict codes of practice - some statutory, some voluntary. The law says that all rental operators must meet minimum standards of operational ability and good character. Vehicles must be maintained to a high standard, which is checked and controlled by the issuance of a Certificate of Fitness for each vehicle. This certifies that it is safe.
In addition to this, the better operators are members of the NZRVA - New Zealand Rental Vehicle Association - which prescribes a strict code of conduct for members. If you have received unfair or unethical treatment you may lodge a complaint with the association which will investigate it and - if shown to be well founded - will intercede on your behalf.

Considerations when planning your itinerary

NZ is split into two islands with a sizeable ferry journey separating them. There are two types of rental firms when it comes to dealing with this problem - those that have depots on each side of Cook Strait which divides the two islands, and those that do not. The first group - which includes all the major operators - has the advantage that you leave one car on one side of the strait and collect another on the other side, thus avoiding the cost of transporting the vehicle by ferry. On the other hand they tend to be the more expensive operations - those depots have to be paid for somehow.
The second group usually has much lower daily rates, but you must factor into the price equation the cost of the ferry which ranges from $85 to $165. See ferry rates.
The second consideration is direction of travel. In many cases you may get a better deal by travelling south to north - from Christchurch to Auckland, rather than the other way round. Most travellers arrive at Auckland and with a knee-jerk reaction want to hire a car, do their tourist number, then depart through Christchurch (to save going back over the same ground twice). Result: Cars pile up in Christchurch and Wellington and often have to be transported back the other way at high cost.
Most companies which operate nationally will from time to time, depending on the positioning of their cars, offer special deals for south-north drives. It is more common to get such deals on a stand-by basis, rather than by pre-booking. But even with a pre-booked vehicle there can be incentives for starting in Christchurch. Try for a one way deal to Auckland.

Some other considerations

1: The "In one city - out the other" mentality. Unless your time is particularly short (under three weeks) you'll miss much, or spend a lot of time back-tracking on this one-way approach. Go down the centre of the North Island round the South Island and back up the east coast of the North Island. Vary this to follow special interests.

2: A lot of travellers find the convenience of drive-on, drive-off ferries outweighs the cost.
No unpacking /packing and shifting all the mountains of possessions.

Major towns and cities are well served with rental car operators covering a wide range of vehicles.