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Welcome to Wilderness Motorhomes

The Best Place To Rent Your Campervan For A Memorable New Zealand Road Trip

Choosing the right motorhome rental

When deciding which motorhome rental is best for you, there are a few key things to consider other than the obvious ones of size and price. Before we talk about the less obvious, here’s a few thoughts on size and price.

Size does matter

If you’re travelling New Zealand with a family or a group of friends then you’ll need a motorhome with more than the standard two beds. We have several motorhomes that suit up to five people so just check our Compare Models page to see all your options. Our family-size motorhomes come in a range of lengths. The shorter ones are more manoeuvrable in tight spaces and easier to park and the longer ones have more internal space. Remember all passengers are required to wear a seatbelt under NZ law so only models with enough seat belts for everyone in your group are suitable. If there are just two of you travelling, then you can choose any from our vehicle range. For two people who want to maximise your motorhome living space (if you’re travelling for more than a few days, you'll probably want to), it’s easy to assume that a longer motorhome has more room. That’s not always the case. You need to look at motorhome width (an extra 100mm or 4” can make a big difference) as well as layout. Check out our Compare Models page, where you can compare all our campervans by length, number of berths, living space or fuel economy.


If the additional space in a bigger motorhome rental is used to accommodate more beds, you won’t gain much living area. The best way to estimate how spacious your rental motorhome will be is to look at unencumbered floor space. That’s the area not taken up with furniture or fixtures. The more unencumbered floor space, the more you’ll be able to move around without toe-crushing your travel buddy in your motorhome.  

Even with rental motorhomes that are exactly the same basic dimensions, interior spaciousness can be wildly different. The two rental motorhome floorplans below are based on the VW T5 van but, as you can see, the Wilderness Dart 2 has considerably more unencumbered floor space because of the innovative folding bed and the kitchen layout.

Backpacker Nomad Floor Plan

Wilderness Dart 2 Floor Plan

Notice also that the Wilderness Dart 2 motorhome rental has internal access.  Because it can rain often in New Zealand (that’s why it’s so green here), you’ll find yourself getting wet frequently if you can’t walk through to the living compartment from the front cab of your rental motorhome. 

Cumbersome or nimble

The major down sides of larger rental motorhomes are travel speed, manoeuvrability, and ease of parking.  New Zealand law restricts vehicles over 3.5 tonnes (as most full-size motorhome rentals are) to a maximum speed of 90km/hr (56mph) compared with lighter vehicles which can travel at a maximum speed of 100km/hr.  Once the rental motorhome length gets over 6.5m (21 ft), manoeuvrability and parking becomes significantly more challenging.  Many of New Zealand’s most scenic roads are narrow and winding.  While the experienced driver of a bigger rental motorhome can tackle most of these, those less confident often choose to avoid them.  The long rental motorhome won’t fit in a normal city parking space so you will need to find a parking area that accommodates larger vehicles which often means a walk to your destination.  Parking at camping sites can be tricky as you try to squeeze between other rented motorhomes and obstacles such as buildings and trees.

Tip: Bigger is not always better when it comes to motorhome rentals. Check out unencumbered floor space, travel speed, manoeuvrability, and ease of parking before choosing.


The factors that have the most influence on price of your motorhome rental holiday are vehicle age, size, specifications, amenities (e.g. built in bathroom), season, and direction of travel. 


You can usually expect to pay more to rent a motorhome that is less than three years old. However, age doesn’t always equate to quality of the rental motorhome’s living compartment. Some brand new rental motorhomes have a basic, poorly designed, and poorly constructed living area. That’s because the motorhome rental company saved money by cutting corners. Here are some common examples of poorly designed and built motorhome rentals: making the upholstery thin and flat; putting all the pots and pans in one big cupboard (rather than fitting carefully into purpose-built compartments); placing the microwave in the middle of the bench so significantly reducing the usable kitchen space and giving little thought to storage. The thrill of a new motorhome rental is going to wear thin if the bed is uncomfortable, the kitchen equipment rattles around so much that you can’t hold a conversation, and there’s nowhere to prepare your meal or store your gear.

Other companies build a new living compartment in an older base vehicle.  They save money on buying vehicles that may be five or more years old.  Be sure to check vehicle mileage and reliability because no matter how new the living compartment is, you won’t enjoy the motorhome rental if you’re broken down on the side of the road.

Tip: You can save on your holiday in New Zealand by choosing a motorhome rental that’s not in the new category but is still young (say three to six years). A rental motorhome in this category has usually done less than 300,000km (180,000 miles) and, if it’s  well maintained, will be very reliable. 

Vehicle specifications

The specifications of each type of motorhome rental can vary widely. You can expect to pay more for a European built base vehicle such as a Fiat or Mercedes Benz than for a Toyota or Mazda. That’s because the European vehicles usually have a bigger (often turbo) engine, use diesel (up to 40% less expensive than petrol), perform better on the road, and come with more driving and safety features such as ABS brakes, air bags, and engine immobiliser.

A motorhome rental with an in-built bathroom including shower and toilet will often cost more. Be sure to check that the bathroom is big enough to shower in. The alternative is a motorhome rental with a portable camping toilet and camping shower. These provide the convenience of being able to use a toilet or shower when you’re not staying at a camping site which provides these amenities.  So if you're planning to stay at holiday parks (which have bathrooms) then you can save by choosing a motorhome rental with a portable camping toilet (for emergencies) rather than an in-built bathroom.  Oh, and if you do opt for a built-in bathroom in your motorhome rental, be sure there’s sufficient water storage on board to allow more than one person to take a shower (assume you’ll use 10 litres of water per minute).

Some rental motorhomes come with extra fixtures and appliances such as TV/DVD player, microwave oven, or air conditioning in the living compartment (not just the cab). Don’t assume that more is better. Too many extra fixtures and appliances take up valuable space in your motorhome rental.

Tip: If you don't need it or want it, don't pay for it. 


Many motorhome rental companies advertise a lower daily hire rate to get your attention then charge you for all the extras. In fact, some go as far as charging extra for motorhome cleaning, compulsory insurance, additional drivers, a full gas bottle, linen and bedding, motorhome registration, travelling one way plus many other creative ways of extracting money from you. If you’re not prepared for the extra fees you may be charged when you pick up your motorhome rental, you can start your holiday feeling ripped off.

An “all-inclusive” rate includes many of the extras that are otherwise add-ons such as zero insurance excess (deductible), camping table and chairs, child seats and snow chains. It may also include a full gas bottle, and one-way fee. This may be a really good deal but it pays to do the maths to be sure. Add up the cost of purchasing separately the items included in the All Inclusive rate and divide by the total number of days you are on hire. Then add this to the daily rate of the zero excess insurance cover. If the total is more than the All Inclusive rate then you're the winner.

Tip: When comparing motorhome rental companies, be sure to check all hidden costs first.


The summer months from December to March are by far the most popular with visitors to New Zealand - not just those who rent a motorhome. Not surprisingly, in summer the crowds are the heaviest and you can expect to pay top dollar for most items including airfares, motorhome rentals, campsites and attractions. From about December 26 until January 10, most New Zealanders take their annual vacation so the popular seaside destinations will be overrun with throngs of Kiwis dressed in shorts and jandals!

If you visit during the shoulder seasons (October, November, and April), you'll avoid the crowds, feel a lot less like a tourist, and your motorhome rental will cost you less, and your holiday cash will go further which means you can stay longer. South Island weather is usually no better or worse than in summer and North Island weather is mild and normally fine (though that can never be guaranteed - it's the rain that makes the grass so green!)

If you want a really inexpensive motorhome rental holiday, tour New Zealand in the winter (between May and September). Because demand for motorhome rentals is lower, off-season rates are drastically lower. But beware, you could be very cold as most rental motorhomes are built for three season touring. Make sure the motorhome rental you choose for winter touring is insulated and has carpet on the floor as well as a diesel or gas heater that you can operate when you’re not hooked up to mains power. A rental motorhome with a drying room for wet towels and clothes is a real bonus in the winter.

Tip:  You can save up to 75% of the cost of motorhome rental by travelling off-season. But make sure your rental motorhome can cope with the cooler weather.

Location and direction of travel

Most of us are used to thinking about doing a return trip if we want to see an entire country or most of it. You head off in one direction then loop back to your starting point. While that’s sometimes a good idea, it’s not necessarily so for touring New Zealand by motorhome rental. The best way to see New Zealand if you plan to visit both the North and South Islands in your rental motorhome is to travel one way. New Zealand’s geography is perfectly suited to one way travel as the country is long and relatively narrow. You don’t need to back track and therefore you spend less time driving your rental motorhome and have more time to stop, experience the wonders of our country and meet a few Kiwis. Also, you’ll only need to pay for a one way rather than a return ferry ticket between the North and South Islands for you and your rental motorhome saving you up to NZ$500.

Many motorhome rental companies charge extra for one way hires but we don’t. In fact, we often have cheaper rates for a one way hire if we have too many motorhome rentals in a certain location.  Make sure you check rates for both Auckland and Christchurch motorhome rental pickups so you can take advantage of any specials.  If you can get a good deal for a Christchurch to Auckland motorhome rental but your international flight arrives in Auckland, you can transfer onto a flight to Christchurch after you land in Auckland and pick up your motorhome rental from there. The airfares on this route are fairly inexpensive if you book far enough in advance and on a New Zealand website - as little as NZ$50 per person. Check out House of Travel or Webjet for the best fares.  You can use what you have saved for a bungy jump and cruise on Milford Sound!

Tip:  Always check the motorhome rental rates for travelling northbound or southbound.

After you’ve carefully weighed up the options based on size and price of the motorhome rental, make sure you also factor in quality, customer satisfaction, and freedom.

Motorhome Rental Customers’ Satisfaction

Motorhome rental companies are renowned for singing their own praises e.g. “we have the best motorhome rentals, our motorhome rentals are the newest, our service is unbeatable…” You’d be right to be sceptical. The most reliable source of information about the company you intend to choose for your motorhome rental is friends who’ve done it before or, in the absence of friends’ advice, online travel review websites. The website that has collected the most reviews from New Zealand visitors is Rankers. With tens of thousands of reviews both collected by the Rankers team and submitted by visitors, Rankers has gained the reputation of being New Zealand’s most trusted source of information about visitor satisfaction. So you don’t need to take the motorhome rental company’s word for it – check what their previous customers said instead.

Tip: Read the reviews posted on independent travel review websites such as Rankers before selecting a motorhome rental provider.

Quality Motorhome Rental Companies

The best way to ascertain whether the company you intend to trust with your motorhome rental meets acceptable quality standards is to check if it is Qualmark Endorsed. Qualmark is New Zealand tourism’s official quality agency. Qualmark licenses professional and trustworthy New Zealand tourism businesses. These businesses earn the right to use the Qualmark 'tourism's official quality mark'.  The quality mark helps international and domestic travellers select places to stay, things to do and ways to get around.  A business displaying the official quality mark has undergone a rigorous assessment of its systems and processes and has demonstrated that it can deliver only the best visitor experiences.

Qualmark endorses visitor transport providers using three different grades: Enviro-Bronze, Enviro-Silver, and Enviro-Gold. A business displaying the Enviro-Gold endorsement exceeds the highest levels of environment and social responsibility. Wilderness was one of the first motorhome rental operators to reach this lofty standard.

Tip: When selecting a motorhome rental provider or any other tourist service, always choose those that have a Qualmark endorsement.

Freedom Camping Certified Motorhome Rentals

New Zealand law restricts where you can camp overnight in a car or rental motorhome. Camping at a location that’s not a formal campsite (freedom camping) is tightly controlled. Only certified self-contained campervans or motorhomes are permitted to freedom camp. A self-contained rental motorhome is designed to meet the ablutionary and sanitary needs of the occupants for a minimum of three days, without requiring any external services or discharging any waste. Fresh water for drinking and cooking is stored in tanks. Waste water is collected in the motorhome's waste water tanks and disposed of via motorhome dump station facilities, connected to a proper sewerage scheme. A self-contained motorhome rental used properly, will have no adverse effects on the environment and present no risk to public health.

If you would like to get up-close-and-personal with New Zealand’s wilderness and make the most of our wonderful remote camping locations then you need a motorhome rental that is certified for freedom camping.  Even if you’d just like to have the occasional night away from the urban holiday park environment, it’s worth going for a motorhome rental that’s freedom camping certified.

All motorhome rentals that are freedom camping certified have a green sticker attached so that enforcement authorities can verify the vehicle is compliant.  All Wilderness motorhome rentals are freedom camping certified.

Tip: Choose a motorhome rental that is certified for freedom camping even if you only plan to try freedom camping once or twice.

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