Buying a Vehicle 


In New Zealand

If you're coming to New Zealand for more than 2 months, the chances are you will need to look at buying a vehicle as it will be wayyyy cheaper than renting, whether that be car, campervan or full size motorhome. Here's everything you need to know when buying a vehicle in New Zealand.


Dan literally had to remind me of this small little detail a million and one times. You are NOT in England/France/Germany or where ever you are from, anymore.

What you could buy for £1000 back home, you will not be able to buy for $2000 here. FACT. This applies more so to campervans. The sooner you get used to that fact, the easier it will be.

For a car with a bed in the back (estate car or people carrier type) you will be looking anywhere in the region of $1500-$5000 - depending on style/age/quality.

For a converted van you will be looking anywhere in the region of $3000-$10000

For a high roof/long wheel base/solar powered you can expect to up this budget to around $10000-$20000


A WOF is a Warrant of Fitness.

A COF is a Certificate of Fitness. This is for larger vehicles/motorhomes.

In British terms, this is effectively an MOT. Therefore, it is essential that whatever vehicle you buy has one. Depending on how old the vehicle is, will depend on how frequently a WOF needs to be carried out. For vehicles older than the year 2000, this is mandatory every 6 months. Any vehicles younger than 2000, you only need this redoing annually. You can check the expiry date of a vehicle here if you don't have the paperwork. The valid sticker should also be displayed in the top left corner of the windscreen.


This is just short for 'Registration' which translates as road tax. Similar to the UK, this can be paid annually, 6 monthly or just monthly however you prefer. Again, similar to the UK, you can not be granted registration without a valid WOF. The amount will depend on the vehicle. You can check how much it will cost here. To check the expiry, please see the link above under WOF. The registration card should be displayed in the bottom right corner of the windscreen.


RUC stands for Road User Charges and is basically an additional road tax for diesel vehicles. You can buy these by the km in chunks of 1000. If these have not been topped up and the vehicle has still been driven, the charges will be passed on to yourself, so make sure you check!

For all information relating to RUC click here.


This, is completely your own choice as to how 'safe' or 'trusting' you want to be. You can take any vehicle to an AA Auto Centre or VTNZ (or other participating garage) for a pre-purchase inspection or request the current owner to do so. This is usually done at the buyers cost of around $170, however, some sellers may have done it already for your convenience.

We appreciate that as a backpacker, $170 for a vehicle you may not buy may seem expensive and a waste of money, but in honesty, it could save you a costly break down in the future.

We can not pass judgement on whether you should get one done or not as we chose not to do this - we trusted the sellers, didn't have the spare money and went with our gut instinct knowing a little about vehicles. However, we have also met lots of travelers that haven't been as lucky as us and ended up with big repair bills early on in their trip.


In New Zealand, diesel is quite a bit cheaper than petrol. This gap can be anywhere up to 85 cents per litre. That's quite a big price difference, especially when you plan to be doing thousands of kms to travel around this beautiful country. The reason for this is that petrol already has the taxes included in the price, whereas diesel does not. This is the reason that diesel vehicles have to pay RUC.

It is often argued about which vehicles are most cost efficient for road trips but the simple fact is, it boils down to the vehicle you buy and how much fuel it drinks. Hank has a petrol engine, but he won't drive very far before he needs more, so arguably, a more fuel efficient diesel may be cheaper than Hank.


One of the most important facts you need to know is that INSURANCE IS NOT MANDATORY. It is however, HIGHLY recommended. There are a couple positive things about this though. The first thing is, that it is relatively cheap to insure a vehicle due to it not being compulsory. For example, insuring our campervan fully comprehensive for 12 months here was about £300, whereas, in England for a similar van was about £1000. Secondly, if you are just nipping for a test drive, you don't need to worry about temporary insurance and all that malarky. Unlike the UK, there isn't loads of options for insurance companies and your main providers are AA and AMI. Go with which ever one takes your fancy.


If you are interested in buying a camper car or camper van, being 'self contained' or 'csc' is something you will have to consider if you plan on freedom camping. Being self contained means having facilities to accommodate you for 3 days such as: portable toilet, water containers for fresh and dirty water and your own rubbish bin. NOTE: The rules changed in 2018 meaning your toilet on board MUST be usable whilst the bed is in use. Some vehicles that were previously self contained, may not be able to be renewed when the certification runs out.


New Zealand has pretty straight forward rules on the camping situation and so having a self contained vehicle means that you can pull up for the night in heaps of places including some places that aren't listed on camping apps. In some districts, you can literally pull up anywhere!

If you are not self contained however, you will find that you are restricted to parking in sites suitable for non self contained camping - this usually means sites with toilet facilities. You can find all the dedicated spots on camping apps or the local council's website. The council are quite strict on this issue and if you are found parking in a spot that is not suitable, you will be fined $200. Unfortunately we have seen many campers getting to camp spots late and not parking in the correct spot and waking up to a fine on the windscreen.

If a vehicle is self contained, it MUST: display a card on the bottom right of the windscreen with its expiry date, a blue sticker anywhere on the back of the vehicle, and carry a paper certificate with all details on including how many people are allowed to sleep in the vehicle - this is dependent on the size of the toilet and water tanks. Self certification must be renewed every 4 years.

We hope this list gives you all the information you need to feel confident buying a vehicle in New Zealand. If there is something you wish you had known that isn't on here, make sure you let us know on the contact us page!


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