New Zealand Campervan Tips – How To Buy & Freedom Camping

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If you plan on buying a campervan for your trip to New Zealand you are in the right place. We are going to explain everything you need to know when buying a campervan and living the New Zealand van life. You’ll learn where to find vans for sale, what REGO and WOF mean, how to pay for your van, and what New Zealand Freedom Camping with a self contained camper means. We’ll tell you how to do the change of ownership, get insurance, and of course driving on the left side of the road in New Zealand. You are well on your way to an awesome NZ campervan, let’s get to it.

When we were planning our trip to New Zealand we decided to buy a camper van for the trip. This was the right choice for us for a few reasons. First of all, we had just finished a 10 month van life road trip through the USA and Canada and absolutely fell in love with the freedom this lifestyle gave us.

Living the van life allowed us to come and go to places as we pleased. We weren’t locked into a strict schedule due to flights, buses or trains. Secondly, we decided driving this small country would allow us to see more! Airports, trains and bus routes are limited in New Zealand and we mainly wanted to explore the rural areas that are harder to get to.

Thirdly, New Zealand does this thing called Freedom Camping. The key part of that phrase is free! You can register your RV, camper, or campervan as ‘self contained’ (more on that later) and camp at sites across the country without spending a dime, which we knew would save us a ton of money while we were there.

We did consider renting a campervan instead of buying one, but ultimately decided that buying a campervan was the way to go. After doing some Googling and other research, we realized that renting a campervan would end up costing us MORE than buying one. In fact, A LOT more!

We planned on staying for 3 months, or nearly 90 days. Most camper vans were being rented from $100-$300 NZD per night meaning at minimum we would spend about $9,000 renting a van for 3 months. We learned we could could buy one for much less than that, with some good options around $6000-$7000 NZD. And the best part about owning a van is that you get to sell it at the end of our trip and get most of our money back. Talk about a WIN WIN!

Exchange Rates for NZD to Your Currency.

Shopping for a New Zealand Campervan

We felt very fortunate to have friends from Auckland New Zealand that allowed us to stay with them for a week after we first arrived. That gave us a home base while we shopped for vans. In addition, they taught us everything we needed to know about buying a car in New Zealand, and now we are passing this knowledge onto you.

If you don’t have a somewhere to stay while shopping for a van, then we recommend staying in a hotel or hostel while you shop.

Thanks to the knowledge from our New Zealand friends, we were asking the right questions to the buyers, some of which they didn’t know how to answer (or weren’t prepared for some bloody American’s to know about). This made sure we didn’t make a mistake and helped us decide on a great van for us!

If you are paying for lodging while you shop for your van, you’ll want to buy one as soon as possible, so you can stop paying the hotel or hostel! Therefore, it will help to do some research on campervans for sale ahead of time. If possible, set up some tours for the right after you arrive in New Zealand, or shortly after.



 

Photography Equipment

 

We absolutely LOVE photography, and sharing pictures! These are the cameras we use on all of our adventures. The drone and GoPro help us get cool new perspectives (underwater, in the air, wide angle) and the Rebel we use on a day-to-day basis for most of our shots!

 

Full disclosure these are affiliate links. If you click them and buy the products we get a little bit of money, which helps us keep providing content to you for free!

Click to See our Travel Gear Recommendations

 



 

Where to Find Campervans For Sale

When you start looking for a camper van to buy, here are a few places we recommend you look. 

Facebook Marketplace

Facebook is a great tool to use to filter your search! You can pick what city to look in and narrow down your results by inputting the maximum amount you want to spend. Remember that you can negotiate, though! As you find vans you are interested in you can simply message the seller with a click of a button and strike up a conversation. Ask any additional questions you might have about the vehicle and then when you’re ready, set up a time to take it for a test drive. If you aren’t ready to buy yet, you can also save your favorites to make them easy to find later.

Facebook Group Van NZ Buy and Sell

This group is awesome! New campervans for sale are posted in this group daily. Campervans are highly used by backpacking tourists that usually have a limited amount of time they can spend in the country. Therefore, you will often see vans posted in this group that say something like ‘it’s time to sell our home on wheels for the past 3 months‘. In the US, only owning a vehicle for 3 months would be a bit of a red flag, however here it is totally normal. Also in this group you can post on the feed that you are looking for a camper van, your arrival date and any non negotiable items you have (like being self-contained, etc). When you post your desired van details, people who are selling their van can comment or message you, making your shopping much easier. 

Backpacker Board

Backpacker Board is another great resource for finding campervans for sale. The problem with using this is you cannot filter your search by city so you will see vans for sale from all different locations in the country. Make sure you pay attention to locations before you go messaging someone you are interested. You don’t want to set up a meeting for a van in Christchurch when you’re in Auckland!

To contact someone selling a camper van on this website most sellers list a WhatsApp number where you can reach them via text. Therefore you will need to download this free app and set up an account first. You will probably want this app while you are traveling in New Zealand anyways, since you can use it to message people while connected to Wifi. Therefore it doesn’t hurt to download it early. 

NZ Camper Van Terminology

When you see a van listed for sale, typically the buyer will list the following information with dates following each:

  • REGO (AKA Registration)
  • WOF (AKA Warrant of Fitness)
  • Self Contained Certification
  • Diesel RUC (AKA Road User Charges – only for diesel vans)
  • Cambelt Replacement Date

If you don’t see this information in the listing details you are definitely going to want to ask about each of these items. This is extremely important information that will make sure your vehicle is legally allowed on the road, make sure the van works well mechanically, and help you know where you can camp for free across the country!

REGO or REG

REGO is your legal registration of the vehicle. Every vehicle on the road in New Zealand must be registered (even if it is only parked on the side of the road). The buyer will list when the registration expires and it’s something you need to be aware of to know if you need to extend it during your trip.

REGO is not a make or break factor when considering a vehicle to buy. It’s very simple and cheap to extend your REGO by stopping at the post office, filling out some paperwork and paying a small fee (it cost us $33 NZD for 3 months). However it is definitely something to have on your radar. Don’t miss the expiration date and get stuck with a ticket. Some sellers will offer to extend the REGO for 1-3 months before they sell it to you. But don’t worry too much if they don’t want to extend, it’s a cheap and easy thing to do during your trip. 

WOF

WOF stands for Warrant of Fitness, and all New Zealand vehicles must have an up to date WOF. The WOF is essentially a regular check-up certification to make sure the vehicle is running smoothly and everything is mechanically sound. This is something New Zealand does to make sure all vehicles on the road are safe and running well.

We absolutely LOVE that New Zealand does this and honestly wish the United States (and every country really) did the same. It definitely gives the buyer some peace of mind knowing the vehicle they are interested in has been recently looked over and is in good working condition. 

If a vehicle is made in 1999 or older, the owner must get a new Warrant of Fitness check done every 6 months. If the vehicle is made in 2000 or newer, the WOF must be done every 12 months. In order for a vehicle to PASS, the owner must get everything fixed that doesn’t meet the inspection qualifications. Once everything is fixed, the vehicle will PASS and get a new sticker for the windshield with a new expiration date listed. 

The WOF expiration date is one of the most important things, if not the most important thing, to be aware of when buying a used vehicle. If the WOF expires while you own the vehicle it is your obligation to take the car into the shop to get it updated. If anything comes up that makes the vehicle FAIL it will be your obligation to fix those things before selling the van. This can mean shoveling out quite a bit of money if something serious is an issue. 

To avoid this, ask the sellers to get an updated WOF before you buy the vehicle. It is generally advised that you should ensure the WOF is less than 30 days old when purchasing a vehicle. We arrived in January and the van we were interested in had a WOF expiration date of April. That meant that when we were trying to sell the vehicle at the end of March, the WOF would be nearly expired which may make it harder for us to sell. Therefore we asked the seller to get a new WOF done, which they agreed to, and we now have a van with a WOF good until July!

Check Out Our New Zealand Campervan Tour Below

Self Contained Certification

When looking at camper vans for sale you may quickly notice many sellers mention if the van is self contained or not. A self contained vehicle means the camper has:

  1. A toilet that can be accessed even when the bed is made.
  2. A clean water tank and dirty water tank with 12 L per person per day and an evacuation hose on the grey water tank
  3. A sink with a smell trap/water trap connected to a watertight sealed waste water tank
  4. A rubbish bin with a lid

A self contained certificate is something the New Zealand government put in place which offers certain privileges. If your vehicle meets those requirements, it gives you the opportunity to Freedom Camp in many more locations than a regular vehicle. Self containment was put into place to reward people for treating the New Zealand land well, therefore if you purchase a campervan, please get a self contained one!

Freedom Camping

Freedom Camping is the essentially free camping. Across the country, there are tons of campsites available free of charge, in beautiful destinations from the mountains to the beaches! Let’s say that again: free campsites in beautiful places! Does it get any better than that??

For us, a self contained vehicle was a must! We don’t plan on staying in any paid campsites in New Zealand (if we can help it) to save us a ton of money. Buying a self contained van will probably cost you a bit more up front, but will save you much more during your trip.

When looking for self-contained Freedom Camping sites, the best way is to use an app on your phone. Wikicamps is the best app for this, however it will cost a small fee of about $2. Well worth it when you consider what you’re getting. If you would rather get a free app, then Travellers Autobarn has a great app as well.

However, if you prefer to stay at campsites with hookups and amenities, then you might not need a self-contained van. We prefer to be off grid and loved saving money by Freedom Camping, therefore a self contained vehicle was a non-negotiable for us. 

RUC (Diesel Tax)

RUC stands for Road User Charges, it is essentially a tax on diesel vehicles. Check to see if the camper van you are interested in takes diesel fuel or petrol fuel. There are pros and cons to both, and the costs pretty much even out between the two, however you have to know the difference. Because the costs are roughly equivalent, we didn’t choose a vehicle based on the type of fuel it took, but if we had chosen diesel we would have needed to pay attention to RUC.

Petrol gas is more expensive than diesel! Petrol costs about $2.10-$2.30 NZD per LITER!!! This is about $8 NZD per gallon for you Americans. Petrol could be your biggest expense during your New Zealand road trip. 

Diesel is cheaper than petrol at the pump, and diesel vehicles will last longer (kilometer wise). But if you purchase a diesel vehicle you are obligated to pay a diesel tax, the RUC, at a NZ Post Office. The diesel tax is something you pay per 1,000 km, and must be prepaid. For instance, if your RUC card lists 150,000 then you can get a ticket if your van odometer is above 150,000 km. Therefore, always make sure your RUC is at least 1,000 km above your odometer.

Does it make more sense for you to spend more for gas every time you fill up or spend less at the pump but pay an additional tax? We thought it would be about a wash and decided not to factor this in. Either way it’s important to know about!

Cambelt

The cambelt age of a vehicle is something you should pay attention to in New Zealand. typically needs to be replaced every 100,000 km or so, and can cost close to $1000 NZD. Ask the seller when the cambelt was last replaced. If the cambelt is reaching 100,000km you should consider consider the fact that you may need to replace this in the near future.

WARNING: We are not mechanics, we are going off research we did online and advice from our NZ friends!

We definitely didn’t want this cost to come up during our trip so we steered clear of any vehicles that were nearing the replacement mark. For reference, we spent 3 months in New Zealand, drove the entire north and south island, and put about 5,000 km on our van. Another option would be to look for a chain belt vehicle. These don’t need to be replaced nearly as often, so it won’t be something you need to worry about. 

Paying For Your Campervan

Okay you have picked our your dream campervan and now you are ready to buy it from the previous owners. Paying can get tricky with different currencies and conversion rates, especially if you are in the situation we were in. We are American, and purchased a New Zealand campervan from a Danish couple. How do we pay for that??

We suggest converting the money directly to the currency of the seller. For example, we bought our van in EUR and converted USD straight to EUR. Therefore we were able to avoid having to change USD into NZD and having the seller change NZD to EUR. We were able to negotiate a better price by paying them in EUR. This eliminates us both from having to do an additional transaction, an additional conversion and pay additional fees. It’s better for both the buyer and seller!

We used an app called Transferwise. This app was very easy to use! You simply set up an account by uploading an ID for verification. Then you can transfer money bank to bank even if they are in different countries using different currencies. There is still a fee, but this is the smallest fee we could find for doing this type of transaction. Please note – It takes a day or two for the money to transfer over so make sure the seller is okay with that when you agree on a form of payment. 



 

Book Recommendations

 

We love to read, especially on a trip! We get our books on a Kindle so we can bring multiple books anywhere. Reading is a great way to relax and unwind while also getting caught up in a great story. We love everything from novels to self-help, business books to memoirs. Here are our favorites!

Click to See All Our Book Recommendations

 



 

Change of Ownership

There are two ways to go about changing ownership. The first way, is that the seller can fill out the tear-off portion of the certificate of registration with the new owner’s details and send it in to the Transport Registry Centre. The seller gives the remaining certificate of registration to the buyer, who takes that document into the NZ Post Office and completes the transaction. 

If the seller does not have the certificate of registration then they will need to fill out a notice by completing a ‘Person Selling/Disposing a Motor Vehicle Form’ (Form MR13A) which is available at the post office. Additionally, you as the buyer, will have to take a trip to the local post office to complete a ‘Change of Ownership Form’ (Form MR13B), pay an application fee (about $9), and present a proof of ID (ideally passport) with full name, signature, and date of birth.

NZ Campervan Insurance

Insurance is not required in New Zealand, however it is a good idea to have it. Then you’ll be protected if you get in an accident or something unfortunate happens on your trip. There are 3 high-level options for insurance. 

  1. Liability only – you’re covered if you hurt anyone else or hit anyone else
  2. Coverage for your vehicle – only damage to your vehicle is covered. 
  3. Both plus theft, fire etc. 

We chose to get our insurance through AA Insurance, a trusted insurance brand that has good plans and reasonable prices.

Driving in New Zealand

Perhaps the most important section in this article, New Zealand drives on the left side of the road. If you are from the USA, mainland Europe, or many other places, this is different than what you are used to. When driving, remember to stay left! Which means when you are making a left hand turn you will stay close to the curb and when taking a right hand turn you go out wide. 

New Zealand roads are very hilly and windy. Take your time and always drive with caution when coming up to a hill. You never know what’s going to be around a curve, so drive carefully. Additionally since the roads are so windy and hilly it will take you longer than you think to get to your destination. Speed is limited and usually you will be driving on a 1 lane road. NZ has very few motorways (aka highways or freeways) that are multiple lanes each direction. 

Enjoy Living the Van Life in New Zealand!

New Zealand is an absolutely stunning country, full of beautiful sites and fun activities. You’ll be hiking, snorkeling, surfing, swimming, biking, and driving your van in some of the best natural sites in the world.

If you have ANY questions we did not answer in this article, ask away in the comments and we’ll get you an answer as soon as we can! If you loved this article, please Pin It using the images below.

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