Hitchhike, buy or rent a car in New Zealand?
Every traveler in New Zealand has come across the question of transportation and what is the best method to move across the country.
Basically, there are 4 options:
- buy a car
- rent a car
- public transportation
While public transportation is good in major cities - Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, it will not be a good option outside of the city, especially if you want to go to scenic locations.
Therefore, we will examine the pros and cons of the other three options, based on the following factors:
Hitchhiking is very popular in New Zealand. It is a safe country and usually there is no danger but you should always remain alert. Hitchhike a ride can take you from 1 minute to several hours, especially in distant areas in NZ. This can be a cool experience, however, since you rely on other travelers' good will, it can be sometimes highly time-consuming, especially if you intend to relocate a long distance. We have met some travelers that had to sleep in their tent in the middle of no-where because they couldn't catch a ride to their final destination that day.Flexibility:
You have practically no flexibility when hitchhiking. Since you are catching a ride, you cannot stop in the middle of nowhere for lunch or stop for a break and take some pictures of a beautiful place you have spotted. New Zealand is full of amazing and remote spots, which would be very hard to access this way.Comfort:
On the one hand you will have no hassle of trying to buy and sell your car. You will also not have to drive the New Zealand roads, which can be sometimes difficult to get used to, especially for drivers that are used to drive on the opposite side.
On the other hand, you will depend on other travelers. In addition, when catching a ride, in order to remain polite, you will often have to encounter into conversations even if you are tired
And one more thing, it is a big, almost not populated country with beautiful roads and great driving scenery which you will miss if hitchhiking.Money:
Money-wise, this would be for sure the cheapest way for traveling. Even if you share the fuel costs (which is very advised in case you catch a long ride), your expenses will be minimal.
For more information, here is a great article about buying campervan in new zealand
.Buy a car
The biggest amount of time that you will have to spend by using this method is on purchasing and selling your vehicle. You will probably need about a week at either end of your trip for buying and selling Depending on the length of your visit to NZ, you should decide whether you want to spend this time for acquiring and selling the vehicle.
Another issue to consider is the season. In the beginning of the season (Oct-Nov) it would be quick and easy to sell your car but much longer to buy one. In the end of the season (Mar-Apr) it would be quick and easy to buy a car but very hard to sell yours. During other months it would be approximately 1 week to either buy or sell your car.
Cars that are bought and sold by travelers are usually 15-20 years old. It is important to bear in mind that the need for some repairs might pop up during your journey. Since New Zealand is not densely populated, in case of a breakdown you might find yourself waiting days for the needed part to be sent to you (usually from Auckland). Such scenarios, though not extremely often, might consume additional days.Comfort:
You will have your own transportation, which is apparently a big plus.
The downside is that you will drive a car which will most probably be relatively old. In addition, the buying and selling process is a hassle.
If you are not from UK, Australia or other country with a where left drive is a norm, it might not be easy to get used to driving on the "opposite" side of the road.Flexibility:
A big plus in having your car is full flexibility. You can drive to any spot you wish. You are your own boss and can decided where to stop, what to see and for how long.Money:
The advantage of this method is that you will get some of the money back when you sell your car. You will get less if you sell your car at the end of the season and more if you sell it earlier. However, you will still have to pay for the pre-purchase mechanical inspection, legal inspection (own history, police interest and security interests , fines and debts), registration and Warrant of Fitness (WoF). Money-wise this is a cheap-moderate methodRent a car
You will have to spare almost no time for vehicle-hassle procedures. The only time that you will invest is in searching for the proper rental company. You will neither waste any time for buying/selling your car nor for fixing it - the rental car agency would take care of it p.s. a good rental company would just exchange your car for another one.Flexibility:
As mentioned before for buying a car, you will have full flexibility. You can see New Zealand at you own pace and your own time schedule. You will be able to drive to any location you wish and for the time period you decide.
There would be some roads (e.g. dirt roads) that will not be covered by your insurance and driving them will be at your own risk and in case you damage the car, you will have to pay for it.
Most rental agencies require you to be at least 21 to rent a car.Comfort:
You will have a full comfort with relatively newer car and no hassle of buying/selling it. It is very important to choose a good rental provider that you can trust in a case of need.
You can do some research, price comparison and review reading while you are still at home.
As mentioned above, it might require time and not be easy to get used to driving on the "opposite" side of the road.Money:
This is the most expensive method of the proposed 3. It is also advise to do the full insurance so that you will not have additional expenses in case of an accident.
As you have seen, there is a tradeoff between the cost of the transportation and the time/flexibility you get. Honestly, we knew that New Zealand is a once in a lifetime experience. Instead of investing time is hitchhiking / buying or selling the car, we were willing pay a bit more and spend our time seeing beautiful scenery and not wasting it on logistics. The time of the journey was limited and missing any scenery just was not worth it.
There is no right or wrong and everyone should decide according his/her budget and time constraints. The most important is to enjoy! :)