Crazy or not? Forget renting, buy a car for holidays!

by Satu Vänskä-Westgarth on February 24, 2014 · 6 comments

Road tripping in New Zealand I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown
Have you ever thought about buying a car, instead of renting one when going on holidays?

I hadn’t.

In Europe we usually go for rental cars. It’s easy to find a good deal online, only to find out at the pick-up desk that it wasn’t such a good deal after all when all the extras from 2nd driver to better insurance cover are added on. It’s not unusual for the quoted price to double, and still I manage to act surprised every time it happens.

It was towards end of October last year that we had our flights to New Zealand finally sorted out. And then, I started to pay attention to the stories of finding a car in New Zealand. There were some mentions and recommendations for Rent a Dent, but mainly stories about buying a car. Or finding one for free. One friend bought a vehicle through a note on hostel’s noticeboard. Another one traded a whisky bottle for a vehicle, and my husband was busy reminiscing stories ten years back of finding a car at the airport with keys in the engine, left behind by some travelers who hadn’t had time sell theirs before the departure.

To rent or to buy was the big question in the weeks approaching our journey, and in the end the decision was made easy by our friends who toured the islands before us, and purchased a family friendly van for us to take over on our turn. Maybe it wasn’t the VW camper of my dreams, but it was affordable enough Toyota Hiace, ready with a roof-rack and set of car seats for the little ones.

Buying a van in New Zealand via Instagram I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

Now that we are three and half weeks in, and have another three and half weeks of travels in NZ left, was it worth to buy the vehicle?

That’s what we are wondering too.

If we manage to sell the van, this has been the dream solution, although the van proved to be way too small for a family of four to sleep in when fully packed with toys (read: surf boards, kayaking gear, bikes…). And if it sells, it means we’ve been paying next to nothing for our transport on this holiday. Perfect. If it doesn’t sell, well, that’s a different story altogether… We will see, and meanwhile we will try not to stress about it too much!

If you want to buy a vehicle in NZ pretty soon, buy ours, of course. But if not, below you can find some practical information we found useful!

Where to buy a vehicle in New Zealand

Check at least these:


The paperwork took no longer than half an hour, and all except insurance (NAC Insurance) was taken care at the Automobile Association in Rotorua.

  • Change of ownership: Fill a form, pay max NZD 10,- and that’s that
  • Registration (i.e. road tax): We paid approximately NZD 80,- for the three months. You need to have a small card showing the payment is done on the car window. Important!
  • Diesel tax i.e. duty on kilometers: This is prepaid in patches of 1000 km. We paid roughly NZD 100 for 2000 km to start with.

Your car will also need a valid warrant of fitness. For older cars this must be done every six months. Our car just got checked again and it cost NZD 50,-. It is worth asking around for which garage to go for. Some will be more strict than others…

Insurance is not compulsory, but recommendable.

Car rentals

Obviously we don’t have any first-hand experience, but Rent a Dent seemed to be the cheapest one when we explored this option, and it was also recommended to us by friends.

Have you participated in Instagram Travel Thursday yet? If not, it’s not too late! See, I participated on Monday!

I’m part of the team co-hosting the Instagram Travel Thursday, an initiative started with Skimbaco Lifestyle online magazine to connect travel and Instagram enthusiasts across borders and I would love if you joined us! Read the guidelines on Skimbaco’s site and you too can now host this link-up in your own blog. You can get the code to add to your blog hereOnce you are ready with your own post, please add it to the Linky in the bottom of the page and check out some of the other participating bloggers! In Instagram you can find me at @todestinationunknown

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Reeta @houseofanais February 24, 2014 at 10:57 AM

I remember that people used to do this in the US for long holidays. I think it can be a good solution, as long as you can get an affordable insurance also… I hope you manage to sell the car in the end!
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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth February 24, 2014 at 8:05 PM

At least here in NZ the insurance was not a big deal, we paid NZD130 for the period we are here. We just put the “for sale” notice up on different websites, fingers crossed… :)
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Syd February 24, 2014 at 11:42 PM

We bought a Toyota Corolla in Auckland… less than 12 hours after getting off the plane. It was actually the easiest thing ever! Assuming it doesn’t break, I don’t think we will have too much trouble selling it, although we might take a loss. We’re going to give ourselves a few weeks to sell it so we can drop the price way down if we have to and make sure we get rid of it. Even if we sell it for 1000 dollars less than we bought it for, it’s still cheaper than a rental…but hopefully we will do better than that!


Satu Vänskä-Westgarth February 25, 2014 at 8:37 AM

It’s crazy how easy it is to buy a car here, back home all the paperwork and insurance matters would make it way too much hassle! We shouldn’t have trouble selling ours either (fingers crossed), we’ve already put it up on few websites, and hopefully we don’t need to drop the price too much. We’ll see!! :)
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Outdoorbaby March 2, 2014 at 7:31 PM

We rented a car from when we went to NZ back in 2009. It costed us practically nothing, but it wasn’t the safest car I’ve spent time in. We would probably buy one next time we go- we did spend some time on VERY bumpy roads, and it wasn’t a 4WD or a particularly high car- I remember driving on those gravel paved roads that also function as a meander or river run thinking that I just HOPED that the pipe and the other stuff under the car would still be there when we were done driving for the day. You don’t have those concerns when you owe the car!
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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth March 8, 2014 at 8:23 AM

I have to say, we will probably RENT next time we come over! :) Now when our time here is coming towards an end, trying to sell the car has been lot of extra stress and hassle. Fingers crossed the car won’t be ours after Wednesday! :)
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