7 Things to consider before renting a car in New Zealand

Learn which 7 things you could and should take into consideration before renting a car in New Zealand.

You may want to consider the following things when renting a car with a car hire company in New Zealand.

1. Car rental price

Like anywhere else in the world, some car rental companies are cheaper than others. But please remember that cheap does not always mean good or saving money.

Also be vigilant for car rental companies that advertise a certain price and then make you pay extra at the counter when you pick up the car – that happened to me once in Canada.

Pick a car rental company that has a good reputation rather than one that offers extra low prices, because you never know what’s hidden behind those low prices. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

2. To hire or not to hire a car in New Zealand?

You do not always have to rent a car if you want to self-drive New Zealand.

Consider buying a used or second-hand car if you’re going to be spending a lot of time in New Zealand.

If you’re going to stay for the maximum amount of time that you are allowed to stay in New Zealand on a visitor’s visa or permit, it might be cheaper to buy a used car and then sell it when you leave New Zealand than it would be to rent a car for a couple of months.

3. Access reduction and insurance on a rental car

Some car hire companies allow you to pay an extra daily fee or ask for the entire sum of money upfront as bond to reduce the amount of money you’d have to pay if you damage the car.

Please note that this amount is often not $0 in New Zealand, that is, you’ll have to pay approximately $300 or higher (depending on the car rental company) if you damage a car and have accepted access reduction on the contract you’ve signed.

Always enquire about access reduction and how much it will cost if you damage the car before you sign any contract.


In addition, the insurance on the car is typically only valid if you stick to terms specified in the rental agreement and don’t drive on roads where you’re not allowed to drive with the rental car.

And please be aware that each car rental company has its own rules; just make sure you read the fine print before you sign and/or drive off with a car.

You can contact any car rental company (by phone or email) in advance and ask them for a copy of the rental agreement. This will help you better decide which car rental company to hire a car from.

You may also want to contact your credit card company and ask them whether your credit card will cover any damages on a rental car if you use it to book and pay for car rental in New Zealand. This way you won’t have to waste money on extra car insurance.

[Photo: Rented car at Wilson Bay near Queenstown (39 KB)]

4. Multi-island car rental in New Zealand

Some car hire companies do not allow you to take their cars across islands on the ferry.

Some car rental companies will provide you with a car on each island, meaning that you would leave one car in, for example, Wellington on the North Island, make the trip over on the ferry, and then pick up another car in Picton on the South Island.

If you’re not sure whether a car hire company allows their cars to be taken across islands, you can contact them and ask for this information before you decide to rent with them.


5. Not returing a rental car on time

The penalty for returning a car late can be high depending on which car rental company you go with.

Some car rental companies may be lenient if you’re half an hour late so won’t charge you anything extra.

Others may charge, though, so again, inform before you accept the keys.

6. Qualmark rating of car rental companies in New Zealand

Some car rental companies are Qualmark rated, meaning that they’ve passed inspection and received a rating.

Personally, I do not pay much attention to Qualmark ratings. While cars are different to hotels/motels, I’ve stayed in a 2-star motel where I felt as if I were staying in a 3- or 4-star motel, while I’ve also stayed in a 5-star motel that did not provide essentials such as soap. It’s up to you to decide, though.

Qualmark ratings are good to use as guidelines to help you decide, especially if you don’t know which car rental company to trust or go with.

7. Frequent flyer and loyalty programs

Some car rental companies give you the opportunity to accrue points with their own or loyalty programs of their partners such as airlines and hotels.

If you rent with some of the larger car hire companies, you have a greater chance of being able to accrue point with your favorite loyalty program – if you’ve signed up with one. Smaller car rental companies generally do not offer such options.

Final words

Finally, I’d like to say that I’ve often rented – and still rent – cars here in New Zealand whenever I go on a holiday and have never really had a very bad experience or problems with any of them.

The only surprise I got once was my credit card being charged upfront in full as soon as I was handed the keys.

If you stick to the car rental company’s rules, do not abuse their cars or drive where you’re not supposed to drive, and don’t drink and drive, then everything will be fine.

Have a safe driving holiday in New Zealand when you come over!


This article falls under Travel Guide.

Note: This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm all details
directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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