Choosing The Right Brand For Your Car Hire in New Zealand: 5 Top Tips

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Sarah Glover
2 Sep, 2022
8 minutes to read

Get your NZ car rental adventure off to a great start

New Zealand is famously nicknamed Godzone, short for “God’s Own Country”. And while this might seem a little boastful, it’s not too far-fetched to assume that He might choose to inhabit this spectacularly scenic and diverse nation in the South Pacific. Everyone has their own opinion on which country is the most picturesque, but NZ would definitely be a strong contender for the top spot on any such list.

There’s so much to see here, and a fair amount to do, too. From cityscapes and friendly towns to mountain peaks, verdant valleys, and awe-inspiring coastlines, it’s a wonderland for travelers. And the best way to experience it? With a New Zealand car rental. Find out why—and how to find the vehicle and supplier that will suit your plans.

Do I need to rent a car in New Zealand?

When God chose New Zealand as “his own” country, He—in His infinite wisdom—did not bless the land with a robust public transport network. Train lines and intercity bus routes are sparse, domestic flights can be pricey and only include main centres, and there’s a bit of a bottleneck at the ferries that ply Cook Strait to take people between the North and South islands.

Can you get around without your own set of wheels? Yes. However, it may not be as simple a prospect as touring Europe via rail. Some of the best views and most charming small towns are tucked away and off the beaten track. Relying fully on public transport and your own legs might mean missing out on those remote beaches, local favourite eateries, and hidden scenic spots.

For these reasons and more, to rent a car in New Zealand is the best way to enjoy this incredible part of the world.

Cars driving down a hill.
A person handing car keys to another person.

Am I able to rent a car in New Zealand?

If you have a full and valid driver’s licence from your home country, then yes you probably can. The New Zealand Transport Authority (Waka Kotahi) has a few criteria for overseas drivers, and that is the first.

You can use a foreign licence for up to 12 months before you must seek a NZ licence. And if your license is not written in English, you must have an accurate translation—an International Driving Permit is a good option in this case, but must be accompanied by the original licence. If you are licenced to drive heavier vehicles on your overseas licence, you will be allowed to drive the equivalent vehicles in New Zealand. The basic car class covers vehicles up to 6000kg.

Another condition of driving a car hire New Zealand is that you must be familiar with the country’s road rules. You can read the country’s official road code to prepare. Perhaps the most important to remember for foreign drivers is this: all traffic drives to the left in New Zealand!

How to find the New Zealand car hire to suit your plans

New Zealand is a land of variety and possibilities. Travellers come from all corners of the globe to ski, to surf, to beach-hop, to partake in adventure activities, to enjoy one or more of the cities, or to explore the vast green national parks. Most choose to combine several of these pursuits into one big trip.

To optimise your experience in Godzone, you’ll need to find a car rental that suits your specific plans. From vehicle types to what’s specified in the terms and conditions, each of the rental brands on offer in the country has unique things to offer customers.

These are our top tips for finding the right NZ car rental:

  1. Decide whether you want to cross Cook Strait

A major decision to make as you consider your NZ adventure is which island/s you want to explore. North Island, Sound Island, or both? Each has its own wide range of attractions.

Some rental car companies do not allow renters to take their vehicles on the ferries which travel between Wellington in the North Island and Picton in the South Island. While you can return a rental car on one side of the strait and book another one to pick up at the other side, it’s generally easier to keep your vehicle (with all of your luggage inside).

There are some suppliers which permit renters to take vehicles between islands. Apex, for example, even has a partnership with both ferry companies to offer mutual clients a free ferry ticket with multi-island rentals. Other rental companies which permit ferry travel are Avis, Omega, and Jucy.

The Interislander ferry at Picton harbour.
Internal view of a car with a person driving along a straight road towards snowy mountains.
  1. Think about who’s driving

If you’re travelling alone, this won’t be a concern. If there are two or more of you in your party, you will need to decide on a driver or drivers.

Some rental companies offer free additional drivers, and this may play into your decision-making. Omega, Apex, and RaD do not charge for extra drivers. Budget and Avis will allow you to add the main driver’s spouse free of charge.

Sharing the driving is a great way to protect against driver fatigue, a serious safety concern when traveling long distances. For this reason, free additional drivers is a significant perk—take it into account when making your booking!

Check out competitive car hire rates from GoSee, choose the best price, and book your vehicle
  1. Take budget into account

New Zealand hire car suppliers can be broadly categorised into two groups.

The affordable or budget providers, which may be national or even regional brands, usually have older model vehicles. These include names like RaD Car Hire, Omega, Apex, Go Rentals, Bargain Rental Cars, Big Value, and others.

Mainstream providers are often the larger international brands and offer late-model rental vehicles. These are recognisable names such as Hertz, Europcar, Thrifty, National, Alamo, Avis, Sixt, and Dollar.

As with just about any product, higher cost doesn’t necessarily mean higher quality rental cars — but they can be correlated. An older vehicle with more kilometres on the clock might manage all of your adventures with no problem, but there is a higher chance of a breakdown. A later model is more reliable, but the increased rental cost could cut into your budget.

Check out competitive car hire rates from GoSee, choose the best price, and book your vehicle. If you want assistance, GoSee's customer support team is always available to help you get a more accurate rental estimate so you can make an informed decision.

A white SUV driving along the road.
A person on the phone holding their car hood up.
  1. Take assistance where it’s offered

Roadside assistance is an extra provided by most rental car brands, and it’s a good one. Any vehicle runs the chance of a breakdown. Car trouble is annoying at the best of times, but it’s particularly awful when you’re away from home and trying to have an enjoyable holiday.

When making a booking, check that it includes roadside assistance (also called breakdown assistance). They also have a special team with local knowledge that can help you with these situations. You won’t regret it, and you might be very thankful for it. New Zealand has some remote areas where it can be difficult (and pricey) to get help under your own steam.

  1. Plan your route first

One of the major considerations when booking your car hire in New Zealand will be where you need to pick up your rental and drop it off. Many travellers, particularly those a little pressed for time, prefer a one-way journey. This allows them to see and experience as much of the country as possible with no backtracking.

Before you sit down to make a booking, decide on the route you’d like to take. This doesn’t necessarily mean planning out every turn in the road and accommodation venue—after all, spontaneity is the major advantage of a rental car adventure. You should, however, have an idea of where you’d like to start and finish your trip. This will guide your decision when it comes to choosing the right NZ car rental supplier.

Larger suppliers are likely to have car rental locations available in a wide range of destinations, particularly the popular tourist hubs. As an example, Hertz has a list of locations in 26 cities around New Zealand—and several of these cities are home to more than one depot. Mid-sized Australasian rental company Apex has 15 locations across 11 cities in New Zealand, while national supplier Bargain Rental Cars has locations in just five cities (with multiple depots in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch).

A person looking out over a beach from their car.

Ready to book?

A sheepdog herding sheep across the road.

Double-check which locations your chosen rental supplier has available. If you’re using a booking platform like GoSee, you can make a search specifying your pick-up and drop-off locations to see the full range of rental suppliers with availability in those locations.

Whichever car rental company you pick for your New Zealand expedition, you’re in for adventure. There’s nothing quite like the freedom to explore this beautiful nation at your own pace and with your itinerary set in sand rather than stone. Our top tip? Take as much time for this holiday as you can—you’ll have no trouble filling up days, weeks, or even months spent touring “Godzone”.