Campervan rentals: Self-contained vs non self-contained

camper apollo parked beach
Gareth Meade
23 Feb, 2022
4 minutes to read

The benefits of booking self-contained vs non self-contained campervans in New Zealand

One major question you will come across when booking a campervan is do you hire a self-contained unit or one that is not self-contained? Not sure what these terms mean and how it could affect your trip? Read on as we break down the advantages of booking either type of campervan.

What does self-contained mean?

A self-contained campervan is a vehicle that can function without outside resources. Certified motorhomes include a toilet and water container that holds greywater (from the sink and shower) and septic waste. This means you do not require toilet facilities when you park up overnight somewhere. Best of all, it allows you to leave a place with no trace of being there. When hiring a campervan in New Zealand, self-contained certified vehicles must be able to hold three days of waste before visiting a dumping station.

What are dumping stations?

Dumping stations are facilities specifically used for campervans to release greywater and sewage from their tanks. They are available at campervan-friendly campgrounds and the occasional standalone location.

Tip: When you’re looking at rental options on GoSee, look for “Certified Self-Contained” in the vehicle description box.

Two people picnicking outside their Jucy campervan by a lake.
Sunset view of St. Clair National Park.

Environmental impact

One reason non self-contained units do not have the freedom to park everywhere is due to the environmental impact. Without a place to store grey water, it often gets dumped on grass, parks or beaches which can cause harm to the area.

Price difference between self-contained and non

When you start looking at rental rates, you’ll most likely notice a price difference between self-contained and non self-contained vehicles. Converted minivans are the cheaper option while 6-berth luxury RVs are clearly more expensive. Although the campervan rental rates may be higher for self-contained units, you will save more money on the road with free camping locations, which brings us to your selection of campgrounds.

Camping options

Free camping areas

One of the compelling reasons for hiring a campervan is to avoid spending money on accommodation. There are many public places which allow campers to park up for a night and stay free of charge. This is called freedom camping and these sites range from dirt parking lots to well-equipped set-ups with showers and toilets (rare). In New Zealand, freedom camping options are plentiful but many require that you have a self-contained vehicle to take advantage of them. Non self-contained vehicles are often prohibited and may receive a fine if parked in such a spot.

For more information on freedom camping in New Zealand, see the Department of Conservation website.  

Paid camping areas

For non self-contained campervans, parking at a campground is usually the best option. Low-cost sites provide toilets at a baseline minimum, while the often pricier holiday parks offer showers, lounge areas, outdoor picnic space, and more. Here you can choose between non-powered sites and powered sites.

A McRent campervan parked next to the ocean.

Ready to book?

A caravan by the beach with wetsuits drying in a tree.

Non-powered sites

Non-powered sites are camping areas where you can park up and use the shared facilities of the campground.

Powered sites (more expensive)

Powered sites are camping areas where you can park up and plug into the campground’s supply of electricity. Motorhomes need to be plugged in regularly (every 2-3 days) to charge up the battery which powers the vehicle’s amenities.

We recommend that self-contained vehicles switch between freedom camping and paid camping to charge up the amenities and use the dump station to empty greywater every couple of days.

Amenities in your campervan

What is most important for your motorhome? If a spot to sleep and a portable stove top is enough, choose a basic campervan like the Hippie Camper’s Drift or Lucky’s Rookie.

If you prefer your own shower, toilet, dining area, kitchen, storage and plenty of space to relax in, a self-contained unit will be the better choice. Find features such as mini-fridges, hot water, ovens, microwaves, awnings and more.

A toilet and basin inside an Apollo motorhome.

Self-contained rental companies in New Zealand and across the globe

New Zealand



United States

Is self-contained the choice for you?

At the end of the day, the choice is yours. If you don’t want to worry about finding a paid campsite or a toilet each night, stick with a self-contained motorhome. If you prefer the more basic camper and stove option, follow the city’s laws regarding overnight parking and clean up after yourself. Regardless of your decision, the trip will be one you’ll never forget!


You may also try other neighboring destinations if you are done exploring New Zealand. Try to discover more of Australia by visiting Hobart or Sydney in a motorhome hire. You may also opt to get a campervan in Gold Coast or in Melbourne.