Car hire New Zealand

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Find cheap car hire in New Zealand for an epic holiday

When you pick up a New Zealand car rental and hit the road, you’ll quickly discover why the Land of the Long White Cloud is one of the most popular travel road trip destinations in the world. This isn’t a large country, but it is a nation that packs a huge amount of unique experiences into two gorgeous islands.

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Hiring a car in New Zealand

Road level view of a car driving towards some hills. NZ car rental travellers don’t have to travel far to experience a stunning array of landscapes and cultural gems. Drive from black sand beaches, rolling vineyards, and lush rainforests to volcanic lakes, bubbling mud pools, and snow capped mountains. You can do all these in one day with your own car hire in New Zealand.

Top tips for driving a car in New Zealand

New Zealand has fairly well-maintained roads—perfect for a road trip in a hire car. In some rural areas though, you can expect narrower and winding roads than what some international visitors are used to, so be extra cautious.

Here are a few things that you will need to remember in order to have a safe car hire experience on NZ roads:

  • Drive your rental car on the left-hand side of the road—all rental vehicles will have the steering wheel on the right-hand side. This is different from most of the rest of the world, so make sure you keep this in mind especially when turning and at intersections.
  • Always drive clockwise on Roundabouts. Also known as turning circles, these are a major feature on New Zealand roads, replacing traffic lights at many intersections. The key to successfully navigating a roundabout is to remember to always drive clockwise and give way to traffic coming from your right. Just before you exit the roundabout, indicate to the left to signal that you’re about to turn off.
  • Don’t use a mobile phone while driving your hire car. Handheld operation of a mobile phone (whether for calls or texting) isn’t permitted while you’re at the wheel of a New Zealand car, even if you’re stopped at a traffic light.
  • Speed limits in New Zealand are posted in kilometres per hour. The usual speed limit in urban areas is 50 km/h, while on motorways or the open road, the limit is usually 100 km/h. Any New Zealand rental car will have a speedometer which is also in km/h.

A sheepdog herding sheep across the road.

Extra rural road trip tips for driving a New Zealand car rental

Driving your car hire in New Zealand shouldn’t be a daunting prospect. To start you off, here are some things to consider when you take your rental car to the NZ roads:

  • Make sure you set aside enough time to get from place to place with your car rental in NZ. Distances aren’t huge but you may need to travel more slowly than you expect. Due to the winding roads in New Zealand (State Highways included), you’ll need to account for an average speed that’s substantially less than the maximum 100 km/h—plan for 70-80 km/h and you should be fine.
  • Drive your NZ car rental carefully and keep an eye out for livestock crossing in rural areas. Farmers will often move herds of sheep or cows across the rural roads, requiring drivers to wait until the animals have passed. There should be a sign warning you that animals are crossing the road—make sure to come to a stop a safe distance away and wait until all livestock has crossed.
  • Many smaller roads in New Zealand use unsealed gravel which can cause reduced visibility due to dust, and chips in the paint or windscreen of your vehicle rental if you travel too fast. Your New Zealand car hire may not be allowed on some of these roads, so always check with your car rental agent before you embark.
  • On some corners you’ll notice yellow signs with black numbers—this is the suggested maximum speed for cars in dry weather. This is a safety suggestion, not a target, so if road conditions aren’t perfect you may want to go even slower.
  • The New Zealand police don’t have much tolerance for those driving car rentals over the speed limit, but they can be particularly strict during long weekends when car accidents are more likely—travelling a few kilometres per hour under the speed limit will ensure that you never have to worry about this.

Popular road trips in New Zealand

Ready for an epic New Zealand road trip? There are sections of highway in major cities around the country designated as touring routes, which highlight a particular feature of a region or take you on an incredibly scenic journey between attractions. Most are a few hundred kilometres long and could be driven with your New Zealand car hire in a day but are best stretched over several so you can explore in-depth.

 

An oceanside country road with a small bridge.

Twin Coast Discovery Highway

This is a ring route around the most beautiful parts of Auckland and Northland. A great one for those who love the beach!

Pacific Coast Highway 

This route will take you past some amazing parts of the eastern North Island. Pick up a car hire from Auckland and head down to Hawke’s Bay. Our highlight? The Coromandel Peninsula.

Thermal Explorer Highway 

This is a long one which covers a lot of the upper North Island and includes not only geothermal hotspots like Rotorua but also the Waitomo Cave system where you can float in a tyre underground, and the majestic Tongariro National Park and its three mountains.

Surf Highway 45 

This is pretty self-explanatory—it’s for those who want to catch a wave. Drive your rental car and follow the Taranaki coastline past some of the country’s best breaks.

The Forgotten World Highway

This is a heritage trail which also includes scenery for a pretty and interesting route through the lower North Island. Natural history buffs will enjoy this car hire NZ experience.

The Classic New Zealand Wine Trail

A stunning scenery of Napier's vineyards. This covers both the lower North Island and upper South Island, where you find the best wine growing regions including the famous Marlborough. Wine lovers, this is where you should be—just make sure there’s a designated driver!

Top of the South Wine Trail

This is a little more focused and does not include the ferry trip. It covers Wairarapa and Marlborough with some lovely towns along the way—Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura are beautiful places to spend a night or two during your car hire NZ adventure.

Alpine Pacific Triangle

This is short but sweet, covering a range of tourist highlights all within two hours of each other. The North Canterbury region has everything from wineries to whale watching.

Great Alpine Highway 

A very scenic route for your rental car road trip from Christchurch. This heads cross-country to the West Coast, through the impressive Southern Alps via Arthur’s Pass.

 

A road leading into snow capped mountains.

Canterbury Pacific Trail

This follows the coast of Canterbury from Kaikoura to Waimate and includes the resilient city of Christchurch, the “little England” of the Pacific. Beaches and beautiful braided rivers abound.

Inland Scenic Route 

This is an alternative to State Highway 1 which bypasses Christchurch to take you through some rural and alpine areas including Geraldine and Mt Hutt ski area.

Southern Scenic Route 

This really ups the ante in terms of scenery, showcasing the best of the best in New Zealand. Highlights include Lakes Manapouri and Te Anau, and the stunning Milford Sound. With or without the help of local knowledge, you could spend many days here!

What our customers say

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Hiring a car in New Zealand: Frequently asked questions

See all of our FAQs

How much does it cost to hire a car in New Zealand?

Car rental rates in New Zealand fluctuate and vary widely, depending on the vehicle make and model, pick up location, and availability. When renting a car in NZ, find great rates on GoSee’s search engine, compare up-to-the-minute prices across multiple brands, use the filters according to your actual travel needs for a more accurate rental estimate, and save money with your booking.

How old do I need to be to rent a car in New Zealand?

The absolute minimum age to book and drive a car hire in New Zealand is 21 years old, though many major rental companies will not allow those under 25, or may have a surcharge for drivers under 25 years of age.

What drivers license do I need to rent a car in New Zealand?

When driving a hire car in New Zealand, you will need an up-to-date valid driver's license in English translation or an International Driving Permit.

Which car hire companies in New Zealand have updated their vehicle cleaning and safety policies because of coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Most major rental car companies in New Zealand have updated their cleaning and safety policies to ensure customer protection, including Hertz, Avis, and Thrifty. For extra peace of mind, many of our partners also offer the option of an enhanced clean. Check the rental terms when browsing car rental New Zealand deals.

What is the cheapest car hire in New Zealand?

You’ll find the lowest prices on small, economy-sized vehicles, with brands such as Discount Car Rentals, Jucy Rentals, and Drive NZ Rental Cars typically offering the best deals. Compare up-to-the-second prices across multiple rental car companies using GoSee’s sophisticated search engine. Keep in mind that a few extra dollars can go a long way in terms of quality and convenience of car rentals NZ.

How do I get the best rate on a rental car in New Zealand?

Book as early as you can and compare great deals across car rental NZ suppliers. Avoid searching through numerous websites to find the best prices for quality rental cars New Zealand, and simply use GoSee to find great offers and competitive car hire rates across most New Zealand car rental company and brands.

Do rental cars in New Zealand come with manual or automatic transmission?

Almost all of the New Zealand car rentals come with automatic transmission, with some exceptions. Check the terms before you book to ensure you have your preferred vehicle option.

What is the most popular car hire in New Zealand?

The most frequently booked type of car rental in New Zealand is Economy (Hyundai Accent or similar). Some rental car companies like Hertz car hire New Zealand and Go Rentals New Zealand are preferred among customers. Check out the reviews to find out more as you rent a car NZ.

Where should I hire a car in New Zealand?

GoSee offers numerous car rental locations across the country. The most popular cities where you can hire cars in New Zealand are Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland. Rental cars in Queenstown and Dunedin are popular pick up locations, too.

What is the speed limit in New Zealand?

The usual speed limit in urban areas is 50 km/h, while on motorways or the open road, the limit is usually 100 km/h for all car rental locations all over the country. Rental vehicles will have a speedometer which is also in km/h when you hire a car in New Zealand.