10 Things to Know When Buying a Campervan in New Zealand

Make sure you know what to look for when buying a Campervan in New Zealand!


Shani Wilson-Aggarwal

19 min read

10 Things to Know When Buying
a Campervan in New Zealand

So, you've decided to head over to New Zealand and explore the beautiful country in all its glory! Go You! You won't regret it! In this article I will list the 10 things you need to know if you are considering buying a campervan to explore New Zealand (and it's the best way to do it IMO!)

Here I Will Cover:

Tip: Click each subheading to jump straight to that section


New Zealand is full of beautiful landscapes, geothermal wonders and adrenaline filled activities to keep you busy whether you have 3 weeks or 3 years! Public transport is pretty scarce around the country so the best way to get around is with your own wheels.

It might be the case that you are going to be in New Zealand for 3 weeks, and in this case it may be more beneficial to hire a campervan for your trip - comapines like Britz, Apollo and Jucy have an abundance of vans with several pick up locations to choose from. RatPack can help to search for suitable vehicles and get you great prices. Make sure you book these in advance especially around the NZ summer months of October - March as they do sell out and the prices are steep if you book last minute!

However, if you are lucky enough to be able to explore the country for a longer period of time such as months or years - particularly if you have the working holiday visa - then I absolutely recommend purchasing a vehicle and selling it at the end of your trip, this will honestly be the most cost effective way to travel!

Campervans in New Zealand come in all different shapes and sizes! From converted cars to purpose built winebagos, there is plenty to choose from. The most popular vehicles in New Zealand to travel in are Toyota Hiaces due to the reliability of their engines, however these can be on the pricier side! Other popular makes and models tend to be Japanese such as Mazda and Nissan as they are regularly imported so parts are easy to come by should you need any repairs or work done! European makes such as Ford tend to be less in abundance and trickier to repair.

Whether you want something small and nippy to explore the country in bite size chunks, or a hightop van with the ability to cook inside on those rainy days, you are bound to find something that fits the bill! Here are 10 things to know when buying a campervan in New Zealand to get you started!

white Mercedes-Benz vehicle on road during day
white Mercedes-Benz vehicle on road during day

1. Price

The first thing you need to know when buying a campervan in New Zealand is how much you are willing to spend! Knowing your budget is going to help you narrow your search window and help you find a van more quickly.

Small car conversions like the Toyota Estima or Nissan Serena generally come in between $8000 - $10000 NZD (£4000 - £5000).

A small van conversion such as a short wheel base Mazda Bongo or E2000 will set you back between $10000 - $15000 (£5000 - £7500) whilst a slightly bigger van such as a long wheel base Nissan Caravan or Mazda E2000 (both vans we had!) will be in the region of $15000 - $20000 (£7500 - £10000). This bracket may also include high roof tops however this style can also push the price up well beyond $20000!

Essentially it all comes down to your budget and preference. If you are only travelling for short periods of time such as weekends or a week away then a car conversion may do you just fine, whilst a small van is likely more suited to a couple of months travelling at a time. We went for a longer wheelbase as we have been travelling more extensively and wanted a bit more comfort! Although, in saying that, we have said that if we were to buy a campervan again, we would pay for the extra comfort of having a high roof top so we that we can stand up!

These prices are just a rough guide and you will see some fluctuations depending on when and where you buy your vehicle. Vans are often more expensive when bought in Auckland as this is where most backpackers fly into, particularly around the spring summer months from October to February. Vans are generally cheaper down in the South Island where backpackers finish their trip and need to sell their van quickly before flying out of the country.

Think of this van as an investment. If it is well looked after, you should be able to sell it on at the end of your trip. Be mindful however that you will likely need to pay for servicing during your trip and you may not be able to sell it for the same price you bought it for!

Sitting outside the campervan with a mountain view
Sitting outside the campervan with a mountain view

2. Mileage/Kms

The second thing to know when buying a campervan in New Zealand is how many kilometers are on the odometer. You will find that most vehicles in New Zealand appear to have extremely high mileage, especially compared to what we are used to seeing in the UK! That is primarily becuase kilometers are used here instead of miles, plus, most campervans probably started their lives as work vehicles before being sold and converted into a camper. On top of this, as you'll see when you get on the road, you have to travel vast distances to get to places around New Zealand.

Take Gisborne for example - a city on the East Coast of the North Island... the next closest city is a 3 hour drive away with nothing but coast and farmland in between!

A well looked after engine can often travel into the 300,000kms - 500,000kms so don't be put off by high mileage. This is not to say ignore it completely! My recommendation (although remember I am not a mechanical expert!) would be to aim for something that has 250,000kms or less if you can. This gives you a little peace of mind during your trip and should hopefully make it a little bit easier to sell at the end of your trip.

Depending on your travel plans you will likely add about 10,000 to 20,000 kms on the clock if you are planning to travel the North and South Islands of New Zealand thoroughly, so keep this in mind when looking at the starting Kms on the odo!

black and gray car instrument panel cluster
black and gray car instrument panel cluster

3. Warrant of Fitness (WOF)

When you are buying a campervan in New Zealand another thing to know about is the Warrant of fitness or WOF. The vehicle will need to have an in date WOF to be able to legally drive it on the road. This is very similar to a vehicle in the UK having an MOT or a roadworthy certificate in Australia.

These fitness checks are completed by a mechanic and the vehicle will either pass or fail its assessment. The mechanic will look at the general condition of the vehicle, brakes, tyres, seatbelts etc and make sure it is compliant with the laws in New Zealand. One of the requirements which they are strict on here (less so in the UK) is the presence of rust - so make sure to have a thorough look over your vehicle for rust around crucial parts of the vehicle such as the engine before you buy it!

If the vehicle fails the WOF, the owner will be told what needs to be fixed in order to pass and will be required to have the WOF inspection completed again following the repairs. Once compliant, the vehicle will be issued with a WOF valid for either 6 months or one year depending on the age of the vehicle which you can read about below.

The mechanic will usually place a sticker in the window which shows when the current WOF is valid until, as well as supplying a form with details on repairs to be made or things that may need replacing before the next WOF.

Make sure to check when the current WOF on the vehicle you are purchasing is valid until (so you know when you will need to have it redone) as well as checking the paperwork so you can see anything that was raised that may need attention before you take it for its next WOF. You may be able to use this information to have your purchase price reduced - for example if a tyre or two is likely to need replacing, can this be factored in to the asking price?

Once you have bought your campervan in New Zealand and its time to get a WOF , you will need to book it in advance so factor this in particularly if you are going to be moving around a lot! The WOF will cost you somewhere in the region of $80 - $120 NZD, but don't forget there may be some work that needs doing to get a pass. Most garages can carry out a WOF inspection, however I would recommend trying to find a VTNZ or AA garage to do this. If you have AA membership (which I highly recommend - you can read why here) then you can get discounts on their WOFs and servicing.

man in black jacket and blue denim jeans riding motorcycle
man in black jacket and blue denim jeans riding motorcycle

4. Age

You are going to want to know the age of the campervan when you buy it, particularly due to the requirements of the WOF mentioned above. In New Zealand vehicles manufactured before the year 2000 (i.e any vehicle up to 1999) will need to have a WOF completed every 6 months. Vehicles manufactured from the year 2000 onwards only need to have this WOF completed once a year.

Now, this is not to say that vehicles made in 1997 are going to be a whole lot worse than those made in 2000, in fact they may have actually been driven less or looked after better - every vehicle is different! However, if you are planning to have your campervan for a more extensive period of time, it may mean that you need to pay more on having these WOFs completed. Not only this, but each time you have a WOF inspection done, you may have to pay out for further repairs to pass each time. Of course, this isn't a bad thing as the whole point of a WOF is to ensure that your campervan is safe and legal to drive, it's just a factor to consider when thinking about budgeting and costs for a trip around New Zealand.

You may also come across two different ages for your vehicle. Body age and engine age. Quite often people will take the time to strip a van of its dud engine and replace with a new one or a refurbished one. The shell of the vehicle is as old as when it was first manufactured. This may be demonstrated in ads by body and engine age or body and engine kms, it is not an issue at all it can just be a little confusing so just make sure you know what you're buying!

vintage car on brown field during daytime
vintage car on brown field during daytime

5. Petrol or Diesel

Petrol and diesel can be found abundantly at all service stations around New Zealand so there is no need to worry there! The main reason you will want to know whether a campervan uses petrol or diesel is to make sure you put the right stuff in for starters! There is also a difference in how you pay for your fuel and the taxes on them.

Unleaded petrol is taxed at the pump so it's super easy - you just fill your tank with petrol, pay for it and off you go!

Diesel on the other hand has a road user charge attached to it (RUC). This is essentially a tax on the fuel but it is not paid for at the pump. You will see this in the price differences at the service stations as diesel appears much cheaper at the pump and you will be paying less each time you fill up. However, you must make sure that you remain up to date with your RUCs and this is how.

You make note of your mileage or kms, head into an AA, VTNZ or NZ post store, fill out a form and pay for RUCs in advance. You can pay in multiples of 1000kms at a time - we paid for 5000kms each time and had to top this up twice in the 18 months of being in NZ. When you do this they print out a little tag that you put in your windscreen like the one you can see below. You can also do this process online if you have a NZ driving licence (You will need to get a NZ licence if you are going to be in NZ for longer than a year). We have always just gone into a store to do this however, to ensure we get our tag on the spot - otherwise they would send it to my NZ address where I registered the van when we first bought - this isn't particularly helpful now that we've travelled down to the other end of the country!

At the time of writing this (Jan 2024) RUCs cost $76 per 1000kms. So, lets do some maths...

To fill the tank of a campervan is around 50 litres on average.
Lets say you can get approx 500kms from a full tank
Unleaded petrol is around $2.60 per litre
$2.60 x 50 = $130 per 500kms or $260 per 1000kms

Same van but this time its Diesel
Diesel is around $2 per litre
$2 x 50 = $100 per 500kms or $200 per 1000kms
RUCs is $76 per 1000kms so total cost is $276 per 1000kms

(Remember these figures are really rough guide and will vary from vehicle to vehicle depending on a multitude of factors including engine size, vehicle weight, driving style, if you are driving up mountain passes or flat farmland, as well as variances in fuel costs from different service stations).

As you can see, at the moment, petrol comes out slightly cheaper, but there isn't really that much difference in the cost of diesel or petrol. The government also heavily reduced to cost of RUCs for part of last year which made diesel the cheaper fuel for some time.

Just something useful to know about when you're buying a campervan in New Zealand!

6. Automatic or Manual

This one is potentially going to be dictated by your licence type. If you learnt to drive automatic then this narrows the pool of campervans to buy from very slightly but you'll be pleased to know that most of the vehicles in NZ are in fact automatic - I'd go as far as saying 80% of campervans for sale are automatic transmission. If you are able to drive manual then you have your pick of the bunch!

The first van we had in New Zealand (RIP Marzi - read about that drama here) was a manual and as with all older vehicles she did get up hills but she was noisy in doing so! Though maybe thats more to do with my handling than the van itself! The second van and the one we currently have is an automatic, and only the second automatic vehicle I have ever driven. I have to say, it's left me thinking, why aren't all cars and vans automatic!? It's so much better!!!!

Before all you petrolheads come at me... I get there are certain scenarios when gears are better and you need control etc etc, but I am just revelling in my new found appreciation for the automatic transmission, so let me!

But yes, ultimately this is just a variance in the vans you will see for sale and will come down to personal preference or licence restrictions!

a close up of a car's gear stick
a close up of a car's gear stick

7. Self Containment

Number 8 of the things to know when buying a campervan in New Zealand, is whether or not the car conversion or van you are buying is certified self contained (CSC). This is important if you are planning on doing any freedom camping around New Zealand, which I would highly recommend to save some pennies in the wallet and see some cool shit. (Keep an eye peeled for my upcoming blog which delves into self containment rules and the potential law changes, as well as my blog which talks a bit more in depth about freedom camping).

Most campervans will come with a self containment certificate and the important details you will want to know about it, is how long it is valid for and for how many people it is certified for. This will be displayed on a little blue warrant card in the windscreen like the one below, and the seller should have a paper copy which shows that the vehicle meets all the required standards to be certified.

You will want to make sure that the CSC is valid for at least the duration of your trip and if possible, for some time after your trip too so that you can sell it on more easily. If the CSC is going to expire before the end of your trip you may have trouble having it renewed. This is because there are some changes in the law which are being considered. This may mean that the requirement to have a toilet on board, which is currently satisfied by having a porta potty, may change to requiring the toilet to be fixed in place in the near future. I would recommend keeping a close eye on the self containment legislation - this has not been passed yet. You will be able to read more about the current and potentially changing self containment requirements in my blog post that will be going live soon.

The alternative to this and to prevent any worries about having CSC renewed is to purchase a van which already has a fixed toilet - I know some dealerships are starting to integrate this into their builds now in case the new legislation gets passed.

Of course, you may also feel that being certified as self contained is not a requirement for you - particularly if you only plan on camping at paid campsites. There are also some freedom campsites around New Zealand where you are allowed to camp if you are non-self contained - i.e have no certification or are in a tent. These are very limited but can be found - try the CamperMate app.

My personal recommendation is to have a certified self contained vehicle as it just opens up such an abundance of places to camp - we still only tend to camp at freedom sites with toilets close by so we don't have to use our portaloo but there are just so many more options! I will also have a blog post available soon that talks more about freedom camping so watch this space.

example of a self containent warrant card and certificate
example of a self containent warrant card and certificate

8. Registration and Licensing

Licensing and registration are actually two different things. And just to confuse you, licensing has the nickname 'rego' but it is NOT registration, what gives!?

The vehicle should have already been registered when it was first brought into the country and put on the motor vehicle register so you shouldn't need to worry about doing this. However, when you first buy your campervan you will need to transfer it into your name as the registered keeper. It is a one off requirement which makes you the legal owner and person responsible for the vehicle. This is easy enough to do at a NZ post, you just need to fill out a form (Notice of Acquisition MR13B) and pay the fee which is approx $10. Make sure you do this within 7 days to avoid any fines.

Whilst you are there you may also want to renew the licence of your new campervan - this is what's known as the Rego and can also be done at NZ post.

Licensing (Rego)
All vehicles driven on pubic roads in New Zealand must be licensed. Like the WOF and self containment certificates, you will want to know that the campervan you are buying in New Zealand is licensed or has an in date 'rego'. This is a ticket that is displayed in the windscreen along with your CSC warrant card and RUCs tag if you have one.

This ticket will shows the vehicle year, make, model, licence plate number and a date. This is the date which the vehicle is registered until and will need to be renewed.

Good practice will be to number one - make sure that the vehicle registration is in date, and number two, make sure that all the details on the ticket match the vehicle you are looking at! Then when it's time for renewal, head to an AA, VTNZ or NZ post branch to renew the rego and keep it in date. You can renew it for 3, 6 or 12 months and the cost will vary depending on the vehicle and length of time you want to renew the license for, generally between $50 - $200 - you can find up to date prices for this on the Waka Kotahi website (Nz's transport agency)

example of a vehicle licenseexample of a vehicle license

9. Pre Purchase Inspection

gray van parked on brown dirt road during daytime
gray van parked on brown dirt road during daytime

This is something I would urge everyone to do when they are buying a campervan or any vehicle for that matter in New Zealand! It is worth the money in my opinion.

Of course when you go and look at potential campervans I would hope that you are having a thorough look at the vehicle. Make sure you are checking the oil (take a tissue or rag with you to do this), looking around the vehicle and engine for rust, checking the tyres and the tread depth, looking underneath the vehicle for rust and oil leaks. Take it for a test drive, make sure its not making any funny noises, that the gears work, check the brakes, lights, indicators, windscreen wipers, horn.

Ask to look at the paperwork - check the aforementioned WOF paper work and any servicing history as this will give you a good idea of whether or not the van has been well looked after.

Ask questions - why are they selling? How long have they had the vehicle? (could raise alarm bells if theyve only had it a couple of weeks), is it belt or chain driven? - if it a belt, when was this last changed? - it should be done every 100, 000kms or so and can be a costly job if its due soon and an even costlier job if its overdue and causes damage... (can they factor this in to the asking price).

All great things to do and ask, but like me I'm betting you're not a mechanic? So it pays to get the vehicle booked in at a garage or with the AA to have a mechanic have a proper look over the vehicle before you buy it. The seller should be happy for you to do this, if they're not, then I'd smell a rat. It will cost you somewhere in the region of $200 to get this done, but totally worth it from my experience.

Both times I've bought a vehicle in NZ I've had a pre-purchase inspection done. I have just phoned around places nearby and managed to get someone to take a look the same day. Both times I've gained substantial peace of mind but have also ended up saving money and having issues highlighted to me that I would otherwise not have known. On the first van it was noted that there was no documentation to prove the cambelt had been changed at 100,000kms. The van was now at 139,000kms so the seller agreed to have the cambelt replaced and certified with documentation saving me thousands of dollars and a fair amount of time in getting it done myself. On my second vehicle the mechanic noted that 3 of the tyres needed replacing to pass the next WOF so the seller agreed to knock the price down by 3 tyres worth... a win in both scenarios I'd say! We also skimped on this part when we bought our campervan in Australia and let's just say... we didn't end up having that van for too long!

10. Where to Buy a Campervan in New Zealand

So, you know exactly what you're looking for and you know what you need to do when you find a van you like. Now it's time to get hunting for the perfect campervan!

I'd say the best place to search is Facebook marketplace and also in some of the Facebook campervan groups. I've linked a few below which would be worth joining, there are campervans being sold on these groups all the time! Make sure you narrow your search by location, many a time have I found what looks like the perfect van, only to realise its on the other other side of the country from where I am, or on the other Island entirely!




Whether its a small car conversion with a kitchen set up in the back, or something a bit bigger with a kitchen inside for the temperamental New Zealand weather, you are bound to find something on there, it may just require a little patience.

I have to say I found it quite addictive looking for vans, and I still find myself now having a little nosey at whats about! After a few hours of searching you will get the general jist of what is available and what will suit your budget!

Another place to look is on trademe.co.nz. This is a bit like the Ebay of New Zealand... I didn't have much luck here, I found the interface a bit clunky, but always worth a look!

I got my first van from a dealer in Auckland - had it not been for someone crashing into the back of it I think we would still have her now (there is a frank reminder to make sure you get proper insurance, it saved our arses and you can read about it here). I would recommend having a look if you're in Auckland at some of these places. They are generally mechanics and they buy vans and kit them out as campers. I got the train around to a few of them when I first arrived in Auckland (one of the only places with trains!) But others that I have met along the way hired a car for a couple of days to get about to the different places which seemed a whole lot more efficient than my cheap ass approach!!!

Here is a couple of the places I went (Auckland):
Auckland Campervan Limited
3 Waimana Road
Takanini, 2112

Discount Campers
11 Saint Jude Street,
Avondale, 1026

There are also some Vehicle auctions that take place in Auckland which often have campervans for sale so these may also be worth checking out however I haven't personally had any experience with these!

So there you have it, my list of 10 things to know when buying a campervan in New Zealand. Hopefully I haven't made it sound too complicated - because honestly it isn't! At the crux of it all is to search for a van take it for a drive and put your money down if you're confident she's a gooden! Happy Campervan hunting! And if you have any questions feel free to reach out, or give me a follow on social media!

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