AUSTRALASIA Lifestyle New Zealand Travel Advice Van Life


When planning our trip to New Zealand, we knew we wanted to explore the country’s epic scenery by campervan. We’d heard so many people say it was the best thing they’d ever done and how you just don’t get the same experiences travelling by bus. Three months in and we totally agree! We can’t imagine travelling by public transport, now we’ve experienced the freedom of living in a van.

If you decide that’s how you’d like to see New Zealand, you then face the decision of whether to hire a campervan or buy one. After looking at the extortionate prices for hiring, we decided we’d be better off buying our own. It actually worked out cheaper! It was our first time purchasing a campervan, so we did a lot of research and ended up with a great van. I thought I’d put this post together to help anyone looking to buy a campervan  (or any other vehicle) in New Zealand – you won’t regret it! 🙂

buying a campervan in new zealand


Give yourself at least two weeks to find the perfect van. You can look at ads online for before arriving and could even book in some viewings, but you obviously won’t be able to see any vehicles until you arrive. We were planning to find something in 3-4 days and be off on our travels. We arrived at the peak selling season, so there was A LOT for sale. Even though there was so much on offer, we were fussy and the right one didn’t come along for over 10 days. We saw a lot of terrible vans, falling to pieces or with internal damage – one had the entire front bumper held on with black tape! Most backpackers will try their luck at selling their van for the same price they paid, or more. This leads to a weird cycle of overpriced cars that are not in the greatest condition! Hence the need to be fussy.

Budget more for Auckland and more for self contained. I’d definitely recommend a self-contained van over a non self-contained van. Not sure what I’m on about? Check out my guide to self-contained vehicles in NZ. Due to the benefits that come with a self-contained vehicle, they are more expensive. Totally worth it and you’ll make your money back within the first few weeks, but something to bear in mind when looking. Vans also sell for wildly different prices depending on where you are. We bought ours in Auckland, which was a bit more expensive than Christchurch. The cheapest cars seemed to be in Queenstown. So budget a little extra if you plan to buy in Auckland.

buying a campervan in new zealand

Freedom Camping near Mount Cook

Where to look? 

There are lots of places you can look for vehicle adverts….

Facebook groups: We found a lot of vehicle adverts on backpacker groups on Facebook. Join the following and you’ll soon be bombarded with ads!

Trade Me: This is where we eventually ended up finding our van. Trade Me includes locals and traders selling vehicles, as well as backpackers.

Newspaper: Keep an eye on local newspapers for adverts.

Street: You’ll often spot cars parked up with for sale signs on.

Car Fairs: Check if there are any car fairs/shows on in the area you are looking in. We went to two car in Auckland – City Car Fair on Saturday and Ellerslie Car Fair on Sunday. We didn’t have much luck at either, but you might!

Sleep in a Van: Website created specifically for cars and vans being sold in Aus and NZ. Also has a Facebook page 🙂

buying a campervan in new zealand

Tips for viewing a car

Where possible, arrange a viewing earlier in the morning and on a day when the post office open. If you like the car and want to take it, it’s worth getting a pre-purchase check done before you pay anything to the seller. Most companies can do a check on the day you call up, but they’ll stop taking cars around 4pm. If everything is OK with the pre-purchase check and you want to go ahead and pay, you’ll also need the post office to be open so that you can register the change of ownership. Early morning viewings allow the time for a pre-purchase check and change of ownership on the same day.

Of course, you could arrange to meet the seller the next day or something, but we had a problem where the seller had a viewing straight after us and it was past 4pm so we couldn’t get a pre-purchase check done. We didn’t want to buy the car without the check, so had to let it go and hope the next buyer wasn’t interested. Lucky for us, they liked it but didn’t want to buy it for another week, so the seller drove back to us the following morning so we could sort everything out. 

Also if it’s pouring with rain, try and arrange to meet somewhere dry like an underground car park. It’s hard to spot any leaks if the car is dripping wet!

Vehicle Checklist

Most people don’t know much about cars, aside from the basics (and I didn’t even know that when we began!) but it’s important to know some of the warning signs. Gary did a lot of research and actually read a book called Mechanics for Dummies! He went on to create a checklist of things to look for, what to avoid, and questions to ask the seller which I have detailed in this post:

>> Ultimate Guide to Buying a Used Car or Campervan in New Zealand <<


Everyone exaggerates their prices, so don’t be afraid to haggle. The worst that will happen is they say no! We managed to knock a total of $600 off the price of our van. Once you’ve had a look and have had the pre-check done, you’ll know if there is work to be done or not. If the pre-purchase check highlights work that needs doing, get a quote from the mechanic and try and knock that off the asking price of the vehicle. Through the pre-check, we learnt that there was a small chip in the windscreen of our van that would need repairing. We managed to knock another $50 off the price to cover the repair.


It’s really worth getting a pre-purchase check done before you part with any large amounts of money. Take the car to an impartial garage (most offer this service) or contact VNTZ or AA. Don’t go with a company suggested by the seller – it could be their mate who’s just going to tell you everything is fine! The garage will take 30-45 minutes to thoroughly check the vehicle. They will check all fixtures and fittings, door handles, locks, AC, heating, steering, brakes etc and all internal parts. Prices differ from place to place, but we paid just $50 with an independent garage in Auckland. 

Online pre-check: We also paid $11.95 for an online check with Car Jam. This check shows whether the car has any debt attached to it, how many previous owners the car has had (and who they were) and loads of other useful information. This should flag up anything dodgy and you can compare this with what the sellers are saying to make sure they are being honest!


You’ve found your perfect vehicle.. hurrah! The last thing you’ll need to do is part with your hard earned cash. If you have a New Zealand bank account and so does the seller, the easiest thing to do is make an online bank transfer. It’s worth setting a bank account up beforehand – I’ve written a post about how to set up a bank account here. Just make sure you have decent wifi or 4G and try transferring a small amount first to check it goes through. Another option is cash, but you may need to go inside a bank to make a large withdrawal.

If you don’t have a NZ bank account, your money is still in your home currency, or the seller is asking for a different currency, you can use a money transfer site. We used TransferWise to convert thousands of UK pounds to NZ dollars with minimal charges. For a FREE £500 (or equivalent) transfer, click here!

The last thing you’ll need to do is head to the Post Office and fill out a change of ownership form. It’s really easy and costs around $10 to sort out and send off. 


Once you own your new car/van, it’s worth getting it insured. It’s not compulsory in NZ but it only cost us $299 for 6 months (third party, fire and theft). As a backpacker, you won’t be able to get fully comprehensive cover as companies do not offer that service to people without a fixed address. Of course, you could put down the address of a friend, or a hotel, but if you need to make a claim and you are miles away from where you’ve said you live… you are going to run into issues!

buying a campervan in new zealand

Van Life, Lake Tekapo

buying a campervan in new zealandSo they are my top tips for purchasing a vehicle in New Zealand – I hope this comes in useful. Travelling around this country in a campervan has definitely been the highlight of our 10 month world trip and I would recommend it to everyone!

>> Don’t forget to check out my guide to buying a used car or campervan in New Zealand.

Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions about buying a car/van in NZ 🙂

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  • Reply
    Beth @ Quirky Rambler
    June 14, 2018 at 7:38 am

    I love this post! My partner and I set off on a round the world trip next month, and we’ll be in New Zealand at the beginning of 2019 – hopefully buying a van with the tips you’ve provided! Thanks a lot. 🙂

    • Reply
      June 17, 2018 at 11:49 pm

      Ahhh no problem! Have an amazing trip!! 🙂

  • Reply
    September 10, 2018 at 2:58 pm

    Thanks for all this info, really helpful! I was just wondering roughly how much you bought and sold the van for? Thanks again for the info 🙂

    • Reply
      September 18, 2018 at 4:39 am

      Hey Marc, we bought the van for $6300, did a few different repairs and ended up selling the van for the same price 🙂

  • Reply
    September 15, 2018 at 8:32 pm

    Hi, thank you for all this tips, I’m more and more inclined now to buy not rent RV when travelling through NZ

  • Reply
    September 19, 2018 at 10:41 am

    Thank you so much! The PDF is amazing. I am just about to head to NZ by myself and have been super overwhelmed with the idea of buying a van as I know nothing about cars. I feel so much more confident now 🙂

    • Reply
      October 11, 2018 at 2:34 am

      That’s awesome!! Thank you and good luck in your search! 🙂

  • Reply
    October 8, 2018 at 2:30 am

    Really useful blog! May I ask which car insurance company you went for? 🙂

    • Reply
      October 11, 2018 at 2:24 am

      Thanks! To be honest, it was a while ago now and I can’t actually remember… I just did a google search and picked the cheapest! Just make sure you call when arranging insurance as many companies won’t cover you unless you have a permanent address (which you won’t if you are travelling). So it might be better to look at specific travel/ backpacking car insurance as they will be set up for that 🙂

  • Reply
    October 24, 2018 at 6:15 pm

    I’m hoping to do the trip with my wife and 2 kids. I will have a budget of around £20K so will be hoping for something that can accommodate us all. As we’re looking to go for 3 months, do you think the rent rather than buy option is still a good one? I think we’d spend around £12k in rental so I factor I could make a loss when I sell and still end up being better off? Also, you factored in 2 weeks to find a vehicle, what about selling it again the other end? How long would that take do you think?

  • Reply
    October 30, 2018 at 12:49 am

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’m so glad it exists!

    • Reply
      November 15, 2018 at 11:15 pm

      Ahh thanks! Glad you found it useful 🙂

  • Reply
    Bella Philips
    November 8, 2018 at 6:11 am

    Thank you very much! The PDF is perfect and amazing. I have already used this campervan service which is amazing as well as with other services like wifi, eating and drinking etc. I will say thanks for this.

    • Reply
      November 15, 2018 at 11:18 pm

      Great! Glad it was useful for you! 🙂

  • Reply
    November 22, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    Very helpful!

    Was it hard to sell the camper when it was time to leave? I would be selling mine in May/jun if I go.

    Do u budget about 1000/month?

  • Reply
    November 25, 2018 at 3:23 am

    Hi! Used your info for our trip to Chile in January of this year. Just wanted to say thankyou as the info provided was EXTREMELY accurate and helpful. We loved the country and spent six weeks there. Going to NZ for three months and plan on buying a van. We will use your tips here as well. What is the average cost of a campground if we don’t have a self contained vehicle? In Canada it has become trendy to ‘go camping’ and a campsite with hookup (water electricity) is often similar to a budget hotel (with free wifi, parking, breakfast, private bathroom and someone else cleaning the room and changing the towels). Kind of makes ‘roughing it’ a little pointless. Are the Free Camping sites free? What does it cost to dump your self contained unit waste water?

    Thanks very much for your knowledge and helpfulness

  • Reply
    Paul RYKEN
    December 6, 2018 at 4:30 am

    We have just completed 11 months travelling around New Zealand in a Ford Transit Campervan and have written about the costs to set up as well as our costs on the road on our website. We are now in the process of selling the vehicle to head over to Europe for a year.

    Your article would have come in handy for when we purchased a year ago.

  • Reply
    February 26, 2019 at 9:15 am

    Thats a good article, however it looks like its been a while since you made it. If you want to update it there is a page just selling cars for backpacker, check it out

    Will be a better resource than the car fairs, many people are getting rip off there every Sunday, talking from my own experience and others I heard about.

    Following you now on instagram 🙂

  • Reply
    Adam Pullman
    March 8, 2019 at 8:28 am

    Great post. It is very informative post for everyone I love reading this information. This is a perfect blog buying a campervan. Keep posting and keep sharing like this.

  • Reply
    March 22, 2019 at 4:44 am

    Hi! Thank you very much for writing this. Is really helpfull.
    I am looking for a van in Auckland. I am going to be travelling an living in the Van and I am a little bit worried about the cold nights. I am going to be travelling just by myself. so, do you think get an isolated van is really necessary? or it does not worth it?

    Thank you!

    • Reply
      March 24, 2019 at 5:02 am

      Hey! Just make sure you have a couple of thick blankets and you will be fine! 🙂

      • Reply
        March 24, 2019 at 9:19 am

        Great! thanks 🙂

  • Reply
    May 28, 2019 at 8:12 pm

    Useful site I will be buying a camper. Are you still traveling?

  • Reply
    Julius Aeneas Thamer
    September 21, 2019 at 1:59 pm

    Thank you for writing such a informative blog, it helps really a lot! Me and my girlfriend will start our trip at the end of 2019 and we also want to experience the country by a camper. So you are really helpful for me, so thank you a lot for sharing your experience with others.

    Best regards from Munich, Aeneas.

  • Reply
    July 17, 2020 at 9:10 am

    Thnaks for the post. Very informative! Another good blog post I found that is from 2020 is very recent and has some good information for anyone interested.

  • Reply
    classic car parts nz
    February 6, 2021 at 10:24 am

    Such a wonderful blog about top tips for buying a campervan in new Zealand and I appreciate your effort for bringing this in to notice. Great blog indeed, will visit again future to read more!!

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