Renting a Car in New Zealand part 3
Various Other Car Rental Considerations
There are lots of good
deals from many fine rental car companies in New Zealand.
Part three of a three part series
on renting a car in New Zealand - see also :
Choosing a Rental Car Company
2. Choosing the right
3. Other things to
of a series on travel to and in New Zealand -
click the links in the right hand
column for more articles.
So now you've chosen an
appropriate car, and from a good rental car company.
What's left to think about?
Oh, how about some still
important issues as not getting lost, making sure your tires are
safe, and avoiding becoming the victim of a car break-in.
Although New Zealand is both
small and friendly, it is still possible to get lost, and the
country has an appreciable incidence of petty-crime such as car
Vehicle Check Before Leaving the Lot
Something you should be fastidious about doing completely is a
check of your vehicle before leaving the rental car depot.
First, you want to check for any damage - any scratches, any
windshield chips, any small dings in the bodywork. Be sure
to advise the company of anything you find (there's probably a
form for you to complete) because if you don't, then anything
that is on the vehicle when you return it is deemed to have been
done by you.
Second, check the tires for adequacy of tread depth. The
one complaint we've occasionally had from people renting higher
mileage vehicles in NZ has been excessively worn tires.
Make sure your tires are okay.
Avoid Car Break-Ins
Few people realize that while NZ is very beautiful to look at,
and many New Zealand people are truly and genuinely friendly and
honest, there are, alas, some notable exceptions.
New Zealand seems to have an appreciable number of car
break-ins. Some are little more than mindless vandalism by
drunks on their way home at night, others involve more
professional criminals seeking to steal things from inside the
There are four things you should do to minimize your risk of
First, keep anything valuable out of sight. Keep it in the
trunk, or if a hatchback, keep any cover the vehicle might have
pulled over to conceal your suitcases and other goodies.
If you have a GPS in the car, take it off the windshield and
hide it when you're not in the car yourself.
Second, whenever possible, don't leave valuables in the car at
all, whether they be visible or hidden. Leave them in your
hotel/motel, or carry them on your person whenever possible.
Third, always keep the vehicle locked.
Fourthly and finally, be careful about where you park the car,
particularly overnight. Under a streetlight would be
better than in a dark alleyway, and not close to the main
pedestrian paths that lead from pubs to other places.
Driver's License for New Zealand driving
Your regular back-home driver's license is probably just fine
for driving in New Zealand, especially if everything on the
license is in English, so that both the rental car company and
possibly any policemen (!) can understand the license and your
entitlement to drive.
But if your license is in a language that may not be understood,
it might be a good idea to get an 'International Driving
License' or 'International Driving Permit' prior to arriving in
This document is merely an internationally recognized and
accepted translation of your home license. You still need
to have your home license with you - the international permit
does not replace or supersede your home license, and does not
give you any extra rights/entitlements. Quite a few scam
companies offer various types of international driving
certification that is basically meaningless.
In the US, the only authorized issuers of such documents are the
AAA and the
American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).
Maps and GPS
These days, maps are increasingly being either replaced by, or
at the very least, supplemented by GPS based navigation systems.
You should get some basic maps from the rental car company at
the start of your rental. These can be supplemented at
most book stores or gas stations with a map book that has both
touring maps of the country as a whole and also detailed town
and city maps for most - but not all - of the major towns and
Another source of mapping information is the New Zealand
Automobile Association. If you belong to the AAA or some
other automobile association, check to see if this gives you
reciprocal member rights in NZ, allowing you to get many/all of
the NZ AA's excellent map publications either for free or at
Note - if you do have reciprocity, you'll need to show your home
AA membership card to prove your membership, so be sure to bring
that with you.
Lastly, we definitely recommend you take a GPS with you.
If you have a choice between bringing your own unit or renting
one as an extra item from the car rental company, we'd be
inclined to recommend you bring your own - indeed the money you
save from not needing to pay to rent a unit from the car rental
company will probably pay for the cost of buying your own GPS
unit, which will of course then be yours to keep for the future.
This will take almost all the stress/strain out of navigating.
If you already have have a GPS back home, see if you can add a
New Zealand map to it. Some units allow you to add extra
maps for extra countries, others don't.
If you don't yet have a GPS, or if your GPS doesn't allow you to
add extra maps for other countries, perhaps this is now the time
to buy a nice new GPS which allows you to add maps for much of
the world to it. Be sure to get a unit with at least a
4.3" screen; other than that, buy based on price and mapping
inclusions and ongoing costs.
Make sure whatever unit you have can be easily transported and
mounted in other cars.
Phone Based GPS
Increasingly, modern smartphones (and tablet devices too) have
built in GPS receivers and GPS/mapping programs.
There are two factors to consider when thinking about using your
phone as a GPS. (Note - we will not add 'or tablet too' to
every mention of phone, but all our comments about phones apply
equally to tablets).
Where does the map data come from
First, is the map data in your GPS program stored on the phone
or is it downloaded, as you need it, from the internet? We
very very strongly advise you NOT to rely on a GPS program that
downloads its data from the internet as and when needed (such as
Google Maps), for two reasons.
First, the cost of downloading data in a foreign country can be
outrageously high - the cost of continually downloading mapping
data as you drive around could end up in the hundreds of
Second, what happens when you're in an area with poor or no cell
phone signal? Your GPS is going to die on you. Yes,
at the worst possible moment - you're lost in the middle of
nowhere - your GPS won't work either, and you're not only lost,
but you don't know how to find yourself again either!
A GPS program that has the mapping data stored on the phone
itself suffers from neither of these problems, and because the
map data is right on the phone, it operates more quickly and
more smoothly too. You must make sure your preferred GPS
program uses local data accordingly.
I have been reasonably happy with the CoPilot Live product; it
is fairly priced and easy to use. Their Australia & New
Zealand map program costs $52.25 for Android phones and $49.99
for iOs phones.
There are plenty of other alternatives too.
Turn by Turn Directions
Will your mapping program calculate a route to where you want to
go, and then give you spoken turn by turn directions as you
Most mapping programs will do this, but Google Maps only does
this for its Android version, not its Apple iOS version, so do
check that any map program you choose is capable of this
important (essential!) feature.
Don't forget your GPS!
In addition to needing some sort of mounting device for your GPS
or phone when in a rental car, there's one extremely important
thing to remember.
When returning your car, remember to take your GPS out of the
This is a non-intuitive thing that you're not normally in the
habit of doing. Here's a suggestion that might help you
remember. Bring a few post-it notes with you, and put them
on all the rental car agreement forms saying 'Remember GPS!' so
that as part of the returning the car process, when you go to
get the rental car agreement, you'll see the post-it notes on
the agreement and be reminded.
See also our article about
self drive touring in New
Zealand which tells you considerably more about how to best
drive around New Zealand.
We are also publishing a series
of self-drive itineraries to help you plan your self-drive New
Zealand vacation. Here is the
list of NZ self-drive
itineraries for you to choose from.
Part of three a three part series
on renting a car in New Zealand - see also :
1. Choosing a Rental Car
2. Choosing the right
3. Other things to
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3 Feb 2011, last update
30 May 2021