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When you rent a car in New Zealand there are a few extra things to also keep in mind.

However, in general, your car renting experience is likely to be positive and your travels easy and relaxing.

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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 :
1.  Choosing a Rental Car Company
2.  Choosing the right rental car
3.  Other things to consider

Part 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 break-ins.

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 car.

There are four things you should do to minimize your risk of problems here.

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 New Zealand.

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 cities.

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 reduced prices.

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.

GPS Issues

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 dollars.

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 travel there?

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 car.

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.

Self-Drive Itineraries

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 Company
2.  Choosing the right rental car
3.  Other things to consider

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Originally published 3 Feb 2011, last update 30 May 2021

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