By Cameryn Korn
If you are debating whether to rent a car versus pay for a tour bus or train in New Zealand, my suggestion would definitely be to do some research before planning your travels (consider the length of your stay, the price of gas, etc.). I recently traveled most of the country by car with a friend. Our stay in New Zealand was only 2 weeks, but we were able to cover most of the North and South Islands. Renting a car is often more cost effective than arranging a tour bus, even with the price of gas. If you don’t mind an older car with miles on it instead of a brand new one from a top car rental company, Ace Rental Car is the way to go. Ace offers great deals with many insurance options. Even though they advertise car rentals for $19 NZD per day, I would anticipate always paying more than that. Rates will also change in the summer months versus the winter months as most people are vacationing and traveling the country in the summer. Also, be sure you indicate whether you will need a manual or automatic car when you make your reservation as your rates may be subject to change.
Ace offers great flexibility in rental options as well. We began our journey in Auckland and drove all the way down to Wellington where we dropped off our first rental. We then boarded the ferry from the North Island to the South Island, and picked up our second car rental in Picton. Please note that it is very expensive to pay for your rental car to travel on the ferry (upwards of $250 NZD). I would highly suggest arranging two car rentals for North and South Island. Ace will pick you up from the ferry terminal and take you to their onsite location at the Picton terminal.
Another word of caution is to be sure to pay the extra money for insurance coverage. Although I am always one to ignore any offers for additional car insurance in the United States because I am skeptical and believe it is a huge scam, it is a whole different ball game when you are in a different country. The cars that Ace rents are older and not in the best condition as ones from top rental companies (like Hertz and Alamo). Towards the end of our trip, we drove the entire west coast of the South Island. When we arrived in Queenstown, we noticed we had a flat tire. Even though we had maximum insurance, Ace does not cover roadside assistance for a flat tire. However, because we did purchase insurance, we simply had to put on the spare ourselves (with the help of two nice Kiwis) and drive the car to the Queenstown airport. A new tire was put on free of charge. The great thing about New Zealand is the people. They are always willing to lend a helping hand, which makes your travel experience so much more enjoyable.
Lesson of the story: check rates with Ace and other tour bus companies if you are debating between the two. While a car gives you more flexibility in what you would like to see and do, a tour bus is less stressful and could be more cost effective (don’t forget the cost of gas). All in all, we were so happy we rented a car because we were able to see so much in a relatively short period of time! Good luck in your future travels!
For information on traveling around New Zealand check out: How to travel New Zealand on travelingbug.org