People in New Zealand are living out of vans.
There are loads of them and most aren’t native to the country. Unlike the backpackers interrailing around Europe, the travelers in New Zealand are seeing the country on four wheels.
There are tour companies that will take travelers around, but I liked the idea of doing it on my own terms. I thought that buying a van and touring the country was just an idea that I had, but it turns out, it is an actual THING.
Campervan culture here is alive and well and if you’re planning on traveling around New Zealand independently, here is what you need to know about buying a campervan in Auckland.
What Kind of Vehicles Are Available?
You won’t be wanting for choice when vehicle shopping in Auckland. There will be mini-vans, full sized vans and station wagons to choose from as well as fully equipped campervans.
It’s important to note that many of these cars/vans have been converted into perfect road trip vehicles. You will find that seats have been ripped out, bed frames have been built and kitchen pull out frames installed.
Most of them will come fully stocked with a mattress, sheets, cooking utensils and a mini stove, making them completely road-trip ready.
What Kind Should You Buy?
This one is completely up to you. Determine the answers to these questions before shopping around.
• How many people will be traveling with you?
• Do you want an automatic or manual?
• Would you rather drive something that takes Diesel or Petrol?
• Do you want a vehicle that is livable (comes with mattress, storage and kitchen) or would you rather have something that has not been altered?
• What wheel drive do you prefer?
• What size are you comfortable driving?
How Much Do They Cost?
Obviously, prices will vary depending on miles, year, make and condition. However, we found that purchasing a vehicle in Auckland is entirely affordable. Prices were ranging between $1,500 to $5,000 New Zealand dollars.
Keep in mind the exchange rate because the cars may actually be even cheaper in your own currency.
True Story: We looked at all of the cars in the market that were in our price range according to USD. After we finished looking, we walked about 5 minutes down the road until we realized that we never took the exchange rate into consideration. After doing some math, we realized that we could afford way more than we thought in NZ dollars and turned right back around to look again.
Where Can I Find One?
There are plenty of resources around Auckland to give you a well rounded search. Some of the best places to look are:
• Relevant Facebook Communities: There are quite a few groups on Facebook you can join that function as message boards. Backpackers Cars/Vans Sales Auckland is the group where we found the listing for the van that we ended up buying. Usually, this community is filled with other travelers, trying to sell their vehicles when they finish their trip.
• Trade Me Website: This website is like the “Craigslist” for New Zealanders. It has everything, including a section for buying and selling used vehicles.
• Hostel Notice Boards: Travelers tend to stay in hostels and every hostel will have a notice board. When we were initially looking for a van, we stayed in a hostel that had a board overflowing with flyers advertising vehicles for sale.
• The Backpacker Car Markets: There are two markets in Auckland that run on Saturdays and Sundays. Here, you can find former travelers and van owners trying to sell their vehicles. Almost all of the cars here are set up for travelers. Try the Auckland City Car Fair or the City Car Fair.
• Local, Used Dealerships: A quick online search will yield the Used Car dealerships around the city. Find one and shop as you normally would, but be aware that a small majority of these vehicles will be actually suitable for living out of.
Note: The people whom we bought our van from actually got it from a dealership originally.
What About The Paperwork?
The paperwork for putting a new vehicle in your name is quite easy. In fact, the previous owners don’t even have to be there. Josh simply took the registration card, went to the local post office and had it put into his name with a new registration costing a whopping $9 NZ.
You will also need to make sure that the car has a valid inspection sticker. The previous inspection on ours is good until April but after that, we will need to have it inspected by a mechanic which will cost about $120 NZ.
Should You Get Insurance?
Insurance is not compulsory in New Zealand so it’s up to you to whether or not you want to purchase it. The coverage fees are actually quite cheap and there are a variety of options including budget ones. Youie is a popular company that provides car insurance for travelers. Some prices are as low as $200 for an entire year of coverage.
True Story: An Irish couple that we met told us that while on their road trip, they had to replace windows several times do to small rocks flying up from the road. With their insurance, all fees were covered.
Tips For Buying a Campervan in Auckland And What to Avoid
From our personal experience and stories we have heard from other travelers, we have come up with just a few tips to keep in mind.
• Try to Buy From Other Travelers: The car markets will be full of non-travelers who buy vehicles, convert them into campers and try to sell them to travelers and tourists. These guys are just trying to make a sale and most of them have never driven or done extended road trips in them to see how they perform.
• Ask if You Can Have it Checked By a Mechanic of Your Choice: Not everyone may agree to this, but it’s worth a try to see if there is anything majorly wrong with the car before agreeing to buy it.
True Story: We almost bought a car from a seller at the Backpacker market who wasn’t a traveler, but rather someone who flipped vehicles to make a profit.
After putting a $200 deposit on the car, we asked to take it to our own mechanic to have it looked at before paying the rest of the money. The owner of the car was extremely hesitant, made up a lot of excuses for why he didn’t want to do it, but then finally agreed.
When we sent him the address of our mechanic so that he could meet us there with the car, he quickly called and said that a member of his family had died and that he needed to attend the funeral the day of our mechanic appointment.
Instead of offering to reschedule the inspection, he just offered to give us our money back and made us take a taxi out of town to go pick it up from his house, where it was clear by the looks of him and his family that no one was indeed getting ready for a funeral. We are actually quite happy that this happened because we think we dodged some sort of bullet with the car.
• Check The Facts: If a seller is claiming that upgrades and new parts have been added to the vehicle, make sure to look around the car for evidence of this being true. Also, you can check online to see the history of the car to see what kind of shape it may be in.
True Story: The guy who originally bought our van happens to be a mechanic and was able to confirm that the engine on this 1990 make had actually been completely re-built, just like the seller said.
• Don’t Go For The Lowest Miles: Just because a car has low miles, doesn’t mean that it is in better shape than ones with more. Make sure to look at the mechanical inner workings and which parts have been replaced.
True Story: The travelers who sold us our van told us about a European guy that they had met while on the road. This guy had told them that when he was looking for a van, he was obsessed with finding one that had the least amount of miles.
It turns out that once he found it and got it on the road, it essentially fell apart, costing him most of his trip budget for the next few months of his travels to fix. The owners of our van didn’t mind that it had high miles because they were able to tell that most of the essential parts had been replaced.
• Consider What it Comes With: Some cars/vans will come with all of the supplies that you need to get on the road. By factoring in how much it would cost you to buy a cooker, kitchen utensils and bedding, it could really save you some cash to get one that is equipped.
True Story: The previous owners of our van REALLY hooked us up! We have all of the kitchen supplies we could ever need, a mostly full tank of propane for the stove, two foldable chairs, a bunch of food, a fishing rod and mechanical supplies. The only thing we did was replace the sheets and pillow cases and then were on our way!