When you are about to sign something you are reminded of the phrase, ‘The devil is in the details’. I think the same can be applied to planning a trip. Or food shopping for that matter. What you don’t want is to get to the shops without a list, having not thought through your meals for the week! If you are planning a trip, especially abroad, you most certainly want to think through every detail as much as you can beforehand.
Booking up a motorhome in New Zealand had to be done a lot sooner than we thought. There is quite a demand for them and the choice had narrowed considerably with less than three months to go. It caused a bit of a panic.
So, how to start? Obviously you need to book the flight first but then the next thing that needs doing is to sort out accommodation and transport. We had planned on hiring a car from Auckland to Wellington, staying in cabins on holiday parks, then crossing Cook Strait to the South Island as foot passengers to save money, then hiring a motorhome from Picton. But we discovered it couldn’t be done without a lot of expense. It would even wipe out savings made on the ferry crossing. I am hoping to help people by pointing out the pitfalls of hiring a motorhome.
For quite a few people the choice of travel mode will be a motorhome as it is a great way to see this beautiful country. In theory you can tour round at your own pace, dropping in at holiday parks or, if your motorhome is self-contained, staying on Department of Conservation sites with basic facilities or none. Finally, you can freedom camp – a great way to save money. However, the cost of your vehicle that doubles up as a home is likely to outweigh this last option! The rental companies recommend you stay at holiday parks every other night to keep the leisure batteries charged up. If you are thinking of renting a motorhome, be prepared for all sorts of catches.
For a start, unless you have an all-inclusive insurance option you won’t have peace of mind. If any damage has been spotted when you return the motorhome you could lose the amount of the excess.
Standard: Insurance: you pay the excess amount (thousands of dollars) on a credit card then get it returned if there is no damage to the vehicle. It can come with a surcharge when you get your money back and the exchange rate may affect the amount returned too.
Inclusive Pack: no excess but a bond of a few hundred dollars will be taken as an imprint.
There are extra charges to beware of.
If you are planning on having more than one driver (useful) then this is a small charge per day.
The number of kilometres you do will be subject to a road user charge. And if you have a larger motorhome the charge is slightly more. If like us, you plan to see a fair amount of both islands in about 15 days you will do 3200km or more and the road user charge will be just over $200. Don’t be fooled by the words ‘unlimited kilometres’ as this does not mean there is no road user charge.
Extras: camping table and chairs, baby/booster seat, gas bottle refill.
You can get inclusive packs which contain extras like fan heaters and snow chains and Wi-Fi.
There is also the option of an ‘express return pack’ if you have more money than time. It costs several hundred dollars at the time of writing and you don’t have to refill the gas bottle or fuel tank among other benefits.
If you want to pick up your motorhome from somewhere that does not have a depot, e.g. Picton, then be prepared to pay a hefty amount in fees for having the motorhome brought to you. They then have to get it back to their depot so obviously a fair amount needs to be charged BUT you also have to hire it for 14 days or more. The rental companies currently charge $550 for a pick up that is not one of the big cities as they have to take it there then get back themselves.
If you are hiring from one depot and returning to another you will be charged for that too.
If you want to pick up outside hours there is a charge for that.
Common sense of course, tells you to get as many quotes as possible and look through the small print, taking note of all the expenses to work out your budget. Check the terms and conditions of the rental company carefully for charges. You will be charged a cleaning fee for example if the vehicle is not returned in a clean condition.
In our experience we have found a lot of this out over a fraught week. Because of the time difference, having to stay up late to catch the New Zealanders as they come into work or get up very early in the morning (though some of them work late or from home). The agencies who will book you a motorhome as they partner with all the rental companies can be very helpful… no doubt they make their money on the insurance.
I can understand that these motorhomes are expensive beasts and there have to be fail-safe measures in place for the rental companies. But just be aware that it all costs more than you might think and that whatever they can think of there will be a charge for.
I’d love to know about your recent experiences of motorhome hire.