If you’re looking to explore New Zealand’s epic North Island, odds are you’ll be renting a car in Auckland. Yet, before you pick up your set of wheels there are a few things to know! Whether you’re planning to rent a car from Auckland airport or from another location, we got you covered. Here are the best tips for Auckland rental cars!
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10 Tips For Renting a Car in Auckland
1. Planning Your Road Trip
The first thing to decide before search for car rentals in Auckland is where you’re actually going! The country’s largest city is the likely starting point for travelers flying in from abroad.
Once you have your dates it’s time to start planning your trip in New Zealand. Are you heading for Tongariro National Park to do some hiking or spending a nice relaxing weekend in the Bay of Islands?
Whatever type of traveler you are there is truly something for everyone in New Zealand! Below are some of our favorite routes to consider on the North Island.
→ New Zealand North Island Itinerary: 4 Awesome One Week Routes
2. How Long Do You Have?
After you’ve thought about some worthy destinations, you’ll also want to decide how long you’ll need to rent a car in Auckland for. Are you just doing a day trip or do you have a couple weeks to drive around the North Island?
If you’re looking into a longer rental make sure to search for the weekly rate as it is often a better deal. You can even check out campervan’s which we will cover more later in this article.
3. Don’t Rent a Car FOR Auckland
One of the best Auckland rental cars tips is to not actual use one during your stay in the city. Many people visiting New Zealand will fly into Auckland first to see it. If you are spending some time in the city make sure not to pick up your rent a car in Auckland until the day you actually leave!
Trust us when we say you won’t actually need a car rental in Auckland. In fact, it will actually be more of a pain than anything. Remember that parking is difficult and always expensive in big cities. The traffic is also not fun, and there are plenty of other ways to get around.
Take advantage of the city bikes, Uber, and other modes of transportation instead of renting a car in Auckland to use there. Even if you have to head back to rent a car from Auckland airport it’s still worth it to avoid having it in the city.
4. Rent a Car From Auckland Airport
Obviously, if you’re flying into Auckland and taking off directly from there you’re better off hiring a rent a car at Auckland airport when you land. Still, you should always compare companies to find the best deals!
To make things easier on yourself you may want to rent a car from Auckland airport, complete your road trip, then spend some time in the big city before you fly out. Prices can often be better at the airport because there is so many competing Auckland car rental companies.
We always use Discover Cars when renting a car in Auckland. We’ve found great weekly rentals as well as a one way deal when we wanted to finish our trip on the South Island. The popular website filters the best prices through dozens of different companies.
When booking our rental car in advance we paid around $250 USD for a week and saw prices as low as $150! We will say that renting a car in Auckland is typically much cheaper than renting a car in Queenstown, which is the adventure hub of the South Island.
5. Time of Year
Another thing to look into before renting a car in Auckland is the time of year you’re visiting. If you haven’t been to the North Island of New Zealand before know that it’s a moderate climate. However, certain areas during winter will be harsher than others.
The South Island is known to be colder, but they can both have inclement weather conditions that make driving difficult. One thing to recognize is also that the seasons are reversed if you’re coming from the USA or Europe. That means June to August is actually their winter in New Zealand!
If you’re visiting in these months prepare for the possibility of driving in rain and even snow. That means you may want to pay a little more for an SUV with 4 wheel drive rather than a flashy sports car. Of course, renting a car in Auckland during off-season has it’s perks! You can often find better deals than during the more popular summer months of December to February.
If you’re planning on traveling during the holidays or in the peak warmer months, book your car as far as possible in advance for the best deal. Remember that Discover Cars and many Auckland car rental companies offer free cancellation. This way you can lock in your deal and switch your plans if you have to afterward.
6. One Way Auckland Rental Cars
When renting a car in Auckland, it’s a great idea to look into a one way deal. This allows you to not only to see as much as possible, but to have the convenience of returning to wherever you’re ending your trip. You can even start on the North Island and fly out of Queenstown or Christchurch!
In fact, taking the Cook Strait Ferry from from capital of Wellington to Picton on the South Island is a super popular route for travelers! The boat ride is an experience in itself, whether you’re a foot passenger or bringing your vehicle on board.
There is typically a one way fee to drop at a different location. Still, it may be worth it if you want to experience multiple places on your vacation and not have to backtrack. Below are some of our favorite South Island routes if you’re making the trip there!
→ South Island New Zealand Itinerary: 4 Amazing One Week Routes
7. Tolls & Fees
Fortunately, there aren’t many toll roads you’ll have to worry about when renting a car in Auckland. The ones that do exist are all on the North Island at this time. Below are the 3 toll roads to watch out for in New Zealand.
- Northern Gateway Toll Road
- Takitimu Drive Toll Road
- Tauranga Eastern Link Toll Road
The Northern Gateway is just north of Auckland while the other 2 mentioned are in the Bay of Plenty region. They only cost around $2 USD for a car. You can even find some more scenic routes to avoid these toll roads if you prefer, but it’s not something to be overly concerned about.
We recommend asking about tolls when you pick up your Auckland rental car. You can also check out the official New Zealand Government website for updated information.
8. Checking Car Rentals in Auckland for Damage
An extremely important thing to watch out for is damage when picking up your rent a car in Auckland. It’s so essential to check for damage both in and outside of the car before you drive away. With many companies these days, they don’t even bother to walk around the vehicle with you!
Even though they may give you assurances that they know every inch of the car, still do your due diligence. Take pictures, have them mark the contract, and even make a video circling the vehicle.
As you can imagine, many of these car rentals in Auckland have been through a lot. Remember that you are in the country’s largest city! There’s no reason to put yourself or your insurance deductible at risk by not taking these simple steps beforehand.
Also, make sure you’re insured before renting a car in Auckland. Our credit card covers us whenever we’re renting vehicles around the world. Yet, if you don’t have your own form of coverage you’ll want to purchase the additional insurance from the Auckland car rental company.
9. Renting a Car in Auckland for Camping
If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand you probably have already read about Freedom Camping! This unique method of travel is considered by many to be the ultimate way to see the country. New Zealand is perfectly set up for camping with its designated free areas to stay overnight.
That’s right… We said free! Unfortunately, you will need a campervan or a self-contained vehicle to use these popular overnight locations. Luckily though, there are very nice holiday parks that worth staying in for a little extra money! At many of these you can actually park your car and pitch a tent.
This is not only a fun way to see New Zealand, but it will save you SO MUCH money on the alternative of hotels. The DOC (Department of Conservation) sites are a great option as well if you’re looking for something more rustic than a holiday park.
10. Should you Consider a Campervan?
Although renting a car in Auckland is a popular choice, there are many reasons why a campervan might be better. For instance, if your traveling with family, truly enjoy the outdoors, and want to take advantage of freedom camping, we get it!
It also can be a money saver on longer journeys. The 3 months we spent in our Jucy Campervan in New Zealand was honestly one of our favorite travel experiences ever!
At the end of the day, it all depends on your travel style. For us, we prefer a to rent a car in Auckland for shorter trips. Yet, for multiple weeks campervan was the way to go!
→ 15 Best Tips to Know Before Freedom Camping in New Zealand
Have any questions on renting a car in Auckland or want to share your own tips for driving in New Zealand? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
New Zealand Travel Planning
Flights: It’s easy to find cheap flight deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we got flights from Auckland to Queenstown for $40 USD, and New Zealand to Fiji for less than $150!
Accommodation: Compare multiple sites for the best deal such as Booking.com and Agoda! Also, Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide to find activities all over New Zealand! They have everything from a Milford Sound cruise with underwater observatory, to a Otago wine tour with gourmet wine & lunch, and even a Kaikoura whale watching cruise!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for insurance the last few years and they are always there when we need them.
Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials!