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Everything you need to know about buying a car, van or campervan in New Zealand

Dougy - SOLD
Wake up to a different view every day.....


You've decided to visit New Zealand.... and by now you know that buying or renting a vehicle is the best way to see the country..... let's just focus on buying!

First things first... make sure you know what you want.... and what you can afford. The overall price of vans and campervans throughout NZ will change enormously depending on what time of year you arrive here... and in which city you arrive. At the end of summer you can quite often grab a bargain as everyone is trying to sell their vans before flying out. And at the other end of the spectrum you can feel like you are being ripped off if you arrive in November/December/January.

Also decide what features you want in your vehicle... If it's a campervan then do you want it to be Certified Self Contained*? Do you want a fixed gas stove or one you can easily move outside...

*Self Containment is discussed in further detail here


There are many places to look for your new vehicle - below are just a few of them.

BEDVANZ - Us!!! :

Backpacker Board :

Facebook Marketplace (Plus various Facebook groups) :

Trade Me : (this is a great site for buying all kinds of things - similar to eBay)

Hostels - Notice board : Most Hostels have a notice board and quite often these will have a 'vans for sale' section.

The range of vans and cars available is staggering.. anything from a beat up 80's Honda Civic for $800 right up to a self contained home on wheels for $30k... and everything in between...Typically you will pay between $5000 and $25,000 for a decent campervan....

Anyway, here's a run down on what's what....


Typical models to look out for in no particular order:

Toyota Hiace/Liteace/Townace/Estima/Regius, Mitsubishi L300/Delica/Spacegear, Ford Econovan, Mazda Bongo/E1800/E2000/MPV, Honda Odyssey, Nissan Serena/Vanette/Elgrand, Honda Stepwagon,

All of the above are considered big enough to be a campervan (sometimes called backpackervan, sleepervan or motorhome). Some are only just long enough for a bed and not much else (e.g. Serena, Odyssey). Others are really quite long and spacious and some even allow standing. It would take a long time to go through each model (and sub-model) and explain the differences so instead I'll let you do some of the discovery.... it can actually be quite fun, if you're that way inclined.

One thing to remember is that just because one van is bigger than another, it doesn't necessarily mean it will be more expensive than a smaller van...


New Zealand has a huge import market from Japan so you'll find a lot of 2nd hand used cars in New Zealand are either Toyota, Mazda, Honda or Mitsubishi. There are far too many models to go into in this blog but let's just say that you should stick with a Japanese brand as the parts are more easily available and generally they are considered more reliable. As with most countries you have different styles such as 'Station Wagon' (also know as an 'estate' car in UK), 'Ute' (Utility truck - 2 seats and flat deck at the back)), Hatchback (aka 'Coupe'), 'SUV' (sports utility vehicle) and of course a regular 4 doors and a boot (trunk) the 'Sedan'.


No matter what vehicle you intend on buying the same rules apply when you go to inspect a vehicle. Below is a link to a list of checks you should make on any vehicle before you hand any money over or agree to any kind of deal... And remember, you can always ask a professional to carry out a 'Pre-Purchase Inspection' on your behalf. See VTNZ and AA for more info.

It's more than likely that the vehicle you buy will have some issues with it so make sure this is reflected in the price and negotiate accordingly.

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has a great website which has lots of information on traveling around New Zealand - including the latest traffic and accident info.


CarJam is website you can use to do a basic check (or comprehensive if you want to pay $) on the campervan you are going to buy. It will show you odometer history, guideline on running costs and plate history. This could potentially uncover hidden problems in the history of the vehicle... and for $ a full report will show you a really comprehensive history of the vehicle including showing if there is any money owning on the vehicle and the ownership history... $ well spent I'd say.



Warrant Of Fitness

This is a test carried out by registered mechanics to establish the safety of a vehicle (Similar to the MOT, HU, Contrôle Technique test) . This is not a comprehensive test and doesn't cover all mechanical issues. It only covers whether or not the vehicle is safe to drive on the roads. For example a vehicle may have a blown head gasket (quite often a very expensive thing to fix) but it may still pass a WOF.

WOFs are due every 6 months if your vehicle is older than the year 2000. And every 12 months if it is year 2000 or after. You should book your vehicle in for a WOF at an accredited mechanic at least one week before the date shown on the sticker of the inside of the windscreen to ensure it passes before the date shown - see image below.

To find out more about what is checked in a WOF test visit the NZTA website here -

BELOW: example of a WOF label (displayed in the top corner of all vehicle windscreens)


Certificate Of Fitness

This is very similar to a WOF. It's a regular check to ensure that your vehicle meets required safety standards. Vehicles requiring this certification are: heavy vehicles – trucks, larger trailers, some motor homes. all passenger service vehicles – taxis, shuttles and buses. rental vehicles.


Road User Charges (applies only to diesel cars/campervans only - not petrol)

Anyone using New Zealand’s roads contributes towards their upkeep (maintenance). Most drivers pay levies (taxes) when they buy fuel. Others, such as drivers of diesel vehicles and heavy vehicles like trucks, pay through Road User Charges (RUC).

To pay the road user charges you purchase a RUC licence based on the vehicle’s RUC weight and RUC vehicle type. For most diesel cars and campervans, you need a distance licence, which you purchase in 1000km units (or multiples of 1000). You must buy a new licence before you’ve driven all the distance covered by the previous licence.

RUC licences can be purchased from some Post Shops (Post Office) and all VTNZ stores. There is a short form to fill out and of course a charge per 1000kms. This charge will differ from vehicle to vehicle depending on the engine size and vehicle classification. Just ask at either location and they will guide you through the process.

An example of a RUC licence label

(This must be displayed in the windscreen of your vehicle)


Motor Vehicle Licencing (similar to road tax)

Motor vehicle licensing is where you pay a fee to use your vehicle on public roads. The fee helps to pay for roading projects and road safety programmes.

Vehicle licensing is sometimes referred to as ‘REGO’, but should not be confused with registration, which is the process where you add a vehicle’s details to the Motor Vehicle Register and issue its number plates. 

You can purchase REGO in any amount of months (from 1 month to 12 months)

Your motor vehicle must have a current warrant of fitness (WOF) or certificate of fitness (COF) before you can purchase REGO or use the motor vehicle on the road.

The easiest way to purchase REGO is to go to your local VTNZ and fill out a short form.

BELOW: An example REGO (Vehicle licence) label


Long Wheel Base

This one is quite simple. LWB mean 'Long Wheel Base'. Some vehicles with the same name and model come in different lengths...i.e. some are longer than others. Yes, you guessed it! Long Wheel Base vans are longer than Short Wheel Base (SWB) vans. In terms of campervans, LWB vans give you more internal space than SWB vans.

FYI: A wheel base is the distance between the front and back wheels


Short Wheel Base

See LWB above

Electrical WOF:

Electrical Warrant Of Fitness

This only applies to campervans and motor homes that have a special connection on the side of their vans called an EHU point (Electrical Hook Up point). This connection feeds electricity from a campsite into the campervans electrical system. It's worth noting that not many backpacker style vans will have a connection like this. But if they do they are subject to being tested for an Electrical WOF.

The test ensures the safety of the electrical system and also that it has been installed by a registered electrician (you cannot do this yourself).

In short, a current electrical warrant of fitness is a requirement of law in New Zealand if the campervan is to be connected to a 230 volt electrical supply system. It used to be valid for four years from January of the year of issue. This has now changed to 48 months from the date of issue.

If you are buying a campervan with an EHU ensure it has a current Electrical WOF. Campsites can potentially turn you away or stop you connecting to the power if your Electrical WOF is not current.

An example image of an EHU connection.


Make sure you ask all the questions you want to ask and as per the guidelines above, make sure you are fully happy with the condition of the vehicle before agreeing on an amount. Remember, if you are buying from a fellow backpacker you have no come-back should the vehicle break down or have a mechanical fault once they have left the country so make sure you're happy.

If you buy from a Registered Motor Vehicle Trader (like BEDVANZ - MVT number : M400015) you have some protection from the Consumers Association NZ - read this for more information on consumer protection.

As with any purchase you should always ensure that the person you are buying from is genuine before handing over any money. I suggest making initial contact by phone or text and then arranging a viewing. This gives you 2 opportunities to get a 'gut feeling' about the seller. Never buy a vehicle from someone who requests payment via Western Union or PayPal or is overseas, quite often this is a SCAM. If you are paying in cash be aware that some banks have a daily limit on the amount of cash you can withdraw from an ATM in any one day i.e. If you are paying $4500 for a van the bank may only allow withdrawals of $1500 per day meaning you will have to withdraw $1500 per day on 3 separate days. It's usually easier to go into the bank and withdraw the full amount

Once you are happy with the vehicle you will need to transfer the ownership of the vehicle into your name. This is a very simple process costing around NZ$9. The simplest way to do this is by going to a VTNZ store and filling out form MR13B . You will require a residential address to fill out the form but more often than not you can just write down the name of a hostel you've been staying at. The person at VTNZ should be able to help you with this process.


Insurance is NOT mandatory (required) in New Zealand but I highly recommend you get at least 3rd Party cover. This will mean you are covered for damage to the other vehicles(s) should you have an accident - this will not cover your vehicle.

Fully Comprehensive cover means that your vehicle (as well as any others) are covered for damage should you have an accident. It's worth noting that some insurance firms also include breakdown cover (in case you have a mechanical break down) as part of their insurance so make sure you shop around for the best deal.

Below are some links to some Insurance companies in NZ. I do not recommend these companies in any way I just thought I'd save you a little bit of Googling... aren't I nice !? :)

The AA -


TradeMe -



Buying a second hand vehicle can be a little daunting so hopefully after reading this guide you feel a little less worried. Use your common sense and always trust your 'gut feeling' as well as a professional opinion (see Pre-Purchase inspection comments).

Looking after and regularly servicing your vehicle means less chance of breaking down and more chance of selling it when you decide to leave the country.

If you have any questions please email me and I will try and answer them...

Take it easy... and drive safely.


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