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Buying a Campervan in New Zealand: Should Your Campervan be Self-Contained or Non Self-Contained? or Certified Self-Contained

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Buying a Campervan in New Zealand: Should Your Campervan be Self-Contained or Non Self-Contained? or Certified Self-Contained

Photo by Nathan Dumlao

Photo by Nathan Dumlao

Buying a Campervan in New Zealand:

Should Your Camper be Self-Contained, Certified Self-Contained, or Non Self-Contained?

 

This is a really important question to ask yourself when you're thinking about buying a campervan in New Zealand

Your campervan’s status of being self-contained or non self- contained determines how easy it’ll be for you to find designated campsites each night.

 

What's the Difference?

The difference between self-contained and non self-contained is about your waste situation.

Self-contained vehicles have their own toilet and tanks to hold the waste inside (everything's self-contained). With this kind of camper, it's easy to park up and camp for the night. 

Non self-contained means your vehicle is not self-sustainable and does not have a toilet or holding tank inside. This means you have to have a public toilet available at your designated campsite each night. 

This was us. We bought a non self-contained minivan that was converted to a camper. We always had to find a designated campsite for non self contained vehicles each night. 

Our biggest help with this: the app CamperMate! The app shows you campsites near you and categorizes them as self-contained or non self-contained campsites. It'll also show you dump sites for self-contained campers. Whatever campervan you get, download the app! It'll be your best bud in NZ!

 

OUR EXPERIENCE BEING NON SELF-CONTAINED

Klondyke Corner Campsite in Arthurs Pass

Klondyke Corner Campsite in Arthurs Pass

We campervanned NZ for five months in our non self-contained camper, Bernie. He was a minivan with a bed in the back:)

We always found a campsite, but for non self-contained campers, it's difficult to find designated campsites in the popular areas like the Coromandel Peninsula, Queenstown, Auckland, and the Franz Joseph Glacier.

In those areas, we found ourselves spending more time and gas money driving further out to campsite locations and passing many self-contained sites on the way. We had our moments of jealousy and wanting our own loo!

Other friends have campervanned NZ after us, and we always suggest to them to buy a self contained camper. 

 

THE SELF-CONTAINED SITUATION

Why is this a big deal? New Zealand has a ton of tourists coming in and they're on a mission to protect their landscapes from tourists dropping their pants relieving themselves everywhere. Totally understandable.

So, many communities prefer tourists in self-contained campers than tourists in non self-contained ones. I totally get it.

So how do you become self-contained?

Officially, self-contained means your van is in accordance with specific standards to protect the environment and public health from bad waste disposal. Essentially, this means a self-contained campervan has a toilet, holding tank, and fresh water for doing your duty.

Self Contained Photo from Backpacker Guide

Self Contained Photo from Backpacker Guide

Self-contained vehicles show proof of being self-contained with this blue and white sticker on the back of the campervan.  

However, folks were finding these stickers and illegally slapping them on their non self-contained vehicles to have more camping options.

To combat this, district councils have designed a new level of proof of certification where self-contained vehicles need to be inspected, approved, and show certification on the windscreen with a green label like the one shown in this picture.  These vehicles are Certified Self-Contained.

Certified Self Contained Photo by CamperMate

Certified Self Contained Photo by CamperMate

If you're leaning toward a self-contained vehicle, make sure the vehicle is Certified Self-Contained. This way, you’ll be able to camp at any campsite in NZ. Campers with self-contained vehicles without certification need to pay close attention to signage at campsites to make sure they’re in a designated area for their vehicle. Some campsites only allow certified self-contained vehicles to camp.

 

Requirements to Be Certified Self-Contained

As of October 13, 2015, New Zealand Motor Caravan Association Inc. stated on its website the specific requirements a vehicle has to have to be certified self-contained.

The vehicle must have “sanitary and safe installation of the following:

  • Fresh water supply: 4L per person per day (i.e. minimum 12L per person)

  • A sink

  • Toilet: 1L per person per day (i.e. minimum 3L net holding tank capacity per person)

  • Holding tank: 4L per person per day (i.e. minimum 12L per person) and monitored if capacity is less than the fresh water tank

  • An evacuation hose

  • A sealable refuse container (with lid)."

 

Types of Self-Contained Vehicles

We saw all types of self-contained vehicles. There are large caravans specifically designed to be self-contained and there are minivans out there modified to be self-contained.

For normal backpacker campers, you have a higher chance of finding a utility van or pop-top that’s self-contained, than a sedan, hatchback, or minivan, simply due to the design and available interior space in the campervan.

 

SHOULD YOUR CAMPER BE SELF CONTAINED OR NON SELF CONTAINED?

Like we shared, when friends ask us what they should buy, we give them our guide book and always tell them to find a self-contained camper. These are more expensive, though, so it's your decision. 

If you're still not sure, here's some benefits and limitations to both choices we found in our five months campervanning NZ. 

 

SELF CONTAINED pROS & CONS

 

BENEFITS OF BEING SELF-CONTAINED

  1. You’ll have more camping options, especially in popular areas of the country.

  2. You won’t have to drive as far to find a campsite each night.

  3. You’ll save money on petrol, since you don’t have to drive as far to find campsites.

  4. You’ll have fewer late night arguments with your travel partner when you’re both tired and desperate to get settled at a campsite.

 

LIMITATIONS OF BEING SELF-CONTAINED

  1. Self-contained vehicles are normally more expensive than non self-contained vehicles.

  2. Most of these vehicles are big and bulky. Some campsites may be difficult to get into and navigate through.

 

NON SELF-CONTAINED PROS & CONS

 

BENEFITS OF BEING NON SELF-CONTAINED

  1. Vehicles are normally less expensive than self-contained vehicles.

  2. These vehicles are smaller, allowing you access down less traveled roads.

  3. These types of vehicles allow you to blend in more like a local instead of standing out as a tourist. Non self-contained vehicles are vehicles local families and local businesses would drive; sedans, hatchbacks, minivans, and utility vans.

  4. There’s less maintenance to worry about. With self-contained vehicles you have to worry about fixing the plumbing if anything should go wrong.

  5. You don’t have the added worry of dumping and cleaning the holding tanks on your holiday.

 

LIMITATIONS OF BEING NON SELF-CONTAINED

  1. You have less camping options than self-contained vehicles, especially in popular areas like Queenstown, Auckland, Franz Joseph Glacier, and the Coromandel.

  2. You may find yourself spending more time and money on petrol getting to a designated non self-contained campsite each night.


Ready to Campervan New Zealand, but Not Sure How?

We've got you covered!

Get our step-by-step guide to save you money, time and stress figuring it out yourself. Let's get you on the road exploring right away. 

We guide on where to buy, how to get one on a budget, what to look for when test driving, tips to negotiate the price down, what government forms to complete, how to find free and cheap campsites, and heaps more. 

Your book was soooo stinkin helpful!
— Brooke M.

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Campervanning New Zealand: Should You Get a Petrol or Diesel Campervan?

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Campervanning New Zealand: Should You Get a Petrol or Diesel Campervan?

Photo by Jake Melara

Photo by Jake Melara

 

Campervanning New Zealand:

Should You Get a

Petrol (Gas) or Diesel Campervan?

 

When we arrived in New Zealand and were on the hunt to buy our campervan, we noticed diesel prices were a lot less than petrol (gas) prices at the pump. Seeing this, we started specifically looking at diesel campers to buy to save money on gas.

After doing some research, we realized we were being mislead by the prices shown at the petrol stations.

 

PRICE DIFFERENCE = ROAD USER CHARGE (RUC)

The difference in the prices at the pump is due to when New Zealand has petrol and diesel drivers pay their Road User Charges (RUCs). 

 

WHAT'S A RUC?

A Road User Charge (RUC) is a tax to drive on New Zealand's roads. 

 

WHEN DO YOU PAY YOUR RUC?

New Zealand has petrol drivers pay their RUCs differently than diesel drivers. 

 

PETROL

Petrol drivers pay their RUC taxes when they're paying at the pump for their petrol. The tax is included in the price of the petrol. So, you pump your petrol, pay, and you're on your way.

 

DIESEL

Diesel RUCs aren't as simple because they're not included in the price of diesel. That's why diesel prices are lower on the signs than petrol prices. As a diesel driver, you have to take an extra step and purchase a RUC distance license separately.

 

HOW TO GET A RUC AS A DIESEL DRIVER?

For diesel vehicles, for every 1,000 km you drive, you must pay for a RUC distance license prior to driving the new distance. So, driving a diesel camper requires more work to stay on top of your RUC licenses.

 

WHERE TO GET A RUC? 

Here are some places you can pop in and buy a RUC distance license: 

  • www.nzta.govt.nz/online

  • Automobile Association (AA)

  • BP truck stops, and some BP service stations

  • Post shops

  • Vehicle Inspection New Zealand

  • Vehicle Testing New Zealand

 

PRICE OF A RUC?

Effective on July 1, 2015, NZTA stated that a vehicle less than 3.5 tonnes owes NZ$62 for each 1,000 km license

Depending on where you purchase the RUC license, there may be transaction fees added to the cost of the license, ranging from NZ$4.80 to NZ$7.80 per license.

 

Which is Cheaper: Petrol or Diesel?

Okay, so you pay more for petrol at the pump. But, diesel has all these license fees and seems like more of a hassle. 

Which one saves you money in the long run?

We learned from our research, there’s been a long-standing argument by local Kiwis of which one is cheaper in the long run: petrol or diesel? Many people say the long-term cost is the same.

 

MAINTENANCE COSTS

We also heard a diesel engine is more complicated and expensive to get repaired than a petrol engine. 

 

OUR EXPERIENCE

What did we do? With all this informaiton, we went with petrol. All of our research said the long-term cost was the same, so neither would save us money.

And, diesel seemed like more of a hassle to track of your kilometres and staying current with your RUC distance licenses. It was one more thing to have to think about on our road trip. And, we heard a diesel engine is more expensive to fix if something went wrong.

So, we decided to buy a petrol campervan. You can see more of our experience buying here


Ready to Buy a Campervan, But Not Sure How?

We've got you covered!

Get our step-by-step guide to save you money, time, and stress figuring it out yourself. Let's get you on the road right away in your own camper. 

We guide you on the whole process from where to buy, how to get one on a budget, what to look for when test driving, tips to negotiate the price down, what government forms to complete, how to find free and cheap campsites, and heaps more. 

Your book was soooo stinkin helpful!
— Brooke M.

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Where's the Best Place to Buy & Sell A Campervan in New Zealand? Auckland or Christchurch?

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Where's the Best Place to Buy & Sell A Campervan in New Zealand? Auckland or Christchurch?

Where Should You Buy and Sell a Campervan in New Zealand? Auckland or Christchurch?

Where's the best place to buy and sell a campervan in New Zealand? Auckland or Christchurch?

This was our biggest question when we were heading to New Zealand. We were so uncertain and were scraping through blogs trying to find someone to tell us where's best to buy and sell a campervan in New Zealand so we could book our flights accordingly. 

We couldn't find much and were left with our questions of "Which city has cheaper campers? Which city is better to sell with less competition?" 

Now after buying and selling our campervan in New Zealand and spending five months traveling the islands, we found there’s no formula to tell you where to buy and sell. However, now we can speak from experience and we have our friends' experiences and advice for you, too.  

 

CAMPERVAN HOTSPOTS

You can buy and sell campervans anywhere in New Zealand. However, the supply and demand of campervans will definitely be higher in the larger cities.

The hot spots for buying and selling campers are in:

  1. Auckland (the biggest hub with the largest supply)

  2. Christchurch (the 2nd biggest hub)

  3. Queenstown

  4. Wellington

 

AUCKLAND VS. CHRISTCHURCH

The biggest decision for us was between Auckland and Christchurch, because these two cities are home to the international airports where we'd be flying in and out of.

If you’re deciding between the two, here are some basic guidelines:

1. General Travel Route: The majority of travelers follow a north to south travel route in NZ.  Most backpackers fly into Auckland on the North Island at the beginning of summer, buy a van, and travel south. Most of these travelers sell their vans in Christchurch at the end of the summer and then fly out of the country. So if you plan to do this, you're going with the grain of everyone else. 

2. Biggest Supply: Auckland is known to have the largest supply of campervans in the country. It’s always good to have a substantial supply for a better chance of finding a campervan. 

3. Pricing: You can find all types of campers for a full range of prices in both cities. Each time we have searched Trade Me (even during different seasons), we have found many campers ranging from NZ$2,000 to NZ$6,000 in both cities.

 

TRAVELERS' EXPERIENCES

We have our own experience and have gotten opinions from two other sets of friends.

Even though we all bought and sold in different cities for different prices, all three of us have landed on the same conclusion from our experiences: Buy in Christchurch and sell in Auckland.

This means going the opposite travel route than most backpackers—South Island first, then the North Island second. This travel route is our advice when only thinking about buying and selling a campervan. However, when thinking about the experience of campervanning, I recommend seeing the North Island first, then ending on the South Island. Nothing beats the scenery on the South Island. You gotta check out going to our favorite campsites here

Here are the basics of all three of our buying and selling experiences:

1. Sam + Jo:

  • Bought in Christchurch in low season for NZ$2,000

  • Sold in Auckland in high season for NZ$4,000

2. Sammy + Bryan:

  • Bought in Auckland in high season (November) for NZ$3,300

  • Sold in Christchurch in high season (February) for NZ$1,850

3. Our experience:

  • Bought in Auckland via TradeMe in high season (December) for NZ$3,000

  • Sold in Auckland via TradeMe in low season (May) for NZ$3,800

Everyone has a different experience, and none of us know the future or can make any guarantees or promises. However, all three of us came to the same conclusion:

OUR ADVICE: 

“Next time, we’ll buy in Christchurch and sell in Auckland.”

 


READY TO BUY A CAMPERVAN, BUT NOT SURE HOW?

We've got you covered!

Get our step-by-step guide to save you money, time, and stress figuring it out yourself. Let's get you on the road right away in your own camper:)

We guide you on the whole process from where to buy, how to get one on a budget, what to look for when test driving, tips to negotiate the price down, what government forms to complete, how to find free and cheap campsites, and heaps more. 

Your book was soooo stinkin helpful!
— Brooke M.

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Our Experience Buying & Selling a Campervan in New Zealand

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Our Experience Buying & Selling a Campervan in New Zealand

Photo by Roman Romanenko

Photo by Roman Romanenko

YES! You want to campervan New Zealand! We're so pumped for you! It's the best way to travel NZ!

You may be on the fence still wondering how you should travel New Zealand. Should you bus, rent or buy a campervan? You're considering buying one, but before you take the leap you want to know what other travelers experienced.

You're in the right place! We traveled NZ for five months by buying a campervan, traveling the North and South Island, and then selling the campervan to someone else. When selling the camper, we made NZ$800 on it!

However, when we were thinking about buying, it felt like an intimidating process and we just wanted to hear from someone else what they really went through.

Now that we've campervanned NZ by buying a campervan and traveling for several months, we totally recommend it to everyone and we even wrote a guide book on how to do it!

To give you more of our details, here's the nitty-gritty details of our experience buying and selling a campervan in New Zealand.

 

OUR EXPERIENCE

BUYING & SELLING A CAMPERVAN IN NEW ZEALAND

 

We got the courage to buy a campervan from our friends Sam and Jo. They campervanned New Zealand before us. They bought their campervan for NZ$2,000 and sold it for NZ$4,000. 

Since they had success, we wanted to give it a go, too!

 

OUR TIMELINE

We arrived in Auckland, NZ in December 2014, the beginning of summer, and spent six days looking at fourteen campervans around town. In hindsight, this was a waste of time and one of the many reasons we wrote our guide book for you on how to buy one to save you heaps of time and money and stress figuring it out yourself.  

We looked for campervans at car fairs and we met sellers from Trade Me® (NZ's eBay, Gumtree or Craigslist) selling their campers.

We also considered buying from a local New Zealander who offered a 60% buy back deal. 

A buy back deal is when the person or company you buy from guarantees they’ll buy the vehicle back from you at the end of your travels for a discounted price. We saw car fairs, dealerships, and some local Kiwis offering to buy vehicles back for 40-60% of what they sold it for.

Since our friends made NZ$2,000 on their campervan, we decided to try to buy cheaper from a backpacker and make more selling.

 

BOUGHT OUR CAMPERVAN

We bought a non self contained 1993 Toyota Estima minivan, named Bernie, on Trade Me for NZ$3,000 in cash from two English backpackers.

Buying and Selling a Campervan in New Zealand

Bernie had 256,000 km on him. He used petrol, had four cylinders, was automatic, and was chain driven. The WoF and license (rego) were up to date. The back seats were already fully removed, the bed was fully installed, and all of the bedding and cookware were included (this saves a lot of money) when we bought him.

 

TRAVELED BOTH ISLANDS

We traveled over 16,000 km crisscrossing the North and South Islands for five months.

Our travels in New Zealand completely changed our lives. The freedom and beauty we experienced opened our minds to what's possible for us. We hope the country gifts you the same experience!

We have our top ten favorite spots in New Zealand for you, too, in Our Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites. You gotta check out these spots yourself!

 

SOLD OUR CAMPERVAN

A month before we were booked to fly out of New Zealand, we put an ad on Trade Me to sell Bernie in Auckland. We also put up “For Sale” signs on our back windows with our cell phone number for folks to call us if interested.  

 

WHY WE SOLD OUR CAMPERVAN IN AUCKLAND

We decided to sell Bernie in Auckland, because flights were cheaper from Auckland to Sydney (our next destination).

Also, we strategized where to sell Bernie based on the major travel route for backpackers traveling NZ. Most campervanning travelers fly into Auckland on the North Island at the beginning of the summer and finish their trip on the South Island in Christchurch at the end of the summer.

We were one of the many who traveled from north to south, too. And, we planned to sell Bernie at the end of the summer in low season like everyone else, too.

So, we anticipated being one of the zillions of backpackers selling their campervan in low season in Christchurch. With this, we felt our odds for finding a buyer were lower in Christchurch than in Auckland. Again, we couldn’t find many blogs with guides on how to sell a campervan, so we went with our gut feeling.

We arrived in Auckland one week before our flight to Australia and allowed ourselves this one-week to sell our campervan. 

While selling, we received two responses from our Trade Me ad and one phone call from our “For Sale” signs.

It worked! The first person to look at our campervan was a local Kiwi. He gave us a down payment of NZ$500 and wanted to complete the transaction a week later after he had more money from selling a bike. This meant we had a buyer and we had our van for an entire extra week to continue exploring. So instead of staying in Auckland trying to sell our van, we shot over to Mount Maunganui and enjoyed our last week at the beach!

Thankfully, all went well with the final transaction. We officially sold Bernie to the local Kiwi in May 2015 (NZ's autumn) for NZ$3,800 with 272,000 km on him.

We were pumped! We had sold Bernie for NZ$800 more than we had bought him for!

 

CAR TROUBLES ON THE ROAD

Thankfully, we didn’t have any emergency tow truck situations.

We did have to complete maintenance on Bernie, but the maintenance was normal upkeep every vehicle needs to keep running smoothly.

We contribute our good fortune to:

  • Taking the van to a mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection before we bought it. These cost anywhere from NZ$80 to NZ$120 and well worth it!

  • Making the suggested repairs from the mechanic during the pre-purchase inspection right away, including a new battery and a new tyre.

  • Completing the regularly suggested maintenance for the van during our travels, like changing the oil and the air filter.

All of the extra costs for repair work, maintaining the on-road costs, insurance, and getting our pre-purchase inspection totaled NZ$2,600.

 

how much does campervanning cost?

To show you the finances of our buying and selling experience, here are the real numbers.

Here's the purchase price of Bernie, how much we spent on extra costs, how much we sold him for, and our overall cost.

This does not include our nightly campsite fees or the cost of petrol on our trip. You can find how much that'll cost you over here

Buying and Selling a Campervan in New Zealand

There were extra costs we incurred by buying a camper. These included the price of the pre-purchase inspection, insurance for five months (NZ$126 with AA), maintenance and repair costs, and updating our On-Road Costs. On-Road Costs are mandatory inspections and fees that need to be updated to drive on NZ’s roads. Overall, the extra costs equaled NZ$2,600.

For five months of traveling, our overall cost was NZ$1,800 was awesome! It came out to about NZ$12 per day.

For us, buying a camper was way better on our wallet than handing over NZ$4,000 to a campervan rental company. The savings kept us traveling longer!

Oh, the millions of lessons learned in our buying experience! We made so many mistakes in our buying process. The lessons learned drove us to write our guide book for you on how to buy a campervan.

 

LESSONS LEARNED

After looking back on our buying experience, we realized we wasted a lot of time (in days) that could have been spent exploring New Zealand- all because we weren’t strategic or efficient with our time.  

We wrote our guide book for you to make your experience way faster than ours. Grab a copy of our guide below and save yourself time, stress, and money in figuring out for yourself. We already made all the mistakes for you:)

 


READY TO BUY A CAMPERVAN, BUT NOT SURE HOW?

We've got you covered!

Get our step-by-step guide to save you money, time, and stress figuring it out yourself. Let's get you on the road exploring right away. 

We guide on where to buy, how to get one on a budget, what to look for when test driving, tips to negotiate the price down, what government forms to complete, how to find free and cheap campsites, and heaps more.  

Your book was soooo stinkin helpful!
— Brooke M.

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