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how to buy a campervan in new zealand

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


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.



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). 



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



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



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 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.



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.



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


  • Automobile Association (AA)

  • BP truck stops, and some BP service stations

  • Post shops

  • Vehicle Inspection New Zealand

  • Vehicle Testing New Zealand



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.



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



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.


Our Experience Buying & Selling a Campervan in New Zealand


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.





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!



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.



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.



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!



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.  



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!



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.



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:)



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.