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Our Top 10 Free & Cheap Campsites in New Zealand

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Our Top 10 Free & Cheap Campsites in New Zealand

Photo by Christopher Jolly

Photo by Christopher Jolly

Our Top 10 Free & Cheap Campsites in New Zealand

We traveled New Zealand by buying a campervan and traveling both the North and South Islands for five months.

These are our top 10 favorite campsites in New Zealand and they're all on the South Island. 

Make sure you download the app CamperMate. You can find each of these campsites on the app along with more information, pictures, and comments from other travelers. The app is also a huge help in finding public toilets, showers, wifi, places to do laundry, fun things to do, markets, and heaps more! The app will be your best bud while you're in NZ:)

We hope you experience these awesome campsites and others like them on your own road trip!

1. OTTO/MACDONALDS CAMPSITE

Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You're Campervanning New Zealand

Location: South Island | West Coast Region | North of Franz Josef Glacier | Off of SH6

GPS: -43.29865, 170.22528

Cost: NZ$6 per person per night

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite sits on Lake Mapourika with the mountains in the background. The bathroom and dish washing area was pretty nice.

Why it’s a favorite: Most of the campers went out in the morning to the lake and went swimming. There was a misty fog hanging over the lake, so it was always a surprise to see the mountains peeking through the fog every little while.  It was a beautiful spot.

2. PURAKAUNUI BAY CAMPSITE

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Location:  South Island | Otago Region | Catlins | Off of Purakaunui Bay Rd

GPS: -46.54605, 169.61319

Cost: NZ$6 per person per night

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non-self contained vehicles

Description: The grassy campsite is right off the beach with views of the deep blue water and huge cliffs to the left.

Why it’s a favorite: The view from this campsite is incredible and a top favorite! The cliffs look like a castle. In the morning the sand and water reflected the cliffs from below.  There were huge sea lions chilling on the beach, too. It was a really cool place, a great surf spot, and we didn’t want to leave! It was also close to two of our favorite spots in New Zealand: Nugget Point and Purakaunui Falls.

3. PAYNE FORD’S HANGDOG CAMP

Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You're Campervanning New Zealand

Location:  South Island | Tasman Region | Golden Bay | Off of Takaka Valley Hwy

GPS: -40.88228, 172.81351

Cost: NZ$10 per person per night

Type: Private campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is next to Payne Fords Park with a lot of rock climbing. The campsite is like a parking lot, but the hang out areas and bathrooms are really eclectic. Plus, it had a great shower!

Why it’s a favorite: We enjoy rock climbing, so we got to try new routes in the park. We didn’t have any climbing gear, so we rented from the campsite. The community at the campsite was really great!

4. KLONDYKE CORNER CAMPSITE

Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You're Campervanning New Zealand

Location:  South Island | Canterbury Region | Arthurs Pass | On SH 73

GPS: -43.00205, 171.58941

Cost: Free

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is on a grassy area surrounded by great views of the mountains! The train goes through this area, too.

Why it’s a favorite: One night it snowed on us. The next morning we woke up to a 360˚ view of sparkling white mountains all around. The view was stunning! Then, we hiked the Bealey Spur Track to the top of the mountain.  The view from the top was even better!

Another night, we had a rowdy group of kea (mountain parrots known to be very cheeky) kicking us out of our campsite. They huddled under our camper squawking. We could also hear them biting on the metal parts underneath. It was pretty funny, but keas have been known to cause damage to cars, so we drove across the campsite to another area and they all followed us! The night was a memorable one.

5. WHITE HORSE HILL CAMPGROUND

Location:  South Island | Canterbury Region | Aoraki/ Mount Cook National Park

GPS: -43.71855, 170.09319

Cost: NZ$10 per person per night

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is a big grassy area having you sleep at the base of the mountains and glaciers. The bathrooms and sinks for washing dishes were also clean and great!

Why it’s a favorite: The view of the mountains and the glaciers from the campsite were stunning! We could actually hear the glaciers cracking throughout the evening. We loved this site because we were so close to some of our favorite spots in the country: Tasman Lake, Mueller Hut Hike, Hooker Valley Hike, and Lake Pukaki.

6. FRENCH PASS CAMPSITE

Best Campsites and Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You're Campervanning New Zealand

Location:  South Island | Marlborough Region | End of Croisilles-French Pass Rd

GPS: -41.03219, 173.77061

Cost: NZ$10 per person per night

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The camp spots are right on the beach overlooking the water. There’s a dock for fishing and boating nearby.

Why it’s a favorite: The drive out on the windy road was incredible and well worth the mileage! The views of super green paddocks, the deep blue water, and bright blue sky were stunning! The campsite felt like our own and we had an incredible sunset. Huge stingrays were fishing right up on the beach and we went fishing ourselves off the dock with new friends, too!

7. MOKE LAKE CAMPSITE

Location:  South Island | Canterbury Region | Queenstown area | Off of Glenorchy Rd west of Queenstown

GPS: -44.99864, 168.57386

Cost: NZ$10 per person per night

Type:  DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is a grassy area next to the small lake and surrounded by mountains.

Why it’s a favorite: This was a cool little nook in the world surrounded by mountains on the way to Glenorchy. The road to Glenorchy is a dream and we would’ve loved to stay longer!

8. SYLVAN CAMPSITE

Best Campsites Campervanning New Zealand and Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You Campervan New Zealand

Location:  South Island | Canterbury Region | Near Glenorchy | Off of Kinloch- Routeburn Rd

Cost: NZ$6 per person per night

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is in a grassy area surrounded by mountains. It’s a great spot to stay before and after hiking the Routeburn Great Walk.

Why it’s a favorite: We stayed here a few nights and did the Routeburn Track and Conical Hill twice just to see the view from Harris Saddle. Harris Saddle is one of our favorite spots in NZ! The second night when we got back from the hike, we saw the southern lights at the campsite! An unforgettable experience!

9. ROUND BUSH RESERVE LAKE OHAU

Location:  South Island | Canterbury Region | Lake Ohau | Off of Lake Ohau Rd

Cost: NZ$8 per person per night

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is right on the beach of Lake Ohau with the mountains as the background.

Why it’s a favorite: This area felt like our own and was a lot less traveled. The lake is a stunning turquoise with the mountains as the backdrop.  We met some great folks here who transformed our lives. They invited us into their RV’s to hang out and we were sold. It was at this very campsite where we decided to change our lifestyle. We decided to live in a RV long-term in the USA and continue traveling.   

10. ALBERT TOWN CAMPGROUND

Best Campsites Campervanning New Zealand and Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You're Campervanning New Zealand

Location:  South Island | Canterbury Region | Wanaka Area | Albert Town | Off of SH6

GPS: 44° 40' 45.5484" S 169° 11' 22.9596" E

Cost: NZ$7 per person per night

Type: Private campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is a big grassy area outside of Wanaka next to a river.

Why it’s a favorite: The site is only a short drive from Wanaka and from one of our all-time-favorite hikes: Roy’s Peak. We made great friends here at the site and even saw an eclipse through our moon roof in Bernie!

11. GENTLE ANNIE SEASIDE CAMPING GROUND

Best Campsites Campervanning New Zealand and Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You're Campervanning New Zealand

Location: South Island | West Coast Region | North of West Port | Off of De Malmanche Rd

GPS: -41.52139, 171.94019

Cost: NZ$12 per person per night

Type: Private campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is a big grassy area on the beach with a cool coffee shop on the property. The pizza is highly recommended.

Why it’s a favorite: We watched the sunset from the campsite’s beach and it was incredible! After the sunset, we met other travelers hanging out around the fire pit next to the coffee shop. The next morning, everyone met again for breakfast in the coffee shop. The awesome location, vibe, and great company made it one of our favorite campsites!


Ready to Campervan New Zealand?

Campervanning is the best way to travel NZ! Buying one is the best way to keep your costs low.

Don't know how to do it? We've got you covered!

Get our step-by-step guide showing you how to buy a campervan to save you money, time, and stress figuring it out yourself.

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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Our Experience Buying & Selling a Campervan in New Zealand

4 Comments

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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How Should You Travel New Zealand? Bus, Buy, or Rent a Campervan?

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How Should You Travel New Zealand? Bus, Buy, or Rent a Campervan?

Our first day in New Zealand was frantic as we tried to decide how we were going to travel around. We had done zero research before we arrived.

We couldn't decide-- Should we get bus tickets? Or, should we rent or buy a campervan?

We realized we're not the only ones. This is every traveler's question:

How to Travel New Zealand? Should you Bus, Rent or Buy a Campervan?

Photo by Leio McLaren

Photo by Leio McLaren

We ended up buying a campervan and traveling for five months around NZ, but we went through this whole decision making process to get there. 

To help you with your own trip, we created this guide to help you walk through the decision making process. 

Your decision depends on: 

  1. Your age

  2. Your timeline

  3. Your budget

  4. And how much freedom you want while traveling.

Since you have your own unique situation, we’ll guide you through how we made our decision so you can make the best decision for your trip.

 

 

HOW TO DECIDE?

COST PER DAY

We didn't know how to make our decision, but we knew our biggest determining factor was our budget.  

So we thought our decision could be determined by looking at the cost per day for our options. 

We saw ourselves with four options:

  1. Buy a campervan

  2. Rent a campervan

  3. Rent a small car and sleep in our tent

  4. Bus around New Zealand

We snagged a coffee and a napkin at Starbucks on Queen Street, started researching, and scratched our estimated costs down in a table like this one. These are based on two people traveling. 

How Should You Travel New Zealand? Bus, Rent, or Buy a Campervan to Travel New Zealand

Like us, you can see buying a campervan, renting a sedan and tenting, and busing are around the same cost per day at NZ$45 looking at staying for 90 days. Renting a campervan was double! 

So, we decided to focus on those three options for our trip and remove renting a campervan as an option since it was too expensive for us. 

While we were researching, we also realized other factors were affecting our decision. We had to figure out how long we'd be in New Zealand (our timeline), we realized each option had extra costs we'd incur, and we realized age can be a deciding factor for some people too.  

 

AGE

Age may affect your options, so we wanted to cover this for you. 

DRIVING

If you are age 16 or older: You can drive a vehicle in New Zealand.

 

BUYING A CAMPERVAN

If you are age 16 or older: You can also buy and register a vehicle in your name.

 

RENTING A CAMPERVAN

If you are 16 or 17: There are a limited number of rental companies allowing you to hire a vehicle.

If you are age 16 to 24: You may have to pay a young drivers’ surcharge. Look at the details of each rental company’s policies and if they require this extra charge.

If you are age 18 or older: Many of the popular rental companies will allow you to rent from their fleet. However, most companies require you to be 21 or older. When you’re researching rentals, make sure you look at the age requirements for each company.  

If you are 25 or older: You have no worries renting from any companies. You’ll have heaps of options! 

 

BUSING NEW ZEALAND

If you are 16 or older: You can buy a bus ticket to travel the country.

 

Age wasn't a factor for us, it was the cost. But first, we had to decide how long we planned to be traveling in New Zealand.

 

TIMELINE

Your anticipated time in NZ is a big factor in your decision. Some folks only have three months for a road trip around the country on a 90-day tourist visa. For these people, the timing is set.

We had a different situation. We applied for and received one-year working holiday visas. Even though we had the opportunity to stay for one year, we really didn’t know if we wanted to stay that long. However, we wanted to leave the option open for ourselves. So, we planned to travel for at least three months with the chance of using the vehicle for up to a full year.

90 Days or More?

To be safe, we based all of our per day costs on being in the country for three months (90 days).

Looking back at our estimated costs, the bus looked like our best option at about NZ$3,900. However, on top of bus tickets, we knew we would also be paying 90 days worth of hostel fees for a place to sleep each night. That sounded expensive.

How to Travel New Zealand? Should you Bus, Rent or Buy a Campervan?

Looking at our two other options, we saw our Rent: Sedan + Tent option and the Buy: Campervan were the same price at NZ $4,000. With both of these options, we knew there were extra expenses to include like camping fees for each night and petrol costs. 

Again, our deciding factor was our budget. But, at the beginning of our travels, we had no idea how to gauge how much these extra expenses would be for us.

Now that we've bought and traveled NZ for five months, we’ll show you what these extra costs really look like for your trip.

 

EXTRA COSTS

For each of our options, we'd have extra costs.

For busing, we'd have to pay for hostels every night. For buying or renting a campervan, we'd be paying for petrol and campsites every night.  

After having experience road tripping NZ for five months, here's what you can expect on how much you’ll pay for the three main extra costs: campsites, hostels, and petrol.

 

1. CAMPSITE FEES

Campsites are all over New Zealand and easy to find.

There are three types of campsites:

  1. Free: Yes! We love free!

  2. Department of Conservation (DOC) Sites: These are between NZ$6 to NZ$10 per person per night. There are over 200 sites all around the country.

  3. Holiday Parks and Private Campsites: These are “luxury” campsites and can be over NZ$30 for two people per night.

Note: In NZ, expect to pay for camping each night on a per person basis. We are used to paying a flat fee per group in the US per night, so this was a cultural detail we had to get used to.

How to Find Campsites

Use the app CamperMate! You'll find everything you need like campsites, showers, laundry, things to do, toilets, and anything else on there. It'll be your best bud in NZ! 

Our Experience with Campsites

We stayed at free campsites every night we had the option (this was the majority of our nights).

If we weren’t near a free site, we found DOC sites. Again, there are over 200 sites, so there’s a good chance you’ll find one nearby. 

The holiday parks and private campsites are upper-end sites, but have the lovely luxury of plumbing, showers, and laundry. Since we were on a tight budget, we only had a few nights when we were forced to stay at a holiday park. This was due to a lack of free or DOC campsites in popular cities like Queenstown, Auckland, and the Coromandel.

How we Saved Money

Since many free campsites and DOC sites don't have showers, we used the app CamperMate to find public showers and Laundromats instead of staying at nicer campsites and paying more just to use the showers and washer and dryer. 

 

2. HOSTEL FEES

With busing, we knew this would be an extra expense.

Looking around online, we found dorm beds in backpackers’ hostels costing about NZ$25 per person per night. A double room costs about NZ$60 per night (NZ$30 per person).

When we saw how much hostels would be per night, busing quickly sounded way more expensive than camping.

 

3. PETROL COSTS

With renting or buying a campervan, another extra expense is your petrol.

Your overall costs for petrol depends on the current petrol price, how far you'll drive, how fast you are going, and so on.

We ended up buying a campervan and can say, from January to May 2015, we went about 420 km on each tank of petrol in our 1993 Toyota Estima minivan.

To give yourself the basics on petrol pricing, you can find the current petrol and diesel prices on either of these sites:

 

All right! Let’s get back to deciding between busing, renting, or buying.

 

FREEDOM

Looking back at our cost per day estimates, we saw busing, renting a sedan, and buying a campervan were all about the same at NZ$4,000 we had to use another determinant to make our decision.

How to Travel New Zealand? Bus, Rent or Buy a Campervan

So, next we thought about our lifestyle with each option. We realized our freedom would be limited by a bus’ drop-offs and schedules. For the same price, we could have our own vehicle and have freedom to be wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted. If we liked a spot, we could stay longer. If we didn’t, we could move on.

Then, we imagined our experience on a bus. We would be dropped off at a bus stop and have to walk everywhere or hitch a ride if we wanted to go further into town or out of town to a trailhead.  Some of New Zealand’s best spots are off the beaten track, down mountainous dirt roads. We would never get back there with a bus ticket.

So, we decided to drop the idea of busing. We could have freedom to roam whenever and wherever we wanted with our own vehicle for a similar cost.

 

Yes! We finally cut our options down from three to two.

Now- onto deciding between renting versus buying a campervan!

 

RENTING VS. BUYING  A CAMPERVAN

SEE BUYING IS AN INVESTMENT

Like I shared, we had our tent with us, so we looked at renting a sedan (the cheapest style of rental car we could find) and pitching a tent each night. Renting a sedan would have cost about NZ$45/day.

For three months of renting a sedan, we were looking at a rental cost of NZ$4,050.

However, we were seeing campervans with a built in bed for sale online on Trade Me (New Zealand's eBay or Craigslist) for the same price! At this point in our travels, we had already been tent camping for five months around the United States.  At the same cost, a campervan with a mattress sounded a lot more appealing than a sedan and a tent.

On top of thinking about our comfort while sleeping, we looked at the long-term finances.

We finally decided to buy a campervan because we saw buying as a long-term investment. If we bought a van, we could hopefully make money back reselling it instead of just losing NZ$4,050 to a rental car company.

Our friends Sam and Jo inspired us with their buying experience. They bought a campervan for NZ$2,000 and resold it for NZ$4,000 just by making some small upgrades to the interior. Their success made us want to try!

 

TIME VS. MONEY

When we were deciding between renting and buying we also discussed the value of our time.

We knew buying and selling a van would take time and could be stressful. Since our timing was pretty flexible (we could be in NZ for up to a full year), we decided we were willing to sacrifice our time and take on the stress of buying and selling a vehicle to hopefully make money back when were going to sell the van.

It took us a week to find a vehicle and, at the end of our trip, we gave ourselves a week to sell the van. That time equaled to two weeks dedicated to buying and selling.

You may feel differently about your time.

BUY BACK OPTION

One time saving solution is getting a buy back deal from a car fair, dealership, or local Kiwi who sells campervans.

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 selling campers and offering to buy the vehicle back for 40-60% of what they sold it for.

With the buy back deal, you cut out the stress of “what if I can’t resell?” You also save time by not having to find buyers and show the campervan. And, you are guaranteed a certain amount of money back.

We decided to buy cheap from backpackers to resell for more, like our friends Sam and Jo did.

You need to weigh your priorities. Do you want to spend more money to rent a vehicle so you have more time exploring? Or, are the potential savings worth it to spend the time buying and selling?

Think about the maintenance of a vehicle. Do you want to take on that responsibility yourself? Or, do you want the convenience of calling a rental company to take care of a problem for you?

 

OUR EXPERIENCE BUYING A CAMPERVAN

Like we shared, we decided to buy a campervan. 

But, we were still nervous. We wanted to talk with someone about their experience to give us comfort. 

 For a glimpse into our experience, here are the numbers of our purchase price during the beginning of summer, our extra costs involved with buying a camper, and what we sold our camper for during the low season in winter.  

How to Travel New Zealand? Should You Bus, Rent or Buy a Campervan to Travel New Zealand?

As you can see, the overall cost of our van over five months came to NZ$1,800. This was roughly NZ$12 per day. Not bad!

This number does not include our nightly campsite fees or petrol costs. 

Now that we've walked you through how we decided, we hope you feel confident in your decision. 

If you want to see more details about our campervan buying and selling experience, we've shared it here. 

We also wrote a guide on how to buy a campervan--- we learned too many lessons from making all the mistakes, we had to share the best way to do it with other travelers. You can see it below. 


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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Camper Turned Glamper: Tiny House Remodel Before & After

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Camper Turned Glamper: Tiny House Remodel Before & After

You ready for this before and after? Woop woop! Let's do this! I've been so excited to share!

We took a video touring our new camper the day after we bought our 2009 Casita Spirit Deluxe Travel Trailer. You'll see my excitement! 

We had just come from five months living out of a campervan (ahem, minivan) in New Zealand. The bed served many purposes: bed, couch, kitchen counter, and as the kitchen table many days.

Living Tiny in New Zealand

Our campervan, Bernie, in New Zealand.

Our campervan, Bernie, in New Zealand.

My Aunt Janet visiting our camper. She was a great sport!

My Aunt Janet visiting our camper. She was a great sport!

Adam cooking on the bed frame.

Adam cooking on the bed frame.

Our campervan bathroom situation? Public showers and campsite drop toilets. Yuck! After five months of this-- you'd be this excited about your own bathroom, too!

The bathroom logistics aside, campervanning New Zealand changed our lives. So much so, I wrote a book for other travelers on how to do it: How to Buy a Campervan in New Zealand.  

Our lifestyle was on the move every day seeing NZ's beautiful sites. We were living tiny, with only what we needed, and the outdoors became our extended living space. By being pushed outside, we saw the southern lights and an eclipse at random! We loved it and we were hooked.

When we returned to the US, we wanted to continue this nomadic lifestyle-- as long as I had my own toilet and shower. I was firm on this and stood my ground against Adam's "truck stop shower" solution.

The arguments over the bathroom situation were real! You can watch how it went down on our episode of HGTV's Tiny House Hunters as Backpackers Go Tiny here.

Okay, you ready to see the before and after? Here we go!

Before:

Here's a tour of our 2009 Casita Spirit Deluxe Travel Trailer the day after we bought her. Welcome to Bernadette! Her name comes from being lovelier and classier than Bernie our NZ campervan. 

Now, nine months later... a few things have changed!

After: Camper Turned Glamper

Check her out! 

The view when you walk in.

The view when you walk in.

The bed area.

The bed area.

The breakfast table nook.

The breakfast table nook.

View from the bed in the back toward the front door and bathroom door.

View from the bed in the back toward the front door and bathroom door.

The bathroom door open... the toilet and shower are still in there:)

The bathroom door open... the toilet and shower are still in there:)

View of the kitchen with the sink, stove top, and refrigerator.

View of the kitchen with the sink, stove top, and refrigerator.

Our kitchen sink with two burners.

Our kitchen sink with two burners.

Aerial view of the kitchen space between the front door and bed.

Aerial view of the kitchen space between the front door and bed.

She's our home! Photo credit: Charlie K Media.

She's our home! Photo credit: Charlie K Media.

What Really Happened Between Before & After?

1. Bed Space

We initially thought we'd use both tables a lot. Since making the bed for the first time (by collapsing the big table down), the table's never been back. It's too much effort. So, we keep the big table down as our bed and couch, and use the little side table for all the meals, working, and craft making. 

Breakfast in Bernadette- our favorite part of the day!

Breakfast in Bernadette- our favorite part of the day!

2. Tow Vehicle

We're towing our Casita with our 2002 Ford Explorer. Her name's Shugs, because for her condition (200,000+ miles and she's on her fourth transmission) she's been super sweet to us. 

Sunset in Texas. Daggum!

Sunset in Texas. Daggum!

3. Making Her Our Cozy Home

My mom came to the rescue. How was I going to turn carpeted walls and faux wood cabinets into our home? Well, we did a lot of brainstorming, crafting and shoppin' til we were droppin' together! Thank you, Mom! 

My study guide? Glamping with Mary Jane. It was gifted to us from our friends, the Thompson's. I read this book front to back.

Gosh! It was so nice to be validated that what I really want is okay. To live nomadically, but still feel like a lady with my own toilet, shower and decorative pillows and bunting!

I gave roughing it a valid go. On our #nuventures, we've lived in a tent for five months; a minivan for five months; and we backpacked for six months. We did everything as low budget as we could to keep traveling. Many of you even hosted us on our journey. Thank you!

In our camper, we can travel in comfort and we have everything we need. 

Now, that we have our own space in the world, we can host folks. Aw, she's not too tiny. 

Please come on over! You're always welcome and we'd love to have you!

4. A Change from "Experiment" to "This Feels Right" 

When we first bought our camper, we knew this was an experiment. We had no idea if this was the right lifestyle for us or even the right size camper. We're living in about 100 square feet.

Our tentative plan was to live a year living this lifestyle. If it didn't work, we were ready to adjust and make a change. Honestly, we had no idea what we were doing (emptying tanks, getting water, how to get electricity), but we were curious and excited (obviously).

After nine months of living in Bernadette, she's our home. We've even started planning what Year 2 will look like traveling and living in her.

Through just going for it and experimenting, we figured out we love this lifestyle! 

Cheers to more glamping #nuventures! Come on over and join in!

On the road again...

On the road again...


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