Owning a Travel Car in New Zealand

There are definitely some pros and cons to owning a vehicle in New Zealand. First off, it’s not worth it unless you’re here for more than 1 month, although in hindsight I would only recommend it to someone who’s here for at least 2 months because it could take a week or more to sell the car. Depending on your appetite for risk, it’s usually a good idea to get a car checked out by a mechanic and also check the car’s registration for any outstanding violations on it before purchasing it. Car insurance is recommended by not required.

Another thing to keep in mind is the WOF (warranty of fitness). This basically means that the car is road-worthy;  it doesn’t take much to obtain a valid WOF from a licensed auto repair shop. Car registration is very simple and shouldn’t be a matter of concern. All you need to do is go to the post office and pay the fee to renew the registration. Change of ownership can also be done at the post office as well for a mere 9.20NZD.  It’s recommended to get a car with a valid WOF otherwise you could be in for a big surprise at the repair shop.

The upsides to owning are:

  • it’s likely that you’ll be able to sell the car for somewhere near what you bought it for. However, in a really bad market you not be able to sell it at all and ending up leaving it in the airport carpark. When you rent, you get none of that money back since you own no equity in the vehicle.
  • the freedom which having a car gives you.
  • you don’t have to reserve a seat on a bus, stand for hours on the side of the road hitchhiking, nor depend on someone for a ride. It’s all in your control. You can stop to take photos where and whenever you want (and I did a lot of that in the South Island), stop for food or rest, etc. I was to able to go to a lot of places that people on the hop on hop off buses weren’t able to go to.
  •  you can buy as many groceries as you can fit in your car. Everyone else to carry them around by hand.

That being said, the downsides are:

  • you don’t meet as many people compared to those who are taking the hop on hop off buses
  • cost of petrol in New Zealand is quite high so it’s advisable to get someone to split the costs with
  • there’s no radio signal in rural areas so you need to have your own music collection
  • selling the car takes time which could otherwise be spent traveling

That last point is where the risk comes in. At the end of the summer season the market gradually declines. Unfortunately for me the car market is in very bad shape at this point and I had to sell my car to a dealer for a fraction of what I paid for it. Even so, it was cheaper than a rental campervan and acquired a new skill: being able to drive a manual transmission 😀 For those of you who thought it was reckless or crazy of me to buy a car by myself which I didn’t know how to drive in a foreign country where they drive on the other side of the road….I think you were all correct in thinking that !

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