Used: 2007, 2008, 2009
While I lived in New Zealand for 16 months, I never owned a car. I got my first job and lived in Kingsland, so I didn’t have a use for a car on a daily basis. I took the bus to work and on the weekends, took the bus or train where ever I needed to go most of the time. I hired a car for long weekends out of town and on a random weekend around town.
The weekend I hired a car to hang around town all weekend, I went to the Stardome, went out to Piha on Auckland’s west coast, drove up to Orewa for brunch and drove around Whangaparaoa pennisuela before coming back into town and making a pitt stop at the mall to stock up on groceries.
I rented cars from a variety of places. When first looking for cars, I went back to ACB and ordered a car from the travel desk and they used Ace which worked out well. I am picky about breaks and they were a little iffy, but for a quick weekend trip around town, they were fine. The radio was also iffy, but acceptable. Plus, like most car rental places in New Zealand and Australia (reason #55483950 why they are like the US) they rent out automatic cars. No reason to put my manuel skills to test here, which is probably a good thing, driving on the otherside of the road an all (not that there is much traffic to worry about in either country, especially compared to Los Angeles). When I wanted to rent a car a few weeks later, I went back to Ace and hired the car on my own. Car rental shops are stocked with maps, so don’t worry if you didn’t bring maps as well as there aren’t many roads anyway. Just get from one I-site to the next, and you’ll be sweet as. This second car I got in, from Ace, I buckled up, got settled, looked down, manuel. While I know how to drive a manuel, I hadn’t driven one in years and while I had driven on the left hand side already, I knew they offered automatics for no additional fee, so why take anything else? I told them I wanted an auto and they traded me, no issues.
When it came time to rent something for the family and for 17 days, I knew I didn’t want to drive around in an Ace car for that long a time. I had seen Explore More cars around town and they always looked really nice and clean and new. Plus, they rented out station wagons, which I thought would fit us well and the price seemed okay. Not terribly cheap, but not outrageously expensive, they seemed to fit what we needed. Plus, they had depots in Christchurch and Auckland, which is where we were picking up and dropping off the car. Sometimes, dealers give deals, like free boat rides, if they need cars in one part of the country or the other, but since we needed the car for so long and over the holiday period, no such luck on deals. It looks like things have changed a lot (they now have cars out of Queenstown!) and they used to only have one depot in Auckland, which was in town and not near the airport at all. Since the same company who owned Explore More used to also own the Airbus, you could ride that for free into town if you were picking up a car. Since I wanted to pay the balance for the car with my EFTPOS card, I had to go in person to the shop in Auckland for them to run my card. When I did, I asked for a bus ticket because I had to get out to the airport to meet my family as we were immediatly flying down to Christchurch to pick up the car. They happily obliged! Yay for a free bus ride! The car was awesome, we had no problems. They also gave us a free ipod adapter, but I also had my itrip, so we were covered. We had a hard time figuring out the trunk at first, but thankfully figured it out before we left the Christchurch area. It was also a little bit of a tetris game getting all our luggage into the trunk, but my sister and my dad mastered that quickly, so they were put in charge of that. Other then that, a great car!
Me driving the station wagon
Playing tetris with the station wagon
I actually rented from them again when I was in the Christchurch area. They picked me up in town to get the car and also dropped me off at the airport when I left. I hired the tiniest car, as it was just me, so cute!
The Dot I hired over Easter weekend, 2008
When it was time for me to come back to New Zealand for summer vacation at the end of 2008, I first went to Explore More, but they were booked solid for their smallest class of car and there next level up was too expensive for me for the time I need. Since I was booking everything from Australia, it was already a bust that they didn’t have an toll free Australia number, as lots of tourist places do, even for New Zealand. When flipping through a backpackers magazine, I saw and ad for Roadtrip Rentals and there was a toll free Australia number to rent cars in New Zealand, so I called it. I got a super friendly guy on the phone and asked about CHC to CHC rentals for the 13 days I needed and got that sorted. Before I hung up, I asked him if they did rentals from Picton to Greymouth for only 3 days. 3 day rentals were hard for me to book because that time of year, most places had minimum time limits of 4 days while I only needed a car for my three day trip from Picton to Greymouth. He said he could totally help me out with that, as I was renting the car for 13 days, he would just couple my rental together so I wouldn’t have to pay more for the short rental and I would get the 2 week rate for my split rental. I was so happy after this phone call, having my rental for New Zealand all straighten out. The cars I got from this rental company were fine. Nice, clean, small cars. Hell, I even slept in one when I was in Mount Cook! Perfect for that. I even left my bag at the rental agency in Christchurch, since I had to drop the car off early, but had all day to wonder the city. They let me leave it free of charge, I just had to pick it up before they closed for the day.
Moral: Hiring a car is super easy in New Zealand. Loads of places rent to 18+ with no charge, but that wasn’t an issue for me. According to their driving website you are supposed to get a local license after being in the country for more then a year, but when I was there, it was wicked expensive (like NZ$70+) and I would have had to take the written part again, even though my current license was still valid. And when I went to hire a car everytime, they never asked to see my passport which is the only record of when I entered the country, only my current and valid license, so it’s not like they were strict about this. New Zealand is also the BEST place to “learn” how to drive on the otherside of the road. Since the population is super tiny, if you accidently drive on the wrong side of the road for a moment, there is a super tiny chance you’ll hit someone. When I started, I made so many mistakes that I hadn’t made since I was 16, it was totally weird! But I loved it. I am so glad I didn’t end up buying a car, but I loved driving and all the companies I delt with were awesome.