Driving on the left side of the road was less of an experience than I thought it would be, instead my unique experience came from how I was able to drive around the country without many expenses!
I spent nearly 2 months riding my bike on the left side before even touching the wheel of a car and this made the transition a breeze…no stress and as if I drove on the left nearly all my life. In fact my only problems driving my first time was remembering that I sat on the left…only happened a few times… one time I even got all the way to sitting in the passenger seat before realizing lol and I never really got used to having the turn signal on the right of the steering wheel…Besides this my only concern before driving was if the pedals were also switched (left side world is a trip)…they are not thankfully! I became such a natural at driving on the left side that one day at the cinema I freaked out that the car in the movie was on the wrong side of the road…lol yes, the right side!
Truth is the best way to see NZ is by driving, the scenery is just amazing (stops are frequent)…so be it…though I did not rent a car in NZ (except 1 time) I instead used Transfercar! It’s a service available in NZ and Australia which is literally transfering cars from one location to the next…you just pay for gas…aka a free car/camper rental for a few days! I learned of the service from native New Zealanders and think it is the best kept local secret! Many tourists fly around, rent or buy camper vans/cars for their whole trip or take tourist bus tour routes like Stray. The local bus system (InterCity) works too but I didn’t find it to be the best ever… I used it several times, pairing it up with transfercar to get to smaller towns nearby when needed. (Bikes usually have no problem getting on them either – all depends on the driver and how full bus is that day/hour – I never had issues).
If you have a flexible schedule, don’t mind driving and aren’t too picky about your destination…Transfercar is a great option for you! You can see the country and make stops along the way to enjoy places even more at a much lower cost.
They transfer mainly to the big cities or most touristy ones but keep an eye out because there is the occasional odd city too. The service is best for those over 25 years old for insurance purposes. Insurance for drivers is included by the car rental company…there are sooomeee options available for 18 to 21 crowd but it really depends on the car company asking for a transfer…a lot of options for those 25 and up though!
To start 1) Go to the website transfercar.co.nz (.au in australia) and 2) browse vehicles. You can search by date and location or just see all available then narrow it down. If you see a car that works for you, 3) create an account. Find the vehicle as a member and 4) request it. Within 24 hours you will 5) receive confirmation…There is no cost for membership. Sometimes you are not confirmed because the vehicle has already been taken or you might already have requested a vehicle and they overlap dates but generally you get that confirmation. Once confirmed the 6) company will contact you directly either by email or telephone. Sometimes a few documents need signing so pay attention to your email or missed calls. When the day comes you simply 7) pick up the keys and drive. Basically once you find the right dates/destination it is all so very easy.
Most cars are automatic although the campers are usually manual. If you can, snag a Diesel engine for even more savings! The company usually gives you a few days to do the transfer depending on the distance from point A to B and many times you have unlimited miles/km…or if not you get more than enough to get in plenty of side trips along the way. Additionally the pick up and drop off dates are somewhat flexible, the company has a timeframe it needs the vehicle at it’s destination and you just need to be able to pick it up within that frame of time. I noticed that companies transfer more than one car at a time so usually you don’t have to be too quick to commit to the transfer. (because to use the website companies spend money to place the ad… somehow this is still cheaper than freighting the cars on a trailer or train…for most companies.) You do need to be certain you can do it because if you cancel you will be charged a fee. Changing dates within the timeframe is fine (ok).
I mainly used transfercar to get around South Island (be aware that if you take from N. To S. Island you pay the ferry fee for a car). I made sure I had a few days to get to the destination because I found I was done driving by the 4th or 5th hour…many destinations though could be done in a day; a very long day. I wouldn’t suggest it unless you need to be somewhere quicker. Roads are beautiful and very distracting, can be curvy and they do make you tired. Also I preferred to avoid driving at night because it wasn’t easy to adjust to the darkness (very dark) on the roads (worse when raining) but I did do it a few times out of necessity. Southern summer (December to March) lent me many hours to drive, I often enjoyed the morning for exploring where I was and then the afternoons I drove.
You can pick many types of vehicles, I tried to get sudans because they were easiest for me to fit the bike and then sleep inside too but any car, even compact, fits the bike in the back seat (front wheel off) and could be secured outside the car at night to sleep (NZ is very safe, most houses even leave their doors unlocked). I slept in the car because in NZ there were many places to camp (for a fee) or freedom camp (free and could nearly be done anywhere – although some were harder) and all were legal and highly recommended. I chose sites near a public bathroom [they have many nice ones all over NZ (Australia too!) – some even played music when you entered] because I did not have a self contained vehicles (toilet feature inside vehicle) which is what most people use to freedom camp. I generally only stayed in the car one or two nights max because otherwise it was a tad uncomfortable for too long (you could…bring a tent and avoid that entirely).
My first transfercar was from Picton to Queenstown…looong drive, I made sure I had several days, I slept in the car and stopped in Kiakoura and Lake Tekapo for a night. I actually arrived just before the rental office closed and they said keep it tonight and come in morning…mainly because I forget to fill the tank (and had no money on me as bags were left at house already…)… flexible they are. The next cars I took were from Dunedin to ChristChurch followed by another from there to Nelson Bay. The one from Dunedin was hilareous because with the several days they allowed for the transfer I had enough time to actually go farther South before North where I needed to go…which allowed for several great stops along the way. Also since I was with a bike I often showed up to the rental offices at the airport on bike ha ha…again no one cared and I loved adding another airport to my list of “I biked to” …in the end I’d biked to 3 or 4 in NZ lol (such a trip to go into an international airport with a bike…I later even did this at Sydney airport 2x ha ha).
Get over to NZ asap and try it out for yourself. I highly recommend this way to travel and save in one of the most expensive countries in the world. And, No this is not a sponsored blog!
5 thoughts on “How to drive around New Zealand for free!”
You can book exactly the same relocation offers without the booking fee on coseats.co.nz/book Happy travels 🙂
Great write-up. Please have a look at my blog too. I am a travel blogger from India.
Transfercar also exists in the US! Obviously limited choices, but a lot to/from Seattle.
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