Answers to Common Questions About New Zealand Car Rental
Here are answers to questions we frequently get asked about car hire in NZ. For other questions not answered here please see our Contact page.
What sort of driving licence is required in New Zealand?
You can legally drive in New Zealand for up to 12 months if you have either a current driver’s licence from your home country, or an International Driving Permit. All drivers, including overseas visitors, must carry their licence or permit when driving.
You will only be able to drive the same types of vehicles you are licensed to drive in your home country. Make sure your overseas driver’s licence is current.
If your licence is not in English, you should bring an English translation with you or obtain an International Driving Permit. Contact your local automobile club for further details about obtaining a translation or an International Driving Permit.
What are New Zealand's Road Rules?
Below is a brief overview:
- Keep LEFT! We drive on the left-hand side of the road.
- Always wear your seat belt. Everyone in your vehicle must wear a seatbelt, and children must be secured in an approved child seat. Your rental vehicle company can rent child seats to you if you didn’t bring your own.
- Stick to the speed limit and always stop at STOP signs. The speed limit on the open road is 100km/h (approx 60mph). In built up areas the speed limit is usually 50km/h (approx 30 mph).
- Overtake only when it’s safe to do so. Use passing lanes whenever possible, and never cross a solid yellow line on your side of the centre line.
- Check for oncoming traffic on one-lane bridges and observe recommended speeds around bends.
- Drive to the conditions. You’ll need to reduce your speed if it’s raining, icy, snowing, windy or if you’re in a roadworks area..
- Don't drink and drive. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a crime in New Zealand and strictly enforced by police, with severe penalties for offenders.
- It’s illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. If a phone is used when driving it must be hands free. Texting while driving is illegal. If you're the driver and need to make a call or send a text, pull over in a safe place.
You can get more details here in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Arabic.
What's it like driving in New Zealand?
Driving in New Zealand can be very different to driving at home. For a start, we drive on the left-hand side of the road here, many of our roads are narrow, windy and have loose gravel… and it’s not unusual to see sheep wandering across country roads!
Plan your journey using Google Maps or a GPS to estimate driving time while planning your journey. Driving in New Zealand can often take longer than expected due to our winding roads.
Stay well-rested. Driving in NZ can be tiring due to narrow, windy roads requiring lots of concentration. Every couple of hours take a break or swap drivers.
We want you to have a great time and be safe whilst you're driving around NZ. So, even if you've driven overseas before, we strongly recommend you check out the DriveSafe website. It's got lots of useful tips and videos, plus suggestions about some great New Zealand driving routes.
Driving Restrictions for Rental Vehicles in NZ
Restrictions apply to where you can drive your rental car in New Zealand. These vary depending on which rental provider you go with, so be sure to check with them to find out what their rules are. The key thing to remember is that you must only drive on sealed roads, otherwise your car insurance will be voided and you'll be required to pay any damage caused to the vehicle.
Ninety Mile Beach, Northland
Ninety Mile Beach is officially classed as a highway and you may be tempted to drive your rental car here. Our advice is don't. It's not suitable for most cars to drive on. The sand can be difficult to navigate and the tide can fluctuate quickly - cars regulary get stuck and then swamped by the incoming tide. For these reasosn, rental companies won't allow their cars to be driven on the beach.
Port Jackson Road, Coromandel Peninsula
Port Jackson Road provides some fantastic coastal views, but driving here is risky. This 26-kilometre rough gravel track is narrow and runs beside the edges of cliffs. During rain the road can become quite slippery. For these reasons, driving here is not allowed by car rental companies
Skippers Canyon, Queenstown
The Skippers Canyon road is a narrow gravel road that sits on the edge of a steep cliff. This road can be dangerous to drive on so rental car providers prohibit their vehicles from being driven here.
Tasman Valley Road, Mount Cook
Parts of the Tasman Valley Road are off limits to rental cars. The road up to the glacier view car park at Mount Cook is safe and sealed. Beyond this point the road is unsealed and can be dangerous. If you drive on this section of road your rental car insurance will not cover any damage.
If you're renting a car in an area with snow, be sure to check your rental provider's specific terms and conditions. In some cases, renters are not permitted to drive their rental vehicle past the snow line without first purchasing additional cover. If you drive into these restricted areas without additional cover you'll be required to pay any damage caused to the vehicle.
What is GST?
All goods and services purchased in New Zealand are subject to 15% Goods and Services tax. This tax is included in our low car rental rates. You do not need to add this to the prices you see listed here. What you see is what you pay. No hidden extra costs!
Where Do I Find The Depot Location Details And Pick Up Instructions?
There are several places you can find the depot location details. Before You Book: You can find the address for the pick up location by clicking on the “depot info” button on the main search page after you have entered in your search criteria. If you already have a booking:Depot location and pick up instructions can be found at the bottom of your confirmation email. If you have followed the link to your confirmation voucher you can also find this information by clicking the red link that says, “Important: please read pick up instructions below”.
What Happens If My Booking Is Not Available, Will I Get Charged?
If the vehicle you requested is not available, you will not be charged as you do not have a confirmed booking. We will look for alternative vehicles for you and send you an email with any available options. If you select one of these options and it is confirmed, we will then collect payment.
Who Can I Contact If I Have A Problem With My Vehicle?
If you have a problem with your vehicle, please contact the rental company in the first instance as they will be able to assist you immediately. If you are unable to get hold of them, please contact us on the free phone number 0800 556 606
What Are The Charges If I Cancel?
The amount of the cancellation fee depends on the rental company, please see your terms and conditions regarding this. However, the deposit is nonrefundable. If any further fees apply they will be charged at cancellation.
The most efficient way to cancel your booking is to click on the modification link in your confirmation and cancel from there. We then contact the rental company on your behalf and will advise you the amount of the cancellation fee, if applicable.
When Will My Credit Card Be Charged?
Your credit card will only be charged once you have a confirmed booking. At that time the deposit will be collected along with any excess or cancellation covers.
Each rental company has different policies. Some companies require full payment upfront whereas others do not require final payment until you pick up the vehicle. Please see the payment details for when the final balance is due. This final balance is automatically taken from the credit card you have nominated, on your due date. No further action is required on your part. If you chose to pay in your currency instead of the local currency of the country your rental takes place, full payment will be collected upon confirmation. By doing this you lock in the current exchange rate and avoid future exchange fluctuations.
What Is An Excess?
An “excess and bond” are also known as the “deductible and security deposit”. An excess/deductible is the amount you are liable for in case of any damages to the vehicle, the liability amount could increase over and above this figure if damages caused are excluded by the supplier’s policy.
A bond/security deposit is the amount the supplier will hold/authorise from your credit card. There are several ways the rental company may collect the bond or security deposit from you. The most common way is to collect an amount of around $100-500 as a bond/deposit. They will hold or “freeze” this amount on your credit card.
The excess or deductible is usually anywhere from $1500 to $3500 and can be collected in the same way the bond is collected. Some rental companies will only take an imprint of your credit card and keep it on file until you bring back the vehicle undamaged. While others may deduct this amount from your credit card. They generally will do this to encourage you to take one of their insurance policies by charging you a daily amount to reduce your excess.
It is also possible for you to cover yourself by taking excess cover online. The advantage here is that the policy covers the policy holder, not just for a single rental company. So you are covered no matter which rental company you hire a vehicle from. If you have a third party cover such as DriveEasy, you will be fully covered for the excess of the vehicle. If you were involved in an accident, simply submit a reimbursement claim form showing the receipt/invoice of the amount you were charged for damages to your vehicle and you will be refunded up to the amount of your policy.
What Does A Late Model Vehicle Mean?
A late model is a vehicle that is between 1-3 years old. In some cases vehicles may be up to 5 years old, depending on how many models the manufacturer has released. We also sometimes say ‘recent model’ in which case 1-5 years is more accurate.
When I Select A Car Model, What Does 'Or Similar' Mean?
“Similar” means the rental company cannot guarantee a particular model car. They will provide you a vehicle with the same passenger capacity and similar size. For example, a Hyundai Getz is similar to a Suzuki Swift as these are in the same category.
What Is The Difference Between 4WD And AWD?
All wheel drive (AWD) is almost the same thing as full time 4WD – it is a system that powers all four wheels of a vehicle at all times as well. It can be used full time on all surfaces, including pavement, like full time 4WD. The main difference is that a “4-low” setting is not available in AWD cars. Due to the lack of “low range”, AWD vehicles are much less capable in off-road settings than full time 4WD vehicles, but work perfectly well on-road.