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18 Things to KNOW Before Renting a Car in Auckland (My Top Tips!)

18 Things to KNOW Before Renting a Car in Auckland (My Top Tips!)

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Are you planning to explore the stunning North Island? Then chances are high that you’ll be renting a car in Auckland! Good choice, because I think this is THE BEST way to see New Zealand! But before you rent a car in Auckland, there are a couple of things you need to know first – such as on what side of the road they drive in New Zealand (it’s the left, by the way), whether you need to put down a security deposit, and what extras you can add on to your vehicle!

It’s a lot to think about, but don’t panic – I’ve got you covered! I’ve done the research so you don’t have to and come up with the top 18 things you should know before renting a car in Auckland!

I’ve rented several cars from Auckland and driven all around both the North and South Island, so I’m well-versed in the essential info you need to know before you get behind the wheel. So, in short, consider this the best guide on the internet to renting a car from Auckland, New Zealand!

Table Of Contents
  1. 1. Why rent a car in Auckland?
  2. 2. What do you need to rent a car in Auckland?
  3. 3. What side of the road do you drive on in New Zealand? 
  4. 4. Do you need to rent a 4WD in Auckland?
  5. 5. Best places to drive to near Auckland with a rental car
  6. 6. Tips to save money on a rental car in Auckland?
  7. 7. Can you trust online websites when booking?
  8. 8. Do you need to give a deposit when renting a car in Auckland?
  9. 9. What extras are available when renting a car in Auckland?
  10. 10. Tips to follow when renting a car in Auckland
  11. 11. You will need to pay any toll charges
  12. 12. Do you need insurance to rent a car in Auckland?
  13. 13. Where can I rent a car from in Auckland?
  14. 14. How much does it cost to rent a car in Auckland?
  15. 15. What are the road conditions like near Auckland?
  16. 16. What are the major hazards on the roads in Auckland
  17. 17. Is it safe to leave luggage and valuables in your rental car?
  18. 18. What should you do if you get in a traffic accident in Auckland?
  19. Renting a Car vs Renting a Campervan
  20. Things to do While You’re in Auckland
  21. Thanks for reading!
  22. Travel Insurance Has Your Back!

1. Why rent a car in Auckland?

Bailey inside her rental car in New Zealand
Without your own wheels, you’ll miss so many of the best places in Auckland!

New Zealand is one of if not THE best place to hit the open road and take in the awe-inspiring scenery. Honestly, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather do a road trip than New Zealand and I’ve done a lot of driving during my travels!

The country’s biggest city – Auckland, is one of the most popular places to begin said road trip because most international visitors will fly into Auckland International Airport to begin their vacation! Plus there are so many great day trips from Auckland that are within driving distance.

There are pros and cons to renting a car in New Zealand. So, let’s get the negatives out of the way first. Renting a car in Auckland (and New Zealand as a whole, for that matter) is pricey. In fact, it’s one of the most expensive countries in the world to rent a car. But, in saying that, having a rental car gives you the freedom to go where you please and visit those off-the-beaten-path destinations that public transport doesn’t reach. 

It’s also not really necessary to have a rental car while you’re staying in Auckland CBD, as parking is expensive, and the traffic can be crazy. Plus, the public transport system in the “City of Sails” is a pretty reliable way of getting around. So, if you want to save some $$$, avoid renting a car until the day you plan to leave Auckland! But, if you’re staying in the city for a couple of days and want to explore some nearby destinations like Raglan (2 hours away) or Hamilton (a 1.5-hour drive), then it’s best to have a rental car to do that. 

While living in this naturally beautiful country, I’ve been lucky enough to complete loads of road trips in New Zealand, and most of my favorite spots I couldn’t have gotten to without a rental car! So, if you love road trips, exploring hidden gems, and having the freedom to stop when you like, then renting a car in Auckland is a no-brainer.  

2. What do you need to rent a car in Auckland?

Scenic road leads to Mount Cook, New Zealand
Ready for a winding journey through NZ?

There are a couple of things that are essential when renting a car in Auckland, including a driver’s license, a credit card, and confidence for driving on New Zealand’s notorious winding roads.

Driver’s license  

To rent a car in Auckland, you’ll need to have a valid driver’s license, which should have a photo, a license number, and an expiry date in the future. If your driver’s license is from a non-English speaking country, you will need to get it translated or obtain an international driver’s license before you land in Auckland.

To be at least 21

Interestingly, the age limit to drive in New Zealand is just 16 years, but it’s really hard to find a car rental company that will rent to individuals under the age of 21. In fact, most rental companies prefer to rent to those aged 25 and over, and some will charge a young driver’s fee to those drivers aged between 21 and 25. It’s best to do your research if you’re under 25 and make sure you read the rental company’s fine print or ask if they charge a young driver’s fee.

A credit card

Unless you plan to take out full coverage insurance, you’ll likely need to give the rental company your credit card information for a holding deposit. Therefore, it’s best to check with your bank what your credit limit is so that you can ensure it’s large enough for the holding deposit!

Confidence to drive on narrow and windy roads

Another essential that isn’t actually required by the rental company is the confidence to drive on narrow and/or winding roads. As you’ll find out, the roads in New Zealand are very different from the wide roads in North America.

Now, I don’t want to scare you because driving in and around Auckland is, for the most part, completely fine and easy; however, in more rural areas (such as parts of Northland), the roads tend to be a single lane that can be narrow and steep. But that’s all part of the country’s charm, isn’t it? As long as you’re careful and drive to the speed limit, you should be a-okay!

Just keep in mind that a road trip here may take longer than you estimated due to road conditions!

3. What side of the road do you drive on in New Zealand? 

Driving the beautiful roads near Whangarei, NZ
We drive on the left!

They drive on the left-hand side of the road in New Zealand. This means that the steering wheel is located on the right of the vehicle, and if you plan to rent a manual, you’ll need to use your left hand to change gears!

Other countries that drive on the left include Australia and the UK, so if you’re coming from these countries, you’ll feel right at home. But, if you’re visiting from North America (where you drive on the right side of the road), it may take you a few days to get used to driving here.

But, in saying that, I got used to it pretty quickly – I mostly struggled with getting into the wrong side of the car before we set off! Which my partner found pretty funny! If you’re not confident about how you’ll adjust, just start out with short journeys and make sure you’re well-rested before you drive, as then, you’re less likely to make mistakes.

4. Do you need to rent a 4WD in Auckland?

Bailey poses for a photo with her rental car in NZ
I love small cars!

No, you won’t need to rent a 4WD if you plan to stick to the city and surrounds or places like Rotorua and Wellington. But, if you want to venture further afield, particularly to the famed Ninety Mile Beach in Northland, where you can actually drive on the beach, hiring a 4WD is advisable.

Another thing, having a 4WD will come in handy in bad weather conditions, so if you plan to visit Auckland in the winter months when the area receives a high amount of rainfall, having a 4WD will be beneficial! Also, if you’re planning to go skiing in ski hotspot Whakapapa or elsewhere, a 4WD is a great idea for driving in snowy conditions as it will give you better traction and it’ll make climbing up the mountain easier.

To be honest, I found that most of the roads on the North Island were easy to drive in a standard car. Plus, steep and windy roads are actually easier to maneuver in a smaller vehicle! And seeing as 4WDs are more expensive to rent than a standard car, not hiring one will save you money!

Another popular choice is to hire a campervan from Auckland, especially if you’re traveling with friends or family or want to save on accommodation costs and go freedom camping! Honestly, the time I spent exploring New Zealand in my campervan was some of my most memorable travel moments!

5. Best places to drive to near Auckland with a rental car

Northland

Bailey at the summit of Bream Head Scenic Reserve, New Zealand
Bream Head!
Bailey drinks a coffee at Fat Camel Cafe
Fat Camel Cafe!

As the name suggests, Northland is the northernmost part of the North Island. And despite it being home to some of New Zealand’s best beaches and a very important cultural site (the must-see Waitangi Treaty Grounds), it remains one of the least visited parts of the country, which is a shame as it happens to be one of my favorite places in New Zealand.

Be sure to stop in the largest city in the region, Whangarei, which is just a 2-hour drive from Auckland. It’s known as the “City of 100 Beaches”, and there are plenty of great ones nearby, such as Whale Bay and Matapouri Beach along the Tutukaka Coast. In the city itself, spend some time wandering around the cute Quality Street, stopping for a coffee in one of the historic buildings there. Afterward, head out to the beautiful Whangarei Falls, just a 10-minute drive from the city.

Just under an hour’s drive north of Whangarei is Paihia, aka the central point of the Bay of Islands – one of the most popular places to visit in Northland. There’s plenty to do, here, from a memorable Hole in the Rock cruise to taking a ferry ride over to historic Russell to visiting the culturally significant Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

If you have more time, head further north to Ninety Mile Beach, the famous beach you can drive on, and then Cape Reinga, a stunning lighthouse that is also a very important Maori site. Along the way, stop at the Te Paki sand dunes to try the thrilling sport of sandboarding!

Related Read: Check out the best stops on the drive between Auckland and Paihia before you go!

Hobbiton

Hobbit home at Hobbiton, NZ
I love Hobbiton!

Most of you will know Hobbiton, especially if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan – it’s arguably one of the most-visited tourist sites in New Zealand. At just 169 km (105 miles) from the city, visiting Hobbiton from Auckland in your rental car is a no-brainer. 

Yep, a 2-hour drive will have you at the coolest movie set in the world. I may be biased as I’m a big LOTR fan, but even if you’re not, I wrote an honest Hobbiton review so that you can make your mind up if it’s worth visiting for you!

On a tour of this pristine movie set, you’ll get to explore the Shire and see the Mill, the famed Green Dragon Inn, and the Hobbit Holes in person. 

Hobbiton is also on the way to many other destinations, so it;s the perfect road trip stop! Be sure to stop by on your drive from Auckland to Tauranga or Rotorua.

The Coromandel

A lady on a viewing platform at the start of the Cathedral Cove Walk on the Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand
View over the Coromandel from the start of the Cathedral Cove Track!

The Coromandel Peninsula is a beautiful coastal region about a 2.5-hour drive from Auckland. There are lots of great things to do here, including hiking to the pinnacles, surfing, walking the pink-sand Hahei Beach, and kayaking in Cathedral Cove, but one of the top activities here is an unusual one – digging your own hot water pool at the aptly named Hot Water Beach

At this famous spot, hot water lies deep under the sand, and when you dig down a few feet, that hot water bubbles up to the surface, thus, creating your own natural hot tub! This phenomenon can only be experienced at low tide, and it’s undoubtedly one of the most unique things to do in New Zealand!

Related Read: For more great spots to relax, these are the best hot pools and hot springs in New Zealand!

Hawke’s Bay

Bailey enjoys a glass of wine at a winery in Napier, New Zealand
Cheers!

If you love wine, then you’ll definitely want to check out one of New Zealand’s best wine regions – Hawke’s Bay, located 515 km (320 miles) from Auckland. It’s best to spread this drive out over a few days.

This wine region is best known for its red wine, and what’s cool is that you can cycle to many of the 30+ wineries in the area via over 200 km (124 miles) of easy cycle trails. Or if you’re like me and prefer a guided experience, there are some excellent wine tours around Napier to choose from.

Besides wine, be sure to check out the towns of Napier and Hastings, which are known for their art-deco buildings and great cafes and restaurants. Nature lovers will be keen to check out Cape Kidnappers, home to the biggest mainland colony of gannets in the world.

If you need a road trip route for the next stop on this list, check out the best stops between Napier and Taupo!

Taupo

Bailey poses for a photo with the Love Taupo sign in Taupo, NZ
I love Taupo!

A 3-hour drive from Auckland will get you to Taupo, a small town with a famous lake – Lake Taupo is actually the biggest lake in the country, and would you believe this lake is about the same size as Singapore?! So, as you can imagine, some of the best things to do here involve the lake, from jetboating to SUPing.

But, one of the coolest activities from Lake Taupo is the opportunity to kayak out to the Maori rock carvings. The tallest carving is a whopping 10 meters (32 feet) high. It’s one of the largest rock art displays in the world and is so incredible to see in person.

The mighty Huka Falls are just a 5-minute drive from Taupo, and as one of New Zealand’s top waterfalls, it’s a must-visit while in town. Other notable things to do in this picturesque region include skydiving and hiking one of the many lakeside trails.

Related Read: Leading nicely onto my next road trip suggestion, read all about the best stops on the drive between Taupo and Rotorua here!

Rotorua

Bailey relaxes in the Secret Spot Hot Tubs in Rotorua
Such a relaxing place!
Bailey takes a selfie on the Ziplining Forest Adventure in Rotorua, New Zealand
So much fun!

One of Auckland’s most popular road trips is the 2.5-hour (225 km/140 miles) drive from Auckland to Rotorua. This city is famous for its Maori culture as well as its geothermal activity! Yep, most tourists come to Rotorua specifically to experience its unique geothermal areas such as Te Puia, one of only two geyser fields in the world that’s also home to a kiwi sanctuary, and Te Whakarewarewa. This living Maori village has hot pools, boiling mud, and geysers. 

While, if you’re a thrill-seeker, you’ll be pleased to know that Rotorua is home to one of the best whitewater rafting experiences in all of New Zealand. Yep, Tutea Falls is the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world, at an impressive 7-meter (23-foot) tall! You can raft right over the falls on this epic rafting tour if you want to experience it yourself – I highly recommend it!

For a unique way to explore Rotorua, climb aboard the Duck Boat! These bright yellow World War II amphibious vehicles can travel both on land and on the water, and it was one of my favorite Rotorua experiences!

New Plymouth

Reflection of the Pouakai Tarn, New Zealand
The Pouakai Tarn!
Road leading to Mt Taranaki on Kent Road in Egmont National Park
Kent Road!

Located on the West Coast of the North Island, a 4.5-hour drive from Auckland, New Plymouth is famous for being the home of Mount Taranaki. A giant, dormant volcano that you probably recognize from your Instagram feed. You can hike to the top of Mount Taranaki, but keep in mind it’s a grueling 5-6 hour climb to the top!

Situated within Egmont National Park/Te Papakura o Taranaki, Mount Taranaki is close to some of the top hikes in New Zealand as well as places to go skiing, rock climbing, camping, and more. So, it’s fair to say if you’re a lover of the great outdoors, you MUST make the road trip to New Plymouth from Auckland. 

While in the city of New Plymouth, one of my favorite things was to walk the 12.7-kilometer (7.8-mile) coastal walkway, a picturesque walk around the coastline and a great way to get a feel for this scenic city. 

New Plymouth is also a popular surf spot with Fitzroy Beach and Back Beach the two best spots to take on the waves!

banner asking people to click to join the Queenstown Diary Facebook Group

Wellington

View of Wellington City from Mount Victoria Lookout at sunset in New Zealand
View of Wellington City from Mount Victoria Lookout at sunset in New Zealand

Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand, is one of my favorite cities in the Southern Hemisphere. This young and vibrant city is full of life and is home to one of the best streets in New Zealand – Cuba Street, which is so colorful and quirky and lined with excellent restaurants. It’s a 7.5-hour drive from Auckland to Wellington, which is why I recommend breaking this lengthy drive up into several days. 

You should also allow spending a few nights in Wellington as it’s filled with so many memorable things to do, like The Museum of New Zealand/Te Papa, which is home to some of New Zealand’s most important treasures and is completely free to enter (or you can join a guided tour for around $20 NZD), which is great.

Another must-do in this city is the cable car which travels 120 meters (394 feet) above Wellington offering breathtaking views. There’s even a cable car museum that tells about the history and importance of cable cars around the city. At the top is where you’ll find the city’s Botanical Gardens, a great spot to kill an hour or two. 

A little outside the city, animal lovers will love wandering around Zealandia, one of the first fully-fenced eco sanctuaries in the world. It was built to protect native wildlife, particularly birds such as the takahe, tui, and takariki. You will also find unusual reptiles here, such as the green gecko and the tuatara.

Wellington is also where you can catch the ferry to the South Island, which leads me to my next stop…

Related Read: If you have a couple of days in Wellington, consider taking a day trip from Wellington, there are so many great places nearby!

The South Island

Bailey enjoys a drink at The Sundeck in Queenstown
Come see me in Queenstown!

If time isn’t an issue, a great idea is to take your rental car over to the South Island to explore popular tourist destinations like ChristchurchQueenstown, and Wanaka.

The South Island is completely different from the North Island. In fact, I often say the two islands are like two different countries. The South Island enjoys colder temperatures, is very mountainous, and has some of the prettiest scenery and best skiing in New Zealand. It’s also a great region to complete a road trip. I’ve detailed some of my favorite South Island road trips below to help you out!

One of my favorites is this drive between Queenstown and Christchurch. You’ll cross the South Island and stop at the best sights! Some highlights include seeing the Southern Lights at Lake Tekapo and witnessing the crystal blue waters of Lake Pukaki.

For a shorter journey, head from Wanaka to Franz Josef. I love this route because you really feel immersed in nature. You’ll be driving through the wild West Coast and passing some of the best waterfalls in New Zealand. Another shorter option is driving between Te Anau and Milford Sound, which includes breathtaking views throughout!

6. Tips to save money on a rental car in Auckland?

Bailey poses with her rental car while road tripping around New Zealand
A rental car doesn’t have to be expensive!

Renting a car is a big expense no matter where in the world you’re visiting. And as I’ve said earlier, car rental prices in New Zealand are notoriously high. But, luckily for you, I’ve got some helpful tips and tricks to save you money!

Visit in low season

Traveling to Auckland in the low season (June through August) will not only save you money on hotels and activities, but you’ll also save a heap in car rental costs. That’s because car rental companies slash their prices in the low season in the hopes of attracting more customers. 

But remember that during these winter months (yep, the seasons here are opposite to the Northern Hemisphere), you’re more likely to encounter dangerous driving conditions. So, if you plan to drive through areas that get snow, you may need to delay your plans if there is heavy snowfall. 

The high season in Auckland runs from December to March. So, if you plan to rent a car during these months, book well in advance to get the cheapest rate. 

Avoid renting a 4WD 

Unless you plan to travel to a super-remote destination you won’t need to rent a 4WD in Auckland. As you know, 4WDs are a lot more expensive, so you’ll save money when you rent a standard car which will be more than suitable for the roads surrounding Auckland, anyway!

Rent a manual 

While most rental companies in Auckland offer only automatic vehicles, renting a manual car will work out a lot cheaper. So if you can drive a stick shift, it’s worth looking around as to what rental companies offer this.

Keep in mind, if you’re used to driving on the right-hand side, you’ll need to use the gear stick with your left hand!

Use credit card insurance to save money 

Before paying for separate car rental insurance, check whether your credit card covers it. Many credit cards offer some type of rental coverage. However, it’s best to look into it further and note if you need to add on any extras. 

If your credit card doesn’t offer insurance, you can still purchase it from the car rental agency. I recommend using Discover Cars and opting for their full rental protection as this removes financial obligations from the driver in case of an accident. Giving you major peace of mind!

Drop off in the same location 

If you are able to return your vehicle to the same location in Auckland, it’ll save you a ton of money! Often rental companies will add extra charges associated with a different drop-off point, which will make for a more expensive road trip!

Rent a car from Auckland Airport

A good idea if you want to save some dough is to rent a car from Auckland airport as opposed to from a downtown location. There’s so much competition at the airport that more times than not the prices here are much more appealing than the city. So, why not hire a car as soon as you land at the airport, complete your epic road trip, then return to Auckland a couple of days before you fly out to explore this vibrant city?

7. Can you trust online websites when booking?

Windy road on the Remarkables ski field access road while road tripping around New Zealand in a rental car
The Remarkables!

Yes, booking a car rental online is the way to go, in my opinion! Because by booking online, you can compare the prices more easily and ensure you’re getting the best possible deal.

Each time I’ve rented a car in Auckland, I’ve used Discover Cars and highly recommend them. They offer competitive prices, with car rentals ranging from $50-$160 NZD per day. 

What’s great, too, is their website is very user-friendly. For example, their search function is awesome because you can filter your options for different pick-up and drop-off locations and tick if you want a manual or automatic car, making it so much easier to find the right vehicle!

I have tried renting directly through rental companies in the past, and I found it quite time-consuming, so, if nothing else, booking through Discover Cars will save you time. 

I know there are several other car rental sites where you can organize a rental car in Auckland, but in my experience, Discover Cars is the best. And it’s not just me who thinks that because it has great reviews. Their customer service is also excellent, which I found out when I had to cancel a booking last minute. They refunded my money the next day and didn’t ask any questions about why I had to cancel. In fact, it’s helpful for you to know that many of their car rentals offer free cancellation! 

Another big benefit is that you can pay in your home currency on Discover Cars, which means you won’t be charged conversion or international transaction fees. Saving you even more money! 

8. Do you need to give a deposit when renting a car in Auckland?

Bailey fills up her rental car in Mossburn in New Zealand
Your deposit will cover damage and things like not returning your vehicle with fuel!

Yes, the majority of car rental companies in Auckland will charge a security deposit. The price of this depends on the insurance deductible through the rental agency. But, it typically tends to be approximately $200 NZD.

Most car rental agencies in Auckland will require you to use a credit card when renting a car from them. But, you may come across companies that will let you pay the deposit with a debit card or with cash.

However, using a credit card is the preferred option because it’s easier to refund the deposit when you return the vehicle.

9. What extras are available when renting a car in Auckland?

Bailey looks out the window of her rental car in NZ
It’s not that expensive when you realize how much more you get out of your trip!

Additional driver

Adding an additional driver to your booking will certainly come in handy if you’re planning a long road trip from Auckland. Trust us, after driving for a couple of hours, it will be nice to take a break and just sit in the passenger seat admiring the scenery for a while. 

Several car rental companies in Auckland offer cheap deals for adding an extra driver; some even offer it for free! I say, if it’s free, definitely go for it. If not, decide if the additional cost is really worth it for you. For example, will you actually use this service?!

DiscoverCars has a filter so that you can view prices depending on the number of drivers, which is really helpful! 

GPS

GPS will be an extra charge when renting a car in Auckland and costs between $8-25 NZD per day which really adds up. And you may think that Google Maps will cut it, but if you’re going to be driving outside the major cities, reception can be unreliable, so it’s best not to depend on it.

If you have a New Zealand sim card, I highly recommend downloading a Maps app to your phone. Avoid using this when on mobile data if you have an international sim card, as your data roaming charges will be hefty! A good idea in this instance is to download the maps when on WiFi and then use them offline.

Another alternative to Googe Maps is to bring your own GPS with you.

In short, if you have the budget for it, adding GPS to your car rental booking is really worth it.

Child seats

Traveling with child seats can be awkward and annoying, so it may be easier to add one to your car rental booking. It’s not too expensive, costing between $40-$70 NZD per week.

It should be noted that child seats are mandatory in New Zealand for any child under 7 years of age, and this is strictly enforced! The child seat must also be suitable or rated to their age. I recommend specifying which child seat you require when booking your rental vehicle

Handily, Discover Cars has a “child seat” filter and factors the child seat into the total cost. To see the cost of the child seat, scroll down on the rental page.

Snow chains

If you plan to do a road trip around New Zealand in the winter, you may need to add snow chains to your rental booking. Snow chains offer extra grip on icy or snowy roads and are fitted to your tires. I’ll be honest; you’re less likely to need them if you’re just sticking to the urban parts of the North Island (as the weather is pretty mild here in the winter). But, if you plan to head to mountainous regions such as Tongariro National Park, I recommend having snow chains! 

If you want to take your rental car to the South Island in the winter, you certainly need to have snow chains. The weather here is much colder, and they experience a lot of snow in the winter, particularly near Queenstown. In fact, some roads and ski resorts near here require you to carry snow chains. 

10. Tips to follow when renting a car in Auckland

Crown Range Road near Queenstown, New Zealand
Crown Range Road near Queenstown, New Zealand

Take your own photos when doing the inspection

I highly advise doing a full check of your rental vehicle before driving it from the car rental company parking lot. If you see any scratches, marks, or bumps take lots of photos and email them to the rental company straight away.

By doing this, if they try to charge you for damages, you have it on record that they were already there.

It’s also a good idea to snap a photo of the mileage meter and ensure the number matches the records the company gave you.

Check what roads you can drive on

Take a look at the fine print of your rental agreement to see which types of roads you are not permitted to drive on – it’s typically off-roading or gravel roads, but it’s best to double-check. 

This is most likely to apply to campervan rentals or motorhome rentals from Auckland and not cars, but again, double-check the fine print before driving on any roads you’re unsure of. 

Child seats are required

As I mentioned above, all children under the age of 7 need to be in the correct child seat for their age and size. You can find the full legal requirements for New Zealand here

Follow the road rules

New Zealand has very strict road rules, and it’s essential you follow them at all times. Most of the road rules are the same as in other countries, but here are some reminders:

  • Seatbelts are compulsory for everyone traveling in the car. 
  • Children under 7 need to be in a car seat. 
  • It’s illegal to drive with your phone in your hand. If you do need to make a phone call, connect it to your car’s Bluetooth, pull over, or use the hands-free option.
  • Always follow the speed limit. These are shown on signs with red circles around the number, and they often change (so keep your eyes peeled!). 
  • They are super strict on not drinking and driving. For drivers over the age of 20, the limit is 0.05%. 

Another thing to remember is that, unlike in the US or Canada, you can’t turn on a red light. So even if there’s no oncoming traffic, you must wait until the light is green!

You can read more about New Zealand’s general road rules online here.

11. You will need to pay any toll charges

Driving our rental car onto the Interislander Ferry from Wellington to Picton
Driving my rental car onto the Interislander Ferry from Wellington to Picton

Unlike in some other countries, car rental companies in New Zealand likely won’t pay for or remind you to pay your toll charges! That’s your responsibility, and if you don’t pay on time, you will rack up additional charges! Thankfully, there are just three toll roads in New Zealand, all on the North Island.

The three toll roads in New Zealand include:

  • The Northern Gateway Toll Road (north) in Auckland
  • Tauranga Eastern Link Toll Road in Tauranga
  • Takitimu Drive Toll Road in Tauranga

You can pay your toll with a credit or debit card by calling 0800 40 20 20 or visiting the Transport Agency website. Each toll costs about $2-$2.50 NZD.

You can pay for these roads before or after you drive on them – just don’t wait too long, or you’ll have to pay additional charges!

12. Do you need insurance to rent a car in Auckland?

A road traveling to Milford Sound from Te Anau
The views you can expect!

When renting a car from Auckland, it’s obligatory for the rental agency to include basic insurance coverage as part of your plan. As I said, it’s basic coverage and is the minimum insurance requirement for driving in New Zealand. 

You may stick with this basic option, but remember if any damage occurs to your vehicle or another vehicle, you’ll be charged the whole deposit. 

A good idea is to check your travel insurance plan or credit card plan to see if it includes rental car coverage. If it does – great, as it means you don’t need to buy additional insurance coverage!

Alternatively, you can add it to your overall rental cost. I highly recommend booking through Discover Cars because they have their own insurance options. These vary in price and coverage and include a full coverage waiver option. 

13. Where can I rent a car from in Auckland?

Downtown Auckland near the water on a busy week day
Auckland CBD!

Auckland has plenty of excellent car rental companies, and most are based either at Auckland Airport or in the CBD. 

I highly recommend using Discover Cars because it’s very easy to use and has the majority of car rental companies in Auckland. So, use their filters to search for exactly what you need for the best price. 

Discover Cars also has a wide selection of pick-up and drop-off points. Just remember to select this option when searching! This makes it easy if, for example, you fly into Auckland and out of Christchurch. Because then you can drop your rental car off in Christchurch instead of having to bring it back to Auckland. 

14. How much does it cost to rent a car in Auckland?

Road that leads to rotorua New Zealand
The scenic road into Rotorua!

The prices vary significantly depending on whether you are visiting in the off-season or the high-season. Plus, there are many other ways to lower the cost (as I mentioned before).

For a small basic economy car, you can expect to pay anywhere from $150 NZD for one day or $280 NZD per week in the low season. In the high season, prices start from $175 NZD for one day or $400 NZD per week.

Medium-sized cars start from $170 NZD for one day or $308 NZD per week in the low season. In the high season, medium-sized car prices start at $178 NZD for one day or $580 NZD per week. For a large car or SUV, prices start at $205 NZD daily or $620 NZD weekly in the low season. In the high season, they can start at around $210 a day or $700 NZD per week.

Important to note: Prices have gone up significantly lately and seem to fluctuate much more than they used to. This is why the prices above are just general and based on the current market.

To see the current prices for your dates, check the Discover Cars site.

15. What are the road conditions like near Auckland?

The highway between Auckland and Hamilton, New Zealand
The highway between Auckland and Hamilton, New Zealand

The roads around Auckland are typically in great condition and very easy to drive on. There are several motorways leaving the city center, including State Highway 1 and 16, both of which have multiple lanes in each direction and higher speed limits. In the city itself, expect to see many two-way roads (one lane in each direction), which can be pretty congested.

Outside of the main cities, you’ll experience very few motorways and will mostly be driving on two-way roads – most of which don’t have a barrier between the two lanes. But the lanes are typically pretty wide, so I wouldn’t worry too much about this. As you head into more rural areas, you’ll notice the roads can be windy and narrow, so drive carefully on these!

One thing I’ve learned from driving in New Zealand is that Google Maps usually underestimates how long your journey will take. Because of single-lane roads and slow-driving tourists, it’s likely you’ll get stuck behind a line of cars. Assume it’ll take longer than Google Maps says, and plan accordingly.

16. What are the major hazards on the roads in Auckland

A single lane bridge in New Zealand
A single-lane bridge in New Zealand

As I said, the roads surrounding Auckland are mostly safe and easy to drive along. However, after driving here regularly, I’ve noticed a few hazards that you need to be aware of.

Single-lane bridges 

You may need to drive across single-lane bridges in the more rural areas of the North Island. And although they look a little intimidating at first, they’re actually pretty simple to use. Look for a sign indicating which direction has the right of way. And ensure there is no car driving towards you before you go – even if you have the right of way.

Wildlife

New Zealand is home to plenty of wildlife, and the roads surrounding Auckland are no different! It’s lovely to see animals like rabbits, hedgehogs, livestock like cows and sheep, small birds, and possums while driving, but be mindful that they may unexpectedly run in front of your vehicle.

If you do hit a possum, don’t worry too much, as hitting one is a frequent occurrence for New Zealand locals. That’s because they regularly run onto the roads and are considered an invasive species. If you do come across a possum while on vacation here, please don’t touch it as they carry diseases such as tuberculosis!

Winding roads 

Having driven a lot around Auckland and on the North Island, trust me when I say there are plenty of narrow and windy roads here, especially as you leave the big cities and towns! These roads are usually clearly marked with a relevant sign, so you’ll know when you’re about to drive on a windy road.

Snow and ice in the winter

In winter, there is a lot of rainfall on the North Island so drive slowly in the event of heavy rain as the roads will be more slippery. And in popular winter destinations like Whakapapa or Ohakune, there may be snow or ice on the roads.

Black ice is common in these areas too, so be extra wary in cold weather. If you’re worried about your rental vehicle not coping well with the weather, opt for a 4X4 or rent snow chains for extra grip. 

Railway crossings

There are quite a few railroad crossings on the North Island, and not all are well-signposted. There will likely be lights and barriers on the larger roads when a train approaches. However, this isn’t always the case on the smaller roads. If you’re crossing a railway without barriers, stop to check both ways (and keep your ear out for a train) before passing over.

Crowded tourist attractions on the side of the road

Popular tourist spots and viewpoints mean that crowds will likely gather on the side of the road. So, drive slowly if you know you’re about to approach one.

In some destinations, people might park on the side of the road so that they can hop out and snap some photos. So be extra careful in case someone accidentally stands on the road. When I see a bunch of tourists on the side of the road while driving, I find it helpful because it means there’s usually a beautiful view there!

Cyclists

Auckland is an active city, so you’ll find many people cycling on the roads here. If you see a cyclist, make sure to give them plenty of space. You should only pass them when safe to do so, being extra careful on narrow roads.

17. Is it safe to leave luggage and valuables in your rental car?

Bailey packing her car before going on a hike in the Abel Tasman
When I go on long hikes, I always try to park in a secure area. Of course, you can’t always do that.

Although Auckland is considered a safe tourist destination, car break-ins can still happen. More so in the CBD or more-populated suburbs.

This is why I always keep any luggage, handbags, etc., hidden from plain sight – either in the trunk, glove box, or under the seat. Take your valuables with you at all times and lock your doors even if you only plan to leave the vehicle for a few minutes.

18. What should you do if you get in a traffic accident in Auckland?

Bailey in the drivers seat of her rental car while on the North Island of New Zealand
I’m not the fastest driver but to date, no accidents!

The first rule of thumb, if you get into an accident, is don’t panic!

If you’re in a minor accident, pull up well on the side of the road or move to a layby/rest stop, or nearby parking lot, if you can! In New Zealand, you are not required to stay put in the case of a minor accident, unlike in other countries. Therefore, the safest thing to do is to get out of the way of other vehicles.

Unless someone is injured or there is a real conflict, there is often no need to call the police or emergency services. New Zealand leaves minor collisions up to the individuals involved. So if there is only minor damage, all you’re required to do is exchange details with the other individuals involved.

You must take down their name, address, and contact number to report the incident to your car rental company.

If the accident is more serious, you must contact emergency services at 111. If someone is injured, the accident will need to be reported to the police within 24 hours. This can be done by visiting the nearest police station or calling 105.

In short, it’s best to report any kind of accident to your rental company as soon as it’s safe. As they will be able to advise you on the next steps.

Renting a Car vs Renting a Campervan

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies!
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers

A car isn’t your only option when it comes to having your own wheels in New Zealand. In fact, many people prefer a campervan or motorhome as opposed to a car. There are pros and cons to all three options, which I’ve outlined below:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve organized a special discount code that will get you 5% off if you book your JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.

Things to do While You’re in Auckland

Bailey looks out at Auckland at the top of the Auckland Sky Tower, NZ
View from the Auckland Sky Tower.
Waves crash at Piha Beach, New Zealand
Piha Beach!

As New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland is filled with amazing things to do and see! While you’re here, make sure not to miss out on some of the top attractions and activities.

  • Take a harbor cruise – Nicknamed the City of Sails, there are SO many boats in Auckland, and the harbor is a must-see aboard one. I love this 1.5-hour harbor cruise that takes you past the Auckland Bridge and you even get to help the crew steer!
  • Hike Mt Eden – One of the best hikes on the North Island is to the top of Mt Eden. This dormant volcano has amazing views of Auckland and the loop trail is only a 40-minute walk.
  • See dolphins and whales – One of my favorite Auckland activities was joining this dolphin and whale watching tour to the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. You’re on a luxury catamaran looking for all the amazing marine animals around here. Plus if you don’t see any dolphins or whales, you can do the tour again for free.
  • Visit the Auckland Sky Tower – the view from the top of the Auckland Sky Tower is incredible! It’s best to visit at sunset and you can book your tickets easily online here!
  • Explore Ponsonby – Easily the coolest Auckland neighborhood, Ponsonby is full of trendy bars, restaurants, and boutiques. Make sure you stop at Prego for Italian food and Bedford Soda & Liquor for the best cocktails in the city!
  • Go to the beach – Only 45 minutes from Auckland is the famous Piha Beach! This is one of the best beaches in New Zealand and one of the most beautiful with black sand and bright blue water. You can drive yourself or join a guided tour to get here.

Travel Insurance Has Your Back!

Life can be unpredictable and when you’re traveling abroad, the last thing you want to worry about is getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket for treatment.

If this concerns you, SafetyWing can help! SafetyWing specializes in very affordable and comprehensive medical and travel insurance that is aimed at digital nomads, remote workers, and long-term travelers. It costs just $45 USD per 4 weeks!

To start coverage, you must purchase it after leaving your home country, so we usually buy it as soon as we land at the airport.

Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey smiles at the camera while on the Sealy Tarns Trail in Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand
Thanks for reading!

I hope this guide has inspired you to rent a car in Auckland. It really is the best way to explore this breathtakingly beautiful country! And if you need more inspiration for your trip, check out the rest of my New Zealand blogs! Some highlighted articles are below!

14 Things to KNOW Before Visiting the Auckland Sky Tower

27 BEST Hikes on the North Island of New Zealand (for all levels and abilities!)

The BEST Time to Visit New Zealand – Weather & Activities

13 BEST Day Trips from Christchurch