Exciting as it is to plan your motorhome adventure, the logistics can initially seem a little daunting.
You may wonder how comfortable you’ll feel behind the wheel of a vehicle that seems a lot bigger than you’re used to. Or whether it really will be easy to work everything, especially once you’re camped in splendid isolation.
Be reassured. If you choose a late model RV with a gutsy turbo diesel engine, you’ll find handling is like a car, even uphill – though you will need a more generous (and more scenic!) parking spot than usual. It won’t take long to adjust to the larger size (though with a higher roof it pays to keep alert for obstacles like low hanging branches).
It’s important to carefully consider what size motorhome will best suit your holiday plans keeping in mind all travellers need a seatbelt. Think about whether you want a full bathroom with a shower cubicle or how much gear you’ll want to stash. Golf clubs? Surfboard? Remember you can reduce your packing by choosing an operator that fully equips the vehicle for you.
Compare Apples with Apples
A larger 4 or 5 berth motorhome will naturally be less manoeuvrable and needs to be driven more slowly (maximum 90 kph by law) than a 2-seater campervan.
Compare the floorplans as specifications and internal design can vary quite a lot even between vehicles of roughly the same size. Innovative features in some models really help maximise space and comfort.
First time drivers are often surprised at how responsive a quality motorhome is – front wheel drive, superb ABS braking and other safety features keep them stable on the road, including gravel roads (often part of the route to the most appealing campsites).
Driving in NZ – Allow More Time
Your valid driver’s licence from home is all you need to drive in New Zealand but it’s important to be familiar with local road rules (keep left!) and the general conditions, especially in wet weather or winter.
The roads are often hilly, windy and narrow with single lane bridges and no shoulder – which is also why they’re so darn picturesque. Believe everything you’ve read about why you need to take plenty of time. Which is supposed to be the point of your holiday anyway, right?
If you’re heading for the ski fields, be sure to ask about chains as these will significantly improve traction in snowy conditions. (You won’t find snow tyres on New Zealand vehicles.)
About Fuel Costs
This can vary quite a bit depending on the vehicle. Size isn’t always the most reliable guide as a motorhome’s design, weight, transmission and fuel type all play a role.
European-designed-and-built motorhome brands like Bürstner have automatic transmissions and are diesel powered which is currently about 40% cheaper in New Zealand than petrol. They’re surprisingly fuel efficient, averaging around 100 kilometres per 10 litres (24 mpg/US).
On New Zealand roads, it’s recommended you travel no further than 200 kilometres a day which means a tank of fuel should last a few days. Diesel vehicles are subject to a government road user tax or RUC – ($5.80 per $100km for small to medium sized vehicles and $6.50 per 100 km for larger motorhomes – so if you drove approximately 1000 kilometres from Auckland and Christchurch, this would add about $58 dollars to your fuel tally).
Driving sensibly and regularly checking your tyre pressure is not only safer (and more relaxing), it will also reduce your fuel bill – and of course freedom camping and cooking your own meals can really ease your budget.
Maintenance – 24 Hour Breakdown Service
The last thing you want to worry about is breaking down when you’re miles from a workshop.
A quality operator will ensure their fleet gets top servicing and that everything on board is regularly maintained. As an example, Wilderness Motorhomes offers great quality campervans New Zealand wide. They’ll also provide a thorough briefing before handing over the keys so you’ll be an expert on how to operate all the on board systems from water to wifi.
If you do have any hiccups or even just a query while you’re on the road, reliable companies will have a breakdown service and 24 hour telephone support.