Explore New Zealand on four wheels with these top car hire deals.
New Zealand has some impressive vital statistics. The country measures 1,593 kilometres from top to toe, it’s penned in by 15,000 kilometres of coastline, and it’s home to acres and acres of national parks. To see as much of it as possible, you’ll need to hire a car.
Before you put pedal to metal, though, there are a few things you need to know.
Top New Zealand car hire deals
Road rules: What to know about driving in New Zealand.
Approach railway crossings with caution. Only half of the railway crossings in New Zealand have automatic alarms that alert drivers to oncoming trains. The rest have "give way" or "stop" signs, so it’s up to you to look left and right and check for trains before you cross the tracks.
Traffic lights can flash yellow. If you see a traffic light with a flashing amber light it means that the signals are out of order. Unless there's a traffic controller to direct you, you may proceed with caution.
Allow extra time for your journey. There are comparatively few motorways in New Zealand. Many of the country’s roads have single-file traffic flows and, away from the big cities and towns, these can be narrow and windy. Therefore a 60 kilometre journey can take two hours instead of one.
Be prepared to use chains. In winter and spring, ice, snow and hail can make driving challenging. Most car hire companies provide you with chains at these times of year. Have a few trial runs at fitting them before you embark on your journey.
Popular New Zealand driving routes
Manawatu Scenic Route. There are just 98 kilometres between Mangaweka and Ashurst on New Zealand’s north island, but the route from A to B takes you past ancient native bushland, gorges, gardens and natural swimming spots. Do the route in a day or stretch it out over a few to make the most of all the sights on the way.
The Great Alpine Highway. This 241 kilometre route snakes its way from coast to coast on New Zealand’s south island. Starting in Christchurch and ending in Greymouth, this calligraphic road takes you through national parks, past mirror-like lakes and via expansive forests.
The Forgotten World Highway. On the map, the line of this road looks like it’s been drawn with a shaky hand. It stretches for 241 kilometres between Taumarunui and Stratford in the heart of New Zealand’s north island. Highlights along its length include the 74 metre Mount Damper Falls and the town of Whangamomona, which is a dead ringer for the American Wild West.
Frequently asked questions about car hire
Which side of the road do you drive on in New Zealand? New Zealanders drive on the left side of the road.
Do I need an international driver's licence (IDP) to drive in New Zealand? You can legally drive in New Zealand if you hold an up-to-date driving licence from a European Union country or Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Israel, Mexico, South Africa or the United States. Drivers from other countries will likely need an IDP.
Who offers cheap car hire from New Zealand’s airports? There are five main international airports in New Zealand, each offering car hire from the following companies:
- Auckland Airport: Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Thrifty.
- Wellington Airport: Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Europcar, Ezi Car Rental, Hertz and Thrifty.
- Christchurch Airport: Avis, Budget, Europcar, Ezi Car Rental, Hertz and Thrifty.
- Queenstown Airport: Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Europcar, Ezi Car Rental, Hertz, Jucy, Thrifty and Ace Rental Cars.
- Dunedin Airport: Europcar, Ezi Car Rental, Avis, Budget, Hertz, Thrifty and Jucy.
I'm on my provisional licence. Can I drive in New Zealand? It’s legal to drive on your provisional licence in New Zealand. However, most major car hire companies ask for full licences from clients.
How does car insurance work? Hire cars come with insurance in New Zealand. However, just like in Australia, the excess on policies is high. You can take out extra cover packages that lower excess either with the car hire company of through an external insurer.