The highest rates for New Zealand are in the summer months from December until the end of February, during this period cars must be booked well in advance or you will have little chance of getting one when you turn up.
November and March are almost as busy, because the weather is still good but the prices are cheaper. Booking is advised.
October and April are a bit cheaper again and during these months you may be able to arrive in New Zealand and pick up a cheap rental car or relocation deal.
May to the end of September is the quietest as this winter and a bit chilly with a good ski season. Booking is not really needed during this time and you will be able to phone around to pick up good deals including good relocation deals.
A relocation deal is where you could pick up a car in one city and drop it in another for a minimum charge.
Extra Km Charges:
Almost all of New Zealand car rental companies do not charge for kms on top of their daily hire cost. The exception to this rule is if you wish to hire a car for less than the rental companies minimum daily hire time.
Car rental companies sometimes have a km charge for diesel tax, which is a government cost to all owners of diesel vehicles. Most companies will include this in their daily rental cost.
What is one day of Rental?
Most rental companies charge per day you have the vehicle eg, a rental from 11am Friday to 11am Saturday is a 2-day rental. This is because the vehicle can not be rented out to anyone else on either of these 2 days. To make the most of this rule pick the vehicle up on the morning of the first day and drop it off at the end of the second day.
You will still find some rental companies that treat this situation as 1 day but have penalty charges if you are late for any reason.
This is a government tax and is not made up. But this is another way companies can make some extra money because there will be a "mark up" on the government cost.
GST (Goods and Services Tax):
This is a 12%% government tax on items bought in New Zealand. This should be included in all company advertised prices.
Car rental companies will sometimes include free airport transfers, some only supply or pay for transport to pick up your car. If you are hiring a budget car you may have to pay for your transfers.
Windscreen, Tire and Headlight Insurance:
The way that rental car companies handle this area can vary. Some do not cover damage to these things at all, which means you the traveller has to pay for any damage. Some car rental companies charge extra to insure against damage. Some car rental companies include it in their excess / bond reduction options. Whatever they do we would suggest you cover yourself against damage to these items. New Zealand has many stone chip roads with trucks that can and do throw up stones. The insurance also covers tyre damage. Windscreens can range from $ 300 upwards
To fix Stone chips companies charge from $ 30 up per chip
Tire's can range from $ 100 upwards
All of the above estimates depend on the type of car.
Bond / Excess:
All car rental companies take a bond of some description off their customers. The larger companies will have a normal option of debiting your credit card immediately.
This is the first option, and then they will have various other excess / bond reduction options, which could reduce the bond to in some cases, to nil. Since not many people can afford to have the first bond option taken out of their holiday credit card account, it forces many people to take the excess reduction options, which could be around an extra $ 35 per day to reduce the excess to nil (the rental car company will have a maximum amount that you have to pay for long hires eg; 100 day hire would = $ 3500 at $ 35 per day but the companies maximum amount may be $ 1500). It is just a way for the rental company to earn extra money from the nervous driver. The car rental company will still hold a small bond to cover incidentals eg, the car returns full of fuel, in a clean and tidy condition. This is returned once the car is returned.
Smaller car rental companies usually have better first options for your bond or excess they can range from $ 750 to $ 3500 (the higher figure would be for drivers under 25) and most have bond reduction options available. The smaller companies usually do not reduce their excess to nil and $ 250 seems to be the lower bond options, this might cost around an extra $ 15 per day.
The smaller rental car companies also usually do not debit your card immediately, and will only debit should any accident take place.
Some companies have different levels of excess depending whether the accident is a "single vehicle accident" or an accident caused by reckless use of the vehicle by the driver.
New Zealand rental companies will usually accept full drivers licenses from English speaking countries. You may need an international drivers license if your countries drivers license is not in English.
These rules are at the discretion of each rental company.
New Zealand Car Insurance:
In New Zealand car insurance in NOT compulsory so someone may hit you who is not insured this mean you lose your bond. The way most rental companies handle accidents like this is. You take down the information of the person who hits you and if the rental company recovers their money then you get your bond back.
Extra Driver Charges:
These seem to be a thing of the past and we have not discovered any car rental companies that still have this charge in place. If there were car rental companies still charging for an extra driver, they are the exception to the general rule.
All New Zealand car rental companies offer very good roadside assistance. This is usually through the New Zealand Automobile Association (AA) The AA is a great organization who has agents all over NZ. All car rental companies receive the same service from the AA no matter how big the rental company is. The AA will come out to you assess your problem, fix it on the spot if possible or tow you for free to the nearest reputable service station, garage or agent that can fix your problem ASAP.
The larger car companies with branches all over NZ are able to offer the best vehicle replacement options with 24-hour phone assistance and this would be one of the reasons you would pay a higher rental fee. Sometimes the smaller companies can not afford at the rates you are paying to have 24-hour phone assistance, but the AA does have a 24-hour toll free number. If the smaller car company can not replace a car themselves, if something goes wrong, they will try to find you a new car from a different rental company. All accidents or damage must be reported to the car rental company as soon as realistically possible. But there is an exception to this rule. Most car rental companies will allow you to pay for repairs up to a certain amount without informing them. You must keep the receipts, and they will provide a refund
Refunds for breakdowns:
All car rental companies should refund monies for the rental cost of days off the road caused by vehicle mechanical breakdown.
It is that simple; they will not pay for, motel / hotel bills, the hiring of other vehicles or missed bookings or flights.
If you receive refunds for any other reasons you have found a great rental car company, then recommend them to your friends.
Quality of a Car Rental:
The standard in New Zealand of rental cars is very high with strict government guidelines in order for a vehicle to be given a rental certificate of fitness (COF). No car rental company wants you to break down on your journey this only costs the company money and "bad press".
A good rule to use is the more your daily hire rate is the newer the rental car is. They are usually all set out in the same way and are all the same size for the same type of car (there are only so many ways a 5-door car can be set out).
Always remember if you are dealing with something mechanical things do break, no matter what the age.
Long Rental Discounts:
All rental car companies offer long rental period discounts.
All New Zealand car rental companies have very strict cancellation policies. Make sure you have your correct dates. If you show you late you will still have to pay for the days you are late and if you do not turn up at all expect the full amount of the rental to be debited to your credit card. By agreeing to the car company terms and conditions you give the company the authority to do this. If you return the car early do not expect a refund.
With all car rental companies you need a credit card to hold any bonds on.
There is only one rental company we can find that does not charge for extras such as mountain bikes, tents, TVs and other accessories to make your trip more enjoyable. You may be able to negotiate items for free if you are hiring for a long period of time.
These will be charged to your credit card on return from your trip.
All car rental companies will provide petrol / diesel. Return the car with the levels that they were provided to you at.
All car rental companies have around 4 roads / areas that vehicles can not drive on. You will not just stray onto these roads / areas, they are well sign posted.
Pick up and Drop off locations:
The bigger the car rental company the more options you will have. The smaller car rental companies may have better daily hire rates, that encourages you to organize your travel so you pick up and drop off to the same location.
One Way Hires:
Most car rental companies offer one-way hires. Some car rental companies charge one-way hire fees. These are normal as the cost of getting vehicle back from places is sometimes high. The larger rental car companies will give you better pick up and drop off locations.
All car rental companies do not accept animals in their vehicles unless they are guide dogs.
All car companies have their vehicles as reliable as possible
In most cases the more you pay the later model vehicle you will get
Daily hire rates vary greatly
More personalized service from smaller companies
Bond / excess options vary greatly
Always turn up, avoid cancellations, get your dates right
Better back up vehicle replacement options from larger companies
Avoid paying for extra drivers
Avoid paying for extra kms
Take windscreen, headlight and tyre insurance
You can negotiate in the off season (New Zealand is booked up during summer)
Book early for the best deals in summer
Expect all NZ car companies to provide AA 24-hour roadside assistance