Buyers' Guide: Searching for a bed on wheels
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Blue skies and warmer temperatures can mean only one thing ... summer is coming.
And what better way to spend summer than by exploring some of New Zealand’s epic landscapes.
Whether you’re a born and bred Kiwi, or a backpacker who has just set foot in this country, there’s something for everyone.
There’s just one problem — you’re going to need a set of wheels to get around. Some of the best parts of the country are accessible only in a vehicle; having one that can double as accommodation is an attractive option.
If you’re planning on buying a vehicle that’s fit for crossing our range of terrains, it’s worth getting a head start on your search. But what do you look for? Here are some key things to consider ensuring your experience is as exciting and satisfying as possible.
Find a safe, spacious option
More often than not, those heading on a tiki tour of New Zealand will want a more spacious vehicle to pack in their belongings or even rest their head at night.
It’s no surprise that vans and station wagons are the perfect starting point.
The growing MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) market has opened a raft of choices including the popular Honda Odssey, Toyota Estima and Nissan Elgrand.
All you need to do is drive around Queenstown for an hour or two and you’re bound to pass a few of these vehicles converted into campers.
They offer a similar amount of room to what you’d expect in a van, and often come with a cheaper price tag.
More often than not, the MPVs available tend to be later models and boast the type of safety features you should be looking for as a priority, such as air bags and anti-locking braking systems.
Honda Odyssey. Photos / NZME file
MPVs with seating configurations that transform the seats into a double bed are a good bet but be careful not to take on a vehicle which looks like it’s been extensively modified to add space to lie down. Modifications must fall within the NZTA Warrant of Fitness requirements to be fit to drive.
A station wagon is another popular option on New Zealand roads. You get the length and better handling, but at the cost of space and headroom.
If you’re planning to clock up some ks around the country, you might be better searching for a 4WD or AWD model such as the Subaru Legacy or Audi A4.
You’ll be able to attack some rougher terrain, especially if you’re planning some off-roading.
The best option if budget allows is the fully fledged van. These vehicles tend to be more expensive because they’re favoured by tradespeople for commercial purposes but once these vans are setup for camping purposes, you’re in for a great trip.
Finding a reliable vehicle on a budget
It can be tempting to simply pick up where a group of other tourists left off, and inherit some fellow traveller’s well-worn wheels.
Sure you’re going to get some free pots and pans and maybe a couple of blankets, but do you really want to be driving a car whose past owners haven’t necessarily been incentivised to look after it?
We recommend you buy a vehicle with a good ownership history trail and service documentation, with up-to-date registration and road user charges (RUC), if applicable.
Yes, these kinds of vehicles might cost more but it’s worth the extra money investing up-front. You don’t want to end up broken down. Not only is it stressful, it can be a costly, arduous process, especially if you’re in the middle of nowhere.