AA buyer's guide: choosing the right camper
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Now that we’re in Alert Level 1, Kiwis are being encouraged to explore their “own back yard” while our borders remain closed.
Tourists often seek versatile vehicles that can double as accommodation, making it their home away from home. With many of the most beautiful parts of our country accessible by road, a recreational vehicle might just be the best way to explore New Zealand.
A Recreational Vehicle, or RV as it’s more commonly known, is a motor vehicle or trailer which includes living quarters designed for accommodation. Types of RVs available in NZ typically include motorhomes, campervans, caravans and converted vans.
If you’re wanting a less “house-on-wheels” type vehicle, then an affordable used MPV or station wagon could also be worth considering.
More often than not, those heading off on an expedition in NZ, will want a more spacious vehicle to carry their belongings and rest their heads at night. It’s no surprise that MPVs are so popular.
The growing used MPV market has led to increased choices, including safer options that you wouldn’t get from much older vehicles. Here are some of the safer picks we found on the used market:
- Honda Odyssey 2004-2009 (5 Star UCSR)
- Kia Carnival 2006-2011 (5 Star UCSR)
- Toyota Estima 2005-2016 (4 Star UCSR)
MPVs that have been professionally converted into campervans or motorhomes can offer a similar amount of room to what you’d expect in a van. Lots of MPVs available on the used market tend to be later models and boast safety features that you should prioritise, such as air bags, anti-lock braking systems and other protective features.
When looking at these vehicles, remember that if you wish to partake in freedom camping you might need to look into a self-containment certificate, which allows you to camp on public land that isn’t a recognised camping ground or holiday park. However, according to the Responsible Campers Association Inc (RCAi), less than one-third of councils require this certificate.
Station wagons are another popular option for exploring. You get the length as well as better handling, albeit at the sacrifice of some headroom. Here are some of the safer second-hand station wagons we would recommend:
- Subaru Legacy 2002-2009 (5 star UCSR)
- Audi A4 Wagon 2008-2015 (5 Star UCSR)
- Subaru Forester 2007-2012 (4 Star UCSR)
It can be all too easy to simply pick up where a group of other tourists left off and inherit some fellow travellers’ wheels. Sure, you’re going to get some equipment thrown in such as pots, pans and plates, but do you really want to be driving an RV whose past owners haven’t necessarily been incentivised to look after it?
We recommend that you prtect yourself by purchasing a RV with a good ownership history trail and service documentation if possible. Ensure that is comes with up-to-date registration, a fresh Warrant of Fitness (WoF) and, if applicable, road user charges (RUC).
From time to time RVs are sold with hidden problems that can cost new owners thousands of dollars, including outstanding finance, underlying damage after previously being written off or tampered odometers.
Where to now?
AA Vehicle History Report
If the vehicle you’re considering has been registered in NZ, an AA Vehicle History report will give you the information you need to buy with confidence.
AA Pre-Purchase Inspections
When buying a car, we always recommend getting a pre purchase vehicle inspection to reduce the chance of problems further down the line.
AA member benefits
AA Members can get 10 per cent off the best daily price on Maui, Britz and Mighty campervans.