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18 July, 2022 - Updated Last updated on
17 December, 2023

Posted by Marty | Spaceships Crew

Exploring New Zealand in a campervan is the most flexible way to visit remote places that aren't usually included on a bus tour itinerary. But a lot of travellers can get confused about the differences in self-contained campervan versus non-self-contained. Here's what you need to know about the two types of vehicles and how to save money on your New Zealand road trip.

What is a self-contained campervan?

A self-contained campervan is a campervan that is certified under the NZS-5465-2001 standard. It is an official process that results in a special blue sticker on the windscreen of the campervan. Self-containment is more than just having a toilet or water facilities. A self-contained campervan is required to have:

  • Freshwater tank
  • A sink
  • Grey/black waste water tank
  • Evacuation hose
  • Sealable refuse container
  • Toilet (portable or fixed) that can be used inside the vehicle, even when the bed is fully set up.

The driver of the campervan is responsible for dumping the wastewater at an official dumping station. Full details of the self-containment specifications can be found on the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association website.

Advantages of Spaceships non-self-contained campervans

Most of the classic Spaceships campervan fleet is not self-contained (NZS-5465-2001). But they do offer more advantages than a self-contained campervan or motorhome. But if you have your heart set on a self-contained campervan, you are in luck as we have recently expanded our fleet with a range of self-contained campervans: Beta 2S Self-Contained or Beta 2S Stealth Self-Contained (unbranded) campervan categories. But for now, we'll focus on the advantages of non-self-contained campervans vs big campervans or motorhomes.

1. Lower rates making it a cheaper road trip

Spaceships are compact campervans that are packed with awesome features. Our daily rates start at $21 per day (in the low aka winter season) and we often have extra discounts and promotions running. Unlimited kilometres, no fee for one-way travel, changing your travel dates before pick-up and no hidden costs at all are all part of Spaceships' promises.

Our campervans are equipped with bedding & linen, a gas cooker, all cooking gear - pans, plates, cutlery, utensils - and a fridge/freezer (except for the Rocket budget model, which comes with a chilly bin instead). The luxury model - Dream Sleeper Mini - features a fully-equipped kitchen at the back of the vehicle with everything you need. It's all included in our low rates. The price you pay is what you see on the online quotation.

2. Heaps of free or budget campsites for non-self-contained campervans

There are so many places in New Zealand where you can camp for free or by paying just a small amount per night. No matter where you go in New Zealand there's always a free or budget camping option nearby. There are literally 1000s of these campsites.

All these campsites for non-self-contained campervans are easy to find when you use the Spaceships travel & camping app.

Remotes campsites in NZ

Camp at amazing, remote places with your non-self-contained campervan

3. App exclusively for non-self-contained campsites

We have created a free smartphone app that is tailored to camping with a non-self-contained campervan. All campsites that are shown in the app (for Android and Apple) are suitable for non-self-contained campervans. No confusion, no mistakes and no risk of getting a freedom camping fine (which is at least $400 by the way, but can go up to $2,400). The campsites you see are all campsites where you are allowed to camp.

And now that we have added self-contained campervans to the fleet the apps now also show campsites exclusively for self-contained campervans. That means that literally all campsites in New Zealand can be found via our free camping apps.

4. Lower excess (frozen, not a payment)

A lower excess fee or bond is another advantage of renting a non-contained campervan from Spaceships. The excess is the amount of money you are liable for (maximum you'll pay) in the event of an accident or damages to the vehicle.

At Spaceships you don't pay the excess, it is simply frozen (reserved) on your credit card. There won't be any transaction fees or currency conversion differences as it isn't a payment.

5. Cheapest rates on the ferry

To explore everything New Zealand has to offer you'll need to cross Cook Strait, the water that divides the North and South Island. Travelling with 2 people in a self-contained motorhome means that you'll pay around $500 for the ferry crossing.

When you need to travel by ferry to get to your destination Spaceships are cheaper to transport than a motorhome since they're classified as the smallest vehicle: less than 5.5 metres in length and a maximum of 1.8 metres in height. You'll pay half of what a motorhome customer will pay for the ferry crossing.

By adding a prepaid, open-dated ferry ticket to your Spaceships booking you'll always pay the same price year-round and you will be flexible in picking your sailing date (you simply select the date later).

6. Easier to drive

Spaceships are multi-purpose vehicles (Toyota Estima) that are easier to drive than a motorhome. An MPV that features more space than a regular car, has one or two sliding doors and runs on regular petrol. Since Spaceships have automatic transmission they're easy to handle, especially if you aren't accustomed to driving on the lefthand side of the road.

7. Low maintenance

Maintenance on Spaceships vans is quite simple. Since the vehicles are non-self-contained, there isn't a need for emptying wastewater or grey water tanks. As pipes in self-contained campervans and motorhomes are smaller than at home, these pipes often get blocked when you're used to flushing food leftovers. No need to worry about annoying maintenance like that in a Spaceship. Life is just easier being a Space Traveller.

8. Super easy to set up

Spaceships campers are easy to set up. No need to follow complicated procedures to get the bed ready at night. And it's all explained in instructional videos on our self-service page. Before you get on the road, you can familiarise yourself with all the vehicle's features.

9. Save money on toll roads

Spaceships are cheaper when driving on toll roads. Although there aren't that many toll roads in New Zealand, a heavy vehicle is charged twice the amount of a car.

10. Easy to park

Parking is easier with Spaceships campers, and you have the option of camping for part of your trip, then staying in a motel or hostel. The vehicles are easy to drive whether you're in an urban or rural area.

Does non-self-containment limit my camping experience?

No, not at all. A non-self-contained campervan will actually enhance your New Zealand road trip. Gravel roads are just as easy to drive. No need to worry about narrow roads. It's all super easy with your Spaceships campervan. And you can do a lot of (wild, free or freedom) camping throughout the country.

Freedom camping is an affordable option for travellers who want to explore the most remote parts of New Zealand, with heaps of campsites to choose from. For example, the Department of Conservation offers more than 200 campsites all over New Zealand.

Narrow road in NZ

No need to worry about these narrow road in NZ. A Spaceship wll get you there

You'll save money with a non-self-contained campervan!

There are so many advantages to non-self-contained campervans. Travelling with mates and staying at campsites is cheaper than a hostel. You can take your time exploring the area and you aren't limited by tour bus routes. The weather in New Zealand can be unpredictable and a campervan offers a lot more protection from the inclement weather than a tent.

With the campervan, you can pack what you need without carrying around a backpack. Sharing the cost of the trip with friends means you spend less money on your travels and can spend more on activities or food & drinks. Together is better, and everyone benefits. There's no better way to bond with friends and meet new ones than on a road trip. Seeing the sights together and sharing adventures is more fun.

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