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09 July, 2021 - Updated Last updated on
19 July, 2022

Posted by Spaceships Crew

So you're ready to explore New Zealand? Great stuff. The next step is deciding how you want to travel around. There are so many rental options in New Zealand: compact campervans, hi-top or cargo campervans and rental cars. It can be hard to decide. Here's a guide to help you choose which vehicle suits your travel needs best. It's the battle of the campervans. Who will win?

Rental car to explore New Zealand

The first thing that comes to mind for a lot of travellers is renting a car to explore New Zealand. Great idea as it'll give you the most flexibility. You won't be limited to fixed routes or specific times (like on a bus). Driving around New Zealand equals ultimate freedom. You decide what time you start your trip. You decide if you want to go left or right when at a crossroad. A road trip is your trip. It is a customised holiday created by you and for you.

However, rental cars do have one big disadvantage. You will always need to stay at a motel, hostel or hotel which are almost always located in the civilised world aka a town or city. Nothing wrong with staying at these kinds of accommodation, but if you are going for the ultimate freedom, why not go camping and stay at amazing places far away from the civilised world? Yes, you can bring a tent to go camping but who wants to carry all kinds of camping gear around? Travel light is also a motto airlines use as they charge hefty fees if your checked-in baggage is over the limit.

A campervan that has all cooking & camping gear included would give you the same freedom as a rental car but you won't have to bring all that gear yourself. It's all included. Isn't that great?

Will a campervan help you to get off the beaten path?

Yes, it will. A campervan is the ultimate off-the-beaten-path vehicle. You can go where you want to go and whenever you want to go. And you never need to leave that amazing scenery to go to your hostel or motel for the night. Simply stay at a campsite nearby where you'll have a view of that amazing scenery. Imagine waking up early in the morning and seeing the sun come up over the mountain. Now that will be a photo worth taking and an instant hit on Instagram. Before you'll know it you'll be getting the same number of likes and comments as these famous influencers.

As soon as you have decided on going for a campervan, the next question pops up: compact campervan or hi-top campervan?

Compact campervan vs cargo van (hi-top)

There are basically two types of campervans in New Zealand:

  1. Compact campervans based on a vehicle aka MPV model
  2. Cargo van campervan (or hi-top campervan)

Each has its advantages and disadvantages as shown in the list below. This list will help you to decide between a compact campervan and a hi-top campervan.

  • Make sure the vehicle has automatic transmission so you don't need to worry about changing gears
  • Compact campervans like Spaceships have a safety crumple zone, just like you would find on any regular car. Cargo vans don't have these features as the engine is mounted close to or under the driver's cabin.
  • Compact campervans have the same safety features as a car. That's because compact campervans are cars converted into a campervan. So all the safety features you have in your car at home, will be present in a compact campervan as well.
  • Both the compact campervan and the camper van have a large windscreen for excellent viewing along the way (and for the person not driving an excellent opportunity to take photos).
  • Compact campervans are insulated like a car so they will keep you warmer in winter. A camper van aka hi-top is just some sheet metal and the interior build in. There is hardly any extra insulation in a hi-top camper van.
  • A compact campervan has more than enough power to accelerate up hills. There are quite a few hills in New Zealand. A cargo based camper van might struggle with the hills and mountains New Zealand has to offer.
  • Both a compact campervan (like a Spaceships campervan) and the hi-top camper van offer great views due to the fact that you'll be sitting higher than in a regular rental car.
  • A compact campervan has all modern features like power steering, ABS and air-conditioning.
  • Compact campervans use regular petrol and are more fuel-efficient than a cargo van or hi-top. Especially because a cargo van or hi-top camper is heavier to begin with.
  • A compact campervan is cheaper to take on the Cook Strait ferry. You'll pay the lowest rate on the ferry as the vehicle is shorter than 5.5 metres, while for a cargo van or hi-top campervan you'll have to pay the more expensive campervan fare.

It's easy to see that the compact campervan is the clear winner! If it's your first time driving on the left-hand side of the road a compact campervan will be so much easier to drive than a big hi-top campervan. Spaceships compact campervans drive as easy as a regular car and sleep as comfy as a campervan!

Compare campervans in NZ

Compare NZ campervans and see the advantages of compact vs hi-top campervans

What makes Spaceships the ultimate compact campervan?

Spaceships are compact campervans based on the Toyota Estima MPV model. It is a good car that has been transformed into a super-easy-to-use campervan. Therefore it drives just like a normal car and has so many advantages when compared to a campervan based on a cargo van model or the average rental car.

They're made for the New Zealand conditions. Spaceships are designed and built for the New Zealand roads and weather conditions. A Spaceship provides a very comfortable drive and features that work for New Zealand conditions – such as an internal bed for colder nights and an external sleeping option with 30% more space and ventilation for hot summer nights and a unique tent-like experience without the hassle of having to actually set up a tent.

Our campervans are well-suited for exploring remote and beautiful New Zealand Department of Conservation Campgrounds where bigger motorhomes are not allowed but equally well suited for mainstream holiday parks and different accommodations along the way.

Packed with more features & freebies

At Spaceships, we have a simple philosophy: we want to make your road trip as easy and as enjoyable as possible. We have a really simple pricing policy: no hidden costs. The price you see on your quote online is the price you'll pay. Easy as. While other companies might charge you extra for features, we have it all included:

  • Unlimited kilometres
  • One-way: no extra fee if you want to go for a one-way trip
  • Flexible booking process: need to make changes? No problem, it can be done before pick-up at no extra costs (subject to availability)
  • Most Spaceships campervans come with a smart battery that will make sure you can always start the vehicle in the morning, even if you leave the fridge on and charge your phone all night. The smart battery system is the superhero of your Spaceships power source. It'll also make it a cheap road trip as you don't need to stay at powered campsites. The Spaceships power system is self-charging, no need to plug it in.
  • The longest bed in the rental business. In most Spaceships, you can extend the bed up to 2.37m (bed extension available as an optional accessory). Although the regular bed length is 1.90 to 2.20 metres, long enough for tall Europeans, it's good to know that you can extend the bed further in several of our campervan categories.
  • You can sleep fully inside with the boot (rear door) closed, so you'll be warm in winter. Or you can extend the bed outwards to get more airflow on warm summer nights. Spaceships campervans are flexible and have two (some even three) sleeping options.
  • All linen is included. No need to bring a sleeping bag or something like that. Everything is included: sheets, duvet, pillows, covers etc.
  • Spaceships come in different categories with different features... And even in super discrete look without any stickers or branding.

To make selecting a campervan easier for you, we've created this overview of our fleet and the features of each category. Now it's super easy to see the specs and features of each Spaceships New Zealand campervan. Compare features and decide what's important to you. Or check out this blog post "How to compare campervans and find the best one for you" which has even more details about how to select a compact campervan in New Zealand.

NZ campervan storage area

All Spaceships campervans come with all cooking & sleeping gear included

Which campervan will you pick?

After reading all this, which campervan will you go for to explore the outer space of New Zealand? You should always select a vehicle that fits your needs and budget, but we are confident that 9 out of 10 people will go for a Spaceships campervan. Not just because of our lowest price promise and price match guarantee, but mainly because we promise you that it will be a great #spaceshipsroadtrip.

We're one of the few rental companies that can make that promise to you. Our Promises Page shows you exactly what to expect from us. Our crew will do everything they can to make sure you'll have the best time in New Zealand. From welcoming you with a smile at our depots to making sure your vehicle is clean and safe (we have an in-house team of mechanics) to being there for you when there are questions or issues. You can always reach us on our toll-free number, via email or by online chat. And we offer 24 hours roadside assistance in case something happens on your road trip.

If there's anything we can do before, during or after your road trip just contact us and a friendly crew member will be there for you. Are you ready to explore the outer space of New Zealand?

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