Budgeting for a road trip in New Zealand


Mount Cook, New Zealand


New Zealand, though a small country, can be difficult to get around for travellers - particularly those with limited time. Organised tours, though popular with backpackers, aren’t necessarily the way older travellers prefer to spend their time. And whilst bus companies like Intercity link much of the country’s hotspots, limited timetables mean that you can spend a lot of time waiting to get from one spot to another.

My father and I drove a route that took us north out of Auckland before turning south and winding a circuitous route to Wellington, and it would have taken us at least double the time had we needed to rely on buses.

Which is why we chose to hire a car and drive ourselves around. And despite usually being a traveller who has a strict budget to adhere to, it’s something I’d do again. The freedom and ability to set your own timetable far outweighs rental fees.

That said, there are obviously some pretty large costs involved in road tripping a country like New Zealand. Car hire, for one, and have you seen the way petrol prices have just being going up, and up, and up?

Budgeting for a road trip can be difficult, particularly one in a foreign country. Luckily for you, I’m here to give a little helping hand. I’ve broken down the costs of a road trip in New Zealand for two people, making a note of our travel style and how it influenced our costs.


Car: $50/day

The car is a big one, and the easiest cost to budget for in advance. As a constantly-on-a-budget postgrad student, one of my biggest considerations when booking our car was to find something cheap. We went with a company that let us chose to hire a 10-year-old model. It still went brilliantly, but it was much cheaper than a newer car with fancy features. One thing we didn’t scrimp on was insurance. It’s not necessary to take the most expensive option, but we took the rental company’s no excess option for peace of mind.


Petrol: $ 27/day

The direct opposite of the car itself, petrol is going to be your biggest budget variable. Petrol prices vary a lot - sometimes even multiple times a day. Not to mention that how far and how often you drive, the mileage of the car you’re driving, and even whether it’s a manual or automatic transition will influence your petrol consumption. We drove an average of 170km a day and usually paid around $2.15 per litre.


Accommodation: $60/day

We stayed largely in private rooms in hostels. They were clean, large, and one room even came complete with a full kitchenette. This cost could have been cheaper had we camped or stayed in dorms, or a lot more expensive if we’d looked at more up-market hotels. It’s worth noting that the rooms generally slept three people on a double and single beds.


Food: $20/day

My father and I both have relatively simple tastes when it comes to food. We visited a grocery store on our first day and stocked up on fruit, bread rolls, sandwich meats and spreads. Most days we ate sandwiches for lunch and dinner and called ourselves happy. Our food budget would have been much smaller, if only we didn’t also share the same weakness for chocolate milkshakes and the occasional bowl of hot chips.


In total, we ended up paying around $160/day on our road trip of the North Island. Because I was travelling with my father, we split the costs 50/50, so the total price I paid was around $80/day. If you’re travelling with a partner or as a family, you probably won’t split the cost. Conversely, if you’re travelling with friends, the more people you have in your car, the more you can whittle down costs like the car hire and petrol, though accommodation and food prices may go up!



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