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Campervan Tips

Choosing a vehicle

Keep it short! New Zealand's roads are often narrow and winding and the ferry rate depends on the vehicle length. The bigger the waste water tank is, the more independent you are. In this case you don't need a campground so often which is quite nice as there are so many beautiful spots in New Zealand where you can stay for free.

You won't need a shower in the mobile home. We didn't use ours as taking a shower requires so much water and you have to dry the cabin afterwards. You can wash with a facecloth and nearly every campsite has showers, most of them hot. Without a shower you have less to worry about refilling and emptying the fresh and waste water tanks. A toilet inside a mobile home is convenient without a doubt.

I was glad we had internal walk-through access, so the driver's cab was part of the living space. You can put your clothes on the driver's seat when you go to sleep and you don't have to get in and out the vehicle if you need something such as maps or clothes.

Keep it short. The ferry rate depends on the vehicle length.

Rental Companies

I can't fall back on a wide range of experiences, because our holiday in New Zealand was our first in a campervan. We guessed Britz was the right choice as the name is quite popular. In the travel agency catalogue the campervan - we chose the Britz Elite - looked nice. When we arrived at the rental station we were disappointed. Our Britz Elite turned out to be converted Volkswagen transporter. Though it had everything the car hire company promised, nobody had worried about creating a comfortable and practical surrounding for a long journey. There was no tray, only two hooks and the cutlery had been accurately counted (2 forks, 2 knives). After a few days there was grey water in the shower cubicle although we hadn't used the vehicle shower. Then, while driving, the water started running out of the car, although the waste water tank could not have been full. It turned out that something was stuck in the pipe and they had to replace the campervan. That meant phoning around, being put off several times and waiting at the campground for hours for the return calls. Finally, they promised to deliver the new vehicle in the late evening. We asked for a better vehicle as compensation for the trouble we had (troubleshooting, waiting, no water, phoning around) and they agreed. In the evening they called us, the van wouldn't be replaced until next morning. We should be ready from 7.00 am. That's not my idea of holidays – and on top of that, we'd spent the evening waiting for nothing.

The next morning, a driver arrived with the new campervan. It was the same vehicle, but from Maui, and no upgrade as they'd promised previously. Eddie the driver thought the gear change was better. Actually, the vehicle did handle better than it's forerunner which was obviously the worst of their alleged modern vehicle fleet (though we'd booked at the beginning of the year). At least second gear could be engaged without using violence now. But, when we checked the Maui vehicle, new problems emerged: a cupboard door didn't close and had to be repaired (otherwise the kitchen equipment would've been tossed into front of the car while driving), a curtain was missing which we replaced with a dish towel (for sleeping). Determined not to get annoyed anymore and to finally enjoy our holidays, we continued our trip. After driving just 50 kilometres on a surfaced highway (!) a back tyre burst, old and brittle. Yeeeha.

We couldn't fit the tyre that burst under our vehicle again. Unfortunately, we were lacking the special tools you need to separate the tyre from the wheel, so we had to leave the wheel there as well. We gave Maui a call to inform them where to pick up the tyre and they instructed us to get a spare tyre at an authorized repairer. When we finally found a Firestone garage, it turned out they couldn't help because we were missing the wheel and we had to return to the vehicle rental base in Auckland. Fortunately it was no detour, as Auckland was on our route and once in the Britz / Maui office, we planned to ask for compensation. On our way there we were adviced to make sure (in writing) that the tyre and the wheel weren't on our account. It was said to be typical business practice to charge the credit cards without saying beforehand.

At the office they gave us the runaround and wore us out. Needless to say, the supervisor is trained to get the best out (not for you but for Britz and Maui). After 5 hours waiting and protracted negotiations we got an indemnification of NZ$544. And they “generously” didn't charge us for the wheel and the tyre which had burst because it was so old and brittle. There was nothing we could do about it without the help of a lawyer. We were urged to sign a statement of agreement with the indemnification, which of course quashed the possibility of further claims. They refused a simple receipt – no signature, no money. Well, we signed this agreement and have the Britz experience now: never again will we hire a vehicle, mobile home, campervan or car from Britz or Maui, neither will we recommend them. Nevertheless, I have to say the that vehicle handover in Christchurch passed quickly and without any problems and they charged us only for the diesel tax for the kilometres we had driven with the first campervan.

Britz and Maui are both affiliated firms of Tourism Holdings Limited, so it's the same policy under another company name.

Lesson: Good marketing doesn't mean good service or quality at all. Take your time when choosing a vehicle and a rental company. Don't rely on vehicle sketches in brochures, but try to find photos and progress reports on the web. Compare the offers properly and take a close look at the terms and conditions, as there are big differences.

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