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Campervan in the winter?

Travel Forums Australia / New Zealand & The Pacific Campervan in the winter?

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1. Posted by Samson Green (Budding Member 10 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!


My girlfriend and I will be landing in Auckland in June 2016. We want to travel as much of the Country as we can with no real time limit and about £10K between us (we plan on working at some point)

Is it crazy gettin a self contained campervan in the winter months to travel the north and south islands or should we just buy a car and motel hop?

The rates are fairly reasonable at just under £2000 for 3 months for a camper...

If anyone has any experience of campervanin it in the winter months it would be helpful!

Happy travelings!

2. Posted by Dodger (Inactive 873 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

I bought a campervan when I was in NZ. I paid about $6k for it and sold it 4 years later for $5k. I think the latest I was there was June and the earliest Nov. I've been in snow and rain and yes its been a down right chilly on occasions, but with a small fan heater and staying at a powered camp site, its totally doable, although the trip to the shower block can be a bit brutal!

If you rented one of the really nice ones with a self contained shower, you'd be really set, it would cost you more than buying but in the months you are going you can get really good deals. You might want to look for relocations deals too, although those have the draw back of putting you on time constraints.

The drawbacks of buying a campervan is the maintenance, you never really know what you are buying used, and having to sell it at the end of your trip. (you may have to take a big hit on it, to sell it in time for your flight out, plus it requires you to be in one place for a while to sell it)

Good luck, its a fantastic country and doing it by campervan is the way to go.

3. Posted by LifelongVaga (Budding Member 20 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Have done a whole year in New Zealand's south island (well, 362 days) and during that time have never stayed at a single powered site (or unpowered). It is totally doable even in the cold winter. However, I would suggest insulating the van. Even something simple like a tent fort over the bed and plastic bag wrapped cardboard over the window makes a huge difference. Though the BIGGEST problem you'll have in the winter isn't so much the cold, but the condensation inside the van. You WILL have to air out your mattress and the like so it doesn't get moldy.

If you're staying for more than three weeks I would strongly recommend you buy. If you have access to tools and are a bit of a handyman I would tell you to definitely NOT buy a previous backpacker van and instead buy an empty one and outfit it yourself. It's really not that hard, especially with a good selection of tools. You can even get a real countertop for like $30. If you're building it yourself though, I would make the bed fold into a couch even if you never use it for simple resale value. I recommend buying an empty one because 1. it opens your options more and 2. backpackers trash vans (we're leaving in three months, what do we care?). If you're know what you're looking for (or not looking for) in a good reliable van (does it leak oil, are the tires still good, is there smoke coming out the back, etc.) then you should be fine. After all, it only has to last a year. :P

If you're into construction or willing to do it then Christchurch will be a great place for you to find work. Despite the earthquakes happening in the beginning of 2011, it's still rebuilding and the want for workers is high.

As for your budget, the exchange rate is fairly favourable and you'll probably end up with about 18,000NZD, which is a good amount (about what we spent in a year not counting the money we got back selling the van at the end). I would suggest going with Currency Online if you pool your money together beforehand (this will eliminate their fee; anything over 10,000 whatever currency is free). They're legit and have an amazing customer service. I've personally used them twice. As for what bank to go with in NZ - Kiwibank is freakin' spectacular. Their interest is like 2%, 4 if you don't withdraw any money for the month. Also, they work out of any post office so can be found all over the country and they have a killer app.

Hope that helps and you have as much fun as we did. (:

4. Posted by Samson Green (Budding Member 10 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!


Thank you for your responses they're very helpful! I haven't put much thought into banking yet! 2% is crazy!!

One of the things on my bucket list is to convert a van into a camper van! I am an electrician by trade (havent worked on the tools for the last few years though). How much would you need to spend on getting van up to a decent standard + do you know of any websites to look at before hand on buying a van or just go to local dealers?

5. Posted by LifelongVaga (Budding Member 20 posts) 2y Star this if you like it! or whatever it is is the place to go. There are backpacker van selling places (forgive my non-details; head is a bit out of it), but they're overpriced and you can easily find a decent one elsewhere. However, the price really goes up if you're looking for a high top. The plus side is because of the increase in price, not many other backpackers look at them. When we were over there in at the start of 2015, we managed to buy a campervan and kit it out for about $8000 - with an above average fridge (Waeco Cfx something), a 120 something solar panel (advice: ignore the price difference variation on size and buy the biggest panel for what you've got available), a $500 mattress, and a proper countertop (don't remember where we got it but they gave us a bag of biscuits, but it was an off-cut/demo place. Am sure you can find one in any big city). The van itself was like $5000. If you buy one; wait are we talking about Oz or New Zealand? That's for Oz.

If it's New Zealand: we bought a van and kitted it all up for about $6000, but that was without a fridge or solar panels. It's cold enough throughout the year we didn't really need a fridge (just didn't get any cheese over the summer), but still got a proper kitchen top (also found at a demo place). The charity shops over there are really good. Cheap and with a wide range of stuff. If you're willing to spend the time building your camper, I would seriously suggest going to them to find needed household items (other than like camping stoves and bottles, etc.). If you buy a diesel, the fuel is cheaper, but you have to pay diesel tax. It's supposedly more cheaper to buy loads at once (we bought 10,000km for a year at like $600 or something), but no idea really; if you don't buy any and you get caught you get fined and are forced to backpay at a higher rate. So in the end it works out roughly the same. You'll find a lot of Japanese cars over there as they're exported from well, Japan as Japan has ridiculously difficult MOTs (it's seriously a lot easier to just buy a whole new that's what they do). Anyway, for looking around NZ for cars, check out or whatever it is. Google Trademe NZ and it'll come up. You have to make an account, but unless they changed their policy you don't have to pay for anything until you sell something. Registering a vehicle in your name is super easy and costs like $7; don't remember how much tax was, but they have a rego as well as a WOF (pretty much an MOT) you need to keep up to date.

If you want to have more options on where to stay without risk of fines (they're really big on that over there, supposedly a lot more so on the North island than the south), then I would suggest making your camper 'self-contained.' It has to have a grey water waste, sink, and a toilet. There are specifics, but if you just shake hands with a plumber or someone else certified to give them a sticker...well, lets just say I've seen some campers that are SOOOO not self-contained and yet are 'certified.'

6. Posted by Dodger (Inactive 873 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

I would strongly advice not to try to kit out your own campervan. You'll end up paying as much as you would for a professionally built used one, and it won't have half as good resale value. Ive seen loads of "hand built campervans" and they all looked like crap. As an electrician, think about it. You wouldn't try to wire a house with a hammer, so where do you think you are going to get all the precise tools you'd need to make decent cabinetry? At best you'll end up with the typical piece of plywood over milk crates for a bed. The other thing about hand built is if they are fitted out with any power for lights or fridge then you need an electrical certificate, and you wont get one and can be refused entry to campsites, fined and wont get a WOF without it. Save yourself all the headaches and buy one that is made professionally. In the end it will be cheaper than a piece of rubbish you cant sell. Save your bucket list build for home where you possibly have the tools and time to do a proper job.

Check out the prices on Trademe and you'll find some really good deals on professionally built camervans. The trick is to buy from someone that is close to leaving and needs to sell fast, and don't end up in the same position when you leave!

7. Posted by LifelongVaga (Budding Member 20 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Nonsense. If you can figure out what you're doing well enough you can make it look good, be customized to how you want the layout (ie: more luggage space!, folding beds into couches, etc.), and resell for a decent price. Having never designed a campervan before (or anything really), my husband and I made one that worked fantastically. We didn't have a sink or a toilet, but for what we did we didn't need it. We did the lights ourselves (not that hard, though to be fair, getting the ceiling back on was a bit of a hassle), built one campervan with only an out of shape saw and a hand rivet (and we still managed to cut boards accurately enough to go over the wheel humps and make the bed fit together on hinges so it could fold into a couch). We ended up selling it for only $500 less than what we bought it at a year before when it had four NEW tires on it.

However, a few tips: 1. DO NOT make it out of free stuff you find on the side of the road; go buy some nice wood to work with.
2. USE RIVETS!!! - Screws will rattle out. Also they're a lot more hassle to put in.
3. If you get a proper countertop you're going to need more than a that case woof on a farm for a week or so. They always have tools.
4. LAMINATE THE FLOOR! It's totally worth it. It gets a lot messier faster than carpet, but it also cleans a lot easier and you don't have to worry about spills.

As for if you did the lighting yourself you won't be allowed in a campsite - never came across another camper where that was a problem - also free camping is quite big and easy down south (minus Otago). The backpacker scene is huge in NZ. You'll always find someone willing to buy your van at a decent price if you start to sell at the right time (around December). However, because they're backpackers, try to stay within $6000. Though even if you spend $8000, that's only $2000 on housing...for a year in an absolutely gorgeous part of the world.

[ Edit: Edited on 10-Jan-2016, at 03:56 by LifelongVaga ]

8. Posted by Dodger (Inactive 873 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

I guess one persons, looks good, is another persons piece of crap. After 30 years in the building business I probably have higher standards than someone with a rusty saw.

As for the electrical, it doesn't matter what you heard and saw. What I'm telling you is the law, period. Recommend to to people to break it at your own peril.

9. Posted by LifelongVaga (Budding Member 20 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Thanks for the insult, but if it's good enough to comfortably live in for a year, has way better storage and facilities for a 'proper' campervan for about half the price, and sells above average in the backpacker market, what's it matter how 'great' it looked. I'm not saying every self made backpacker van we came across was gold, but it's not that hard to beat the 'proper' cameprvans of similar size (ie: uncomfortable bed that folds into a seat (if that), and a very small 'kitchen' you pretty much have to use standing outside). We got to cook inside when it was rainy, dark, and full of bugs outside. Not only that, but we could pretty much fit a bunk bed inside it due to how much storage we put under there, especially since half of the bed folded up into a couch.

As for doing your own electrical it isn't illegal not to. It's only recommended you don't and if you do things you're not sure about to get it inspected. It's only illegal to connect it up to a 230 volt power source without a electrical warrant of fitness: and it's a backpacker van...why's he going to need to?

[ Edit: Edited on 10-Jan-2016, at 21:25 by LifelongVaga ]

10. Posted by Dodger (Inactive 873 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!


So as I said yes its illegal to fit out a van with lights, outlets, fridge etc if you dont get a Electrical wof. If its not going to be connected to a 230v then its not going to power up for very long and be pretty useless. And if there is no electrical WOF it wont be allowed on a campsite, or at least wont be allowed to a powered site.

I think we are talking about two different things. you are talking about a backpacker van jerry ridged with a few handmade things and a few lights running on the battery, which you recommend to spend about $6k on. I was talking about a professionally built used campervan which there are versions like the one I had that has a very useable kitchen with running water, sink, 3 way fridge, stove and grill, heater, loads of storage, comfortable double bed, dinning table also for $6K that you can sell for about about the same when you leave. I know which one Id go for.

Moderator edit: Post cleaned up

[ Edit: Edited on 11-Jan-2016, at 00:19 by Dodger ]