Where to look for a backpacker car in New Zealand

Where to look for a backpacker car in New Zealand

When it comes to backpacker car shopping in New Zealand there is now more options than ever! So it really depends what approach you prefer. However, no matter where you decide to buy your car or campervan, make sure to follow our thorough guide not to buy a lemon (Kiwi expression for a “bad car”).

Allow yourself enough time to compare a few cars. Nothing good comes out of buying the first car you see because you are in a rush. Showing a seller that you have time and want to compare can only play in your favour.

First things first: choose your city carefully

New Zealand has a pretty low and very concentrated population so buying and selling backpacker cars and campervans is best done in the biggest cities. Take your pick between Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch depending where you land. These three cities are where you have the best chance to find your dream car. They will have the highest number of cars to choose from sold by highly motivated sellers that are about to leave the country. Those cities also have well developed public transport allowing you to go from one seller to another easily and cheaply too.

Looking for a backpacker car or campervan online

By far the best and easiest website for you to find your dream ride is Backpacker Car Deal. It is free to use for buyers and sellers alike. Each ad is well detailed with (for the most part) many pictures of the car or campervan up for sale. As a buyer you can contact the seller directly with no middle man or extra fee. The short registration process protects buyers and sellers against scammers. Easy as!

There are multiple online backpacker notice boards like Backpacker Board, Seasonal Jobs or BBH. You can also spend some time looking on the very popular website Trade Me that has listings for all sorts of vehicles, not only backpacker ones.

A couple of tips when buying a car online:

  • It is always worth checking up a seller online to make sure there are no complaints about them on the internet.
  • Do not pay a deposit on a car that you are unsure of. In fact, do not pay anything until you are 100% sure you want tobuy thes car.

Looking for a backpacker car or campervan in hostels

Hostels in Auckland Wellington and Christchurch have notice boards and binders where backpackers can advertise their cars. Most of the ads are from backpackers like you selling their cars at the end of their trips. Each ad will include different information about a vehicle that this particular seller thought was important for you to know making it a bit harder to compare similar vehicles than on online websites.

Each hostel might have different ads depending on who is living there at this time. Even if you are not staying in a hostel you can still show up in a hostel and ask for the car binder or the location of the notice board at reception. It is wise to go to three or four hostels in a city to compare ads.

Looking for a backpacker car or campervan in backpacker car markets

Those markets are full of specialized dealers that buy campervans and cars from backpackers at the end of their trip to sell onto backpackers beginning their trips. Expect prices to be higher than when dealing with an individual, and except the buyback price to be much lower too. But it is not all bad, usually the backpacker car market owners tend to know their business, so would not buy a bad car that they are not able to sell on quickly. Either way, make sure to go through the whole check and test drive for the car. Even if you feel at ease when dealing with a professional, they still need to get rid a of bad car.

Looking for a backpacker car or campervan in car fairs

Car fairs have a pretty bad reputation in New Zealand as any seller can sell at a car fair for just a $30-$40 fee. There is not many checks done by the organisers. You will need to be extra vigilant when purchasing a car or campervan in a car fair as the big buyer traffic attracts honest and dishonest sellers alike.

New Zealand’s biggest car fair is held at the Ellerslie Race Track in Auckland every Sunday morning.

Christchurch and Wellington have their own car fairs too. Ask your hostel for time and directions.

Looking for a backpacker car or campervan in cars auctions

The number one car auctioneer in New Zealand is Turners. Turners have a base in Auckland and one in Christchurch. Although you will be looking at cars with many other buyers that may compete with you, you can still pick up a great car for a fair price. Just make sure not to get too competitive when betting, stick to your budget!

Note that not all cars are sold in an “auction” type setting where a buyer bets against another. Some simply have a price tag on them for a quicker sale.

Looking for a backpacker car or campervan in car dealerships

Car dealerships are plentiful in New Zealand especially around the big cities. All will have affordable options but almost none will have backpacker-type campervans. If you are on the hunt for a safe car and easy paperwork, head to a car dealer where you will (most of the time) find good quality cars. However be aware, prices will generally be higher than when dealing with another traveller, but most of the paperwork will be done on the spot which makes things a little easier. Also, some dealers may offer a small warranty on the car, the use is three months.

Despite the fact that you are dealing with a professional dealer we strongly advise you to still go through the whole test drive and mechanical check up steps.

Who to buy a backpacker car or campervan from?

There is basically two choices. Either you’ll buy it from another traveller, or you’ll buy it from a professional. Most travellers prefer to deal with other travellers, as it makes them feel more comfortable and usually saves quite a lot of money. But the ideal choice is a third choice all together: a private local. Their car will usually be better maintained than a traveller’s ones and have less kilometres on the counter. However, it will require investment and extensive work to modify it into a perfect backpacker campervan. But, if you are up for it, you’ll be proud to have built your own camper!

However, this is not for the average traveller, only those with mechanical or building knowledge will go through such a process.

Motor Insurance for Backpackers

Don’t forget that Backpacker Motor Insurance offers reliable and affordable car insurance for travellers like you. It includes unlimited kilometres, low excess and has no age limit. You can even add fire and theft cover and roadside assistance! Get a free quote right now:

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Ashley L. UK
Backpackers Motor Insurance was a great resource for me to buy my campervan in New Zealand. I used their guide step by step to check the campervan that I wanted to buy. Their cover was pretty cheap so I decided to go for it. The whole process was super easy!
James M. Singapore
I found out about Backpackers Motor insurance through a friend of mine that left New Zealand just when I arrived. It was perfect for me as I only wanted to travel for about 6 months and did not want to take the risk to travel uncovered but also did not want to spend too much.
Anna K. Germany
I was lucky enough not to have to claim anything during my trip - we had no accidents at all. But it was a great option to have this safety blanket at a cheap price. I compared quite a lot different insurance options before my trip and this one had the best cost-to-cover ratio.
Michael S. Canada
I was so relieved to be able to find an insurance option that would not cost me thousands after seeing the prices in the US. I only had a very small issue with the car and the whole claim process took only a few days. It was super easy. Thanks all!