Want to travel without public transportation, without hitchhiking, and for free? Sounds impossible, right?
In a total of 26 days in New Zealand, I rented four cars but only paid for one car rental.
The way I did this was through car relocation.
Think about it: how do car rental companies get their cars back when people drive them from one location to another? It’s expensive for them to pay an employee to drive it all the way back to where it belongs, and shipping it back would be even pricier. So, an easy way for them to do it is to allow travelers to do it for them.
Car relocation is beneficial for both parties. The traveler gets to use a car at little to no cost to drive to a new place, and the car rental company gets the car back where it belongs for next to nothing. It’s a win-win.
There are various car relocation companies that act as the intermediary between the customer and the car company like Transfer Car and i moova. Many regular car rental companies also offer car relocation like one I did with Jucy, so just use Google “car relocations” to find them in your area. (The ones I’ve listed are available in multiple countries such as New Zealand, Australia, and the U.S.)
The one I used in New Zealand for two of the three relocations was Transfer Car. The first one I did was an awesome and colorful camper van:
We had a bed, were provided with pillows and a comforter, a stove, a sink, and all of our eating utensils. We could also move the bed cushions to make seats and secure the table that was included to eat in the van when it was raining or cold.
One downside of this relocation was that we had to pay for our own ferry from the North Island to the South Island, so that alone was over $200 in total. It wasn’t great on gas, so that was a cost too, but overall it worked out well since we were able to use the car as our transportation, accommodation, and kitchen. We drove this car from Auckland to Christchurch and were given a timeline of five days. It was pretty quick, but we saw as much as we could during the time that we had.
The second car we relocated was a small sedan through Jucy. We had it for three nights to drive from Christchurch to Queenstown, which is not a far distance, so it was a generous amount of time. We camped one night but it was below freezing outside and not an enjoyable sleep, so the other two nights we stayed in hostels. We weren’t able to sleep in that car, so that wasn’t ideal, but we still got a free ride (aside from fuel), and we had plenty of time to stop and see places along the way.
The third car I used in NZ was a paid-for rental because I couldn’t find an ideal relocation to where I wanted to go at that time. The rental was a camper van which came with a bed, a stove, and eating utensils (similar to the first van, but much smaller):
I found this van through Camper Travel. This company gave us a discounted car from Spaceships Rentals. Because we booked through Camper Travel, it was only $17 per day instead of its usual price of $40 per day through Spaceships. The only thing we could have done better was buy private car rental insurance instead of buying it through the company, because that set us back an extra $20 per day. We realized later that we could buy our own rental insurance plans through Insurance 4 Car Hire which can be used worldwide as coverage and is much cheaper (and better) than anything you’ll buy with a car rental company. I didn’t use it in NZ, but I definitely will in the future.
We relocated the car from the South Island to the North Island, and the company paid the high cost of the ferry for both passengers and the car. We were also reimbursed $150 for gas (which was less than we spent) and $100 for accommodation. We slept in the car one night (even though there was no bed), and we stayed in Airbnb’s the last two nights. We only had to pay $4 each over the $100 reimbursement for our stays in the Airbnb’s. We basically had a free trip from Christchurch to Auckland. It was the best deal I’ve found!
If you’re traveling long term and want to see a big area, this is a great way. If you just have a short vacation, you may not be as open to using this service unless you find something further in advance, because you may not always be able to find a car right when you want it. Luckily, though, the companies usually offer a number of days that the traveler can choose from to pick up the car. This gives the traveler the option to choose when they went to start their trip, so it provides a little more wiggle room for planning.
Once the pickup date is selected by the customer, the company will give a limit for the number of days in which the car needs to get from one place to another. The amount of time given is usually fast-paced but reasonable. The traveler must plan around this and be sure to relocate the car within the specified number of days or risk paying a fine to the company for a late return. Some agreements will allow an extension on the relocation trip for a fee for each extra day, so it can be possible to get a longer relocation time. Read your agreement closely to find out if this is possible.
Also note that some car relocation agreements charge a small fee for the user. The small fee that some relocation vehicles cost is typically less than the cost of renting a car, so it is a good alternative to paying the full price for a normal car rental. Some companies offer cars for just $1 per day. Alternatively, some companies may pay for travelers’ gas, tolls, and ferries, making the whole trip free for the traveler, like my last car in NZ. It completely depends on the company, the distance, and the type of car.
Plan out your journey, putting as many miles onto the car as is allowed in your agreement (all of ours were unlimited miles), and you will see a lot more of a place than you would by public transportation. I had always wanted to travel via camper van, and I got the chance to in the cheapest way possible during my time in NZ thanks to this service.
Happy travels, and please leave comments about your experiences with this! 🙂