WE ALL have this longing to get in a van and just drive away. So many people I have talked to dream of this, like it’s a fairy tale that will never happen. I think of it differently. People dream of having mansions, the newest car on the market or the most expensive watch. It’s a hard thing to accomplish, and it probably won’t happen. On the other hand, living the Vanlife is super attainable, and a lot more freeing and affordable than having those possessions will ever be. Find out how you can achieve this dream of yours in my Complete Guide to Buying a Van in New Zealand below.

Where do I look for a van?

When looking for a van in New Zealand, whether it be a campervan or a normal van that you’d want to convert, all answer below are for both options.

How much should I spend on a van?

Obviously the more expensive the van is the better/newer it’s going to be. But since were travelers and we’ve got to keep our budget cheap we’ll deal with the cheaper vans right! I’d probably suggest anything around $3,000 NZD – $5,000 NZD. If you’re looking at vans cheaper than 3K, it’s going to be a gamble. Realistically you’re spending 3K on a van, and you’ll use it for a year and perhaps sell it for $2500, which means you only spent $500 on van-rent. Personally, I spent $5,500 NZD on my van, because it was literally perfect and had everything I needed. Advice from Beanies&Bikinis on buying a van, save up a bit more money than you intended. You’ll have a much better experience in a van you’re happier with!

How do I get it inspected and how much does it cost?

There are companies such as AA where you can bring the van you’re looking at buying and do a Pre Purchase Inspection. It costs about $170 NZD and I’d highly suggest doing this! This way you’re completely sure that the people selling the van to you aren’t trying to scam you, and that you’re not going to have problems in the future. If you’re not in the mood to pay this much, try calling a local mechanic shop and see what their price is!

Pre Purchase Checklist

✓ Warrant of Fitness
A WOF as kiwis would call it, is a test to make sure the vehicle is road worthy. Most vehicles get a WOF every year, but many of the van’s you’re going to look at buying are going to be older. Which means they need a WOF every 6 months. The key is to look for a van that has recently had a WOF so you won’t have to deal with it right away. Sometimes getting a WOF can be pretty expensive if they find things that need some fixing!

✓ Warrant of Electrical Fitness
A WOEF is similar to a WOF. It’s just a warrant to make sure the electrical in campervans was built to code. There’s going to be a little sticker on the window about this. There’s a date that it expires and you’ll just have to do a google search for a NZCMA near you. This is probably something you’re not going to encounter, because the warrant lasts for quite some time, but it’s always good to know!

✓ Registration or REGO
Just like in your home town, you’ve got to register your vehicle. All this grown up stuff is just so much fun isn’t it! The van is going to have a sticker in the front windscreen saying when the registration is good until. If the registration expires a month after purchasing your van, it’s not as big of a deal as the WOF. All you’ll have to do is just spend a bit of money ($170 for 6 months, and $210 for 12 months) and then you’re good to go. Just make sure you’re always up to date with the WOF! I got a scare and didn’t realize mine was expired, so I rushed to a postal office.

✓ Transfer of Ownership
Head to the post office and grab yourself an orange transfer of ownership form. You and your van seller will have to fill it out and hand it in. It’ll cost $9 NZD to put the van in your name, and then you’re all set! Don’t forget to do this, or else the guy who sold you the van has all your money, and still owns the van, not a good thing!

✓ Diesel Road Tax
If you’ve been blessed with a diesel van, you have the privilege of having to pay road tax! Yippee! I mean diesel is cheaper than petrol, but it’s just a hassle having to keep up on yet another thing! You’ve got to pre-pay for your km’s with a diesel. My tip is to buy 5,000 km so you don’t have to think about it for a while. It’s approx. $70 NZD per 1,000 km. Yes it totally sucks, but in the long run, it actually works out cheaper than petrol – especially when petrol is at $2.00 a litre!!

** All of the things I just talked about can be purchased/updated etc., at any postal office in New Zealand **

✓ Insurance
Insurance is actually not mandatory in New Zealand. Mind you, considering I have a whole crappy insurance story to share in another blog post, I’d suggest getting Insurance. And I’d suggest getting Comprehensive Insurance and not Third Party. It’s pretty cheap, something like $50 NZD a month, and well worth it!

✓ Self Containment Certificate
If you have a van that is self-contained, amazing!  If you’ve purchased a “normal mom van”, you’re probably not going to have a self-containment certificate because there is a checklist of things modifications that must be done to your van. So this little tab of information is pretty much for the people who would like to convert their mom van into a self-contained van.

I’ve got a small recap of things you’ll have to do, but click here to find out more information. To be a self-contained van, it needs to be equipped with:

  • Fresh water supply
  • A fitted sink
  • Toilet
  • Holding tank (grey water)
  • An evacuation hose connected to a sealed portable tank
  • A rubbish bin with lid

✓ What supplies does the van come with?
Ideally you’ll want the van to come with a cooker, pots, pans, utensils, bowls etc. I’m a bit spoiled because I’ve got a stove, fridge, sink and toilet so I can fully live inside. Think of your van as a house, and as you’re looking through it ask yourself questions. Is there a mattress and blankets? How does the cooker run, propane? Where can we wash dishes? Where will all my clothes go? Where will the food go? Where will we charge our electronics? There’s a place for everything but you’ll just have to be the judge of if the van will be the right fit for you.

✓ Does the van need fixing up?
Maybe it just needs a new battery and you’ll be able to charge your items. That’s a simple fix. The Pre-Purchase Checkup is a good idea in this situation, just so you know what repairs will be coming in the near future.

✓ Do you have the Cash available now?
IMPORTANT Have all your money already transferred to NZ bank account or have it in cash. The worst thing you can do – which is what happened to me – is you’re ready to hand over the money, and you realize that you can’t get it out. There is a daily limit on how much you can take out. I’d suggest to take it out days in advanced or bring it with you in cash to NZ. It’s a tricky one, because bank transfers take too much time and sometimes travelers are ready to leave and need to sell their van as soon as possible. Or put it in your PayPal account and do a transfer through there.

The reason why this is a good idea is because most travelers selling their van are looking to sell it right away. They are onto their next travels and want to get this thing sold. So the best idea is for you to have your cash handy so you can call dibs on the van first!

Checklist Recap

✓ Where to look for a van
✓ Van Price Range
✓ Warrant of Fitness
✓ Warrant of Electrical Fitness
✓ Inspection
✓ Registration
✓ Transfer of Ownership
✓ Diesel Kilometers
✓ Insurance
✓ Self-Containment Certificate
✓ What supplies are included
✓ Does anything need to be fixed?
✓ Do you have all the cash available NOW to pay

You’re welcome! I wish I had a checklist like this when I was looking for a van. All the information I found was scattered in various websites and I had to put it all together and figure it out. So here’s an easy checklist when buying a van in New Zealand. Please comment below if I forgot something, or if you’ve got a tip that really helped you out! We are all here to help each other in life and have a great Vanlife experience!

Cheers to the Vanlife – You are going to have an AMAZING adventure.

This article originally appeared on Beanies & Bikinis and is republished here with permission.

All photos by the author