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25/12/2010

Days 1 & 2: Europcar NZ rental warning about inter-island travel

We landed in Auckland on Christmas Eve, 2010.

We had pre-booked a Europcar NZ car via Expedia. This appeared to be cheaper than the company recommended by Air New Zealand after we bought the tickets.

After emerging from airside, we turned sharp right to reach the Europcar counter. The first surprise was to be told that their cars cannot be taken by ferry between the islands and that we’d need to return the car at the Wellington terminal and pick up another car at the Picton terminal. But why did their website allow us to make a booking that has a pick up in Auckland and a drop-off in Christchurch? Try the Europcar site yourself — it too will show you a price for an inter-island drop-off with no warning that you can’t take the car across the islands.

We had already paid for the car on the Interislander ferry on 7 January, so let’s see if they will let us have a refund. (They did)

To reach the car bays, turn right and exit near the McDonald’s shop. Turn right and look left. All the rental companies have a few bays each. Most of the cars looked two years old (unlike the US where you often get a near-new or new car).

The car is an old Toyota Aurion – in hindsight a little bigger than we needed, particularly for NZ’s narrow roads. The rental agreement came with a long list of scratches and dents. We found a paint scratch on a passenger door and had it noted on the agreement before driving off. The car didn’t have a GPS but we have brought our Garmin 1390T and it knows Auckland quite well.

Hidden Costs

Watch out for hidden costs. We had booked via Expedia and the estimate for three weeks came to NZ$2382.82. The base price for a full-size car was NZ$657.80 plus an extra day at NZ$93.97. At the rental counter the clerk recited a well-rehearsed line that we would be liable for the first $3000 of any damage, but we had two insurance options. We took the one costing NZ$300. We also took the option for returning with an empty tank, as the Europcar price for petrol was NZ$1.76/litre while the street price yesterday was NZ$1.96/l.

Total cost for two weeks (up to Wellington only) is NZ$2025.46. Ouch. The second hire at Picton will probably add a further thousand, I think. Unless you are a performance car fanatic and like your big Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons, rent a smaller car and check the insurance options in advance.

Aurion

Price for a 20-day rental on the Europcar site with AKL pickup and CHC dropoff.

The exclusions shown on the website at this point in the booking say:

Price includes (standard Damage liability for NZ is between $2,750 – $3,000 NZD plus GST if further reduction waiver is not purchased at branch) :

  • Unlimited mileage
  • One-way charges (ONEWAY)
  • Airport/Railway Station Surcharge
  • DAMAGE LIABILITY FEE
  • GST included

Price excludes a credit card fee to maximum value of 1.5% of your total hire, plus:

  • LOSS DAMAGE WAIVER (437.0 NZD per rental)
  • Covers damage to windscreen, lights, and tyres for normal use (WWI) (161.0 NZD per rental)
  • Peace of Mind Cover (includes Damage Waiver, Damage Waiver Plus, Theft Waiver, Super Personal Accident and Effects Cover) (POM) (501.86 NZD per rental)
  • Credit Card fee

After turning a few pages on the website, I found this FAQ:

New Zealand Inter-island Hires

Renters that intend to initiate and terminate hires in different islands (i.e. collect vehicle in North Island and return in South Island) are not encouraged to take a Europcar vehicle across Cook Strait.

This saves you up to NZD $250 for car transportation costs. Instead, cars are simply returned to the ferry depots in Picton or Wellington, and a fresh vehicle is provided when you arrive on the other side. Renters’ luggage is checked in at the ferry as if it were an airport.

If you choose to transfer the vehicle between islands a relocation fee of NZD $350 plus GST will be charged.

We didn’t see this via the Expedia booking engine but I doubt if someone using the Europcar website would check the FAQ, hence would pay for an unnecessary ferry fee like we did.

Not happy.

Day 2: Christmas

Christmas in Onehunga

Christmas in Onehunga

It’s Christmas Day today, so enough blogging for now. Merry Christmas all.

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24/12/2010

Air New Zealand Tickets

Air NZWe weren’t looking for the cheapest fares, but we wanted a decent departure and arrival time on the outbound leg for 24 December. Air New Zealand was the only option with available seats.

We treated ourselves to the Economy class premium package known as The Works Deluxe. It provides a few extras, notably a second bag and lounge access. When on special, these are quite affordable.

leg room

Lots of legroom in this plane

 

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01/12/2010

Planning a holiday in New Zealand

Lesley and I met in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1979. We were married in Auckland the following year and ever since we have lived in Australia, where our children were born. We have visited NZ many times over the years but they were mostly quick trips, except for a two-week circuit of the North Island in 1997.

It was about time we took a good look at the old country – we are NZ/AU dual-citizens and it’s good for the children to learn more about the land of their ancestors, which is also known as Aotearoa.

The Christmas holiday period would be perfect, since everyone else is on leave and NZ has great weather at that time of the year. We could travel from the northernmost tip of the North Island to the southernmost point on the South Island and stay with relatives and friends in some places and in motels elsewhere.

Son Keith has decided not to join us, which will make the holiday cheaper and the long car drive more comfortable. (Burglars please note that our home won’t be empty.)

The next step was to book the air tickets: Melbourne to Auckland and fly back from Christchurch.

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