Campervan or hire a car

New Zealand is a wonderful country to see from the road - that's why so many visitors choose to hire a vehicle and travel at their own speed.

But then comes the key decision - is it best to hire a campervan or to rent a car and find accommodation along your preferred routes?

As with many holiday choices, it all depends on your budget, your willingness to take chances and whether you enjoy living in the confined space of a motorhome or campervan.

Your first factor to take into account is the timing of your trip.

New Zealand is extremely seasonal in terms of visitors and the peak season runs from November to March, with the most demand on hire deals and accommodation in the Christmas to February period.

The country's campervan fleet is traditionally fully hired out during this period of peak demand so to choose a campervan holiday requires forward planning (you may need to book as much as six months ahead), and deep pockets. The large/luxury motorhomes (4+ berth) will hire out for more than $100 a day.

The big vehicles will soak up the fuel as well.

Against this, you will be able to save the costs of motel units or B&Bs, which are also sold for full rates at this time of year.

Typically, you'll save as much on accommodation as you'll spend on your mobile home which isn't a bad result as long as you can minimise the costs of your overnight park ups.

While New Zealand supports freedom camping, many councils forbid overnight parks in public places or impose strict conditions. That means you will have to budget to stay in motorhome parks (usually for less than $30 a night, including power connections and access to communal kitchens, toilets and showers).

The Department of Conservation has fantastic parks spread throughout the country and many have basis water, toilet and sometimes shower facilities that you can use for token amounts.

The trick is to manage your travel - such as freedom camping or staying in DoC reserves two nights out of three, and using the commercial camps every third night to recharge your vehicle's power and empty the toilet/shower units.

The good thing with a motorhome/campervan is that you can push your luck and travel into the evening, knowing that you'll definitely have a bed for the night.

If you hire a car, you'll need to secure your overnight accommodation before it gets too late.

Outside of the peak season, this shouldn't be a problem and you'll find many bargains.

In the winter, you'll find the 'vacancies' sign lit outside most motels and the proprietors will be ready to talk deals, especially if you're willing to stay more than one night.

The bottom line is that only you can decide whether you prefer to sleep in a confined space or whether you need the relative luxury of a bed and bathroom.

Some people love the adventure that comes with a campervan - others just want the security of knowing exactly where they are going to eat and sleep.

If you haven't used a motorhome before, one suggestion is to book a mini-trip; say a 3-4 night tour. It's enough to find out whether you would enjoy a longer trip and short enough to head for the comfort of a hotel if it turns out you don't like it.

Whichever option you choose, you won't have a problem finding your way around the country's main roads.

You can travel from top to bottom of New Zealand on the logically-named State Highway 1, a trip of slightly more than 2,000kms.

The roads are generally in good condition and it's hard to get lost.

Final tip: when you reach a town or city where you want accommodation or somewhere to park your campervan, head to the local i-Site Information Centre. This chain provides you with up-to-date local knowledge at no cost. The centres are usually signposted in most towns.