Car insurance rates new zealand
New Zealand is often referred to as God’s Own Country, and you can see why He would favour it. The scenery is spectacular, the people are friendly and, most importantly for road trippers, the roads are well-maintained. Ranging from smooth city motorways to unsealed and windy backroads in the more remote regions, they will get you where you need to go with few troubles. A self-drive holiday is certainly the best way to see everything the country has to offer, so we have put together a guide to driving in New Zealand to help you stay safe and reach your destination, wherever it may be.
To start you off, here are the top five most important things to consider when you take to the New Zealand roads:
- Drive on the left!
- Pay close attention to all speed limits, and when driving on the highway, slow down through towns.
- Make yourself familiar with roundabouts and how they work.
- Do not drink before driving, or drive when tired.
- Overtake (pass other vehicles) on the right.
Rules of the Road
Safety is always the number one concern when hitting the road with a car hire in New Zealand. It’s hard to remember the differing road rules when driving in a foreign land, and it gets even more confusing for the many visitors who must remember to stick to the opposite side of the road. Here are the essential rules to keep in mind when behind the wheel:
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All drivers on New Zealand roads must hold a valid driver’s licence. Visitors and new arrivals to the country can use their current, valid licence from their home country for up to 12 months before they are required to convert it to a New Zealand one. If the licence is not written in English, you must also carry an approved translation or an International Driving Permit.
Speed limits are posted on signs beside the road, and they consist of a black number on a white background inside a red circle. Open roads and motorways have a limit of 100 kilometres per hour, while suburban areas have a limit of 50 kilometres per hour, 40 around schools. Speed limits of 60, 70, 80 or 90 kilometres per hour are frequently seen on roads which fall somewhere between the two categories, and 30kph is generally the speed limit around roadworks. Always look for a sign so you know for sure.
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Drinking and distractions
The blood alcohol level permitted for driving in New Zealand varies dependent on age. Those under the age of 20 must have a level of zero- meaning absolutely no drinking can happen before getting behind the wheel. Those aged 20 or over are subject to a limit of 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood, or 250 micrograms per litre of breath. It is impossible to say how many drinks it would take to reach this level, as it depends on the size of a person, but the recommendation is to err on the safe side and avoid drinking when driving. The law also states that you must not drive if you have taken any drugs which affect driving ability. Always ask your doctor if this applies to any of your prescriptions.
It is prohibited to operate a cebllphone while driving, unless you have a handsfree system to take calls which requires only very brief and infrequent use of your hands and eyes.
Driver fatigue is an issue for long road trips. Pay attention to how you feel and take a short nap if necessary. If possible, we recommend adding additional drivers to your rental so the responsibility does not fall on one person.
Approved safety belts or seatbelts are a requirement for all drivers and passengers. Rental cars should all have belts which meet the specifications, but you can check them for fading, fraying and other damage to ensure they are in good condition. Children must also be in age-appropriate restraints which means a car seat or booster seat for children under the age of seven. Approved child restraints will show a logo, usually a red and white one which indicates compliance with the joint New Zealand/Australian standard.
Sharing the road
All vehicles drive on the left in New Zealand, and overtake on the right.
Traffic lights use the standard red, green and amber signals to indicate ‘stop,’ ‘go’ and ‘prepare to stop’ respectively.
Uncontrolled intersections: Turning vehicles must give way to all vehicles following the centre line, and those turning right give way to those turning left in any uncontrolled environments.
Indicators (signals) should be used for at least three seconds before turning left or right, changing lanes or pulling out into traffic. These are used as an indication of intent only. In most New Zealand cars, the indicators are found on a stick to the right of the steering wheel.
Roundabouts are circular junctions common in some countries (including New Zealand) but unfamiliar to many visitors. Traffic always flows in a clockwise direction, so you veer left to enter the roundabout and left again to come off it. Drivers entering the roundabout must give way to all traffic already on it, i.e give way to the right. When approaching a multi-lane roundabout, pay attention to arrows painted on the road as they indicate which lane you should take for a particular exit direction.
Safe following distance is two seconds between cars, or four seconds in adverse conditions and when towing a trailer. To judge this, start counting as soon as the car in front of you passes a landmark and finish when you pass the same one.
Passing is always on the right. Many highways will have passing lanes every few kilometres, so you can pull into the right-hand lane and pass safely if you are a little patient. If there is no passing lane available, and you feel certain that you need to get ahead of the vehicle in front, make sure there will be at least 100 metres of clear road ahead of you once you have finished passing, check that no vehicles behind you are intending to pass you, and indicate for at least three seconds before pulling out and then pulling back in. A solid yellow line on your side of the centerline (or on both sides) means no crossing the centerline to pass.
This is just a summary of the most pertinent driving rules for visitors to remember. For much more detail on New Zealand’s road rules, check out the official Road Code.
The quirks of driving in New Zealand
These small, furry marsupials are the bane of Kiwi drivers and ecologists. They eat the native trees, kill native birds and their eggs, and steal food from campers. They are also a huge distraction on the roads, and you will see a lot of possum roadkill as you make your way around New Zealand. Do not make much of an effort to avoid hitting a possum- they are often out at night which means you won’t see them until the last minute when evasive action can be dangerous. New Zealanders see running over possums as part of their civic duty, so you need not feel bad about it.
When referring to parts of the car, Kiwis use mostly UK terms. The front of the car has a bonnet not a hood, the back is the boot not the trunk, and the indicators are what you use to indicate your intent. A stick shift is called a manual, and a pickup truck is a ute.
Here are some other NZ terms and slang which you may encounter in your travels:
● Petrol station (gas station)
● Dairy (a convenience/corner store. Important for local info and icecreams)
● Footpath (sidewalk)
● Wop-wops (The boondocks, middle of nowhere)
● Tiki tour (a detour for the sake of sightseeing. Might also mean you are lost)
● Kai (food, in the native Maori language)
● Sweet as (This means something is good)
● Ding (a dent)
● Kia Ora (hello)
● Bush (forest/woods)
● Judder bars (speed bumps)
● Rubbish bin (trash can)
● Takeaways (takeout. Often refers to fish and chips which you will then eat on the beach)
● Togs (swimsuit)
● Tramping (hiking)
● Longdrop (pit toilet, found in basic campsites and National Parks)
● Mainland (term for the South Island, making fun of North Islanders)
Of course, your fellow road users will always contribute to the quirks of driving in any given place. Here are a few things to look for:
● There are always drivers who like to push or ignore the speed limits. Be aware of those driving too fast, especially on windy roads as some Kiwis fancy themselves rally drivers.
● Headlight use is another thing to watch out for- some New Zealand drivers tend not to switch them on until it becomes dark, so keep your eyes peeled at dawn and dusk.
● Kiwis can be very laidback- which does not always translate well to driving. Watch out for casual rule breaking and random stopping to chat to passers-by, especially in rural areas.
● They aren’t drivers, but you may share the road with sheep and livestock in rural areas as they move to milking or shearing sheds. Be patient with them and wait for the road to clear before moving past.
What to expect from New Zealand roads
New Zealand has a state highway network which links its cities, towns and natural attractions in the North and South Islands. It is administered by the NZ Transport Agency.
Motorways, which consist of dual-carriageway roads with controlled access (i.e on and off ramps), are not very common in New Zealand, and the majority are found in and around Auckland and a few other big cities. Most of the network is single-carriageway open roads, with just one lane each way and open access onto side roads. The highways are numbered and are marked by red shield-shaped signs with the numbers in white.
State Highway One forms the backbone of the highway network, running all the way from Cape Reinga at the northern tip of the North Island right down to Bluff at the bottom of the South Island. It connects most of the major cities including Auckland, Hamilton, Taupo, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill, and branching off from it are nearly 100 other state highways to link in the rest of the country.
As a rule, the main highways do not bypass towns but pass through them- so you must be prepared to slow down as you pass through a residential or commercial area. Although this means travelling is slower, it also means you get to experience more of life in New Zealand up close! Once you leave the more populated areas, towns are few and far between so you are not constantly interrupted.
There are two toll roads in New Zealand, one of which is located not far to the north of Auckland . It is a part of State Highway One and makes a more direct route for those heading into Northland, but it can easily be avoided with a short detour through Orewa and Waiwera (Unless the traffic is particularly bad, this will only add around ten minutes to your journey). The tariff is $2.20 each way, and there are no toll booths to hold up traffic. Vehicles are recorded on camera, and then payments can be made online at www.tollroad.govt.nz using a credit or debit card and the license plate number, or at the self service kiosks in marked locations before and after the camera banks. The other toll road is in the Waikato region as drivers pass through Tauranga.
There are sections of highway around the country designated as touring routes, which highlight a particular feature of a region or take you on a particularly scenic journey between attractions. Most are a few hundred kilometres long and could be driven in a day but are best stretched over several so you can explore in-depth.
● Twin Coast Discovery Highway- this is a ring route around the most beautiful parts of Auckland and Northland. A great one for those who love the beach!
● Pacific Coast Highway- This route will take you past some amazing parts of the eastern North Island, from Auckland down to Hawke’s Bay. Our highlight? The Coromandel Peninsula.
● The Thermal Explorer Highway is a long one which covers a lot of the upper North Island, and includes not only geothermal hotspots like Rotorua but also the Waitomo Cave system where you can float in a tyre underground, and the majestic Tongariro National Park and its three mountains.
● Surf Highway 45 is pretty self-explanatory- it’s for those who want to catch a wave. The route follows the Taranaki coastline past some of the country’s best breaks.
● The Forgotten World Highway is a heritage trail which also includes scenery for a pretty and interesting route through the lower North Island. Natural history buffs will enjoy this one.
● The Classic New Zealand Wine Trail covers both the lower North Island and upper South Island, where you find the best wine growing regions including the famous Marlborough. Wine lovers, this is where you should be- just make sure there’s a designated driver!
● The Top of the South Wine Trail is a little more focused, and does not include the ferry trip. It covers Wairarapa and Marlborough with some lovely towns along the way- Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura are beautiful places to spend a night or two.
● The Alpine Pacific Triangle is short but sweet, covering a range of tourist highlights all within two hours of each other. The North Canterbury region has everything from wineries to whale watching.
● The Great Alpine Highway heads cross-country from Christchurch to the West Coast, through the impressive Southern Alps via Arthur’s Pass. A very scenic route.
● The Canterbury Pacific Trail follows the coast of Canterbury from Kaikoura to Waimate, and includes the resilient city of Christchurch, the “little England” of the Pacific. Beaches and beautiful braided rivers abound.
● The Inland Scenic Route is an alternative to State Highway 1 which bypasses Christchurch to take you through some rural and alpine areas including Geraldine and Mt Hutt ski area.
● The Southern Scenic Route really ups the ante in terms of scenery, showcasing the best of the best. Highlights include Lakes Manapouri and Te Anau, and the stunning Milford Sound., You could spend many days here!
New Zealand’s road system is well-maintained and generally of high quality. However, the nature of the country means you may encounter unsealed roads, winding mountainous routes and areas with little civilization. It is necessary to take extra care on these roads, and also to check your rental contract terms and conditions as some do not allow you to drive on unsealed roads without extra cover, or on certain routes. It is important to understand the limits of your rental contract, as you could find yourself in a hairy situation if the insurance is voided!
Some common roads which are expressly excluded in many rental contracts:
● Skippers Road in Otago.
● Ball Hut Road in Canterbury.
● 90 Mile Beach in Northland, which is officially a highway.
● The road to Macetown in Otago.
● Tasman Valley Road in Canterbury
Road signs are a unique language, designed to be easily interpretable by drivers of all cultures and tongues. The road signs you’ll see around New Zealand are no exception, and it shouldn’t be hard to figure out what it is they’re telling you. Here are a few guidelines to make sure you’re fluent:
● Red and white signs are, as a general rule, denote compulsory actions or limits. These include: speed limit signs, which are white circles ringed in red with numbers in black. The limits are always in kilometres per hour. Other common red and white signs are hexagonal STOP signs, round NO ENTRY signs and triangular GIVE WAY signs. No turning signs use simple symbols or pictographs to show where you cannot go, as do many others such as the ones marking bus lanes. No Parking signs use a P with a slash across it, or a blue circle with red cross over it, combined with arrows, to tell you where you may not park.
● Blue and white signs are also compulsory signs, and they give simple information using arrows to indicate where you need to turn, continue straight or keep left. One way roads are marked with blue and white ONE WAY signs, and pedestrian only zones are marked with a white pedestrian symbol on a round blue background. Where parking is allowed but regulated, you will see square blue signs with a white P, arrows, numbers indicating time limits in minutes and sometimes further information including a disabled parking symbol.
● Yellow and black signs are classed as permanent warning signs. These include advisory speed limits (not legally enforced), information about upcoming intersections and other hazards, road condition information (such as “slippery when wet”) and things to watch out for- trucks, low-flying aircraft, etc. Most of these use simple symbols or pictographs which speakers of all languages can recognise. Some will specify for how many kilometres the warning applies.
● Orange and black signs are temporary warning signs, and are similar to their yellow and black counterparts but usually used for road works and temporary conditions such as slip risks.
● Green and white signs are commonplace, and they are the friend of any tourist travelling in New Zealand. These are the information signs, telling you how to get to where you need to go and how far away it is. They include directional arrows, place names, distances in kilometres, state highway shields and symbols denoting places of interest such as airports. When you’re feeling lost, keep your eyes peeled for a green and white sign!
Parking in most parts of New Zealand is free and easy- be it by the side of the road or in a designated parking lot (Kiwis call them “carparks”), you won’t have too much trouble finding a place to pull over. Most tourist attractions, national park visitors centres, trailheads and beaches boast carparks or plenty of roadside space. Use common sense when parking- lock your car, take valuables with you and do not leave any children or animals in a locked car unattended!
In the cities is where it can get tricky, and you will have to pay attention to the parking signs mentioned above. Some areas offer parking only at certain times or days of the week, some use a “pay and display” method which requires buying a ticket at a machine and displaying it on the dashboard, and there are also parking buildings in the city centres which are privately operated and charge anything from a few dollars to a hundred or more for parking, depending on the length of your stay and the location.
Broken yellow lines at the side of the road mean no parking is allowed. Bus lanes, taxi stands, transit lanes and bike lanes are also no-go areas. You must not park on the footpath (sidewalk), the berm, less than one metre from a driveway, or in a position which will disrupt traffic flow.
You can find more useful parking information at the New Zealand Parking Association!
If you need the police, an ambulance or the fire service, call 111 and your call will be directed to the correct service. You can report unsafe driving and hazards on *555, a non-emergency number. For breakins and the like which do not require an urgent response, go to or call the local police station which you can find on the NZ Police website.
i-Sites are the best place to find visitor information all over New Zealand. Run by Tourism New Zealand, a government-funded organisation, they are reliable and impartial- they are not trying to sell you on a specific service. There are 80 i-Sites nationwide, so you will find one in any major centre and a number of the minor ones too. They provide free maps, visitor guides, advice, information, and a booking service. All of the staff are friendly and knowledgeable about their town or region. Find out more about i-Sites including all the locations on the 100% Pure New Zealand website.
The internet is always a good source of information. We recommend tourism.org.nz and newzealand.com as good starting points for your research. Apps are also great for travel tips and finding your way. Here are a few which might help:
● itravelnz allows you to search nearby places to eat or stay and things to do or see. It can integrate with other apps including Skype, Tom Tom and Google Maps, and it is free!
● The Essential New Zealand app by Tourism New Zealand is a treasure trove of information which you can access offline when needed.
● Google Maps comes with most smartphones, and it always useful for finding your way around.
● The CamperMate app includes maps of all the country’s most important places as well as maps and information for all campsites and necessary facilities like supermarkets, public toilets and free WiFi.
● The Airport Rentals app is all you need to book your rental car for a road trip in New Zealand, with a huge range of both pickup locations and rental suppliers.
Airport Rentals wishes you a safe and happy self-drive holiday in the beautiful New Zealand!General Disclaimer
This information is provided on a 'best intentions' basis. While we do our best to ensure the information is error free, we do not warrant its accuracy or adequacy for any intended purpose.
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Our range of rental vehicles includes hatchbacks, sedans, station wagons, 4WD SUVs and Van/MPVs and are all maintained to the highest of standards.
Our entire fleet of rental cars are with automatic transmission only. All cars have ABS, airbags, central locking, power steering and air conditioning as standard.
For enhanced safety, all windscreens and windows of the rental cars are treated with rain repellant ("Rain-X") to ensure excellent visibility in wet weather.
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Are higher car insurance rates coming? Ask the residents of Georgia, where Allstate Property & Casualty Insurance has just raised some auto premiums by 58 percent.
The Good Hands People have claimed that's an extreme case, but it doesn't deny that nearly half its Georgia customers will pay an average of 25 percent more to drive their cars, a rate hike that left the state's insurance commissioner, Ralph Hudgens, so frustrated that he launched an investigation by an independent actuarial firm.
But since Georgia is a "file and use" state, this means all an automotive insurer has to do is file the rate hike with the state's insurance department, and it goes into effect, in this case on May 22.
Georgia's situation is far from unique, and it may be the "canary in the coal mine" as far as auto insurance rate hikes are concerned. April saw the biggest premium increase year-over-year since 2003, as prices rose 6 percent that month, according to Consumer Price Index monthly data.Play Video CBS This Morning
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Allstate spokesman Adam Polak said his company was "cooperating with the Georgia investigation" and said that only a few customers faced a 58 percent hike.
But he also indicated that Allstate's rate hikes clearly reflect what's coming down the turnpike for drivers in other states. Industry spokespeople aren't shy about saying car insurance is likely to go up, up, up. And while Georgia may be the first state to feel the pain in the pocketbook, it won't be the last.
Among the reasons: "More people are driving, lower gas prices and higher speed limits," explained Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute (III), a lobbying group for the property-casualty insurance industry.
And, he might have added, more fatalities. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that 38,300 people were killed nationwide on roads last year and 4.4 million were seriously injured. "2015 was likely the deadliest driving year since 2008," said the NSC, a nonprofit organization that promotes health and safety in the U.S.
Another factor is that auto insurers' profitability has been falling for a decade. Loss ratios for insurers have been rising for 10 years, according to the III's Hartwig. In flush times when interest rates are high, insurers can make this up from their vast investment portfolios. But the 2015 return on their net worth is likely close to zero -- or even negative.
It has been clear for some time that car insurance rates are going to rise, and GEICO, the second-largest domestic car insurer, has said in federal filings that it would be "implementing rate increases." The American Automobile Association (AAA) said in April that the premium for a married middle-age man with a good driving record had risen 10 percent in the last year.Play Video Insurance Awareness
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But Georgia seems to be a special case, and perhaps even a test case. In many not-so-insurance-friendly states like California, rate increases have to go through "prior approval," which in some instances requires a hearing before the state insurance commissioner. Georgia has made the process easier to get more car insurers to offer coverage in the state.
Georgia drivers also have a reputation for stomping hard on the gas pedal, according to the insurance industry, and its higher speed limits don't help.
"Fatal auto accidents in Georgia are rising at nearly three times the rate nationally," claimed an III position paper. And while the population density grew in urban areas like Atlanta, speed limits rose to 70 miles in some congested areas.
But the biggest insurance concern, however, is that Georgia was a "profitability laggard" in the region and nationwide.
During the Great Recession, car insurance premiums dropped nationally and only rose marginally in 2010 and 2011. But premiums increased as the economy improved and gas prices fell, with a big spike between 2014 and 2015, according to Robert Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America.
Hartwig argued that it isn't gas prices as much as the improving economy that's putting people on the road for longer hours and more miles. "People drive to and from work, and drive to entertainment," he said. "When they are out of work, they curtail their movement." Many auto insurers are now installing devices to see how far and where these people drive. Motorists who drive less receive better rates.
But one thing is certain: If your car insurance is costing 25 percent more, you're not really concerned about saving on gas.