Station wagons (also known as ‘stationwagons’, ‘wagons’ or ‘minivans’) are a convenient, comfortable and cheap way to explore New Zealand’s islands. 

Back in the day, station wagons were the default way that backpackers and travellers would travel around New Zealand. In recent years, these vehicles have become super underrated and have started disappearing from roads everywhere in favour of campervans. People are missing out!

Hiring a station wagon to travel New Zealand is a fantastic option with its own unique advantages over a normal car — and for some people it might even suit them more than a campervan. Here’s what hiring a station wagon can get you over other vehicles:

1. Station wagons are cheap as chips to hire

Travellers Autobarn Station Wagon parked lakeside in New Zealand

If you’re looking for the cheapest way to travel New Zealand (while still living pretty comfortably), a station wagon is the answer.

Station wagon hire starts at about $50 per day — yep, only 50 bucks for the day with unlimited kilometres. It’s a whole lot cheaper than pretty much any car, van or hotel you’ll find. That’s a choice deal. This is pretty much the best station wagon deal out there and you won’t find an equivalent rental at such a cheap rate — it’d cost you more to buy a slab of beers!!!

One of the best things about a station wagon is that you can split up your daily expenses with loads of mates (we’ll get to this in a moment). Imagine you’re travelling out in the wops off-season with a group of 4 friends: splitting up your costs means your daily hiring cost is literally less than lunch.

2. Station wagons are roomy (no really, they’re super spacious)

Mother lifting baby from inside spacious station wagon

Station wagons offer loads of space! You can fit heaps of suitcases, bags and other luggage in the back or even fold the back or middle seat rows down for extra space. This is great if you’ve got lots of bags, a large tent, a big air mattress, or you’re bringing everything but the kitchen sink.

Our station wagons are Toyota Estimas, which are usually classed as people-movers since they can fit entire families with all their bags and luggage. There’s a reason you see these bad boys used as luxe airport shuttle buses: you can fill them chocka block with both people and luggage in comfort!

3. Station wagons can fit your whole crew

Group of friends driving in station wagon towards New Zealand mountain range

Our station wagons can fit up to 7 adults — heaps of seats for the whole fam or even a decent sized group of friends! Having this many seats means they’re one of the most flexible vehicle options out there and are suitable for solo travellers, couples, groups of friends, and even whole families! You’d need to hire two cars or campervans to fit that many people inside!

If you’ve got a smaller crew or you’re travelling alone, you’ll have more space than you’ll know what to do with — but that’s a good thing since there’ll be even more space for groceries, a big chilly bin, a tent, or a mattress. Speaking of which…

4. You can sleep in your station wagon (or in a tent…or at a hotel)

Station wagon camping roadside in a national park

Like having options for where you’ll sleep? A station wagon might just be your dream come true. They give you heaps of flexibility so you can switch things up night to night if you feel like a change in scenery or experience. Here are you overnight options:

  1. Sleep in the back: Station wagons are so spacious that you can easily sleep in the back of one. Just push down the back seats, chuck your BYO mattress in the back, et voilà: your accommodation needs are pretty much sorted. Back in the 80s & 90s, this is how it was done — hotels were too pricey, and campervans weren’t really a thing yet.
  2. Camping: Station wagon + tent + air mattress + sleeping bags/linen = a simple but boujee DIY glamping trip. If you book a station wagon with Travellers Autobarn, you can hire a tent, camping chairs, Esky cooler and cooking gear directly from us — just BYO sleeping bags & mattress.
  3. Stay at hotels: If you don’t feel like camping or sleeping in the back (or you’ve got too many mates to make it work), you can use your station wagon as a normal car and stay in hotels, motels or hostels every night. No judgement from us: camping isn’t for everyone.

5. Station wagons are great for travelling as a family

Mother and two children laying on mattress in back of station wagon

If you’ve got kids, you already know how tricky it can be to travel with them. “Are we there yet?” is a cliché for a reason — many of us remember being squished in the back of a car with hardly any space to move. Thankfully, with a station wagon, there’s more than enough room for all the kids, bags and all the gear you need for a fun family holiday.

Campervans are great, but if your child is under 4 years old, your options are pretty limited since it’s impossible to fit child seats in some models. That’s where station wagons come in. You can travel with kids from just a couple of months old since a station wagon can fit pretty much any child seat. Plus, there’ll still be plenty of room in the back to fit a stroller, toys and all your usual luggage.

6. All our station wagons have automatic transmissions

Automatic transmission station wagon parked on cliff overlooking ocean

All our station wagons are automatics, so you can easily drive on any highway or road you like, go over mountains, or cruise through any town. On top of that, driving a station wagon is pretty similar to driving a normal car, so there isn’t a huge learning curve beyond complex parking moves.

This is a deal-winner for many travellers (including overseas tourists) who can’t drive a manual transmission car and just want the easiest vehicle possible to drive around in. Lots of campervans and cheap car rentals have manual transmissions, so make sure you do your research if you only know how to drive auto. Check out this article on license requirements and safe driving practices in New Zealand if you have any doubts.

So there they are: 6 reasons to hire a station wagon on your next New Zealand road trip. Hopefully we’ve convinced you it’s worth giving one a look and getting a quote at the bottom of this page. If you’re looking to go on a trip around New Zealand, but a station wagon doesn’t sound quite right, you can compare all our rental vehicle options to find the one which suits you best. Feel free to also read our 6 reasons to hire a campervan in New Zealand!

If you have trouble with making a booking or you need some more information, get in contact with us. You can use the buttons below to contact our reservations team, or call us directly on 0800 348 348 (we also have overseas contact numbers in case you’re outside NZ). Happy travelling and we’ll see you out on the road soon.

For a full range of vehicles, don’t forget to check out the latest deals and offers on campervan hire in New Zealand.

About the Author

Bastian Graf

Bastian is the Sales & Marketing Manager here at Travellers Autobarn. He holds a Master of Commerce in Marketing and International Business Management, and 20+ years experience in campervan hire, road trips and travel.

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