Well, we made it! We landed in Auckland and sure enough we were immediately struck by the higher prices and reality of hostel life in dorm beds. Also my sleep schedule was totally screwed up (again) with the time change and we of course had a snorer in our room. Instantly regretting our decision to book four nights and pay in advance, at least we were motivated to complete our “admin” stuff in the city as fast as possible. The biggest lingering task was buying a car in Auckland.
And we had to get it done in a week to get to our first housesit!
I do love a good deadline.
Turns out, it was all very doable:
SIM cards, check.
Browse cars, meet owners, negotiate prices, take out tons of cash and buy car, check.
Transfer title, check.
Contact housesits south of the city, check.
Explore cool Auckland neighborhoods, nearby beaches, and waterfalls, check!
Surprisingly, finding a cheap car in Auckland wasn’t too difficult. So many backpackers are anxious to sell their rides before leaving the country that you’ll see flyers all over hostels (especially at the big ones) and there are tons of Facebook forums for buying and selling cars, vans, and camping stuff. We got a few sellers’ Whatsapp numbers or just Facebook messaged them to set up a meeting to view the car. We only ended up looking at three vehicles before deciding on ours.
But we did walk our ass off around Auckland that day.
Not to say that this whole buying a car thing isn’t stressful. For both parties. You know if the person selling is hard-up for cash and has a flight soon, that you as the buyer are golden. But when they say they have a month before they leave the country and know what their car is worth, then good luck bargaining! And of course, you may meet some Brazilian girls who have no idea how to negotiate at all. (As in, they told us they wanted to sell it to us, but they still had to show it to other people?)
And we SO wanted their Subaru that was $400 NZD over our budget…
Also, despite my googly eyes at all the sick vans with built-in cabinets and curtains and tons of camping gear, Marko was quick to point out that they were WAY out of our budget… generally costing over $3,000, but usually $4,000 or more.
So what was our budget? We were really trying to spend about $2,000 NZD ($1,455 USD) but we also wanted to have the option of sleeping in the car. So a station wagon, as cool as that sounds, seemed the way to go.
Enter our purple, 90’s Toyota Caldina. Oh, and it’s four wheel drive. The paint’s peeling a bit and the antenna is broken off, but other than that, we’re pumped about her. We found this bad girl on a flyer in a hostel; it was one of the few in our price range.
And what makes me even happier – it cost $1,800 NZD ($1,314 USD). The British traveler who sold it to us was a really stand-up guy, and we (Marko) negotiated him down from his original price of $2,250, mainly because it didn’t include very much camping gear and we could use our savings to buy the rest of that stuff. (Because you know I was pumped about the STUFF!)
He’d actually agreed to go down to $2,000 before we even saw the car, so it never hurts to ask!
We picked up what we lacked at The Warehouse, which is pretty much New Zealand’s Walmart. Yeah, it’s cheap cheap stuff, but locals and backpackers recommended it to us. And uh, we’re on a budget. Cooking stuff, cheap tent, camping chairs, table, and some foam cushioning and bedding for the back of the car, all for less than $300 NZD total ($218 USD). And of course, it helps that we’re splitting all of this between the two of us! Admittedly, this would be a hard venture to undertake solo…
But then fully equipped, we headed to the outskirts of Auckland (to stay in a cheaper Airbnb), get some work done, and visit the beaches of Piha and Karekare and a waterfall before heading out of the city for now.
We had one night sleeping in the car and breaking in the gas stove before our first three-day housesit in Matamata. (Since then we’ve had a few more nights sleeping in the tent and the car, and so far I’m impressed with the level of comfort!)
And on a tip from a Kiwi guy that Marko knew, we headed up into the Coromandel peninsula for some serious beach time!
More to come on my evolution as a camper!
Some help buying a car in Auckland for backpackers: Join these Facebook groups a few days before you arrive, as some of them are closed groups and you do have to be approved before you can be a member: Backpacking New Zealand, Backpackers Campervan/Cars/4wds/Vans/Wagons Buy & Sell NZ, New Zealand Backpackers, Backpackers New Zealand, and if you’re not interested in buying a car, but looking to share the cost of gas and make some travel companions New Zealand RideShare Backpackers. You CAN also rent cars here for relatively cheap if you’re not staying too long!
Where I Stayed (& hostels to look at): We stayed at Grafton House Accommodation which was a decent hostel (and on the cheaper side), but for a more central location with TONS of people and flyers, be sure to check out the car/van listings at Base and Choice Backpackers downtown. We actually ended up buying our car from a guy staying at YHA Auckland International Backpackers where we saw a few other groups of travelers taking a look at cars outside.