Auto Costs Cruising

There are many ways to cruise. By private yacht isn’t the only way. Some people fly to various locales and stay at luxury resorts. Others, house sit their way around the world. Some are strictly land based and buy a motor home (called a caravan in NZ or Aust) for seeing the sites. Then there are those that mix it up. We fall into that latter group.

While it is wonderful seeing the harbors and experiencing different cultures from the water, land too has many 5 star views. With that in mind, in NZ we bought a car. It wasn’t a new car. No matter what some of my cruising friends like to say; we are not “high rollers”! 🙂 It was a good solid car, one with low km/miles, reliable, and for the most part comfortable. It was a Toyota Camry; ’99 model.

Driving on the wrong side of the road required some practice. Fortunately with this “not new” car curbs and small road side structures didn’t scare us off. The fenders already had some minor scratches and dents. We liked the 6 cylinder and that would easily handle the roads in the Southern Alps. It served us well for the 14 months we had it. But, Elysium is not large enough to stow the Camry until we reach the next port. So we sold it.

Most people want to know what it costs to cruise. Most cruisers will tell you what they spend and not where they spend it. If you want to see a wee bit more of the world than harbors and anchorages you will need to expand your horizons. There are land tours but for this horizon we wished for more freedom.

We purchased the car for $3800 NZ. Insurance costs in NZ are much much less than in the states due to the ACC which is their national fund to cover any accidents any tourist or resident has while in the country. Key word is accident. For 18 months of insurance we paid $337 NZ .

We had the car serviced twice. While we have all the gear for servicing the boat, being an auto mechanic was no longer in my job description. We got a recommendation of an honest / reliable shop from our Anytime Fitness center staff whose partner loved to refurbish/rebuild/restore autos. Before we left for the S. Island we wanted to ensure there would be no problems. The S. Island of NZ has some rather remote places. When we returned and about 6 months further down the road we had it serviced again hoping that the Camry would last till the end of our needed use. Servicing was $190 and $213 NZ.

We did have a couple of surprises. The windshield had a nick in it that was repaired by the previous owner. We weren’t informed of it nor was it visible. Somewhere during the countries 4 seasons in a day weather the repair popped out. I wasn’t worried…but then. Driving to a home stay in Ruakaka we had a good stretch of Highway that 100’s of logging trucks ran on daily. We were a wee bit to close to one and a few chunks of bark flew off and smacked the window, one of them right at the nick. Now we had a crack in the windshield. Generally insurance will cover one windshield a year from what I understand. But with our liability only car insurance we weren’t covered. Cost of Windshield $350 NZ.

And to keep insurance costs low and increase road safety NZ has a Warrant of Fitness (WOF). Since our car was pre year 2000 we needed a new Warrant every 6 months. Cost was about $50 NZ. There are cheaper places but this was an all above board / fair place. The first warrant passed without any issues. However; the second warrant noted the car for a frayed seat belt. If only I had thought. I ought to have taken the hair clippers to the belt and trimmed the fraying off but who knows if that would have worked. I tried to find a new seat belt on TradeMe; NZ’s answer to eBay but had no luck. We found an after market one for about $250 NZ. In this instance, I did the work and installed the new belt.

One last surprise arrived in the mail during our first house sit. A yearly registration. To transfer the car license and vehicle to us we paid a whopping $5. But two months later we got the bill for using it in NZ of approx $250 NZ. Compared to cost in the states for owning and licensing a vehicle this bill was very reasonable!

Of course; we used up quite a bit of fuel on the bigger 6. But each car is different so it is rather pointless to say how much we spent on gas. To be up front however fuel costs in NZ are higher than in the States. Currently a liter of fuel is $2 NZ and this includes their road taxes. Diesel is much cheaper but then you must purchase a road tax tag usage sticker. And from most companies you can reduce the cost a wee bit by getting one of their cards.  We often saved 10 cents / liter when filling up. Todays average for US gallon is $4.15 NZ, in NZ the same gasoline is roughly $9 NZ .

And finally, the cost to list and sell the car on TradeMe came to roughly $100 NZ. This gave us more exposure and included the final cost for the sale. I paid nothing to transfer the car from my name.

Now lets break it down to cost of ownership. And to compare there are small cars you can rent here from RAD; called Rent a Dent. They are quite nice and quite small and yes they may have some scratches and nicks but they are not junk yard cars. They rent / day at $30 NZ and if you wish insurance coverage you will add $20/ day to the price. They have longer term contracts but I don’t know how much the cost is reduced for them.

That said; our total up front cost was about $5290. We sold the car for $1700 leaving a cost to own (again not counting gas) of $3590 plus or minus. We owned the car for 14 months yielding a cost of about $256 NZ or $9 NZ / day.

Things we learned.. First practice driving in not so busy areas. Driving on the left side is quite disconcerting for US drivers. Many of the deadliest accidents here involve a US driver. They’re tired and end up in a head on collision because they are on the wrong side of the road. A couple of times I found myself on the wrong side. It was when no one was around or on a country road where one women shook her finger at me and smiled. I’m lucky, that was the worse case. And NZ has many “roundabouts”. Practice and learn the rules. Driving here is slower than in the states and there is little to no leeway on the speeds. Be cautious and practice out of the cities.

Second. We used NAC insurance; but while they were very reasonable they wouldn’t cover damage to the car. I would suggest getting a quote from the AA Insurance. (Not related to AAA in the states). They have a very good plan and some bonus’, one of which is a free eye exam from Spec Savers. Spec Savers provided us one of the best exams W/ and I have ever had. So at a least; compare. Other companies might have had a higher up front cost. By the time we paid for the windshield and the eye exams our method could have easily been higher.

Third, we knew that cars pre year 2000 required a WOF twice a year and this was a bit of an inconvenience. We almost received a ticket once when we didn’t notice our WOF was due and we were stopped for a breath test. They have drunk driving stops in various places and every car stops and they check all the drivers. They take safety very seriously here. Safety trumps rights.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Ready, Set, Go

We were at one of the Riverside’s cookouts when it struck us. We had purchased a car 3 weeks ago. We opened a bank account to use for our boat projects, we’ve played tennis and been getting back in shape. And we forgot about seasons.

In the tropics there are two seasons rainy and dry – otherwise known as the cyclone season and not the cyclone season. Here in NZ we have 4 complete seasons with a significant change in the weather. And that change means we will need to see the South Island now or face a cold trek in the middle of winter. After having spent the last few years in the tropics neither of us Bolooked forward to a cold adventure. We had enough of those cold outings coming of age in the midwest US.

So…we began to plan. Bob and Linda had made a similar trip last year and we invited them over. We want to pick their brains and hear of their adventure all the while taking notes and looking for ideas. A few hours later we had enough info to turn a few week trip into 6 months.

With brochures in hand and an idea of what to do W/ began to put some dates down and make reservations. Two ideas were foremost in our thoughts as we started this road trip. First we would circumnavigate the S. Island counter-clockwise. This sets our car on the inside lane of the highway, away from the cliff edges. Driving in this lane around and through the Southern Alps is much safer. Second, we would make reservations up to a week in advance allowing us to change and adjust as needed.

We left Whangarei heading to Auckland. Matt was there. After college and sailing with his family he moved to NZ. He’s sailed across the S. Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and made the trek from the S. Pacific a couple of times back and forth. He had kindly offered to be our evening’s tour guide in the “City of Sails”.

Sometimes, things don’t seem right!

We are still getting used to driving on the left side of the road with the driver on the right side of the car. The trip to Auckland was uneventful in general. Specifically, it was a bit o’ a pain. The weather was not pleasant. A Nor Easter was soon to arrive. We were racing it to Auckland hoping to beat it there by a few hours. Settled in at our AirBnB we decompressed waiting for Matt to finish work. I say decompress but for me I was setting up a NZ tollway account.

There are few toll roads in NZ. Actually there is only one and it is in Auckland. There are no toll booths. New Zealand uses cameras to record auto license plates on the toll road and sync that with who owns the car. Then the car owner is either billed or pays on line. Billing costs more if one fails to pay on time. Failure to meet the deadline escalates the toll 1000%. Thus the need to set up an account.

While the setup is pretty straight forward the log in requirements are not. It’s the little things that can frustrate me. OK, I’m use to PIN numbers. But this PIN needed Letters as well as numbers. 🙁 OK, most everything has a User name. However, with user names you get to choose it. This account gives you a User Name and it’s several numbers long. Finally after jumping through the site’s hoops I have the account setup. I added money, the easy part. Now I just need to wait for the bill and pay. I checked it the next couple of days and never saw a bill. Finally a week later I noticed that money had been taken from my account. I checked the history and they did see the car ( I never doubted it for a minute) and they did then bill the car. A week later our account NZ debited the account. Check that off the list.

After a good dinner Matt took us on a tour of the city. With not a lot of faith in our driving yet, he drove. 🙂 That was fine by us. But Matt informed us to get out of Auckland with minimal traffic we needed to leave at; get this, about 5 am. YUCK! And he needed to work in the am so we cut the evening short. Auckland is a unique city and we will return. Luckily, it is not far from Whangarei.

By 5 am we were on the road. The Nor Easter had blown through but the tail of it was still around. Fortunately an auto isn’t effected as much by the wind and rain as a boat. We soldiered on. For the most part the views here were same ol’ same ol’. The mountains and forest while majestic had no majesty. We were using Waze to guide us south and soon discovered while NZ is a first world country the cell connections are not country wide. Throughout NZ the Department of Conservation (DOC) parcels we had no reception. No reception did not mean nothing to look at.

We came across the Makatote Viaduct. It was a railroad bridge spanning a gorge. And WOW! While it would have been cool to walk out on it I wouldn’t want to face a train coming down the tracks. You could save your life by jumping but that then would shorten your life by the landing. This railroad track opened up settlement to the south end of the north island and while the new European immigrants took advantage of that day I am sure the Maori (local residents) might well now curse it. To complete the bridge the company actually built a steel mill on site. They found the production and transportation of the steel beams to be more problematic than building a mill locally. I can only imagine how one might think today of our international manufacturing and shipping now!

We stopped in Bulls for lunch at the Mother Goose diner. An avant guard restaurant stepped back in time; all except for the prices. The food was satisfactory and there was one surprise. I’ve had egg on pizza; in the Caribbean, but never had egg on a steak sandwich. Here I had an egg; sunny side up on my steak sandwich.

After switching drivers several times we arrived in Wellington. We changed for the most part because; driving for us on the wrong side, was tiring and we needed to stay ultra alert. Too when I am included in the equation that means more driving for W/. Driving seems to put me to sleep faster than any other means, and sleeping is not advisable on any roads.

We arrived in Auckland during rush hour and wove our way through the streets to another AirBnB. Discovering the AirBnB residences are a challenge for us. But Waze has no difficulty as long as we are connected to the internet. And in most cities and towns in NZ we’ve had internet. Our Wellington host is gracious and directs us to pick up some items we’ve neglected to buy and need. Additionally she tells of a great place to have some chow.

In NZ we now have a 3rd connection for wall outlets. In FP and Fiji, the wall outlets were double post. In the US they are parallel blades and NZ has angled blades. I needed some angled blades for our computer / tablet / phone chargers. Luckily we found the Apple connections at a Harvey Normans store. We did bring most of our electronic gear. We snap and back up hundreds of pics of out travels hoping to have a few memorable ones. And too, the technology tools enables our bragging to the rest of the world of our adventures south.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long