In certain places we have traveled, such as New Zealand, Australia, and Europe, the great distances and epic outdoors make renting a car or campervan the best way to travel.
New Zealand especially has great cheap camping infrastructure, with free campsites that have bathrooms, picnic tables, sinks, and even showers. Renting a car or campervan can be expensive, though, especially in the high season, when campervans and motorhomes rent for over $200 a day not including the costs of gas and campsites. One of the best money saving tricks we have found is to relocate vehicles for the rental companies.
Relocations come up when campervan and car rental companies need their vehicles to go from one site to another. This happens a lot in situations when most tourists fly into a major airport, drive a campervan one way, and fly out of another airport, leaving a surplus of vehicles in the area where most people end their journeys and not having enough in the location from where most people rent.
Rather than flying an employee out or paying someone to drive the vehicle to the location where it is needed, rental companies will offer relocation specials, heavily discounting the rental rates, so long as the renters pickup and drop off where the company needs it and within the designated timeframe. Relocaters pay for gas and tolls, just like in a normal car rental, so this also saves the companies money from paying those costs themselves. By relocating vehicles, we have been able to rent cars and campervans for $1-$5 a night, even in high season! These are not old, broken down campervans, either. These are the campervans that have already been booked and just need to get to the pickup location, so we have relocated vehicles we could not have afforded at market price.ld, broken down campervans, either.
We relocated a luxury campervan in New Zealand that had a television, outdoor grill attached to the side, and built-in wine glasses. Fancy stuff. A motorhome we rented in Australia had a bed that came down from the ceiling with a hydraulic motor and a full bathroom with shower.
All of the campervans we have relocated have been nearly brand new and in excellent condition, and since we are taking them from one office to another, the companies throw in extras that they normally charge for, like bedding, camp chairs, and GPS systems, and waive fees they would otherwise charge, like one-way or extra driver fees. An additional benefit of relocating vehicles rather than renting them outright is a reduced damage deposit. Normally, if you decline additional insurance through the companies we have relocated for, the bond required to rent a vehicle is $5000, which is taken out of your credit card and held until the vehicle is returned and inspected. For relocations, the bond required is only $1000.
The main website I used to find relocations in Australia and New Zealand is Imoova.com. They update their website daily with available relocations and it is a very easy process to book with them. They provide all the necessary information about the relocation, including make, model, transmission, seats, sleeping berths, earliest pickup date, latest pickup date, days allowed for relocation, and cost of additional rental dates.
They also describe any inclusions to the relocation, such as bedding or kitchen kits. Some relocations also offer incentives such as paying for any ferry crossings on the route or offering gas money. Some routes that are particularly difficult to find renters or relocaters for, such as in the Northern Territory or Western Australia, may offer $500-$750 for for fuel.
Most relocations offer a window of time within which the campervan needs to be picked up and dropped off, but they also set a limit of days you can rent the vehicle at the discounted rate. For example, they may need a campervan picked up in Christchurch, New Zealand anytime after April 14th and dropped off in Queenstown, New Zealand by April 21st at the latest.
However, as the drive between Christchurch and Queenstown is only about 8 hours, they will give you two or three days to make the journey at $1 a day. You could pick up the campervan on April 14th and drop it off on the 17th, pick it up on 18th and drop it off on the 21st , or choose any three days within that week and the total cost for any of those journeys would be $3.
Most relocations offer rates for additional rental dates, which also happen to be below market rental rates. It is common for relocations to charge $75 per day for additional days rented beyond their rental window. In the above example, it would be possible for you to pick up the campervan on the first available date, April 14th , and drop it off on the latest date, April 21st. For the first three days of the journey, it would cost $1 per day, and for the remaining five days it would be $75 per day, for a total cost of $378 for a week-long campervan rental. If you just care about getting from point A to point B, relocations are great because you can drive directly to the dropoff location, they always give you enough time to drive there safely, and you get a car or campervan for basically nothing. If you want to make more of a vacation out of your relocation, the $75 per additional day is also a steal because you usually renting a fully-equipped, top of the line campervan for below market rental rates. Whenever Joe and I have relocated vehicles we have always paid for the maximum number of days allowed because it allows us to slow down and spend time in the places we like.
When using Imoova, once you find a relocation that works for you, simply fill out your details and your request will be pending. Imoova then has to go to the actual rental company, as they are just the relocation broker, and confirm that the vehicle is still available, but they do this quickly and either confirm or inform you that your relocation has already been rented to someone else or is no longer required. Imoova is based in Australia but they have international phone numbers and hours as they offer relocations in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US, the UK, and Europe. One feature of the website that I love and have taken advantage of is the waitlist function. You input your preferred pickup and drop-off locations as well as the dates you are available and they will email or text you if a relocation becomes available. This is especially helpful if you are looking at a highly desired route or date range, but by using the waitlist notifications we were able to relocate a campervan from one end of New Zealand to the other over Christmas and New Years (that’s the busy summer season in the Southern Hemisphere).
The key to taking advantage of campervan and car relocations is flexibility. The relocations become available according to the rental company’s needs, not your vacation schedule. Obviously the ideal is to have no schedule and be available to relocate anything, anywhere, but that’s not always realistic. In peak travel times, relocations get snapped up quickly, so set up waitlist notifications and log on to the website right when they update their listings for the day.
It can also be helpful to call Imoova if you are having trouble finding a relocation that works for you. The staff are super responsive and helpful, and they have helped me get relocations that just went live. I also called them once because they had a route I was interested in but it said the campervan was a manual transmission and I was not interested in driving a huge vehicle with a stick shift on the opposite side of the road in New Zealand. They followed up with the rental company and it turns out it was an automatic, so I got to drive an awesome, brand new, automatic campervan for $1 a day.
The main website we have used to find car and campervan relocations in Europe is DriiveMe.co.uk.
They have thousands of relocations available, mostly cars but occasionally campervans, for 1 Euro or British Pound. Most vehicles in Europe are manual transmissions, so this is something to be aware of in case you are like many Americans who only drive automatics. DriiveMe has a much larger selection of cars and routes available than Imoova, but it does have some drawbacks. Most rentals do not offer the flexibility in terms of dates and extra days that Imoova does.
The set relocation timeframe for most DriiveMe relocations in Europe is 24 hours. Depending on distance, the relocation may have 48-72 hours allotted, but Europe is pretty small so mainly you have 24 hours to get the vehicle from point A to point B. If the relocation does offer extra rental days, there is a set rate of 10 Euros or Pounds for anything over 24 hours. If you take 25 hours or 150 hours to relocate a vehicle, the max price will still only be 10 Euros. Through DriiveMe, we have relocated 3 campervans and 1 car in Portugal, Spain, and France.
Because of the time and mileage limitations on most relocations, DriiveMe is best used for when you need to get from one place to another quickly and cheaply. They don’t really give you enough time to go exploring, but doing relocations through DriiveMe has saved us on travel and accommodation and has even been cheaper (not to mention more comfortable) than taking budget transport such as overnight buses through Europe.
Relocating campervans and rental cars has saved us thousands of dollars in our travels and it is something I would recommend checking out to every budget-conscious traveler. Imoova and DriiveMe are the main relocation broker website I use, but campervan companies such as Jucy, Spaceships, and Wicked Campers also offer relocation specials booking directly through them. For the organized and patient budget traveler who sets alerts for routes they are interested in, relocations are an amazing way to save money and have an awesome adventure.