If you’re heading to the ski fields or taking a winter road trip in the South Island, we have your winter car rental sorted. You’ll be spoilt for choice with our wide range of 4WD and AWD rental cars, including SUVs and wagons for 5-7 people, available from our Christchurch and Queenstown car rental locations. Ideal winter car rental options include late model Subaru Foresters, Subaru Outbacks, Mitsubishi Outlanders, Toyota Highlanders, Toyota Prados and FJ Cruisers. We also have car rental accessories including ski racks and snow chains to get you to the ski fields safely.
Winter Car Rental Driving Tips
Winter in New Zealand is from June to August, and while the weather can be fairly mild around Canterbury, it gets colder further south or the higher into Alpine areas you travel. It’s also not uncommon for snow to fall well into September, so keep an eye on the weather reports.
The Southern Alps are covered in snow throughout the year, but during winter some mountain roads and passes can become treacherous in bad weather, so drive carefully and to the conditions (which can change rapidly). Sometimes road closures can leave drivers stranded for a few hours, or even overnight, so be prepared with snow chains, blankets, spare food and water if you’re travelling into the mountains during winter.
In areas where snow fall is light, be aware that ice can still be a problem, particularly first thing in the morning and late at night when temperatures can fall below zero. Black ics is a particularly dangerous hazard, so take extra care if it is very cold, as you may not see the ice until it’s too late.
Some ski fields are accessed via unsealed roads, so a 4 wheel drive vehicle and snow chains are a must in winter. In some areas, such as the Queenstown Lakes District, travellers that don’t know how to fit snow chains can be heavily fined by traffic officers, so make sure you are familiar with how to fit them before you set off.
New Zealand’s roads are very scenic but they can also be rugged, with steep hills, tight corners and narrow passes. Take your time when driving in winter, particularly with a car rental that you may not be familiar with. Take some time to get to know your rental vehicle before you travel, and ensure you never hop behind the wheel if you’re tired or have just arrived on a long haul flight.