New Zealand and Australia are two countries begging for a road trip. They differ quite a lot in size and climate, but we still rented the same Spaceships campervan for a road trip in both countries.
There are several options to choose from when renting a campervan in New Zealand and/or Australia, but we only have experience with one of them. This post is a review of our Spaceships Campervan in which we lived for 4 months on end while exploring Australia and New Zealand.
Not interested in reading this full blown review of our Spaceships Campervan? Skip to our video tour and have a look inside!
Features of a Spaceships Campervan
There are 3 models of Spaceships Campervans: the Alpha or Rocket, the Beta, and the Beta 2S. They are all pretty much the same: a big car that’s converted into a campervan by adding sleeping facilities. It’s just that the Beta Campervans are newer cars, and have some improved features. In New Zealand they have another, more “luxurious” model on offer: the Dream Sleeper Mini.
We drove a Spaceships Beta in Australia and a Spaceships Beta 2S in New Zealand. The 2S is a newer car and doesn’t have a back seat, but apart from that they are pretty much the same. You can find a clear and straightforward comparison of the different models on the Spaceships website for New Zealand and Australia.
Our advice? If the weather permits sleeping with an open trunk (there is a tent for that!) go for the Beta with the back seat. If it’s too cold for that, you’ll want the Beta 2S for some extra space.
A Spaceships Campervan – the car
One of the most important features of a Spaceships Campervan is the automatic transmission. We are used to driving on the other side of the road (the right side), so having to switch gears with our left hand instead of right would have been a disaster. Granted, it took a while before we stopped turning on the windshield wiper every time we wanted to make a turn, but that’s not as important as switching gears.
Some other features that we already take for granted in a car are available in a Spaceships Campervan as well, like cruise control, air conditioning, and a radio with a USB and iPod port.
A Spaceships Campervan – the inside
Over to the sleeping facilities. In the back of the Spaceships Campervan they installed 2 lockable storing compartments with a mattress on top. Curtains are provided in front of all windows to keep the light (and curious people) out. You can sleep entirely in the campervan or choose to mount the tent over the opened trunk for a more spacious sleeping area. There’s not much room between the mattress and the roof, so it’s great to have that feeling of space around your head to not feel claustrophobic. The tent has a small window with mosquito nets, that allows for a nice breeze to come through at night.
There is a side awning included with the Beta models as well. You mount it on the side of the Spaceships Campervan to protect you from rain or sun. When it rains, one of you can comfortably sit beneath this shelter, while the other one can sit inside the campervan. Depending on wether you chose the Beta or Beta 2S they can sit on the backseat or on the bed.
Another feature that we deem essential is the 15L fridge/freezer. It’s built in in one of the big storing compartments beneath the bed. It isn’t a big fridge, but at least you can keep something cool. We learned the hard way that setting the fridge to 4 freezes everything. Some trial and error eventually learned us to keep the fridge at 1.5 for optimal cooling.
The fridge runs on the car battery, but automatically switches off before it’s drained to make sure you can always start your Spaceships Campervan. At night we turned the fridge off to save battery, while things would still be cold in the morning. Depending on the outside temperature the fridge could last for about 12 hours on battery (while not driving).
Accessories included with a Spaceships Campervan
Free accessories included with a Spaceships Campervan
A Spaceships Campervan comes with a bunch of free accessories. Things you’ll need during your road trip, but probably haven’t packed, like sheets and kitchen utensils. They’ll have everything stored neatly in a box in your campervan: a pot, a pan, tongs, an egg flipper, a knife, cutting boards, and a camping stove with one gas canister. Apart from cooking utensils there are also eating utensils for 4 people: cups, plates, bowls, and cutlery. A 10 liter water tank (filled with water) is included as well.
When we rented a Spaceships Campervan in 2016, they included a book with campsites to help you find your way around the country. Handy, but probably a little outdated in our highly connected world. However, in the meantime they caught up. Spaceships now has its own Spaceships Travel App. It’s free and has tons of information in it for both Australia and New Zealand. From campground info, over WiFi hotspots and public toilets, to things to see and do, this app seems to have it all.
Unfortunately we haven’t been able to try out the free Spaceships Travel App ourselves, but it looks promising! Instead, we used apps like CamperMate New Zealand, CamperMate Australia, and Rankers for New Zealand.
And last but not least, 2 New Zealand guidebooks called NZ Frenzy are included with the rental of a Spaceships Campervan as well. You receive a digital version of both the NZ Frenzy – North Island and NZ Frenzy – South Island guidebook. If you decide to rent your campervan with another company, we highly recommend buying these guidebooks. We got a lot of inspiration and great tips out of them!
Accessories for hire with Spaceships
I bet you can still think of things that would come in handy when road tripping/camping that I haven’t mentioned yet. Chances are Spaceships has those items available for hire. If you’re renting a Spaceships Campervan for an extended period of time though, you can probably get a thing or two for free, like we did.
In Australia we got a camping table with two chairs and a GPS. We bought our own extension chord. In New Zealand we just got a table and a GPS. We bought the Heater Pack for NZ$50, because it was fall at the time. We could definitely use a heater, and we needed the 240-volt mains plug. Apparently you can’t use a regular extension chord on the powered sites of New Zealand campsites.
The service at Spaceships
We were very pleased with the service at Spaceships. The staff was friendly at all times, and happy to answer every (silly) question we had. They showed genuine interested in our road trip and gave a couple of tips here and there.
It’s possible to do an after-hours pick-up or drop-off at no additional cost. We made use of that service when picking up our Spaceships Campervan in Christchurch, New Zealand. We received a code to get to the key, and found the campervan on the side of the road in front of the Spaceships building. Inside the campervan we found a bunch of information brochures, a bottle of water and a pack of 12 bottles of alcohol free lemon beer. That was a nice surprise!
Usually you have to pay extra when you want to drop off your campervan in another spot than you picked it up, but not with Spaceships. The one way option is free of charge. We made use of this service as well, starting our trip in Christchurch, on the South Island, and ending it in Auckland, on the North Island.
At Spaceships they pride themselves on having no hidden costs. The quote you get will include everything we’ve mentioned here. There are no booking fees, road user fees, or driver fees, and you can drive an unlimited amount of kilometers (or miles). Even 24 hour roadside service is covered.
In New Zealand there’s apparently one free taxi ride included as well. We only found out when returning our Spaceships Campervan in Auckland and obviously made use of it to get to our hotel near the airport.
Advantages of a Spaceships Campervan
There are tons of companies offering campervans in all colours and sizes in both New Zealand and Australia. For practical and financial reasons we decided to go for a small campervan without bathroom or kitchen. Even then there are several companies to choose from, with Jucy and Wicked as some of the most popular ones.
We compared prices and features of Jucy and Spaceships, and ended up going with a Spaceships Campervan. Below we’ll discuss what pushed us over the line.
Advantages of a small campervan over a big one
Sure, a big campervan has more room than a small one. It has a comfortable sleeping area, its own bathroom and kitchen, and you can stand up straight in it. The Spaceships Campervan we lived in for 4 months however, is actually just a car with campervan features. You may feel claustrophobic at times, but it’ll save you a bunch of money. Not just on rental and fuel costs, but it’s also the cheapest vehicle transfer via ferry between the North and South Island.
A small campervan is faster and easier to manage. We gained up quickly on big campervans while driving the Australian roads, and saw a bunch of people struggling to get their castle on wheels into the individual sites on campsites. When you go (grocery) shopping or have to park in a covered parking lot, there’s no need to worry about fitting underneath those low ceilings. And in New Zealand, some roads are prohibited for big campervans, or just not doable. Convinced yet?
Honestly, I had a love/hate relationship with our Spaceships Campervan. I loved how cosy it was on the inside. I hated having to change while laying on the bed. I loved how easy it was to drive and park and maneuver. I hated having to walk all the way to the shared bathrooms for a shower or toilet visit. I loved how much money we saved, which we used to extend our round the world trip. I could go on, but I’m afraid I’ll bore you to death. Conclusion: if we had to do our trip over, we wouldn’t change a thing and choose a Spaceships Campervan again!
Advantages of a Spaceships Campervan compared to a Jucy Campervan
While shopping for a rental campervan in Australia, we compared the Jucy Crib to the Spaceships Campervan. The Jucy Crib felt a bit more spacious and the fridge and cooking section was easier to reach. When testing the bed however, it wasn’t possible for Brecht to stretch out without hitting anything, so make sure to test that for yourself.
The Spaceships Campervan on the other hand had that tent trunk extension I mentioned earlier. It’s one of the main reasons we went with Spaceships in the end. It really makes a difference to have some airflow and space above your head. That said, we actually never used it in New Zealand as it was too cold at night, so do keep the weather into account.
Another reason was insurance. We wanted the peace of mind of having no bond and being insured for everything (except single vehicle rollover). With Spaceships the price for that was considerably lower than Jucy could offer, even though they had been able to lower the rental cost to the level of the Spaceships quote.
A 4 month road trip in a Spaceships Campervan
We lived for almost 4 months on end in a Spaceships Campervan and are still recommending you to rent one too. I guess that says something. To complete our Spaceships Campervan review, we’ll briefly summarize that extended road trip below.
Did you know?
Every Spaceships Campervan has a name. Cute right?!
A road trip through Australia
In Australia we rented a Spaceships Beta 2 called Stargazer for 82 days with an all inclusive insurance for AUS$5,054 (US$3,743.70). We drove 13,429 km (8,344 miles) from Sydney, via Canberra, Melbourne, and Adelaide, through the Outback, all the way up to Cairns and via the East Coast back to Sydney. This road trip cost us AUS$1,648.78 in fuel (US$1,221.32), an expense you need to consider when planning a trip like this.
We stayed at paid campsites in Australia, so we’d have access to a clean shower, toilet, kitchen, and WiFi. We’ve written reviews on all of them, which you can find on our Australia Destination page.
Another option is to go free camping in Australia, also known as freedom camping. Do note that it’s not allowed everywhere, and there can be significant fines for camping in a restricted area. If you decide to go free camping, do so responsibly!
What’s freedom camping? Freedom camping is camping (in a tent, campervan, or RV) on public land with minimal or no facilities, like a toilet or a shower.
You can look for a campsite using Booking.com, or a campsite app like the Spaceships Travel App and CamperMate Australia. Both of these apps have a wealth of information on free (green), low cost (blue) and paid (purple) campsites. You can read and leave reviews, get exclusive last minute deals, and find grocery stores, public toilets, laundromats, petrol stations, activities, and free WiFi. Everything you need in one app!
A road trip through New Zealand
In New Zealand we rented a Spaceships Beta 2S called Archimedes for 29 days with an all inclusive insurance for NZ$1,740 (US$1,208.33). We drove 5,153 km (3202 miles) from Christchurch to Auckland, exploring all over both of New Zealand’s islands. This road trip cost us NZ$1,054.23 in fuel (US$732.10).
In New Zealand we stayed at paid campsites as well, for the same reasons as we did in Australia. We’ve selected the 10 best campsites in New Zealand for digital nomads in another post.
Just like in Australia, you can go freedom camping in New Zealand as well. Again, it’s not allowed everywhere, and not sticking to designated sites can result in significant fines. Check out this website dedicated to freedom Camping in New Zealand, it has lots of info on where to do it and how to do it responsibly.
You can look for a campsite using Booking.com, or a campsite app like the Spaceships Travel App, CamperMate New Zealand, and Rankers. Each of these apps have a wealth of information on free (green), low cost (blue) and paid (purple) campsites. You can read and leave reviews, get exclusive last minute deals, and find grocery stores, public toilets, laundromats, petrol stations, activities, and free WiFi. The CamperMate app even has mountain track safety alerts. Everything you need in one app!
We had a blast roadtripping Australia and New Zealand in a Spaceships Campervan and will never forget these 4 months. We hope (are fairly certain actually) that you’ll have a similar awesome time doing a road trip like this with a Spaceships Campervan. Keep Wandering the World!
Do you have any experience with a similar road trip? Did you rent a Spaceships Campervan as well, or did you go with another company? We’d love to read about your experience in the comments and are curious if you agree with this review of our Spaceships Campervan!
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