Britz Campervans Reviews
A different view every morning - but at a price Jul 01, 2008
Booking a camper van with Britz (www.britz.co.nz) is a breeze with friendly and efficient staff providing swift service and answers. The range of campers to hire is extensive and the policies are quite clearly laid out. Costs compared equally with the several other companies also offering a similar service and it’s locations around the major ports of entry mean arrival to on the road is very short.
Picking up the van was simple; I was collected from Auckland airport by the courtesy bus and deposited safe and sound just 5 minutes later at the Britz compound. I was seen to very swiftly by a ruthlessly efficient chap who showed me the workings of the van and then spoke to me of insurance. The paper work completed, I was given a great deal of literature about New Zealand with maps and tour guides, all excellent. Then I was waved off and hit the roads.
The Britz Elite 2 berth VW Camper Van – how to describe it? Spacious? Certainly. I was travelling by myself and as such there was ample space for one. With the bed in the back made up there was also a great deal of sleeping space for one or two sharing and it was comfortable enough. As to living space – I suspect that two sharing would need to be on good terms as there really was very limited space but not too bad.
The engine was totally adequate for the New Zealand landscape and I rarely had irrate drivers stuck behind me on the roads as the power seemed plenty to get me up some really steep inclines.
So, hiring a Britz Camper Van is a great idea? Well, no. Not really. Or at least: possibly not. I shall explain.
4 years ago I hired a larger camper from the same company for a jaunt around North Island and had a very new machine that was perfect – in every way. This time my experience was rather different.
Taking over the camper I was astonished at the number of dinks, dents, scratches, chips and other damage to the vehicle. This worried me but the helpful chap did point out that at least I did not have to worry about getting the odd scratch as it would be unnoticeable on the paperwork, and he had a point. It did surprise me however that presumably the previous renters had been charged for this damage and yet the repairs have not been carried out – perhaps a matter for a far better legal mind than mine. Nevermind – I soldiered on.
Within 20kms the first major problem presented itself. The CD player would overheat if the heater was also on in the cab. At first I suspected my CDs were at fault but cleaning them and swapping them made no difference – I only worked out that it was overheating when I noticed that the CD player would operate fine at the start of my journeys each day and then swiftly stop playing and then one day I did not have the cab heater on the player worked fine. A small problem one might suspect but consider travelling alone – who do you talk to? How do you stop your mind from wandering? The radio was an option but the quality of local radio in New Zealand is poor. Some good music but constantly interrupted by inane and cheap adverts. Also there seems to be no national coverage so one is constantly forced to search the airwaves for the next available station. Quite dangerous in my opinion. I could have driven without the cab heater on but it was winter, so not really an option.
The engine was reliable but had undertaken over 250000kms in its life and did seem rather thirsty. The published KPL of 10.6KM per litre was rather optimistic but I had no problems with it otherwise – it started first time and never once coughed to cause worry in some of the more remote regions.
The cleanliness of the van was also in question. When I went to use the toilet/shower inside the van it was very quickly clear that it had not been properly cleaned for some time and that there was very obviously congealed urine around the seat and, upon closer but careful inspection, a congealed moth that had had the misfortune to end its days behind the toilet seat – disgusting. I certainly did not plan to use that “facility” during my trip”. I also found a used sleeping bag cover shoved under the sink in the kitchen area. Why it was there I have no idea but it made a useful storage sack for things like my camera and passport etc. The roof looked like the demon urinator had managed to put the camper on its roof and gone to town on it. I worked out that the roof stains were as a result of condensation forming on the roof, which then rolled toward the front of the van and dripped on the unfortunate driver, a second “shower” I was to become used to each morning.
Another issue was the security of the van – the mid bodied left hand window had a habit of being shaken open as one drove during the day and being very difficult to lock – this meant I really did not keep anything valuable in the van at all, as recommended by Britz themselves.
The fixtures and fittings were also suspect and, in one case dangerous. The cab roof lining had come away and could not be re-secured – I drove hoping it would not fall on my head, the toilet door had a habit of swinging open as one drove, the cooker glass top hinge looked like it had seen better days and, most dangerous of all, the LPG bottle was secured by a twisted coat hanger wire. This latter I did not notice until I came to refill the bottle at the end of my trip and I was advised by the garage attendant that I was actually driving the vehicle illegally because of that, so thank you Britz.
The heater in the back was, well, pointless as far as I could tell. With the van parked up and plugged in, the heater switched on full having first re-secured the fascia with my screwdriver – it had worked loose. It noisily huffed out intermittently cold and luke-warm air. Considering that temperatures regularly dropped below freezing at night this was not good. The summer quilt that had been provided with the van had to be supplemented with a blanket that I bought after the first night in the van.
The curtains had, at some point in the past, been secured, once closed with Velcro fasteners to ensure privacy, these were now either missing or broken. I could go on….
Clean – no
Luxurious – no
Secure - no
Quality – no
Value for money – perhaps, it was quite cheap to hire but I do know that the costs were similar to other companies.
All told I was very disappointed with what Britz had presented me this time. I could have taken it to one of a number of Britz offices and demanded some changes but my holiday was short and the driving times and distances between offices were large and to be honest the spectacle outside the van, New Zealand itself, mollified my miffedness.
It is a real shame that Britz, the largest such company in New Zealand (they also operate under the name of Maui and Backpacker), have let their stock go so badly. I had rebooked due to my previous excellent experience but I shall never do so again. There are many other companies offering campers in New Zealand now. On my travels the far and away best looking of them and the ones I actually heard the praises of were a company called Kea (www.nz.keacampers.com) but of course several other companies are available.
My suggestions to Britz? More attention to detail, and on your older stock offer it as older stock and charge a lower rate – my expectations were high and the offering did not match them. A good experience does lead to re-bookings and recommendations.
Britz have been offered the opportunity to respond to this review
3 / 3 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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