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We are planning to hire a car while we are in New Zealand. We are thinking of driving the Forgotten Lost Highway (New Zealand state Highway 43).

Just wanted to know whether it is advisable to do this road in a rental where you would probably be charged if there is even a scratch? How rough is this road? Is it dangerous in any way? Is it paved the whole way?

  • 1
    Note: The is no cell phone coverage for much of SH43 and no petrol stations. So make sure you have a full tank before you set out,(plus check oil, water, tires (spare!) etc). Also bring your passport so you can get it stamped at the Whangamomona Hotel (psudo independent micro nation) – DarcyThomas Oct 26 '16 at 20:32
  • Check it out on Street View - Google Maps. It has all been photographed. – user53001 Oct 26 '16 at 21:30
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Portions of the road are not fully paved. It is regarded as a relatively dangerous road by New Zealanders, and rightly so. Here is an interactive tool that lets you search NZ locations for car accidents; you'll note that there are a lot on SH43, even more significant when you consider how little traffic the road actually gets. If you are not familiar with driving on unsealed roads, or with driving on the left side of the road, I would advise caution.

For the rental, it really depends on the kind of rental company you're dealing with. The big chains that offer you a very new car are likely to be meticulous in checking for damage. The "rent-a-wreck" family businesses who offer you decades-old Japanese cars are likely to be more forgiving, if they even care. And of course there are shades of grey in between.

Indeed, some rental companies have specific rules on where you can take your car, and taking it on an unsealed road may invalidate your contract. Check also your driving insurance. (Note that NZ does not require all drivers to have insurance, which makes it even more important to get insurance as a rental driver. You don't want to ruin your holiday.)

Obviously, people's perception of whether a road is "dangerous" or "difficult" to drive vary tremendously. Let me be clear: The SH43 is nothing like the Carretara 3-NA in Peru, or the Rohtang Pass in India. It's probably more similar to a B or C class road in the Scottish highlands. (Thanks to davidb for that comparison.)

  • As a note, we rented a car in Christchurch a few months after the big earthquake, from one of the cheap-and-cheerful firms. They were immensely pragmatic about the road conditions and didn't even blink when we returned the car with a hubcap left on the back seat... – Andrew Oct 26 '16 at 18:35
  • Judging from Google Street View, there's not really anything similar to the unpaved sections in the United States. The surface condition is comparable to the better rural gravel roads, but those tend to be narrow two-lane roads, where SH 43 looks like it's one lane wide. – Mark Oct 26 '16 at 21:41
  • The only road in the USA I know of that sounds comparable is the Apache Trail, east of Phoenix, Arizona. Most of it remains unpaved, perhaps to cut down on traffic. – Andrew Lazarus Oct 26 '16 at 21:58
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Highway 43 is definitely a must see for a NZ trip but it is indeed one of the most dangerous roads in New Zealand. The road is paved in vast sections but there are sections of graveled road and narrow drives through gorges along the way. The majority however is akin to rural B and C class roads in the UK. If you have experience on these roads then you should be fine.

Regarding rental insurance. I would research thoroughly the rental market and pay particular attention to such clauses regarding "off roading" and certainly consider paying for optional extras that cover minor damage.

  • Driving the unpaved sections of SH43 wouldn't count as "off road" though - it's a formed road, just not a paved one. In my experience, most rental insurance covers travelling on formed gravel roads (but not beaches, which are sometimes designated as official roads too). – Nick Edwards Oct 26 '16 at 19:15

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