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Car Advice for 5-1/2 month trip to New Zealand

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My spouse, our two young children and I will be traveling to NZ in December 2013 for a 5-1/2 month stay. We will travel the South Island extensively, then settle down in a surf town on the North Island and take mostly long weekend trips.

Could anyone advise on how to easily and economically purchase/rent/lease a car without breaking the bank or spending long days on either end to buy and sell the vehicle? I saw a great program with Peugeot Eurolease for New Zealanders going to Europe, but nothing like it for people from the US going to New Zealand. We need something reliable and safe and unlimited miles would help.

Most things I've read said to buy, but having never done this overseas before--with two small children in tow--is rather daunting.

Also, if you have advice on how to do this without a local address (since we will be traveling the first month), I'd very much appreciate it!

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