Nope. It's a bit more complicated than that once you start developing a truly deep understanding of the destination.
I make no bones about loathing campervans. While I acknowledge that my view is at one extreme, I must also point out that the gap between what is promised in the media and what is delivered in-country is so large that it raises my hackles. The pristine wilderness which has been sold to you becomes a nightmare of clogged roads, being the last one in at clogged campgrounds with all the best spots going to locals year after year. And then, you simply have no idea what to do with your time and rely on the advice of other foreigners in the ghetto part of the campsite. If this sort of thing rocks your boat, be my guest, but you won't find me there.
With some clients in the past who were irretrievably addicted to the notion of wide open spaces, we rented campervans but also put deals together with landowners and locals in order to manage to deliver on their dreams. That way they miraculously found idyllic spots to park with no one around for miles, were miraculously visited by a local shepherd who just happened to have a couple of local delicacies he dropped by. It's possible to make those dreams happen, but not when you don't know how things work.
Rental cars are a good way of getting around. For quite a number of travellers though, driving on the other side of the road for a short ten day trip can be a bit daunting. They have a lot to achieve in a short time and don't want to waste energy on learning new systems. Both are good options. Having your own vehicle gives you more space and time - something I would recommend on long open South Island roads. I definitely wouldn't recommend it in Auckland city though. So, our clients who use rental cars would only use them in places where the benefit of using them doesn't come at an outrageous cost of traffic, congestion, confusion and frustration.
Then there is the question of what sort of rental cars. In selecting cars as a family for our children, we go for something with a good engine capacity (1800cc upwards), not too low to the ground and with decent tyres. That's the safety side of things. We would recommend a 4WD for the better visibility while driving, better storage space, and the ability to go on gravel roads without worrying. A number of our legal roads are still gravel roads.
For the driving enthusiast, everything changes. Convertibles come into play, sports cars, supercars, vintage cars, motorcycles (Harleys, cruisers, vintage, offroad) - whatever puts a smile on your face. Then we take it up yet another gear and start bringing in racing tracks, rally driving, big four wheel drive expeditions and so on. For the motoring enthusiast this has to be one of the most enjoyable countries in the world.
For those with zero interest in cars who only want to get from A to B with minimum fuss, we have a number of partners who provide highly professional transfer services around the country. You won't even notice you're in a car! (tongue in cheek of course)
For those who don't want to drive but want to experience the road and hear a guided commentary which they can turn on or off at will, a private driver/guide does the job.
And for those who don't mind spending $5000+ per day, every day, then your own private helicopter has to be the ultimate way to travel. I've guided a few of these myself and they're not an easy thing to guide. You can eat up distance so quickly that the amount you can fit into a day can increase by a multiple of five. I had one client once where I had arranged a picnic on the beach as the final stop of this particular heli-day. I'd budgeted a reasonable 90 minutes on the ground to sit, eat, walk around a bit and let everything soak in. Within 20 minutes they were asking me what was next and I had to work my phone hard. But, just because you can does not necessarily mean that a helicopter safari needs to be rushed, in my opinion the ideal is the opposite.
Read more in these associated articles: