He may have one of the Waikato's smallest councils, but Hauraki District mayor John Tregidga is driving around in the most expensive ratepayer funded vehicle in the region.

While some Waikato mayors are racing around with brand-new, high-spec cars - some with V6 and V8 engines - others have opted to save the ratepayer and use their own cars for council business.

Tregidga upgraded to a Hyundai Santa Fe straight after the elections at a cost of $59,109 excluding GST - making his mayoral car the most expensive of all Waikato mayors.

Special features include a driver's seat that remembers your exact seating position and a satellite navigation system with real-time traffic updates to automatically help you avoid trouble spots.

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Tregidga, whose council covers 1269sq km and a population of 18,750 covering Paeroa, Waihi and the Hauraki Plains, said he was unaware he was driving the dearest vehicle, but remained "comfortable" with his choice.

Tregidga said he chose the Santa Fe because it was an SUV and that model held its price extremely well.

"I do a lot of mileage and in my 12 years as mayor it's never been an issue. I've had no reaction either from my councillors or the community about the car I drive."

Although he had a relatively small council area, he regularly travelled to Auckland as part of his role as a chair of the Hauraki Gulf Forum and also to Hamilton.

"Maybe it's a recognition of my 30 years in local government - I don't know."

Waikato mayor Allan Sanson is a close second, recently ordering a Toyota Highlander 2017 Limited Edition for $56,456.70 excluding GST to replace his previous 2014 model. The AWD has a V6 engine and a recommended retail price of $71,470 (inc GST) plus on-road costs.

Sanson's vehicle is the most expensive in the range, according to the Toyota website, and the Limited Edition has additional features such as a rear entertainment system with 9" LCD display, power sunroof and front-seat ventilation.

But the vehicle has a fuel efficiency rating of only 3.5/6 according to Rightcar.govt.nz - among the lowest in Waikato's mayoral fleet.

Sanson told the Herald fuel efficiency was not a consideration when looking for a car - more important was durability and safety, because he clocked up about 45,000km each year.

"We have over 700km of unsealed roads and it's not always the kindest on vehicles. To give you an idea, the last mayor Peter Harris came back twice with a muffler in the boot."

He went for the Limited Edition because it was the same model as his last, Sanson said.

In a statement, the Waikato District Council said factors taken into consideration when selecting the mayor's vehicle were that it was capable of high annual usage, four-wheel drive and suitable for a roading network requiring travel on metal roads. Safety and fuel consumption were also important.

Matamata-Piako mayor Jan Barnes paid only $45,735.47 for her 2016 Holden Commodore VF SS, which has an RRP of $64,990 and the worst fuel efficiency rating of all the Waikato ratepayer-funded mayoral cars at just 2.5/6.

A council spokesman confirmed the council paid all the fuel and running costs and that depreciation, safety and fuel economy were among the factors in making the decision.

When questioned why a V8 was chosen, he said it was better than a V6.

"In this instance, I understand the advances in fuel technology with the V8 allow the number of cylinders to cut back when the vehicle is at optimum performance, creating fuel economies better than that of a V6."

The council also acknowledged it must have got a good deal with a discount of more than $20,000 less the recommended retail price.

Their spending is in stark contrast with that of Hamilton mayor Andrew King and Thames Coromandel mayor Sandra Goudie, both newcomers this term, who have opted to use their personal cars.

Both pay for running expenses, with Goudie using the council's petrol card if she is going out on council business.

King said he chose not to have a council-funded vehicle because he did not need to. "I don't take any expenses at all. I don't say that should be how it is - it is up to individuals and their financial positions."

He said he was not doing it to make others look bad and it was not something he usually brought up.

Goudie said she could not be bothered with having a council car and while it saved the council money, it cost her as it was putting up the mileage in her car.

"I couldn't be bothered with all the palaver basically . . . I like to keep things simple . . . I would rather be a bit more generous than try and rort the system. It's not a biggie for me."

The Waikato District Council and the Waipa District Council declined to reveal the exact price of the council vehicles, citing confidentiality with the supplier.

Otorohanga mayor Max Baxter shelled out about $7000 of his own money so he could drive a Skoda Octavia. South Waikato mayor Jenny Shattock's Hyundai i40 was the cheapest in the Waikato mayoral fleet, costing her $29,832.34, but with retail value of $37,382.

None of the Waikato mayors has chosen to follow in the footsteps of Auckland mayor Phil Goff, who is using a Toyota Prius (hybrid). Wellington mayor Justin Lester donated his $60,000 car budget to the city arts portfolio budget to help up-and-coming artists.

The Waikato Regional Council, which is actively promoting the use of electric vehicles to other businesses, said chair Alan Livingston opted for a Mazda Cx-5 over a full electronic vehicle because there was not one available with 4WD capacity. The council had one electric vehicle which it was trialling and would look for opportunities to use them in future as technology and pricing improved.