Renting A Car In Iceland
If you are travelling to Iceland and have a sense of adventure we would highly recommend renting a car and doing a self driving tour around the island. There are no trains, hardly any busses and hitch-hiking could be very unpleasant as you never know what kind of weather you are going to get. Our first trip in early 2017 was 7 nights and we only did the southern coast of Iceland. You could get it done in much less than that if you are going in the summer and have much more light. Our days were short with only about 7 hours of sun each day. In reality it was cloudy almost the entire trip so it was tough to see anything before 8:30am or after 6pm. Renting a car in Iceland can seem like a bit of a daunting task because there is a lot of information out there – especially regarding road conditions.
We are here to hopefully help make it easier to rent a car – whether it be in summer or winter.
Finding The Right Rental Company
When you are deciding on the right company for renting a car in Iceland you should probably consider the following:
- How new of a vehicle do you want?
- What is your budget for a rental car?
- What kind of vehicle do you want? Small car? 4×4? Large truck?
- How much are you planning on driving? Does your company put limit or charge on how many KMs you drive?
- What level of comfort do you want while driving?
- Do you want to drive on F-Roads?
We spent a lot of time researching about driving and renting a car in Iceland. Here at home in Canada we do a road trip to Toronto each year – its about 3500kms each way and we usually do it in 3-4 days each way. In 2011 we spent 30 days driving 13,800 across and around Canada. For us driving is fun and an enjoyable way to see the world. Some people may not share our love of the road so driving even 400kms a day may seem daunting.
The key to renting a car in Iceland is to find the right company and right car for what you plan on doing. We knew it was going to be winter. We knew we may drive in snow, ice or rain. We knew the road conditions could be very poor. Because of this, we knew we wanted a medium/large 4×4 vehicle with studded tires.
The company we ended up deciding to rent from was Sad Cars Iceland.
There are a few reasons we chose Sad Cars:
1) Friends of ours used them and had a very positive experience.
2) They were by far the cheapest option out there for a 4×4 with studded tires.
3) Their cars are old. Because of this, they aren’t too worried about cosmetic damage to their cars. Glass and tire damage are another story though.
4) They picked us up from the airport and took us to their location. They also drove us from their location to the airport when we dropped off our car.
5) We did not care what kind of vehicle we rented, so long as it was reliable, able to travel F-Roads, and affordable.
We ended up getting a blue Toyota Rav 4 with around 360,000kms on it. If you are renting a car in Iceland, finding the right rental car company could mean the difference between a great or a horrible experience.
Finding The Right Rental Car
You may chose your rental company first or you may chose your car first. Regardless of which one you do first you need to make sure you pick the right car for your trip.
When deciding what kind of vehicle you are renting you should think about the following:
- Will you be driving on F-Roads?
- How comfortable do you want to be while driving?
- How far/long will you be driving?
- How many people will be travelling with you?
- How much luggage/gear/stuff will you be travelling with?
- How confident of a driver are you/will you be in a new country?
Will you be driving on F-Roads?
- If yes (which we highly recommend if you are a seasoned confident driver) you MUST rent a 4×4 vehicle that is allowed to drive on F-Roads. Each rental company will have its own policies on which of their vehicles can go on F-Roads.
- Only 4×4 vehicles are allowed on F-Roads. That is the law in Iceland. Some F-Roads include river crossings that you will need a special vehicle to cross.
- Some F-Roads are only open during the summer months – make sure you plan ahead and check Iceland driving conditions and road closures.
- Even if you don’t plan on driving on F-Roads, you may still want a 4×4 – especially in the winter.
How far/long will you be driving?
- You can easily visit dozens of amazing sights within a 3 hour drive of Reykjavik. However, if you drive further away you can see some amazing landscapes and have to deal with far few tourists. If you plan on doing lots of driving, a vehicle that gets good fuel milage would be ideal. Fuel is not cheap in Iceland. Regular unleaded gasoline seemed to be at a minimum of $2.00CDN per litre and up to $2.50CDN per litre (or between $7 and $8USD/Gallon).
- If you will be sticking close to Reykjavik and other major centres you will likely be fine with a small 2WD vehicle.
How confident of a driver are you/will you be in a new country?
- We used our cell phone & google maps to navigate most of the areas we travelled to in Iceland. If you are not very confident driving, we would highly suggest a newer vehicle with GPS. The main road is very easy to navigate, but finding restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and hotels may be more difficult for some. A GPS would be beneficial for those not used to self-navigating or reading maps.
- If you are renting a car in Iceland but are not a confident winter driver you should definitely get a 4×4 during the winter months. Also make sure it has studded tires.
Unless you are extremely lucky, you will encounter adverse weather in Iceland. At one point it was so windy we saw waterfalls flowing up. Seriously.
With winds easily 100km/hr or more you can imagine the debris that could get whipped around. The day we saw these waterfalls flowing up we hiked on a glacier. There were two vans that took people to the spot where we were hiking. Our group finished first and while we were changing and waiting in the parking lot area the other van had its window smashed in. It was a brand new large passenger van, the wind picked up and tiny pebbles and gravel flew all around. It destroyed the sliding door window of the van that was just sitting there.
GET EXTRA INSURANCE FOR YOUR VEHICLE! We rented our car on a credit card with very good insurance, so we declined SadCar’s extra insurance, but only because the coverage from our card is better. Check your credit card’s policies regarding auto insurance! If you are renting a car in Iceland you want to make sure you have the best coverage possible.
Renting a car in Iceland is not that difficult to do, but finding the right type of car and the right company does require some research. Make sure you plan ahead and know exactly what it is you plan to do in Iceland. Being ill-prepared on the roads is extremely dangerous as the lanes are small, the weather is extreme and changes very fast.
If you plan ahead and chose the right car for your trip it will make a world of difference as you explore this breathtaking island country.
To learn more about Iceland, view our other posts here: