0
25

Everything You Need to Know About Renting a Car in Iceland

Let’s get right down to business…yes you should absolutely rent a car on your trip to Iceland. No question, the best way to travel through Iceland is by renting a car! Iceland is such an easy country to drive through, and there isn’t much traffic – you can seriously go miles without seeing another car! And trust me, it’s so nice to have the freedom to stop where you want and for however long you want.

I know there is a lot that goes into trip planning, and a car rental is just one step. If you do your research ahead of time and know where you want to go, the travel part is going to be easy!

This post is part 1 of the ultimate road trip planning series:

Here are the main points you want to consider before purchasing a rental car for your Iceland road trip.

Are you planning a to road trip in Iceland? Wondering what to look for in a rental car? Here is everything you need to consider when deciding on what kind of car to rent on your trip to Iceland!

4WD

This is by far the most common question and definitely something worth considering.

The answer primarily depends on a) where you are planning to go and b) the season you are traveling in.

  • If you are driving the Golden Circle, the ring road, or cruising around during summer, then no.
  • If you’re visiting in the winter and/or you’re not use to driving on icy roads, then yes. Roads in Iceland are not very well maintained, especially outside of Reykjavik. Not only that, but the wind in Iceland can be so strong, you might feel like it could blow you right off the road! The weight of the bigger vehicle will give you peace of mind when traveling.
  • If you are planning to drive on any F-roads (off the main roads, usually in the interior of Iceland), then yes you will for sure need a 4wd. All of the rental cars have a sticker on the dashboard that warns you against driving off road. Not only can it be dangerous to you if you violate this rule, but it can also get you a hefty fine if the rental company finds any damage.

Everything you need to know about renting a car in Iceland | Life With a View

GPS

GPS rental is usually around $10/day, and in my opinion, for that price you can buy a nice old fashioned paper map! Honestly, I don’t think a GPS is necessary in Iceland, it’s maybe the easiest country to navigate?! We ordered an awesome waterproof map from Amazon before we left, and it worked out great. It was actually kind of fun to use a real map!

We were also very prepared ahead of time for our road trip, which helped a lot. I made a detailed itinerary of where we were planning to stop, and the drive time between each place. This was easily done with google maps, and barring any bad weather, will be accurate during your road trip.

If you are just on a quick stopover or spending a couple of days in Reykjavik, I highly recommend getting the City Maps 2Go app by Ulmon and downloading the city before you leave. That will make the streets easy to navigate, and we were able to get out of the city and onto the ring road with that.

Who needs a GPS?! I think paper maps are the way to go, especially in Iceland because it's such an easy to navigate country // Everything you need to know about renting a car in Iceland | Life With a View

Insurance

I know I know, no one wants to purchase insurance for a rental car, but in Iceland it’s an absolute must. If you don’t have insurance on the vehicle, some companies will require a damage deposit of up to $1,500 before you even leave the pick up desk. Travel Guard is a great company to purchase travel insurance from. Do yourself a favor and get the full package, between rocks, ice, and ash, Iceland takes a toll on vehicles!

I spoke with a local company and they said that this especially important for American travelers, because it isn’t automatically added. Sometimes certain credit cards (American Express, I believe) will cover the insurance.

Fuel

It’s important to remember that Iceland is a small island in the middle of the Atlantic…things are expensive up here! Don’t forget to budget for gas, especially if you will be driving a lot (~$60 USD/day).

  • You can expect fuel to be around $5.50 USD per gallon
  • If you request a diesel vehicle, it’s cheaper per liter and gives you better fuel economy
  • Fill up literally wherever you can. Gas stations in Iceland are few and far between, and sometimes it’s just one pump on the side of the road!

Gas stations are few and far between in Iceland, fill up where ever you can! // Everything you need to know about renting a car in Iceland | Life With a View

Mileage

Do yourself a favor and make sure your rental includes unlimited miles. You never know where you’ll going to want to go!

Types of Transportation

Obviously the two most common ways to travel are by car and SUV. But one thing I love is that Iceland offers two unique ways to travel around this country so that you get the most out of your vacation.

  • Car
  • SUV
  • Camper Van – Does having your vehicle and accommodation rolled into one sound good to you? Do you want to park (in designated areas, only!) on the side of the road and wake up right in the Icelandic wilderness? Then Camper Vans are for you! Not only is this option your wheels and your bed, but it is also equipped for cooking as well! If this isn’t glamping, I don’t know what is.

  • Big Rig – so you have your normal SUV, and then you have your big rigs. These vehicles are serious heavy duty 4×4’s that have been modified to handle anything that the Icelandic wilderness throws at you. You will be able to get you into the interior places of Iceland like Landmannalaugar and Thorsmork.  If you want to drive through streams and take the F-roads head on, these bookings are for you.

A photo posted by @lifewithaview15 on

Choosing a Company

Your choice of a rental company depends entire only on the above preferences and your needs as a driver. There are big name rentals and smaller companies, and each will have something good to offer. Consider your individual needs for your trip.

No matter who you choose, I would recommend getting pick-up at the Keflavik airport. If you are thinking about getting transported into Reykjavik, a bus or taxi will cost you $20-$50 each way.

  • The following companies are right in the Keflavik airport:
  • If you hire other companies, make sure to know whether or not they offer free airport pick up

What else do I need to know?

  • The peak rental season in Iceland is May-September. Outside of those months rentals become cheaper. This can allow you significant savings!
  • Always, always, always check the road conditions, especially if you are traveling in winter. I cannot stress this enough. The weather in Iceland is very unpredictable and road conditions can change rapidly. Be prepared, and don’t take any chances.
  • There is a great app called 112 Iceland that can be used in an emergency to notify a response center.
  • In an emergency, call 112

Always check road conditions before traveling in Iceland // Everything you need to know about renting a car in Iceland | Life With a View

 

By far the most intimidating thing will be when you exit the airport and pick up your rental car. The drive from the airport goes through a big lava field and you will feel like you are driving on another planet. DON’T WORRY. This is going to be the most difficult part of your drive (and it´s not that bad!) Allow for 45 mins to get from the airport to downtown Reykjavik.

From the rental car pick-up lot, turn right out of the airport driveway. When you get to the roundabout, take the first exit onto Road 41 towards Reykjavik. You will go through two more roundabouts, and then several small towns on the way. Continue straight on Road 41 for about 45 kilometers. Road 41 will intersect with Road 40, follow Road 40 straight towards Reykjavik. Road 40 will lead you into downtown Reykjavik. When you see the mountains ahead, you are almost there. Laugavegur is the main road in downtown, and will be a turn to your left.

Congratulations, you drove from the airport to Reykjavik without a GPS!

(See map below)

Remember that Iceland is incredibly beautiful, but safety comes first. Invest in a rental vehicle that is right for your itinerary, and most importantly keeps you safe!

I hope your Iceland road trip is everything you want it to be and more!


Question: What’s your road trip plan for Iceland?

 

 

 

 

You Might Also Like

  • Tobias Armstrong
    March 28, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    Thanks for sharing the peak rental season. I’ve always wanted to go to Iceland, and I really want to have my own car when I’m there. Knowing what I’m going to get myself into, and being able to plan a little bit in advance to avoid most of the crowds seems like it would be the smartest track. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jeannie
      April 5, 2016 at 11:27 am

      Absolutely Tobias! Good call on having your own car, it’s definitely the best way to see a lot of beautiful things in Iceland. Happy to help 🙂

    • Michelle
      December 3, 2016 at 9:21 pm

      HI Jeannie- Thank you so much for sharing this valuable information. I am actually travellng to Iceland this week. I was wondering what you thought about renting a a camper van in December. Is it too riskygiven teh weather and road conditions? what are the options for road side assistance if you get stuck somewhere? Is it too cold at this time to sleep in a camper? Who do you recommend for SUV / camper rentals? Thank you so much!!

      • Jeannie
        December 13, 2016 at 9:08 am

        I’m not sure about the camper rentals at this time of year. As far as assistance, your rental company should be able to help you if needed. And you can always call the emergency number which is 112. Have a great time!

  • Seth
    May 10, 2016 at 1:56 am

    Thanks for the valuable information! I’ve been reading that car/campervan rental companies requires driver license to be held for at least 12 months. Are there any exception to this rule?

    • Jeannie
      May 11, 2016 at 8:31 am

      Glad it was helpful, Seth! I’m not sure about that rule, you could to contact the company directly to check. Hope you have a great time in Iceland!

  • Brandon
    July 15, 2016 at 11:23 pm

    Which map did you get?

    • Jeannie
      July 17, 2016 at 2:49 pm

      Hey Brandon, I just updated the post with the map that I recommend from Amazon! http://amzn.to/29SxHA4
      Hope that helps 🙂

  • Jennifer Kupstas
    August 23, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    Hi Jeannie,
    Did you use travel guard insurance for your car versus paying for the extra insurance through the rental company. The extra insurance through the rental companies are SUPER expensive and still seem to have high deductibles in some cases.

    • Jeannie
      August 29, 2016 at 10:10 am

      The insurance thing depends on where you are coming from. As a US citizen we were able to use our insurance company in the states. I would check with your rental company and then compare prices with Travel Guard. Good luck!

  • Candi
    September 8, 2016 at 4:25 am

    Hi Jeannie,

    I’m going to travel Iceland in early Oct, 3 weeks away! We plan to drive along the Ring Road to Selfoss, Vik and see the glaciers; hit the Golden Circle, and tour the Snaefellsness Peninsula. Do you think a 2WD is good enough for our routes? We are from Canadian, so kind of okay with driving in winter.

    Thanks for your suggestion.

    • Jeannie
      September 8, 2016 at 1:52 pm

      Hi Candi! Yes a 2wd is absolutely sufficient for those routes! Early October won’t have much snow anyway. Happy travels, and let me know if you need any more help planning!

    • Alexis
      January 27, 2017 at 3:51 am

      Hey Candi — I hope you see this. How was your trip? We’re headed to Iceland in May with our baby who will be 8 months old. We’re planning to do the same trip. How was it? Any tips? Where did you stay along the way (as in towns…or any hotels or guesthouses that you loved)? We won’t be doing any tours or long hikes bc of the baby so we’ll mostly just be driving. 🙂

  • Emily
    October 13, 2016 at 6:05 am

    Hi! I was just wondering if it’s true that Iceland mostly has stick shift cars? Is it a big difference in cost when getting an automatic for 4 wheel drive?

  • caitlin
    November 10, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    Hi! I plan on driving the ring road May 10-20 of this year. I don’t foresee wanting to take the F roads, do you recommend a 2WD with diesel or regular fuel? Will I really save that much (planning on spending ~600 on fuel anyways)? Also do you have a preferred car rental service?

    • Jeannie
      November 15, 2016 at 10:19 am

      Hi Caitlin!
      During May you will have no trouble with a 2wd if you aren’t going on F-Roads. I have used Sixt rentals in the past and had a great experience with them! Happy planning 🙂

  • Jakob
    January 24, 2017 at 7:19 am

    Hello you talk that it’s way more expensive to rent a car in may-september. Does it mean that in other months are cheaper because it’s more dangerous to travel with car in other months? Or I wrong understand you?

    • Jeannie
      February 6, 2017 at 11:39 am

      Hi Jakob! It’s cheaper for car rental and hotel in the “off-season” because the demand for these things isn’t as high.

  • Angie Spiegel
    February 6, 2017 at 5:17 am

    Thanks for the info. We were in Iceland last year in July for only two days. We did rent a car but I have not read about payment for fueling.

    • Jeannie
      February 6, 2017 at 12:03 pm

      Happy to help, Angie!

  • Jeny
    February 24, 2017 at 8:00 am

    Hey, Jeannie how about winter wheather in Iceland ? Me and my husbind plan to go there. Do you have some tips?
    And thanks for other tips!

  • Janete
    March 23, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    So glad to have found your site! We will be travelling to Iceland April 8-17 and are going to attempt the Ring Road in 7 days (thanks to your honeymoon post!). A couple questions. Is it still “winter” at that time and should we pack for “winter”? And do you recommend we rent a 4wd if it’s still winter in April?

    • Jeannie
      March 29, 2017 at 6:00 pm

      Great questions Janette! The thing is, early April could easily be either season. I would be on the safe side and pack with my winter packing list – but you can omit the bulky winter boots. It will still be cold, but not as snowy. You would probably be fine with a 2wd around Ring road at this time. Have a great trip!

  • Don
    March 27, 2017 at 12:26 am

    What a cool site! You are definitely a major resource for travelers to Iceland!

    My wife and I are trying to make plans for a 5-day visit to Iceland this August. We fly overnight from the US and arrive at 9:10 AM Saturday morning. Would it be rational to do:

    Day 1 – pick up a rental car at the airport and visit your suggested Reykjanes peninsula sights and continue on driving to Vik for the first night.

    Day 2 – Take a day trip from Vik to Jokulsarlon. Would it be too ambitious to try and drive all the way to Reykjavik after visiting Jokulsarlon or would it make more sense to just go back to Vik for a second night?

    Days 3-5 – Do day trips from Reykjavik for the remainder of our stay (golden circle and others from your top 10 list).

    • Jeannie
      March 29, 2017 at 6:06 pm

      Thanks Don! I usually suggest a 2 day trip down to Jokulsarlon and back – too much to see to rush it!