Iceland, the land of fire and ice. It’s raw, stunning, dangerous, comforting, inspiring… and that’s just to name a few reasons why it’s becoming a popular tourist destination.
It can feel intimidating planning a trip to a wild country with developing tourism, but I’m here to help! Many people get overwhelmed in the planning process, and so it’s my goal to give as many practical pieces of advice that I can give. Traveling to Europe does NOT have to be overwhelming!
I did a lot of online research about renting a car in Iceland. Truthfully, some of what I read stressed me out. People talked about high costs, dangerous roads, excessive insurances, and companies charging you extra fees after you leave the country. It left me feeling scared about what I thought would be a simple task; picking out a car and paying for it.
The truth of the matter is this; it’s all bologna! People are quick to leave online reviews when they have had a bad experience with a company, but the vast majority of people who have a good experience don’t go out of our way to help each company shine. So fear not, choosing a car can be easy!
CHOOSING THE CAR:
Think about what you are really going to be using the car for. You DON’T need a big vehicle unless you are going into the highlands. We did a fair amount of driving, using Reykjavik as our home base, and then ventured out to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Golden Circle, and the southern coast of Iceland for several days. With that being said, a car was a great choice.
The information online about driving in Iceland can be contradicting, so I’m here to tell you that small vehicles CAN drive on the vast majority of roads (excluding F roads). Keep your costs low by renting a small 4 door. They get amazing gas mileage, and even if you get blown around in the winds a little easier than a heavy car (and man oh man do they have winds), you will be just fine! One of the funny things that I noticed about vehicles in Iceland is that they are either huge or tiny. Nobody drives a midsize, so don’t spend the extra money on it!
AUTOMATIC OR MANUAL?:
We are from America and so we are used to driving automatic vehicles. Since that’s what we are most comfortable with, that’s what we chose to drive in Iceland. You can save yourself some money by picking a manual instead, but If you aren’t very confident in your skills, Iceland isn’t the place to brush up. If you go anywhere outside of Reykjavik, you will drive on steep inclines and come up to one lane bridges where you may need to downshift to slow quickly. Choose what you are most comfortable with.
WHEN TO BOOK:
Some rental car companies will give you a discount if you rent at least 2 weeks in advance. Whether or not the company you go with offers this, I recommend booking around that time frame. There are A LOT of companies to choose from, but each is priced very differently. To ensure you are getting the car you want for the price you want, book online, and book in advance. Even though they have so many car companies, the closer you get to your travel dates, the more booked up they become.
THE FINE DETAILS:
If you are planning on putting the miles on – or kilometers, since that’s how they measure distances – make sure the company you choose offers unlimited mileage. A lot of them do, but make sure it’s actually listed somewhere on their website so you know for sure. If you miss that, and end up having to pay for additional mileage, you might end up as one of the disgruntled reviewers that I was talking about earlier!
Go with a company that offers various insurances. Some of the ones you will need are gravel protection, sand and ash protection, Collision Damage waiver, and the insurance that allows you to lower the deductible if you are in an accident. In addition to those insurances, you will have the option to purchase theft insurance. All of them are necessary except for theft. I say that because Iceland is extremely safe. You of course still want to lock your doors when you aren’t in the vehicle, but it’s not common for people to break in. All of the different companies will offer you the chance to book each insurance separately, but a few will let you do an insurance bundle that makes everything cheaper for you. Theft will probably be included in the bundle, but purchasing them all together will save you some money, and so you are just lucky to have the coverage.
If you do research like I did, you will come across some third party rental sites. Although their prices were low, their terminology was so different from every other company that I decided to avoid those in the fear that you would have some additional costs once you actually arrived to Iceland. Most of the third party sites are showing you car rental companies that don’t actually have an office at the airport. They will sometimes charge you for pick up and drop off of the car from the airport. Don’t pay for it. There are A TON (you will see what I mean when you arrive) of companies that have their offices right next to the airport so you don’t have to pay a fee to pick up your car there.
There are a handful of car rental companies that give you a lower price for renting an older car. If you are fine with an older car, feel free to risk it. I knew that the possibility of a breakdown in a new country was something we wanted to avoid, and so when comparing costs, we still chose a company that offered new cars.
WHO TO BOOK WITH:
I did a lot of research about car rental companies, and we decided to go with Route1 Car Rental. They had everything we were looking for including new vehicles, great reviews, unlimited mileage, insurance bundles, great prices, and free pick up/drop off at the airport! They will send an agent to get you in the arrivals area of the airport, and it’s just a short walk to the parking lot where they keep their cars. They will go over the contract with you in the lobby of the hotel next to the airport and run your credit card right there. All you have to do upon returning the car is leave the keys with the front desk staff at the hotel! So simple.
Here is a list of a few other companies that we considered going with:
Go Iceland Car Rental
Thrifty Car Rental
Arctic Car Rental
Here is a list of a few companies we found unsatisfactory:
Budget Rental – Did not give you the option to book insurances upfront and therefore the additional cost of insurances would be unknown until arrival.
Hertz – VERY expensive compared to other companies
Sixt – No free unlimited mileage
Of course it’s up to you to do your own research and decide which company is best for you! Best of luck and enjoy your trip to Iceland!!!!