In order to experience the best of Iceland, you simply need to get around by car. While you can certainly see the popular sites of Iceland by taking day trips from Reykjavik, you would undoubtedly miss out on seeing a lot of off the beaten path spots as well as simply having the flexibility to enjoy Iceland at a leisurely pace. Unless you plan on hitchhiking around, you’ll most likely end up renting a car in Iceland if you plan to drive around the country. There are however a number of things to keep in mind when doing so, so we’ve created this list of Iceland car rental tips to consider when visiting Iceland!
11 Essential Iceland Car Rental Tips
Tip #1: Book your car (and accommodation!) well in advance in peak season
Iceland gets extremely popular during the summer months of July and August so if you’re planning on renting a car I would book as early as possible both to avoid missing out and also to save money. This is particularly crucial if you plan on renting a camper van as this is becoming a very popular option for travellers!
We recommend browsing RentalCars.com to find deals on car hire as they aggregate prices across many of the major car rental companies available in Iceland. We use RentalCars.com anytime we want to rent a car abroad and find it’s the best way to get a great deal on hire!
This advice also extends to booking accommodation if you’re driving a regular car and options are limited, especially if you want to stay near Vik or the Glacier Lagoon. Some of the popular hotels book out well in advance and you want to avoid having to backtrack because you can’t find accommodation on your chosen route!
Tip #2: Buy gravel protection and sand & ash insurance
Iceland is expensive and nobody wants to spend their hard-earned travel dollars on insurance, however, gravel protection insurance is simply a must. A lot of the roads in Iceland are full of little rocks which can cause damage to your car, potentially even cracking the windshield.
Similarly, in windy conditions, volcanic sand and ash can also result in unwanted damage to your vehicle. Don’t take the risk of having an unwanted travel expense and pay up for the extra insurance! All the Iceland car rental companies we researched offered this as an additional addon when purchasing your policy.
Tip #3: Buy car hire excess insurance from a third party
Another potential money-saving tip when renting a car in Iceland is to get insurance that covers any potential excess payments.
Collision Damage Insurance is included as standard for car rentals however the excess can be quite high meaning you could be out of pocket thousands of dollars if you need to make a claim. Some car rental companies offer additional insurance to cover this, however, the most cost-effective option is to buy from a third party.
We recommend you buy a policy from ICarHireInsurance who offer full excess coverage at a fraction that car rental companies charge.
Tip #4: Don’t bother with theft insurance
Unlike gravel protection and sand & ash insurance, one of the best money saving Iceland car rental tips is to not bother with theft insurance.
Thefts are extremely rare in Iceland and unless you openly leave your car running with the keys in the ignition it’s very unlikely that anything bad will happen. That being said, the choice is always up to you and The World Was Here First takes no responsibility if you are unfortunate enough to experience a rare case of car theft! 🙂
Tip #5: Don’t forget to buy travel insurance!
On any trip abroad, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a valid travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events. We like to use WorldNomads for travel insurance as they have a wide variety of flexible plans (i.e. their Standard vs. Explorer options) and affordable policies. Click here to get a quote from WorldNomads.
Tip #6: A 4WD drive is nice to have but not necessary
Depending on where you want to drive in Iceland, a 4WD drive can certainly be helpful. However, there is plenty you can see with a normal vehicle.
The main reason to rent a 4WD is if you want to drive on any of Iceland’s F-roads which are predominately in the highlands or, possibly, if driving in winter. In the summer and shoulder seasons, if you’re planning on sticking predominately to the Ring Road then save your money and opt for a regular car.
Tip #7: Hold onto your door!
One of the first things you’ll likely hear when you rent your vehicle in Iceland is to hold onto your door when you enter and exit your car as strong winds have been known to blow off doors!
It’s important advice to remember as insurance typically doesn’t cover you in this unlikely event. If you are forgetful though, don’t worry as there will likely be stickers inside of your car to remind you!
Tip #8: Don’t stop in the middle of the road
One of the most dangerous things you can do in Iceland is to stop in the middle of the road in order to snap a photo. Roads in Iceland can be narrow and have plenty of turns so stopping in the middle of the road is just asking for trouble!
There are plenty of places to pull off on the main roads so when you see a pretty view, I’m sure you won’t need to wait long for an opportunity to stop!
Tip #9: If you have data, you don’t need GPS
Many car rental companies offer you GPS as an optional extra. However, if you buy a SIM card with data in Iceland then it’s not particularly necessary as you do get good 4G coverage around the island. I would only suggest buying GPS if you plan on doing a lot of off-road driving during your time in Iceland.
To avoid excess roaming charges, there are a number of SIM cards that you can buy before leaving your home to ensure you have data as soon as you land at an affordable price. Two of the best options available on the market currently are the Three Prepaid SIM with 12GB data or the Orange Prepaid SIM with 20GB Data
Tip #10: Don’t wait until the last minute to buy fuel
One of the most important Iceland car rental tips is to make sure to plan ahead when it comes to filling up your fuel tank. As you get further away from Reykjavik, fuel stops become further and further apart so I suggest beginning to think about filling up when you are at about half a tank full.
Tip #11: Don’t be afraid to pick up a hitchhiker!
Iceland gets quite rural the further away you get away from Reykjavik so if you do happen to drive past a hitchhiker who has a friendly look about him then don’t be afraid to give him a ride! Iceland weather is unpredictable and rides can be few and far between for hitchhikers who are more often than not simply travellers who want to see Iceland on a budget! Plus you can never have too much good karma! 🙂
Renting a car in Iceland is simply one of the best ways to see this spectacular country, however, please keep in mind these Iceland car rental tips to ensure your trip is as hassle-free as can be!
Have you or are you planning on renting a car in Iceland? Which of these Iceland car rental tips was most useful? Let us know in the comments below!