Going to Iceland? Great choice, the beauty of this country will leave you speechless, I can promise you that!
What transportation option should you choose? Let’s see: Iceland has no trains, buses are almost non-existent, hitchhiking, although possible, can be frustrating as there are not that many empty vehicles passing by. Thus, there is no better way to explore this 100,000 square km island (40,000 square miles) than by rental car! After you decided to rent a car in Iceland, read on!
Out of all the countries I visited, I loved traveling by rental car in Iceland in particular because it gives you the freedom to choose your own route and the flexibility of doing things at your own pace. Not to mention that Icelandic roads take you to some out-of-this-world landscapes, so finding the right car rental for your journey will actually make your entire experience better!
- 1. Think Ahead When You Plan on Renting a Car in Iceland!
- 2. Get That Extra Insurance!
- 3. Watch Out For Sheep, Horses And Birds On The Road
- 4. Avoid Speed Traps
- 5. Fuel Up in Advance!
- 6. Before You Rent a Car in Iceland – Check if You Have Any Mileage Limits
- 7. Don’t Stop In The Middle Of The Road To Take Pictures
- 8. Be Prepared For Rapid Weather Changes
- BONUS 1: Choosing the Right Type of Car for Your Iceland Trip
- BONUS 2: Iceland Car Rental During the Winter Time
- FAQs about car rental in Iceland
By the way, if you have decided to rent a car in Iceland for an epic vacation, I also have some pretty detailed posts that will help you plan your Icelandic vacation day by day with distances prices, accommodation suggestions and more so if you need help with that, start here!
Here in this post, I have put together a guide on how to rent a car in Iceland, which rental car company to pick and which type of car to choose depending on your trip and activities.
First of all, I recommend checking out RentalCars – it is a price aggregator that offers price comparisons of all best car rental companies available for your dates. You can also filter out car types, price limits, location, etc.
NOTE: You must be at least 21 years old in order to rent a car in Iceland! (If you are from Europe/North America or basically if your driving license are in Latin letters, International license are not required. If your permit is in Chinese/Japanese or other script, you need to obtain the International one first).
Check out this video please, even though it is 9 min, it is FUN and it covers pretty much everything:
1. Think Ahead When You Plan on Renting a Car in Iceland!
Each year more and more tourists come to the “Country of Ice”. Even though there are many car rental companies in Iceland (mostly in Reykjavik or near Reykjavik Airport), the most efficient cost-performance options will be sold out quickly.
And you want to be among the ones to get the best deal, right?
If you know for sure you are going, booking in advance (even a year in advance!) is the best option, especially if you are visiting in the high season!
Remember, if you rent with RentalCars, most of the time you will be able to cancel your booking with no charges, but last minute choice will not get you a good deal.
The earlier you manage to book it, the cheaper your car rental will be. There is no such thing as a last minute deal in Iceland, trust me!
It does not matter how far in advance you are planning, you can already check the rates for your dates now:
NOTE: Check out BONUS 2 below to choose the most convenient Iceland car rental type for you and for the type of excursion you are going to take.
This might be obvious, but if you want to further reduce the cost of your car rental, invite your friends to join the journey! You will benefit twice by sharing this amazing journey with the people you love, and by reducing the cost of transportation per person! In my case, we went in a group of 4 and it was pretty awesome!
PRO TIP: Most rental car companies are located directly in Keflavik International Airport (which is the name of the Reykjavik International Airport). Renting a car as soon as you land makes sense because getting to Reykjavik city is about 25€ per person with the bus/minibus and around 140€ for a private transfer.
2. Get That Extra Insurance!
So, you have already chosen your best car rental and you are ready to go exploring?
Great! Now, don’t argue, just get the gravel road insurance (also consider ash and ice insurance if you are going in the winter, sand and ash insurance in the summer or in an areas with a lot of volcanic ash). Below is a hack on how to significantly lower the insurance price for your car rental, so read on.
Gravel roads are roads that are good enough to drive on (and usually lead to a spectacular natural wonder!), but they are full of little rocks. It only takes one little rock thrown on the body of your rental car, or worse – on your windshield, to open a crack that will make you need to pay for a new windshield/paint job. The same goes for the ash and ice in high winds. Those act exactly like rocks and can damage your car in no time.
Most Icelandic car rental agencies give you the option to purchase insurance in their online form, BUT I recommend doing the following:
- Check if your personal vehicle insurance covers car rentals. Some do and that would save you a lot of money;
- Check if your credit card covers overseas car insurance (you can call the bank directly if you are not sure). Make sure to read the fine print too!;
- If you do need to buy the insurance, here is my good tip for you – use Bonzah or Allianz. These two are third-party insurance providers with MUCH better rates than buying it at the car rental desk – it starts from 3 USD per day instead of 27€ that we paid. NOTE: Make sure the insured person is the one in the rental contract and you need to buy the insurance BEFORE you start driving, and you are good to go!
Here are a few simple tips for safe driving on gravel roads in Iceland:
- Try to keep your speed low enough not to throw rocks into the sides of your own car;
- When driving in behind another car, keep a large enough distance from the car in front of you so that the rocks thrown with their rear tires don’t reach your hood or windshield.
You can also opt for theft insurance for your car in Iceland, but to be honest, Iceland is a very safe country, and most of the cars have GPS trackers. Thefts are rare, if any. It’s up to you if you want to get the theft insurance, that’s fine, I just laid out the facts for you.
PRO TIP: This holds true for any country you decide to rent a car in, but I highly recommend and I ALWAYS do it myself – take pictures of your car before you are handed the key. Any small scratch that was not protocoled can be used against you afterwards. Trust me, I’ve been there, done that! Better yet, take pictures and a video!
3. Watch Out For Sheep, Horses And Birds On The Road
Did you think it was that easy?! Like in a Super Mario game, you will encounter all kinds of fauna that want to delay you!
Iceland has many sheep roaming free in the warm season. In fact, once you get out of the Golden Circle, you will probably meet more sheep than people! They are free to graze wherever they please, and that means they will cross the roads sometimes (read: many times!).
Whenever you see sheep nearby, I strongly suggest you slow down and pay extra attention. An angry ram can damage your Iceland car, or, as stories go, people have flipped cars with their wheels up trying to avoid sheep.
Same goes for horses (who are sometimes moved around pastures on the roads) and even birds which fly low.
Watch out in the evening; we were once surprised by 2 owls that flew over the road at low altitude at sundown. Luckily we had enough time to slow down and let them pass! They got to go back to their nest and we got to give our rental car back without a scratch. 🙂
4. Avoid Speed Traps
Iceland has a number of fixed speed traps and police cars which patrol the Ring Road and they’re almost always equipped with mobile detectors.
Now I will share with you the ultimate way of avoiding fixed and mobile cameras. Are you ready?
The best way to avoid getting a speeding fine is staying within the speed limit (which is 90 km/h (56 ml/h) on highways. Hah, bet you didn’t see that one coming! 😉
If you do get a fine, you will not know it right away, but your car rentals company will charge your card a few weeks after your trip. Quite an unpleasant surprise and we do not want that to happen, right??
As the fines are big, you should really consider this point. Here is your “price menu” for all the fines. Driving at a red light? 50K ISK. Not using seatbelts? 20K ISK etc.
NOTE: The fixed cameras are always signaled a few hundred meters before you see them. There is a specific sign letting you know there will be a detector well in advance, so keep your eyes open!
The best way to avoid a ticket is of course, to follow the rules – do not speed up, use your cruise control (I highly recommend choosing a car that is equipped with it by the way!), it will make your life so much easier!
5. Fuel Up in Advance!
Depending on which road you are taking, especially if going through the mountains, check ahead where the next gas station will be, don’t leave it to chance!
I remember quite well that there are parts of about 250 km, somewhere on the Ring Road, where we didn’t see any gas stations at all!
The good thing was that my car’s GPS had an option to show me where the closest gas station was; it was really convenient! Please do not forget to keep an eye on the fuel meter, – even if it will be a funny story for your friends, it won’t be funny if you can’t move your car in the middle of nowhere on a deserted road.
If you do not have a GPS in your car, that is OK! Just install maps.me app on your smart phone (it works offline) or download your Google map so that it is available for offline usage, here is a comprehensive video how to do it.
There are self-service gas stations (most of them are like this) that work 24 hours and you just need to pay with a credit card. There are also larger gas stations where you can buy some snacks and hot-dogs and maybe even connect to free Wi-Fi – in this case, you have to fill your car first and then go to the cash register to pay. By the way, you can check the current gas price here (it is about 1,7 USD per liter or 6,5 USD per gallon, so, quite expensive).
PRO TIP: Talking about gas stations – as a bonus, you should know that most gas stations have a free self-carwash in Iceland! It’s quite well organized and it pays off to clean your car every few days. The roads and the weather in Iceland take their toll on the cars’ exteriors.
6. Before You Rent a Car in Iceland – Check if You Have Any Mileage Limits
This is verrry important!
Remember that some car rentals impose mileage limits. This might be really inconvenient if you are going to cover a lot of ground each day, and it can bring your rental cost much higher. Remember to ask and check ahead if you have chosen such a company to rent from.
PRO TIP: Many car rentals offer 2 types of rentals: limited mileage or unlimited mileage. Usually, the difference in rates between the two is small and it represents the difference you would pay if you traveled an extra 10 km. Thus, I would say to go for the unlimited option, unless the limit is somewhere at 250-300 km per day or if you know exactly how many km (miles) you are going to drive.
7. Don’t Stop In The Middle Of The Road To Take Pictures
The island-country is full of beautiful spots who just beg you to stop and take a picture. We are all tempted by this, I also wanted to stop and take a picture literally every 100 meters.
When you do stop, please stop in a place where you know you won’t block traffic. There are plenty of side roads and parking lots. I have seen many tourists stopping more or less in the middle of the road and casually opening their doors to take pictures. It is quite dangerous, especially as sometimes the roads are narrow.
8. Be Prepared For Rapid Weather Changes
Let’s face it – Iceland has very specific weather conditions. It can be sunny one minute, and heavily raining the next, making everything slippery. Not to mention that you can drive your car in Iceland in clear weather and just wake up in a thick layer of fog after a few curves!
Keep in mind that the safest way to tackle the weather conditions in Iceland is to match your speed to the current weather. Sometimes, maybe you will even have to stop for a few minutes, until the visibility returns or the wind speeds slow down.
The best website to check the weather conditions that is used by all the locals is road.is – it not only gives you weather info by region, but also up-to-date information about road conditions (especially important after October, when roads can easily close in no time).
BONUS 1: Choosing the Right Type of Car for Your Iceland Trip
What is the ideal car rental company in Iceland, which is the cheapest car hire? Which type of car to choose? There are so many options!
The first question you should ask yourself is “Which type of activities am I likely to do in Iceland?”
If you only plan one thing about your Iceland vacation, then plan the car!
As I experienced, there are 4 types of journeys and 4 types of cars suited for them.
Let’s see – which one are you?
1. You are an off-road warrior. An adventurer
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Do you like going on hard roads and climbing steep mountain slopes, hiking and using your tent to sleep overnight?
Do you want to have the ultimate Iceland experience by going outside of Reykjavik and through the middle of the country, and set up camp in the mountains instead of sleeping in hotels?
RECOMMENDED CAR: You have a choice and one choice only: you need a car that can reach the Icelandic F-roads (a type of road I will describe later). Please note that you actually CANNOT use a 2WD on a F-road because your normal car might not make it, and most importantly, if something happens to your 2WD NO insurance will cover the cost, it clearly states in all contracts that 2-wheelers are not allowed there.
Thus, your choice should be a 4×4 (an all-wheel drive). There are a wide variety of SUV rentals in Iceland that offer 4w4 cars. It is not allowed to drive any other type of car on these F-roads, and for good reason. Of course, the bigger the car, the more interesting and fun it will be, but it also depends on your budget.
PRICE PER DAY: 65-130€ per day for the cheaper models, or up to 150-250€ per day for the high end options, depending on the season.
As I mentioned above, there are 2 sites where you can compare all the deals and choose the best prices according to your needs and dates
The closer you get to the peak season (July – August), the more expensive cars can get!
2. You’re looking for a comfortable trip, along Iceland’s Ring Road
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: You are doing the classic Ring Road outside of Reykjavik and you are going to take alternative routes, or gravel roads to see fjords, waterfalls or other natural wonders only occasionally?
RECOMMENDED CAR: a 2WD would suffice. You can choose any of the “normal” cars depending on your budget and the comfort level you are looking for. That was the one that I took. Automatic or manual? It is absolutely up to your preference – manual tend to be about 10% cheaper though.
PRICE PER DAY: 50 to 100€ per day, again, depending on the model and the season.
3. You are on a quick trip just around Reykjavik
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: You don’t have much time and will not wander more than the Golden Circle? Are you searching for the cheapest car rental in Iceland and you’re only planning to drive in Reykjavik or very close to Reykjavik?
RECOMMENDED CAR: You are almost surely going to be fine with the cheapest tiniest car. Unless, of course, you need more comfort (and maybe more room for your luggage)
PRICE PER DAY: Expect to pay anywhere between 50 to 180€ depending on the model and the season (This is the cheapest car rental price in Iceland, unless you find some super limited promotion)
4. You love traveling by campervans
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: If you don’t mind spending a night in your car, renting a campervan might be just what you need! A huge part of our Iceland budget went to accommodation and you can easily save up on that! Camping sites in Iceland are really clean and well taken care of (and costs about 7-9 euros per person).
RECOMMENDED CAR: How about renting a van in this case?
Again, RVs can be rent at both the International Airport and in Reykjavik centre, whichever you prefer
PRICE PER DAY: from 90€ per day for a small one (2 people), about 200€ a day for a bigger one (up to 5 people). From 300€ for a motorhome (toilet, hot shower, sink and stove all included). Campervans are not cheap and of course they’re more expensive than normal cars and they consume more gas, but overall it should be cheaper because you will not pay for lodging, especially considering you are a group of 4 or more.
Check Guide To Iceland and Outdoorsy – both offer the most amazing variety of campervan, price comparison feature and great reviews!
|🚗 Economy car:||€50-100|
|🚜 4×4 price:||€65-130|
|🚐 Campervan price:||from €200|
|👶 Driving age:||20|
|⛽ Gas price:||1,8 € per l. or 6.3€ per gl.|
|✈️ Cost of traveling:||High|
|👍 Most popular car:||Hyundai Accent or similar|
BONUS 2: Iceland Car Rental During the Winter Time
Even if I did not personally visit Iceland in the cold season (yet!), I have asked around about the top practices of driving in Iceland in the winter. The scenarios will be very different than in the summer, and it’s very likely you will see the Aurora Borealis (!!).
UPDATE: We have just published a full post on driving in Iceland in the winter, check it out, it has quite some wisdom into it! 😉
You just need to be smart and careful so here is what you need to know:
- Go for a 4×4 car. Remember that the weather can change and you are far up north, so the possibility of heavy snowfall is big;
- Always check the road.is website or Veður App. It provides the best report on the road conditions of your route;
- If you are given the choice rent a vehicle with studded tires. That will help a lot on the icy roads;
- Speaking of icy roads, don’t go fast. You are in a new country, you don’t know the roads and where ice could be so keep it safe;
- Fuel up all the time. Better safe than sorry!
- Daylight is limited. Make the most of it by driving in the hours with light;
- Watch out for animals in the dark;
- Make a stash of snacks, water and even blankets. Iceland is a very developed country, but even there, in case you are stuck, it can take some time until someone reaches you.
Please don’t sacrifice your safety for financial reasons. There are some great rates for 4×4 cars that you can easily compare for all Iceland car rental agencies in one click here.
By following those safety guidelines you are in for a great experience, it will feel like time stopped, along with the frozen waterfalls! I can’t wait to get back myself in the cold season, so I can see the Aurora Borealis!
Essential packing list for visiting Iceland!
If you are going to travel in the winter, there are a few items that you need to take with you. And since in Iceland these will be quite expensive (an Icelandic wool sweater will rarely go under 180€), I suggest getting them from home. Remember that it’s going to be very (very!) cold and windy, so you’ll need to dress in layers and be able to maintain a comfortable warmth at all times.
P.S. I actually have a super detailed post on what to pack for your Iceland trip (it is all seasons and gender specific too!) – check it out here.
Here you go, your packing list for winter time in Iceland:
- A proper warm jacket. It has to be waterproof, windproof, well insulated, and it has to look good too 🙂
- Body thermal shirts
- Snow boots – they have to be comfortable, let your feet breath and also practical both on snow and on dry surfaces
- Proper winter socks – you don’t want to get sweaty and then cold in the winter
- Thermal Leggings
- Hiking pants – also need to be waterproof and windproof
Where to rent a car in Iceland?
As I mentioned above, I suggest using price aggregators because this way you can compare all the prices in one click. What’s cool about them is that they offer a best-price guarantee and usually some better customer service in case something goes wrong (they are basically a middleman- in the chain between you and the car rental company, and they protect the customer, thus, you). So if you have any questions or something’s not as you wanted it to be, you can always contact their customer service!
The cheapest way to rent a car in Iceland is, as I said, booking as much in advance as possible and the most convenient place to rent a car would be either Keflavik International Airport or Reykjavik city. You can also find some car rental companies in Akureyri, but it will be much more expensive there.
Staying connected while on the road
Do you really need internet while on the road in Iceland?
I recommend turning this trip intro a proper vacation and NOT getting a special sim-card/roaming – simply enjoy the views from your window, you are in for a treat, seriously! Just make sure you have a GPS in your car or you have offline maps downloaded in your phone (maps.me is simply awesome for this!) and you are good to go!
If, however, you prefer to have internet to listen to your favorite music/podcasts or just post those stunning pictures on Instagram while on the road (Iceland has a pretty good coverage everywhere)? No problem, there are a couple of options:
- Get a local sim card with internet connection. Price – around 17 USD for 2 GB internet in Siminn. Disadvantage – you would need to get one for each passenger in the car. You could share wi-fi to other devices but it will drain your battery really fast.
- Get a portable wi-fi hotspot. We had that and it was shared to 4 people (well, actually, 3, because the driver didn’t use the internet, duh). You can either rent it from your car hire company (check add-ons) or buy the device at home and use it for your future travels as well (you just need to insert the sim card)!
Also, check if you can charge your devices in the car (most of the cars are equipped with it), if not, you might consider gettin a portable power bank with you too!
What is the best time to go to Iceland?
I went in August and I found it to be the most pleasant time to visit – you can enjoy a never-ending day, the weather is mild and all the roads (and the attractions) are open.
True, July and August is the most popular and touristy season, but it is touristy for a reason – it is pretty much the only month when it is not freezing there! 🙂 Plus, touristy means a different thing in Iceland – you can still drive for hours and not meet another car despite being in the high season. CONS: Car hire prices are also the highest and the chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis are almost non-existent in August. But hey, at least it is relatively warm and there is sun!
If you want to avoid higher prices and accommodation, I would suggest visiting in the shoulder season June or September, when the weather should still be fine.
- Driving age in Iceland – 20 years old to rent a car, 25 to rent a 4WD (note that you might be charged a “young driver fee” if you are 21 to 25 years old, check with your company please)
- In Iceland they are driving on the right
- Amount of alcohol allowed to drive – 0.05% (small glass of wine. But I would not try it at all as the fine is about 500 USD)
- Emergency number in case of an accident – 112
- Gas prices – 1,7 USD per liter (6,5 USD per gallon)
- Any child between 13 kg (29 lb) should be secured in a forward-facing child seat
- Driving limits – 90 km/h (55 ml/h) on highways, 80 (49 ml/h) on gravel roads
- Most gas stations are open from to 8 am to 8 pm (self-service is open 24h, but the only payment would be with a Pin bank card)
- The Ring Road is 1300 km (800 ml)
FAQs about car rental in Iceland
🚐 Can you rent an RV in Iceland?
Yes! You can rent RV’s in Iceland but if you want to venture off of the ring road, it is recommended to rent something smaller like a campervan. You can rent both of them here.
📅 What is the best month to go to Iceland?
Mid-July, August and early September is the best time to visit Iceland as it has the best weather for sightseeing outdoors (and you’ll be doing a lot of that).
👍 Which car rental company is best?
The list of all car rentals in Iceland is impossibly long, so what I usually do is I check an aggregator like RentalCars to see what has the best price for my dates AND has great reviews at the same time.
💰 What money do you use in Iceland?
Iceland’s official currency is the Icelandic Krona (ISK). Some big tourist establishments may accept other currencies such as GBP, Euro or USD but it is better just to pay on card if you don’t have the local currency. Check the current rate here.
🛑 Is it legal to sleep in a campervan on the road?
No. Since 2015 there has been a law prohibiting sleeping anywhere other than designated campgrounds in Iceland (see the map of all of them here). Regardless of whether you’re camping in a tent, car, van, caravan or RV.
Thanks for reading my monster of a post! To wrap up, I have created this short video for you:
Iceland is an amazingly beautiful country which is most conveniently discovered by driving around with a rental car. Other options exist, such as hitchhiking, but having your own car will give you the freedom to enjoy the country at your own pace and according to your own itinerary!
Last, but not least, even if it might sound expensive, renting a car in Iceland will always be more efficient than taking day tours. The tours are more expensive and they are far less flexible!
I hope I have convinced you that deciding to rent a car in Iceland is for now the best option to see what this mesmerizing country has to offer! I also hope my rental car and driving in Iceland tips were useful (they should be if you read through carefully enough!)
Iceland is my favorite country so go explore and have fun, it is really worth it, believe me! 🙂
Thanks for reading and don’t be afraid to ask me questions, I am always happy to hear feedback from my readers!
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Great tips !!
Hi,what gps you use,model
It was a built in one, not an external one. If your car is not equipped with one, you can totally use your phone for GPS-ing though, just make sure to download it for an offline use before (Google maps or maps.me would be my recommendation)
Hi Yulia, I wished I had read ALL of your guidance as well as your reader’s comments before booking a car for our trip to Iceland. We returned home from beautiful Iceland last evening filled with great memories (as well as pictures and souvenirs). The only negative of our entire trip was our experience with City Car Rentals, a business we were referred to by an Iceland travel site (and ultimately lead to me changing from Europcar).
Our troubles began with the nearly 60 minute wait for pick up at the airport (although they had my round trip flight info as well as others who too, were waiting on the shuttle). Our driver was friendly and engaging: however, once we arrived at the office, we were met by one of the least customer service oriented employees I have ever met (in a business that relies on providing foreigners car rental options and service). This gentleman proceeded to info us (and many in our group) that he would be putting a $3000USD hold on our credit card (I cannot find mention of this in the info they provided us with our reservation) and then requiring a $15 fee for the return trip to the airport (how else would we get there?). This charge is clearly missing in their confirmation of the paid reservation as the notification says “Airport Dropoff: Drop off your rental vehicle at our Keflavík office, located at Njarðarbraut 11, 260 Reykjanesbær (Keflavík). From there we will transfer you straight away to the departure hall at Keflavík International Airport. Our Keflavík International Airport Drop Off service is available always when flights are departing from Keflavík International Airport. Service is available two hours before first/last flight every day all year around.”.
Upon return, we were informed that we had returned our car five hours later than what our original reservation said and in spite of the fact I explained that we had discussed this with the agent at check in (that I had entered the return time in the Eastern Standard Time which of course is five hours earlier than Iceland’s time zone), he refused to listen and went on to charge my card for an additional day.
When we return to Iceland, we will walk before spending any time or money with this company.
So sorry to hear this, I know it’s so difficult to find reliable companies, that’s why I also like to share what I find to be trustworthy.
Well, at least you still made a lot of nice memories, so better luck next time! 🙂
I heard about scams rental car in kef airport charging for dents/scrathes that already been there prior to renting.I also heard about huge deposit (estimate) around 2000 euros if you dont buy their insurance. Pushy about buying their insurance.Whats ur input about these?
The companies I recommend are trustwhorty and I’ve used them myself (as well as many readers), but you can always ask them when you rent the car to take photos of the car, or take the photos yourself to prove that the old scratches weren’t done by you.
I’ve never had to pay a deposit for renting a car. What they’ll do request though, is a valid credit card. We used a French debit card which allowed a (very) small overdraft and it worked. This is just in case something happens, they would block a certain sum from it. But they don’t normally charge you anything else than the sum you pay for renting.
Hope this helps and have fun in your trip!
Yulia,Thanks for the post–this is awesome and so informative! As far as the insurance goes (or maybe someone else reading here would be able to give advice) I am thinking of renting directly through one of the local rental agencies rather than a third party, taking whatever standard insurance they offer (some seem like they’re built in and cannot be removed from the quote) and adding a policy from Bonzah. Would this be sufficient for a June Ring Road trip, hopefully covering me from anything that may go awry? Some of the things I’ve read about people renting cars/getting insurance and having issues in Iceland has got me a bit scared! Thanks in advance!
Hi, thank you!
Although I can, of course, only vouch for the companies I tried myself, as long as the insurance covers all the events that could happen, from damages due to weather conditions, to the ones caused by accidents (and of course, everything you might find useful, such as theft), it should be fine!
Hi ! My friend and I would like to rent a car to discover Iceland, but we are both 20 and have our driving licence since 2 years only. In our country, there is an age under which you can not rent a car (3 years after obtaining the licence). Does Iceland has a similar legislation ?
You’re in luck, in Iceland the age limit is 20 with 1 year experience! 🙂
Have fun on your trip!
Thank you so much for all these helpful tips! 🙂 I do have a question about the car insurance. If your credit card has CDW coverage (I have Chase Sapphire Preferred) is it still necessray to purchase individual gravel protection and sand and ash protection? Thank you!
As far as I know, CDW is not applicable for off-road driving, on “F” roads so if you are planning to do this then yes, I’d advise taking individual gravel, sand and ash protection separately.
Hi! Discovered your link via google and thank you very much for all the useful info.
I am planning a trip to Iceland early September and my flight will be arriving after midnight. From your experience, would there by any hazards/risk that I should be aware of about driving at this hour? (FYI, we’ve driven around Norway but it was all during the day).
Look forward to hear your input. Thanks 🙂
Thank you so much, I’m so glad my article about Iceland was useful to you! 🙂
You shouldn’t have any problems driving in Iceland at night in normal conditions, especially if you’re an experienced driver. The roads are simple and there won’t even be a lot of other cars on the road either. I’d say to be careful (that’s a general advice in any way when driving), check the weather forecast beforehand (there may be sandstorms and strong winds, but it’s not super dramatic, worst case scenario you will have to stop for a bit and wait for it to pass), but other than that I cannot think of any hazards.
That’s about it, hope this helps!
We are in Iceland now as I write here. My only recommendation on car rental is to know what you want to do first before renting. We rented a small Jimmy 4×4 because I thought the roads would be much worse and we didn’t little off roading. This vehicle is rough and hard to drive at times, a lot of work. Better to spend a little more and get luxury with a 4×4 option like my Kia. There are tons on the island and for good reason. Family truck, easy to drive and 4×4 option. Comfort is important when driving 4-6 hours per day. Be smart
Hi, Lorenzo! Thank you for your comment, that’s completely true! 🙂 The roads in Iceland are great and comfort is always important!
Hope you are having a great time in Iceland, enjoy!
Thanks for one marvelous posting! I enjoyed reading it; you are a great author.I will make sure to bookmark your blog and may come back someday. I want to encourage that you continue your great posts, have a nice weekend!
Hi Yulia – Great blog, and lot of very pertinent information. Would you have any suggestions for an 8-day trip to Iceland in early August? We are a family of 4, (all > 14 years old). We like to do go past the Golden Circle, and are thinking of staying @airbnbs.
In order to help you plan your vacation smoothly, I recommend you read my 2-week itinerary in Iceland – you can take out some days from my itinerary and plan yours according to what you want to see together with your family. I have also broken down the big itinerary into 4 different parts – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 for a more detailed explanation.
I also have this article with many tour suggestions that you can take in Iceland – you can check it here (it includes some good options for the Golden Circle as well!)
Last but not least, I have created a list of recommended accommodation for my Iceland itinerary (again, your itinerary will be shorter/different so you can just select what is useful for you) – this will help you book all the hotels fast! I am recommending hotels rather than Airbnbs for your trip because, even though Airbnbs’ are a bit more affordable, there is a service fee and a cleaning fee that adds up to the final price. But you can make the calculations and see which option is more convenient in your case!
I hope this helps and have a great trip with your family! 🙂
I’m traveling to Iceland this year at the end of the August. I already book the car (4×4) with the full insurance and they charged me the full price, is that fine? And there are the information, that the driver must have 350 000 ISK (which is around 2500eur) on his/her credit card as the deposit when we will pick the car. Is that true and will they reserve this amount?
Thank you for your comment. It is true, in some cases the company may require the driver to use her/his credit card for the deposit, even if the car was booked using a different card. It happened to me a couple of times – I would book the car with my card (I was not the one driving), and on the front desk they asked my friend (the driver) to provide her credit card too. But no money would be charged from that one, this is just in case of an accident!
It is also fine to charge the full price for the car rental – if you are booking with a trusted, well-known company you should have no problems!
Have a wonderful vacation in Iceland! 🙂
This is very open with a really clear explanation on how to rent a good car for our upcoming trip to Iceland, we opted for a 4×4! It was truly informative. Your site is useful. Thank you for sharing!
It is probably a silly question, but – what is the driving side in Iceland?
No problem! I maybe should have written about it – they drive on the ride side in Iceland, but like in the continental Europe 🙂
Hello! This guide is absolutely wonderful! I have a general question about rental requirements, in case you might know. I have read that you must have held your license for a minimum of 1 year. Does that mean your current license or a license in general? To be more specific, I am 24, and have had a license for 8 years. However, I have moved states (from the US) and had to get a new license for that state, and I have been here less than a year. Would that prevent me from being able to rent a vehicle? Thank you so much!!
I am sure they mean the driving experience in total. If you are still in doubt, I recommend taking your old driving licences to present it to them just in case if there are any problems.
Have a great trip!
Hi, I loved your article…
My sister and I are staying in Iceland on a layover…
We will be there from June 20..8:15 pm
Our flight leaves June 21 8:15pm
Do you recommend a rental car for the Golden Circle trip or should we take a tour? We can not find a tour that gets us back to a hotel before 4:30-5:00 and I understand it is a 45 min drive back to the airport. Well are supposed to be at the airport by 5:45pm….
Can you recommend a hotel around 200.00 US dollars?
Thank you very much for your info…
In your case, I would definitely recommend a rented car because of the endless flexibility and freedom it offers!
You can check AutoEurope or RentalCars to see which one of them has the best prices/cars for your dates 🙂
Regarding the hotel, I recommend either CenterHotel Plaza, Eyja Guldsmeden or Heida’s Home – all 3 of them have great reviews, they’re available for your date and they have fabulous reviews!
If you need more suggestions, I recommend my article about The Best Hotels in Reykjavik!
Hope this helps and answers your questions 🙂
I had been thinking of a 3 week trip to Iceland in mid to late September- encompassing some highland travel / car camping and the full ring road (covering all of Iceland) – I know I need 4×4 for f-roads and highlands but the rates are between $4000 to $10,000 canadian for that long a period deoending on vehicle. Would it be feasible to use a small 2wd camper for 2 weeks for the ring road — then swap out for a 4×4 large vehicle and head back out for the highlands for the last week or 3 or 4 days?
sorry for the late reply!
Yes, i actually think it is a perfect option for people who only need a 4×4 car for a couple of days. You can have a trip with your 2wd car, return it back to Reykjavik and then get a new one there too. If you need a 4×4 somewhere in the middle of your trip (not in Reykjavik), then try to check 2 options and see which one is cheaper:
1. renting a 2wd for the whole duration of the trip AND renting a 4×4 in that place. In this case you will overpay for the couple of days or 2wd will be unused, but usually it is much cheaper than paying for the different city return fee.
2. renting a 2wd car, leaving it before your reach Reykjavik (probably Akureyri), renting a 4×4 car and leaving it in Reykjavik.
My guess is the 2nd option will be more expensive because usually car hire companies charge high fees if you return a car to a different city.
Make your own sample calculation for your dates and see which one is better! 🙂
Have an amazing trip!
Thank you for the informative post.
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!
I wanted to know if you think it’s worth it for me to get a rental car….. I will only be in Reykjavik for 24 hours and the shuttle bus to my hotel and back cost $80 already, and the rental car for 24 hours is the same price. I’m just worried if it will be confusing and difficult for me to drive around??? I’m from the US and I drove around in Barcelona once, and even with GPS in English it was still very different and super confusing. I don’t know if Reykjavik will also be confusing or not???
make sure you have are parking in the right place in Reykjavik though (it is clearly marked usually – if it is free or how much it is). If you are staying overnight, ask your accommodation if they provide free parking for customers.
Yes, in this case i think it is totally worth it for you to rent a car.
It is not difficult to drive around, the road conditions are perfect, there is hardly even any traffic and the drivers are polite, I would recommend it eve n a beginner!
If you drove around Barcelona, you will be fine for sure! 🙂
What car would I need for Ring Road/South Iceland for October/fall? I am not planning on going off the Ring Road route. How much is parking and how many tolls are there on the ring road? Do I need SAAP insurance or studded tires?
You will be fine with a 2WD (just like #2 in my comparison), you can check the rates here, in my experience this was the cheapest.
As for the tolls, I think there was one in a tunnel to Reykjavik coming from the North, I cant remember any others.
Parking is free near natural signs like waterfalls etc, you need to read the signs carefully in Reykjavik and Akueri, it will be paid in many places in cities. (i recommend asking your hotel/airbnb for a good free parking spot).
Yes, I recommend getting full insurance, there are gravel roads you will need to take sometimes.
Hope this was helpful,
have a great trip!
Visiting Iceland end of June. We will be renting a car. Is having a valid US license all you need legally to drive a rental car there….or is an international license required? Also, regarding using my cell phone. Is there any reception there? Or should I just download everything I need beforehand to use offline. Thanks for your suggestions!
Your state-issued drivers license should be fine for all car rentals in Iceland.
As for your cellphone – there is a reception near towns, but i would suggest downloading everything and make it available offline just in case beforehand
Ms. Yulia, Is it safe to sleep or have an overnight anywhere like just camping instead of getting a hotel?
Yes, Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world, it is safe staying in a camping area, no worries!
My wife and I are thinking about taking a vacation later this year and renting a car for the trip, so thanks for the tips. I like your point about how, if it’s winter, you might want to get studded tires. I don’t want to take any risks on the icy roads, so I’ll be sure to ask about this.
I just have booked a car and they sent me the voucher with this note
*Domestic one way rentals incur a fee of approx 6900 ISK,
including VAT, paid locally.*
what does it mean?
If I understand correct, you are renting a car in one place and returning it to another one, right?
Depending on the car rental company, they might charge a fee for that, in your case it is 6900 ISK.
As I’m searching for the best place to rent a car from, it looks like there is a $2500 USD hold placed on credit cards during the rental period. Is that true of all rental companies in Iceland? Is that typical for car rental? I am nervous about giving a rental company access to that much of my money. Thanks!
Yes, it is typical for car rental companies to put a hold on some sum and they unblock it once you return the car.
The sum varies from company to company and you might find something without the hold, but as i said, it is a standard practice.
I agree, 2500 is not a small sum, in this case you might want to try a couple of more companies and see which conditions do they have.
Hope i could help a little,
have an amazing holiday!
Great article and very useful information which I will use when we travel to Iceland this October.
Thanks for your informative website. I have an early flight leaving Reykjavik very early in the morning – do rental agencies have 24-hour returns or key-drop returns?
Depends on the particular one you choose, but most of them do
Thank you for the most interesting post and taking the time to answer all the questions. I went to a conference in Iceland 4 years ago and then stopped off for 2 nights last year on the way back from Europoe. Iceland is so amazing to visit from the countryside to talking with the people and so much more. So no questions but just a big thank you for sharing your insight. I rented a car from another company on my two night trip. I was nervous about all the possible problems but rented an older, beat-up car that was in good enough mechanical shape. So I didn’t have to worry about scratches (big dents already there). Something special about driving around the surreal SW countryside in a manual transmission car with not many others around (early November).
Hello, and than you for this information and I think it is very helpful. I am going to Iceland in February 2018 and am looking now at my car rental options as I’ve already booked my flights. I think I’d like to rent a 4×4, do you know of any car rental agencies that offer 4WD? Also, I am going to drive to and stay in the north, probably in Dalvik. I have no interest in the major touristy activities unless it’s an absolute “must see”. Can you give me any advice on any “must sees” or places to avoid? Also I think we’ll probably want to stay near the airport the day we arrive to rest up for the drive north. Where is a good place to stay there that won’t cost us a ton of money? I know this is a lot of questions for one comment, so I apologize for that but thank you for any further information you can offer.
Try RentalCars, it will give you many cool 4wd options.
All the travel tips and the must do-s are described in details here, please read it carefully before going. 🙂
As for the hotel recommendation, I think Ace Guesthouse would suit you best – it is one of the cheapest, just 10 mins drive from the airport and the reviews are fabulous!
Have an amazing vacation!
Hi i am going Iceland at the very end of October, only problem is i cant hire a car from Reykjavik Airport as i dont get in til late.do you have any advice? The airport transfers for 4 of us is about £130.00 return which equates for 3 days car hire on the link you gave.
Hi Mark, thats a very good question!
If you do not come too late, you might want to call them and ask if they can make an exception for you and wait a little bit. If you arrive very late, one of the possible solutions can be staying in the airport hotel overnight. This way you do not need to go anywhere, you can rest right after your flight and start your trip early morning the next day (they open at 5 am).
Let me know what you decided at the end!
Can I rent a car in Iceland with just a debit card and not a Credit Card?
yes, you should be able to do that, but you need to have enough funds on your card.
I also recommend you to carefully read the terms and conditions in order to avoid unexpected situations
Thank you for this article!!
My husband and I are honeymooning there in September for a week and would like to rent a car through the links you provided.
I’ve never rented a car before, so I don’t want to be scammed into buying unnecessary insurance/protection packages. Which ones would you recommend adding to the rental? We won’t be off roading. Just hiking, water fall, black sand beach, etc.
Thank you 🙂
What an amazing honeymoon destination!
i think the sand and ash protection I have mentioned is important. I don’t think you need more than that!
TIP: if the GPS is not built in the car, you can get your own GPS device before and save about 10 EUR per day this way (you can even download some gps maps that work offline on your phone).
If you need internet, you can always buy a simcard, no need to upgrade for a personal hot spot.
Do you mind sharing what hotels you stayed at during your drive around the circle?
I dont mind of course!
I stayed in a mix of hotels and airbnbs, you can see the recommended hotels in this post https://misstourist.com/road-trip-around-iceland-in-14-days/ (just click to the article about the area that you need a hotel in)
Let me know if you need more help! 🙂
If I rent a car does it make sense to purchase the golden circle tour or is it better to drive on my own.
I fly into KEF after midnight ( 1 AM on Saturday) and flyout next evening at (Sunday) 6:00 pm . Any recommendation of places to visit for a first timer in Iceland.
I DEFINITELY recommend discovering on your own, especially if you already have a car rented. This way you will decide yourself how long to stay on each attraction and you can stop whenever you want on the way.
For the route recommendation please see this post, you will find tons of ideas there!
Thanks for this amazing post, it is very useful. I am planning to go to Iceland in June for 3 days. As I am travelling alone I am going to rent a car to do the Golden Circle and South Coast. I was checking Sixt and other companies and I noticed that all cars seem to be petrol, is that the most used in Iceland? What did you use? Also can you give us an idea about the price of fuel in Iceland?
Did you rent he wi-fi hot spot with sixt? I saw some companies offer this service.
Glad it was useful!
Our car was petrol, but I dont know for sure about the others. Gas is 195-200 krona per liter, petrol should be cheaper.
As for the wi-fi, i did rent it and it was a great help for me as a passenger. Not sure if you will use it much as a driver. But it might be useful indeed!
Have a great trip, I am sure you will have a lot of fun! 🙂
Hi Thanks for all the good tips. My wife and I will be traveling to Iceland in early September. LIke others, we are planning to drive around the ring road and see different parts of the country. That means all of our luggage will be stored in the trunk. Is there any concern about vehicles getting burglarized? .
I had absolutely no concerns with that. Iceland is a very safe country and. except the Golden circle, many of the places you will visit will not have many people, only some tourists like you.
That said, I would not leave an expensive camera unattended somewhere on the table, but your luggage inside the car should be totally fine.
Awesome article! I just clicked…took your advice on insurance and BOOM! Ready to go!
Thanks for your tips! We rented our car using your link and were able to save money. I did fairly extensive price comparisons too! Can’t wait for our trip, your tips were so helpful to us to plan a Paris, Amsterdam, Reykjavik trip!
So glad it was helpful!
Check my other posts about Iceland (itinerary for example) to help you plan your trip!
This was the most helpful blog I have come across till now!
I am visiting Iceland in February’17. I am planning to rent a car from Reykjavik to Jokulsarlon, South Coast and back from 14th Feb upto 17th Feb.
We are 2 of us and I am thinking of going with “Mitsubishi ASX – 4×4 Diesel Automatic”.
Please advise if this is a correct choice in terms of car rental agency and car type.
Also will be extremely thankful if you could also provide a discount coupon code for this rental.
Thanks in advance!
I’m wondering how you got along with the Misubishi ASX as I was also thinking of taking that for our trip in March.
Thank you for sharing these tips- I really enjoyed reading them…and that guy who picked you up looks cute! 😉 I’d like to add that you should always read the contract before you sign it. They should have an itemized statement about all that they are charging you for, so you can make sure you’re getting the deal you are supposed to be getting.
Hi! Thanks for the tips! I’m planning a trip with 6 people total, and we plan on renting a car. Would you recommend getting a larger SUV or van that can accommodate at least 7 people or renting two smaller cars? We are planning to go end of August/beginning of September. I’m concerned about luggage and comfort in taking 1 car, but I also don’t want to spend more than we need to by renting two smaller cars or have it be inconvenient with the group split up. Any suggestions would be welcome!
Hi Liz! I read your comment and thought well, in the end, I would recommend two cars. I remember we were 4 on this trip and luggage was a problem, which led to comfort problems in the back seat. We did not have a SUV but our luggage compartment was generous enough, so I expect you’d have the same issues. 7 people, if you are going with children, it can work with one car, but if you are all adults, I would stick for two. It will not be hard to keep the group together, you can establish meeting points and the roads are long and straight, you can see other cars from miles away. Also, I checked a bit, with the links i provide, many times two SUVs give a better price than a car for 7, try that too! Good luck, enjoy Iceland and ask me if you have any other questions!
P.S. I noticed at one car rental place they offer 600km at no additional cost. I imagine we may drive much more than that. Do you know if any of the companies offer unlimited mileage? If not do you know what they charge per mile after you exceed 600km?
Thank you for being so helpful. I love your page!
I will try to give you an ample answer, as I had the same concern. The thing is, in 14 days of continuous exploring around the whole island we made something around 3-3500km. Which is an average of less than 250km per day. And we drove a lot. I strongly suggest to take an option that gives you a limit per day rather than a price per extra km after some certain distance. Even if they charge 50cents per km after 600km imagine what an extra 2500 km will do to your bill. On a destination where you explore so much, a 300km per day limit is reasonable, as you are also getting off from your car quite often. Still, if you just go around Reyjkiavik, 600km should be enough. But I really suggest you go around a bit!
Did that answer your question? Let me know if I can help you more 🙂
We are going the third week of November. How long would it take to drive around the entire country? It will only be 6 days. What are some must do’s or see’s while we are there?
Ah, I replied to the other comment, so here is your other answer:
I don’t advise to go around the country in 6 days. You will rush through everything and you will be driving and hurrying all the time. For 6 days I would suggest an itinerary which you can combine from several of my posts: a tour of the golden circle and the south of Iceland and the parts of north of Reykjavik. I would pass by Reykjavik for one hour maybe but I wouldn’t stay too long there. The city is nice, but this itinerary will take you to such amazing places!
…I think I want to come back now, that I’ve written all this 🙂
Thank you for the insights. I think most of your suggestions are on the cautious side. I am adventurous type. I will take a 2 wheel drive auto on those F roads in late October to early November, before the snow sets in, and most tourists have gone home. Of course I will be smart and cautious and not drive like a cowboy in a rodeo. I have planned the 7 day ring trip for days in details and rehearsed the entire trip over and over again in my mind using the internet advises and google maps. I am ready to tackle any problems; lodging, eating, weather, traffic, daylight, people, animals, and other unexpected situation. Also, I am doing the ring trip on a low very budget. My intention is to photograph as many tourist sites and landmarks as possible.
As much as I would love to do off-road, we only had 2 weeks to visit the whole country, so we decided to do more “classical” route for this time.
However, I am definitely coming back for more and will try to do 4 WD as well! Also, I’m not sure you can take a 2WD on F-roads, I think it’s not allowed, but double check before you go!
I hope nobody else has asked this and I am not repeating, but I didn’t see it! We love the blog and your tips are great, but we were leaning against renting a car for the sheer cost (we live in Mexico currently and the peso doesn’t seem to get us very far in Iceland!) However, you have some great points about the benefits! I was just wondering how much did your total trip cost more or less? I know that’s a hard question sometimes, but what would your best guess be??
Hi Kaitlin! Tough question, because it depends a lot on the season you are going there and your ability to organize and prebook everything. Also depends if you want to camp or to get hotels or airbnb. My advice is to prebook everything, because I didn’t and got everything maximum one week in advance (in August) when there were very few places available. It ended up costing a bit more than 100 euros per person per day. But, if you are going to camp, get a good car deal in advance and split the car costs with more people, it can get a lot cheaper. It really depends on the type of travelling you prefer. Did that answer your question?
This is a very useful site, it has answered many of my questions. I am planning a trip to Iceland with two friends mid-September to early October next year. We are avid nature photographers and want to see the natural wonders of Iceland. We also want to camp throughout the whole trip. Do you have any advice as to where to find camping information?
While it is possible to do camping, I have met people doing it, i Stayed in hotels and airbnbs, so I am sorry, i cannot give you useful info on this one.
Iceland is THE country for nature photography, enjoy it! 🙂
Great tips Yulia!
I am going to Reyjavik mid Nov for 4 nights and looking to hire a car, we will be doing the typical tourist things, Blue lagoon, Golden Circle etc.. no F Road driving, would a basic 2 wheel car suffice? Considering a Toyota Yaris or similar from Sixt, would need to be an auto though as I have completely forgotten how to drive a manual!
Yes, 2 wheel will be totally fine for what you want to visit, don’t worry!
Sixt is a big company, I’m sure they have plenty of automatic cars there.
Enjoy your trip and be sure to let me know if you have more questions!
Will 500km be enough for those 5 days? Will get the gravel insurance but do you recommend getting the sand and ash?
Yes, I definitely recommend getting sand and ash extras (see above in the post why).
About the mileage – it should be enough for the standard tour, but please count in advance the approximate route you want to take and add, say, 15% to it just in case, thats what i would do! 🙂
I also see the Loss Damage Waiver for Sixt. Do you recommend this on top of the Gravel/Sand and Ash Protection?
This really depends on how risk adverse you are and your budget allows it. I did not take it.
Do you think a 2WD would be ok for december driving, our trips will include the golden circle route for 1 day and a 2 day trip to Vik/Jokulsarlon? I am a bit worried about snow!
Good question and this time your worries are well funded. As far as I know, in the winter, the weather is very unpredictable. It can be ok one minute and you can wake up inside a blizzard a few minutes later. Most people would recommend a 4WD and a lot of caution. Remember to keep an eye on the http://www.road.is website. It tells the weather conditions on the roads and it’s very useful, especially in the winter.
Thanks a lot, I have finally found all the info in one place!
Hi Yulia, thank you so much for your tips! I was looking at planning a trip for Nov, perhaps I should consider next summer instead. I love your blog, it’s very fast and has a cool design (mine is kind of slow since I don’t update it much too). I’ll follow you on Instagram as well. Keep up the good work!