The best way to make the most out of a visit to Iceland is by hiring a car and exploring in your own time. Although you can go on guided tours to some of the most popular attractions, or use the country’s network of buses and internal flights to get around, driving yourself provides a number of advantages – most predominately the option to stop where you want if you see somewhere you’d like to explore and the opportunity to spend as long as you want at various stop offs.
But, it can be tricky hiring a car as there are many factors to be aware of; before my first visit, I spent ages reading reviews and researching before choosing a company. Here’s a few tips to help you get a hire car in Iceland.
Book in advance
As with most things in life, the further in advance your book, the better price you get. So don’t leave it to the last minute.
Don’t just look at globally recognised brands
Although many international car hire companies operate in Iceland, there’s also a significant number of independent rental providers. Often quite competitive on price, they generally also offer more flexible and personalised service than a global company might. I’ve used an independent company (Blue Car Rental) on both of my visits, and I particularly appreciated that they were very flexible about the collection location of the car.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is
But like hiring a car anywhere else in the world, if the price you’re quoted online seems significantly lower than other providers, then take it with a pinch of salt.
Icelandic road signs are very easy to follow!
Choose your vehicle type carefully
Do you really need a 4×4? If you’re not driving on the F roads (mountain roads), then probably not. F roads are generally located in the middle of the country, and these are clearly signposted so it’s unlikely that you’ll accidentally end up on one without meaning to, and if you get sat nav, you can also programme it to avoid F roads. A standard car is fine if you’re planning on doing the ring road or visiting major towns and attractions, even on the gravel roads, and will keep your car hire and fuel costs down.
The extra insurances are (probably) worth it
When you hire a car in Iceland, the rental company knows it will probably come back fairly dirty as much of the country is quite open and if the wind whips up, the car will probably get covered in muck.
But, you have to be more aware of sand and ash, which can cause damage to the car and lead to extra costs when you return it. Most Icelandic car hire companies will offer SAAP (sand and ash protection) as an additional cost when you book your car. I always choose to get it as it provides that extra peace of mind, so I see it as being worthwhile.
Ready to drive in Iceland? See my guide to an Icelandic road trip from Reykjavik to Akureyri.