Looking forward to renting a car in Iceland and making memories to last a lifetime? The date is set. Now, all you need to check off your list is renting a suitable car. We are excited to help you with that!
There are a lot of choices when renting a car. In this article, we will help you understand what style of car is best, important things to know before you hit the road in Iceland, insurance and payment options, and give you a lot of useful tips. With the handy overview of rental companies we’ve compiled, you can make the best choice for you and your trip.
Planning to rent a car in Iceland?
Use the Road Trip Car online platform to find car rental companies best suited for your trip.start search
Do I need a 4x4 in Iceland?
It is not necessary to rent a 4x4 (or 4-wheel drive car) in Iceland, as any car should be suitable. However, depending on your needs and trip plans, a special model car could help. To help you figure out what car model would be best for you, read these 6 tips for renting a car in Iceland.
Roads, navigation and tours in Iceland
How are the roads in Iceland?
For most motorists, driving on the roads in Iceland is a totally new experience.
Below you can see one of the videos to watch in preparation for your Iceland adventure.
In winter, when there is a lot of snowfall, parts of the Ring Road may be closed off.
Do I need GPS navigation in Iceland?
You don't need GPS navigation in Iceland. Iceland roads are well-marked with signage. Through the app, maps.me, you can download the map of Iceland on your phone if you need it.
Stay on the Ring Road or visit epic inland Iceland?
Access to inland roads and mountains in Iceland is usually limited to July and August.
Moreover, only 4x4 cars are allowed on these roads, so prepare for this, if you choose to do inland or mountain driving.
Many places of interest are located at the Ring Road (Route 1). However, sometimes traveling gravel roads is necessary to reach them.
Ring Road (Route 1)
Ring Road (in Icelandic: Þjóðvegur 1 or Hringvegur) runs all over the island. Along the way you can enjoy enchanting views and visit places of interest.
During the winter months, approximately from mid-November to mid-April, parts of the Ring Road may be closed to traffic due to winter conditions.
Many attractions in Iceland are located on the Ring Road. Sometimes you have to drive a little bit inland to reach the point, which is doable in standard cars.
A 4x4 car is not necessary when travelling alone on the Ring Road.
The Golden Circle
This route, from Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, is about 300 kilometers (190 miles) long and is called by many the most beautiful route in Iceland. The Golden Circle can be driven with a normal car, even in winter. It can be done within one day.
Most inland roads in are indicated by a number and the letter F in front of it. They are closed most of the year.
For experienced and adventurous drivers, these are challenging roads to drive. However, a 4x4 is required on these roads.
I want to rent a car
Where am I most likely to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?
Unfortunately, we can't predict where you will have the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland. However, it is true that you are more likely to see it in a place where there is no light pollution. The darker the better. We have more tips and information for you on where and when you are most likely to see the Northern Lights.
How to rent a car in Iceland and what's the price
How to rent a car in Iceland?
It is best to rent a car online, well before your vacation in Iceland starts. Which rental company you choose depends on what kind of car you want to rent and which insurance options you consider important.
Here you will find the results of our research on rental companies.
If you decide to rent at a local rental company, which we have not (yet) involved in our research, then read these tips for carefree car rental.
What is the price of a rental car in Iceland?
The cost of a rental car in Iceland varies. But, as an example, to rent a car for 10 days, with the cheapest rental company, and with all-risk insurance:
Pay Attention! The rents below are based on the period before the disruptions in the market. It is not yet possible to say whether the price level will recover in the coming period. Currently the prices are considerably higher than normal. Please take this into account when looking for a rental car.
- $69 (€56) per day for a small car, such as a Kia Picanto;
- $86 (€70) per day for a medium sized car, such as a Hyundai i30;
- $99 (€80) per day for a large car, such as a Hyundai i30 estate;
- $127 (€103) per day for a 4x4, like a Suzuki Jimny;
- $235 (€190) per day for a van/mpv, such as a Ford Galaxy.
Roadtripcar.com has conducted a broad investigation into the costs and conditions of rental companies.
In our research, we compare rental cars that are all-risk insured. An all-risk insurance in Iceland sometimes deviates from what’s expected from such an insurance. Please read our page about insuring a rental car in Iceland for an explanation.
The rental period was 10 days in the summer, the rental location Reykjavik-Keflavik Airport.
Note: the above list is an estimate. Low and high-peak travel periods influence the price. Renting a car in Iceland during the winter period can sometimes be half of the above-mentioned prices.
Would you like to read more? We have written a separate article with the 6 best tips for renting a car in Iceland.
Traffic rules in Iceland
The traffic rules in Iceland are not very different from those in Europe or the U.S. But the driving conditions certainly are. Below we write about those rules and circumstances. Would you like to read more about them? In another article, we have written more extensively about driving in Iceland.
The speed limit for passenger cars
- In built-up areas there is usually a speed limit of 50 km (30 mi) per hour;
- Outside the built-up area on paved roads is 90 km (55 mi) per hour.
In Iceland, it is mandatory to have the car's low beam headlights on day and night.
How is priority regulated?
- Traffic from the right has priority at intersections, unless otherwise indicated;
- Buses always have priority. Just like school buses.
Direction of traffic
They drive on the right and pass on the left.
It is forbidden to drive off-road in Iceland.
It is forbidden to park against the direction of travel.
Children in the car
Children up to 1.50 meters (5 feet) in height must be transported in an approved and suitable child seat or (if they are older than 3 years) on a booster seat.
The use of winter tires is mandatory during the period when winter conditions occur.
When renting a car during the winter period, check if the car is equipped with winter or studded tires.
Alcohol and recreational drugs
In 2019, Iceland lowered the maximum permitted level of alcohol in the blood. It’s possible to exceed the permitted amount after drinking one glass of beer. For drivers there is a total ban on recreational drug use.
Hands-free calling is allowed.
Tips for driving in Iceland
Driving in Iceland is safe and easy. The roads are not crowded. Still, there are some tips we would like to share.
Sheep and cows
Always keep in mind that sheep and cows can suddenly cross the road.
Parking along the road
Parking is allowed only in the designated places.
Tunnels in Iceland
While driving in Iceland, you'll regularly encounter tunnels. Short tunnels are usually one-lane roads. In case of oncoming traffic, you will have to wait until the road is clear.
Toll roads in Iceland
In Iceland there is a toll tunnel. The Vadlaheidi tunnel (Vaðlaheiðargöng) is 7.5 kilometers (5 mi) long. For a passenger car, the toll is about €11 (13.50 USD) each way.
Driving inland and on mountain roads
Inland and mountain roads are usually referred to as F-roads. These roads are closed to traffic for most of the year.
It is only allowed to drive a 4x4 (4WD) on these roads.
Although you can drive a 4x4 on these roads, the car is not insured if driven through water.
You can follow the conditions of the roads during your trip on this website: http://www.road.is/.
Road signs in Iceland
The road signs in Iceland probably don’t differ from the ones in your country.
Only for 4-WD
Sheep can cross the road
Look out pavement changes
Planning your route through Iceland
When planning your route through Iceland, keep in mind that the average speed is much lower than the maximum allowed speed.
Refueling in Iceland
Along the Ring Road (Route 1) and other main roads, there are petrol (gas) stations every 40 to 80 km (25 to 30 mi). Inland and in the mountainous areas you will find far fewer gas stations.
At manned gas stations, you can pay not only with a credit card but also with cash.
Most gas stations are unmanned and here you can only pay with a credit card with pin code (Mastercard and Visa). It’s recommended to call your credit card company before your trip, to set a pin, if you don’t have one.
We have put together not only the tips above, but also tips when renting a car. Roadtripcar has a handy checklist, so you can be sure to check the most important points when you pick up the rental car. You can download it for free from the same article!
Be sure to read our other page on this subject if you want to know more about traffic rules and safe driving in Iceland.
What age do you need to be to rent a car in Iceland?
In Iceland, most companies rent cars to people 20 years of age or older. There is a limited possibility that you can rent a car beginning at 18 years. From the age of 19, you must have a valid driver's license for at least one year before you can rent a car.
Read more below about what rules apply, depending on your age.
You are 18 years old
There is a limited number of car rental companies that rent a car to you. You have a choice of a few car models and you pay a surcharge.
You are 19 years old
You can rent a car at most rental companies in Iceland. You can choose from slightly more models, but still pay a surcharge.
You are between 20 and 24 years old
From 20 up to and including 24 years, you can rent a car at any of our researched rental companies. You pay a surcharge and can choose from almost all models.
You are 25 years or older
From the age of 25, you can choose from all models at all rental companies, provided you have had a valid driver's license for at least one year.
Would you like to know more about renting a car at your age? Then read more about what age you need to be before renting a car in Iceland.
Requirements and credit card for car rental
What are the requirements for car rental in Iceland?
If you want to rent a car in Iceland, the following documents are required for all ages:
- A valid driver's license for at least 1 year;
- A valid passport or identity card;
- A credit card.
If you live outside the EU or the U.S., you will also need an international driver's license.
Can you rent a car in Iceland without a credit card?
As in most other countries, you will need a credit card in the name of the main driver to rent a car in Iceland. Depending on the rental company you book with, the rental price can also be paid via iDeal or an invoice. When picking up the rental car you pay the deposit with your credit card.
Very few local rental companies will rent a car without a credit card. A cash deposit will then be requested. Always check the car you are taking along before signing an agreement, considering the age of the car and the condition of the tires.
Rent a car without deposit
Some rental companies in Iceland require a high security deposit for the rental cars. Depending on which car you rent, the deposit you must leave can sometimes be as high as €3000 (about 3600 USD). Before booking, please check the amount of the deposit for the car and the credit limit on your credit card. If the credit limit is not enough, you can try to increase it.
If it’s not possible to increase the credit limit on your card, you still have options. In Iceland, SunnyCars offers the option to rent with or without a low deposit. When picking up the rental car you, will still need a credit card in the name of the main driver.
The advantage of this option is that you keep your free credit on your credit card.
During the time of our research, we could choose from 91 cars with a valid credit card at Sunny Cars. The option 'without guarantee' gave us a choice of 20 cars. The rental price would then be on average €80 (98 USD) higher per rental period. The option 'low deposit (€0 - €300 (368 USD))' gave us a choice of 40 models, without price difference.
Whether it is possible to rent a car without a credit card is a frequently asked question. Therefore, Roadtripcar has written a separate page about renting a car without a credit card in Iceland.
What’s the best insurance for a rental car in Iceland?
You don't want to be unpleasantly surprised when you rent a car in Iceland. We'll tell you a bit more about the most remarkable things regarding the insurance of your rental car here:
All-risk is not always all-risk
All-risk is a term used by many rental companies but does not offer the same coverage everywhere. Learn more from our research about what companies live up to the expectation 'all-risk.’
Ash, gravel and sand
Sandstorms, ash (volcano) and splashing gravel can cause damage to the car. This damage is excluded from coverage by most insurance companies.
Driving through fordable places
Many insurance companies exclude damage caused by driving through water. The rental companies offer separate insurance for such damage, but the excess cannot be insured.
Damage caused by driving through a river is not covered by any insurance.
In Iceland, the wind can sometimes blow so hard that when you open the door of the car, the wind gets hold of it and takes it from you. This is another insurance that rental companies can offer you.
Rent a car with zero excess in Iceland
There is one rental company in our survey who is completely all-risk insured: Sunny Cars. Provided you have adhered to the terms and conditions of the rental, they will reimburse you for damages plus excess.
If you find an acceptable deductible, then you can also contact the other companies included in the survey. Always read the conditions to know which damages are excluded from coverage.
We have written a separate article with more detailed information about insuring your rental car in Iceland.
During our travels, we have rented dozens of cars in different countries on different continents, without any problem! On this page you'll find our best tips on renting a car, so you can have a fantastic road trip.
Road Trip Car has a handy checklist, so you can be sure to check the most important points when you pick up your rental car. You can download it for free from the same article!
Car rentals and experiences
You want to make the best choice for a rental car in Iceland. Roadtripcar.com continuously researches rental companies and has made the following handy overview. This makes it easier for you to find a good rental car. We select rental car companies in Iceland based on experiences and score, prices, possibilities and conditions.
At some rental companies, we read about bad experiences of customers more often than at other companies. Don't be put off by this at first. People quickly tend to post bad reviews when the problem could easily have been avoided.
Sometimes there are rental companies where there is a particularly large number of negative reviews. We advise not to rent a car from such companies. If you do, we advise you to pay extra attention and follow all the tips.
Information per rental company can be found on our rental companies’ page. This way you can choose at-a-glance from which company you want to rent a car in Iceland.