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Which car should I choose in Iceland?


Which car to choose in Iceland? An SUV?

Known as the Land of Fire and Ice, Iceland has popped up on many travelers’ radars in recent years. Deciding to rent a car and drive around the island has become the ultimate bucket list for plenty of intrepid adventurers. There are so many options for Iceland car rental that it can be hard to know where to begin. 

Let’s go over the options available for when you hire a car to help you pick the right vehicle in Iceland. And once you’ve booked a car, you can start focusing on the more exciting details like volcanoes, waterfalls, glacier hikes, and visiting places like Vatnajökull National Park and Seljalandsfoss waterfall. 

Compact and Standard Sized Cars

If you're part of a couple or a small group of friends, the perfect Iceland rental car is going to be a compact or economy vehicle. These automobiles are small and easy to drive. They also get excellent mileage as they are extremely fuel-efficient. These types of cars will take you not only on quick day trips from Reykjavik but also across longer distances as well. Whether you're going around the Golden Circle Route or headed towards the volcanic black sand beaches of Vik, an economy model is the right choice.

If you're looking to rent a small car,  there are many different models to choose from. The Kia Picanto, Volkswagen Polo, Kia Rio, Toyota CH-R, and Toyota Yaris are some of the most reliable rental cars Iceland that fall under this category. These are all great cars for a road trip. Just as a tip, be sure to check the trunk’s capacity for luggage. Even if the car fits five passengers, there may only be room for one or two small suitcases or backpacks.

Full-Sized Models and Sedans

This type of vehicle is wonderful because of all the extra legroom and space for sleeping passengers to stretch out. Anyone who has visited Iceland knows that there are times after a day of adventure when you’re just ready to pass out. At the end of a long day hiking Skaftafell glacier or traveling on a long stretch of the Ring Road, nothing is nicer than taking a quick snooze. This is especially true during the summer, when we have the Midnight Sun and nearly 24 hours of sunlight.

You’ll want to pick something for a larger group of people, a family, or those who simply want more room. The Kia Ceed Sportswagon is a great choice for going around the island. It’s a modern update to the old family station wagon from road trips of days past. So not only is it practical and convenient, but it’s sporty and stylish as well. 

SUVs and 4x4 Vehicles

When thinking about car rental in Iceland,  one of the first things you need to consider is your itinerary. Where you plan to go will have an impact upon what type of vehicle you ultimately decide to rent. Obviously, glaciers and hot springs will be on your list of things to do, but what about visiting the Highlands?

I ask this because if Iceland’s wild interior is on the agenda, you’re going to need to rent a car in Iceland that’s allowed here. The Highlands have special roads called F-roads, which are mountain roads. They are unpaved, gravel paths, and legally, your car rental in Iceland needs to have a four-wheel drive to traverse them. You may also need to ford some rivers in our rugged backcountry, so SUVs are a popular choice. If it’s your first time crossing water, I highly recommend you get some professional guidance. 

The time of year you're planning your travels in Iceland is another factor to take into consideration. Driving in Iceland already has challenges of its own, so adding in the snowy, icy road conditions of Icelandic winter weather only compounds that. Safety is paramount, so winter tires come standard on all rentals starting in November. 

In addition to practicing basic driving safety precautions, 4x4 vehicles are another way to feel safe with winter driving. There’s nothing worse than that feeling of spinning out of control after you’ve hit a patch of black ice and start skidding. With all-wheel drive, you’ll be able to get the situation back under control faster than if you were only maneuvering two wheels. 

Some models to take a look at are the Dacia Duster, Nissan Qashqai, Suzuki Vitara, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage 4x4, and Kia Sorento 4x4. These SUVs and compact crossovers will take you where you want to roam, whether it’s the Ring Road or further inland. They also provide peace of mind for any of those precarious winter driving conditions you might encounter. 

Large and Passenger Models

What if you’re traveling with a really big group? There are times when a five-seater simply won’t cut it. Sometimes you need to consider a roomier vehicle with lots of extra space in the back. Think 7-seaters or passenger vans. Depending on your group’s needs and how many travel companions you have, you may want to upgrade to the biggest rental vehicles available. The Nissan X-Trail is a seven-passenger vehicle that combines the dashing appearance of an SUV with the possibility of expanding a third row of seats. It’s an all-terrain option that’s perfect for exploration and seeking out new adventures. And if you’re ready for a field trip-like outing, the Renault Traffic or Mercedes Benz Vito 4x4 9-seater are ideal. These vehicles are perfect for a self-organized group tour of Iceland.

These kinds of rentals are also perfect for an excursion to see the Northern Lights as everyone can just pile in. Additionally, these types of cars often have larger windows, which offer nearly 360º views of the surrounding landscape. 

Other Factors to Consider

In addition to picking the right model for your trip to Iceland, there are also a couple of other things to consider. While it might not be obvious, where are you pick up and drop off your car is something to think about. While most people assume they get their car rental at the Iceland airport, that's not always correct. Sometimes you have to pick up your car rental in Reykjavik City, which is a 40-minute drive from Keflavik International Airport. You'll need to make separate transportation arrangements if this is the case. Check to see exactly where your Reykjavik car rental needs to be picked up from. You may be able to choose between airport pickup and city pickup. Be sure to factor this into your schedule as well as your budget for the trip. 

Another thing to keep in mind is the experience and reputation of the company that you choose to rent from. Because the car rental market in Iceland is a little bit oversaturated, the great leveler isn’t always cost. Of course, prices are competitive, but you can get cheap car rental in Iceland from multiple providers. Remember that you get what you pay for, so sometimes it makes sense to opt for the slightly more expensive option with great reviews. 

Check forums on travel websites like Trip Advisor and read Google Reviews. See what former clients have to say about customer service as well as the overall quality of their experience with the company. You want a company that takes care of you and is helpful and responsive both throughout the booking process and during your trip.

One Final Note About Prices

When comparison shopping to find cheap car rental in Iceland, you should know that not all quotes are created equal. When you hire an automobile here, you’re paying for both the car and the mandatory CDW insurance. This is true for all rental companies in Iceland. 

But what you might not have considered are the other types of car rental insurance included in your rental. It varies from company to company and some include certain types in their quote while others leave it as an add on. To discover the true cost of your rental, figure out what type of insurance you have, what type you’ll need, and what the total price is. 

Iceland car rental insurance is an in-depth topic, but just to scratch the surface, here’s a quick overiew. CDW and SCDW are for collisions, SAAP is for sand and ash protection, GP is for gravel protection, and TP is for theft protection. I highly recommend getting comprehensive coverage and purchasing the full insurance package. 

Which car should I choose in Iceland?

When it comes down to it, the best way to pick the right car for your trip to is to know your travel needs and preferences. Some people are happy with a simple, compact car and need nothing more. Others prefer the large presence of an SUV. Or perhaps you just want the comfort that comes from having a family-type car for driving. Whatever your special choice is, know that we’ve got you covered. 

Take a look at our wide selection of vehicles to find the perfect fit for your party and get ready to hit the road. 

Reykjavik Auto
July 2019


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