Our tips for renting a 4 × 4 and getting around Iceland
Where to rent a 4 × 4 cheaper? How to cross a ford? Should we take a GPS? We tell you everything!
Is it necessary to rent a 4 × 4 or a basic car enough?
It all depends on your route. If you want to visit only the Golden Circle or go around Iceland by road 1 and take some gravel roads, a basic car is enough for you.
As soon as the roads start to be a little more complicated, it becomes immediately more comfortable to take a 4 × 4, but it is not really necessary.
Only if you plan to use the F-Roads to access Landmannlaugar, Askja or Þórsmörk, for example, is the 4 × 4 obligatory, as it is often necessary to cross a few fords and roads are sometimes very sporty.
That said, there are companies that serve these sites by bus (which are more like 4 × 4 elevated trucks than anything else), but their rates are often prohibitive. More about bus routes and schedules on the Reykjavik Excursions website cheap car rental
How much does it cost to rent a car in Iceland?
We will not hide it but the car rental in Iceland (even more for a 4 × 4) is very … very expensive . Prices are set, as everywhere, according to supply and demand. Rates are much higher in high season (June / July / August) than in low season.
In high season, for a 15-day rental, count at least 500 € for a basic city car, at least 1500 € for a basic 4 × 4 and more than 2300 € for a 4 × 4 luxury. That is why we advise you to leave either a little later, or a little earlier, to benefit from cheaper rates.
To choose the best deal, we advise you to compare car hire prices in Iceland on Guide to Iceland, a platform that includes thirty local agencies. You can directly book online and the site is in French!
You can directly book online and the site is in French. For information, for our 15-day roadtrip riding on August and September, we paid 1400 € for a Dacia Duster at Blue Car Rental . Yes, it’s still very expensive!
Which rental agency to choose?
Avoid at all costs the international companies (Europcar, Sixt and company): most of the time, they provide absolutely unsuitable vehicles to Iceland at prices even higher than the local companies.
If you want to rent a 4 × 4, it is even more disadvised because these companies formally forbid driving on mountain trails (a height for a 4 × 4!).
As you understand it, we advise you to go through the local agencies . On our side, we went through Blue Car Rental , their rates are much lower than the competition, and all insurance, normally optional, are included basic. Plus: delivery of your car is available anywhere in Reykjavík, convenient!
Which insurances to take as an option?
There are 5 different insurances:
TP (Insurance against theft): Not really useful. We do not fear much in Iceland, so from there to be robbed a car …
GP (Gravel Insurance): Recommended. cheap rent a car Assures the vehicle of damage to the windshield and fires due to the projection of gravel or pebbles by another car. Given the number of gravel roads in Iceland, it’s really very recommended!
CDW (Collision Insurance): Recommended. The most classic insurance, we can not escape!
SCDW (Super Anti-Collision Insurance): It’s exactly the same as the CDW, except that it protects you even more. Up to you…
SAAP (insurance against sand and ash storms): Optional. It covers damage to paint, windows, lights and plastics in sandstorms and ashes. According to our rental agency, it seems that the risks are higher in winter, between Vik and Jökulsarlon, but really nothing obligatory either.
For information, note that premium credit cards ( MasterCard Gold and other Visa Premier ) do not provide 4 × 4 and utilities (it is marked very discreetly on contracts), so do not count on your card for you ensure …
In all cases, Blue Car Rental is the only agency, to our knowledge, to include all insurance except SAAP, in its base rate.
Is a GPS necessary?
Even if Iceland is not so small, the road network is much less dense than in France. A good road map at scale 1: 150000, indicating petrol stations, types of roads, fords and campsites, is largely sufficient. For our part, we bought the Vegahandbokin that we found at the Reykjavik Tourist Office for 2200 ISK (~ 18 €).
The only time you can possibly need a GPS is inside Reykjavik, but the signage is pretty good. A smartphone equipped with an application like Here Maps (which allows to have navigation accessible anywhere in the world offline and for free) should be enough for you. Note also that all campsites, pools and information points are systematically well signposted with signs on the main arteries of all municipalities in Iceland. Convenient !
How do the roads in Iceland work?
There are three types of roads in Iceland:
The paved roads that make up most of the roads. They are limited to 90 km / h and are generally in very good condition. No particular difficulty.
The roads gravel ( Gravel roads ) are more common in remote areas and are limited to 80km / h. In practice, there are some excellent, and others in a deplorable state, full of potholes and bumps. In this case, it is actually more comfortable to drive in 4 × 4, but all gravel roads are logically accessible to all.
The mountain trails ( F-roads ) , such as F225, are accessible only by 4 × 4. Sometimes, they are more rolling than some gravel roads , but very often it moves quite a lot. Access with a basic vehicle is strictly prohibited by all rental agencies.
Be careful, some of these F-roads cross fords (see the dedicated section below in this article).
Finally, be aware that gravel roads and tracks are particularly messy. There are free wash stations in most of the country’s petrol stations.
Some indications on driving in Iceland
The crossing lights are mandatory during the day and at night.
A very large majority of bridges, even on Route 1, are single lane . There is nothing complicated to cross them, you just have to give priority to the one who comes first. Same thing for some tunnels that are also one way.
Overall, Icelanders are very much on the speed limit . So watch out for radars particularly present around Reykjavik and long straight lines that can make you want to press the mushroom: 90 km / h is 90 km / h, and never above 50 km / h in the city!
Watch out for the sheep! There are just everywhere and they do not hesitate to sunbathe in the middle of the road. So be careful when you see, it should not hurt these adorable little animals (and also put you in danger)!
To learn more, we advise you to go see a small video very playful (and sooo 90’s) explaining the few dangers and specificities of driving in Iceland: over here .
How to cross a ford?
Aaah the famous question. We spent so much time watching videos on YouTube and browsing the Routard forums to find out how to do it, we absolutely had to write a full explanation on it.
For the uninitiated, a ford is a place where it is necessary to cross a stream to continue its path . It is usually a place where the width of the stream is relatively small, and where it is not too deep. We can cross them on foot, on two wheels or, as we explain here … in 4 × 4!
In practice, some fords cross small streams; while others cross large rivers with very strong current.
If you plan to travel with a Twingo, do not think so! For our part, we had a Dacia Duster 4WD (which is more a sidewalk franchiser than anything else) but it was more than enough to go to Landmannlaugar (via the F225 then the F208 South). The Suzuki Jimny seems to be the Icelandic 4 × 4 flagship and is largely enough to cross not too complicated fords.
If you want to go further in the mountains, for example take the F88 safely to Askja, you need a real big 4 × 4, much more rustic (without electronics and all the trimmings ). But here, the driver must already have a good level of driving in this type of situation.
First of all, find out if possible in advance about the state of the roads . Access to Landmannlaugar seems rather easy at the end of the summer but it is not necessarily the case at the beginning of June. The website Road.is lists the status of all Icelandic routes, very convenient.
In any case, it is easier to cross a ford in the morning because the flow of the river is lower than the afternoon.
Let’s get to the point. You are on a track, everything is fine for now, until BAM, a river cuts the road in two. We reassure you, the first time is very impressive.
Crossing a ford requires some finesse. The goal is to cross:
At constant speed
Not too slow not to stall. If you ever stall, never try to restart the engine. In a ford, the muffler is under water and restarting the engine in the water would drown the engine. The only solution is to wait until someone comes to tow you (but it will not happen since you will read this guide!).
Not too fast either , because too big a wave would be created in front of you, which could drown the engine.
Put yourself at the water’s edge and engage the first gear in 4WD mode. If your car has a sequential gearbox, it’s time to use it (it keeps the clutch engaged). This option was not available on our Duster, but we still arrived there.
Accelerate to reach a maximum speed of 10km / h with a very high engine speed, and keep this speed constant until the end. It should go alone (but if, but if!).
If you do not feel it, feel that there is too much current, or think the river is too deep for you, wait for someone else to pass by, and see how it goes . It helps a lot.
In any case, if you do not really feel, turn around. You should not spoil your vacation, or even put yourself in danger just because of your lack of vigilance.
In any case, you’ll see, it’s absolutely great to do.
On the 61 towards Ísafjörður
And if we do not want to rent a car?
A car will give you easier access to all tourist sites, without being dependent on a bus company that will pass more or less regularly where you go.
However, if you can not or do not want to take a car, there are alternative solutions:
By bus. To visit only the Golden Circle and Reykjavik is more than enough. For the rest of Iceland, apart from the fjords of the Northwest, it is relatively well served by various bus lines, more or less regular. For more information, we strongly advise you to buy a tour guide and / or to consult the website of Iceland’s main coach company, Reykjavik Excursions .
Hitchhiking. Many courageous tempt him and it can be done without worries. You just do not have to be in a hurry to find a car that will take you as soon as you go a little to the East and all the quasi-desert regions.
Cycling (Yes yes!). Some adventurers of the extreme try the adventure on a bicycle, but there we can really only recommend it to the more experienced ones, seen the climatic conditions on the spot.
On the 32 towards Landmannalaugar
Our favorite routes
The roads of Iceland are all more beautiful than the others, but you are strongly advised to borrow if you can:
435 to the west, to go to the lake Þingvallavatn and Þingvellir from Reykjavík
All the roads to get to Landmnnalaugar : the 32, the F225, then the F208 South to leave in the direction of Vík
The 214 to get to Þakgil campsite
The 939 in the East , a shortcut on the road 1 which allows to climb a pass worthy of Game of Thrones
The article contains a link sponsored by Guide to Iceland.
We obviously keep our entire editorial freedom.