I have heard many a horror story about renting cars in Iceland thanks to a lot of forum posts I have read. On top of that I’ve never rented a car in any foreign country. But I’m not much a fan of planned tours and tour buses and to really experience all that Iceland has to offer you need to get out of Reykjavik but public transit is virtually nonexistent for such excursions (in the winter especially). On my last trip I rented a car once under my name and once put in towards a car someone else rented under their name and so far no problems have arisen on either accounts. Not only can you see things at your own pace if you are renting with others it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than a tour!
I have heard stories about how months later people saw charges from rental companies on their accounts but at the time of writing (March 2016) no such thing has happened to me yet.) I’ve also heard about companies allowing people to rent cars that are not okay for the conditions outside, without snow tires and or studded tires. Knowing all of this going into it I made sure to discuss this with the rental company ahead of time.
I did a slow/travel work exchange on this last trip to Reykjavik and the hostel I was living/working at had a discount with Europcar and so both times I rented it was from Europcar.
Going into it I discussed with them where I would be traveling (The Golden Circle on one trip down to Vik on the other) and thus I would need a car appropriate for those conditions and specifically asked for the studded tires. Both times I ended up with a Kia Picanto.
The car itself was fine and the tires were great. The car company picked up us and dropped us off after the return. The only issues I had with them were this:
- When we returned our two day rental the said “You were supposed to bring the car back yesterday.” We said no, they looked into our file and realized that we were correct we were supposed to bring it back that day and had already paid.
- When I went to pick up the car for my one day rental they told me it was due back at 7 that night, I asked them to check that as I’m just picking it up then at about 11 Am and that can’t be correct, they again said it was their mistake and everything was fine from that point forward.
This was from two different Europcar locations in Reykjavik so just make sure you have your information correct and don’t be afraid to speak up about what you need and what you discussed as far as contracts are concerned.
Like most rental car companies they will try to sell you added insurance. The first time around we didn’t take it, the second time when the car was in my name I did take it. But know that this does NOT cover EVERYTHING. I’m used to the added insurance in American from Enterprise where you can bring a car back virtually destroyed (I haven’t tested this theory yet) and you’re covered. But this insurance doesn’t even cover the bottom of the car. And when you are in the land of fire and ice in the winter with tons of ice, snow, and sand around you are not, I repeat not covered for any damage to the bottom of the car with the added extra insurance.
The nice people at the Europecar gave me a map of an area that I was not allowed to drive (The whole middle of Iceland) and I suggest you follow that so that you don’t damage the car and end up costing yourself a ton of extra money. But luckily you can pretty much drive ring road year round and get to all the hot spots from Reykjavik without having to go into the no drive zone. Golden Circle, Vik, The Blue Lagoon, even going north to Akureyri you’ll be good to drive to so get to renting!
NOTE: If you are planning on doing some of these things on your own or with others p,lease follow all caution and warning signs about whether you are with a guide or not they are there for a reason, YOUR SAFETY. Don’t get yourself hurt or worse KILLED to get one step closer to the edge of the falls, to the waves at the beaches, many a tourist has gotten in trouble in this way. Also, take photos of the car before you leave of any damage etc to show claim to what was there on the car before you picked it up. I covered every single little nick and scratch on the car just to keep myself covered. And don’t forget to check the hood of the car! There can be some crazy hail and dents can be a problem.