Iceland is the land of fire and ice. You will be able to experience the thrills of visiting dormant and active volcanoes, as well as the quiet tranquility of the icy cold glaciers. To get around with some level of freedom and not blow a hole in your budget, you should look into how to get a cheap rental car.
A quick look at a map of the island shows that you want to have a comfortable car. One that can handle the terrain you are going into without having to pay an arm and a leg. Picking your route and planning ahead will save you more than you could imagine!
How to Get a Cheap Rental Car
This might seem like a pretty daunting task, but with our tips and tricks, you’ll know exactly what to do and what to choose to get the most bang for your buck. And with all this knowledge on hand, you can pop into Reykjavik Cars to preview all the options and make your selection. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of how to get a cheap rental car.
Preferences and General Tips
Iceland is an expensive country, there are no two ways about it. Moving around and funding an entire trip will be an exercise in budget planning and sticking to the plan. One large cost is always the travel and the reason why we look into how to find a cheap rental car in Iceland. These are a few helpful tips to lead you in the right direction:
1. Adjust to Your Vacation Needs
First, you need to properly assess what you want to do on your vacation to this mystical island. There is no reason to check how to get a cheap Toyota Land Cruiser rental if you don’t plan on getting on the roads. If you only want to do a few day excursions from your hotel, booking shuttles or using public buses might be a better alternative.
However, if you want to experience more of the island and get away from the pulsating city life, a rented car is a must. If you want to stick to the tar and gravel roads, a 2WD car is an excellent option that will go easy on the wallet. As soon as you want to go into the Icelandic mountain roads, a 4x4 is your only option. A 4x4 is generally a thirsty car, even though some of the modern ones have the option of switching between 2WD and 4x4.
2. Consider the Size of the car
Now, before we dig into the specifics of your route and preferences, the size of the car is an important topic. Are you planning on travelling alone, with family, friends, or your partner? Iceland has a harsh environment, and it’s important to pick a car that will ensure comfort, regardless of your party size.
For a family, it’s extra important to know the cheapest way to rent a car in Iceland. Cramming the family into a car that’s too small is never worth the money. An SUV is best suitable for a family of up to five since they are the ones that can fit both people and luggage comfortably.
Any larger parties than that should look into renting two cars rather than a minivan rental. It’s almost always a cheaper option and will still grant you access to all the wild corners of the map, though if you'd rather keep all the family together and don't plan on driving through the F-roads, we recommend checking our Renault Trafic for up to 9 passengers.
If you are simply travelling with your spouse or having a solo trip, you should look into the smaller rental cars and maybe avoid the F-roads. There are excellent economic options if you’d like to stick to the tar and gravel roads, and you’ll still be able to see most of the country without any issues. However, if driving through the Highlands is something you really don't want to miss, renting a 4WD vehicle for your trip to Iceland will be a must, as no other vehicles can access the Icelandic F-roads.
3. Decide Whether You’ll be Driving on the F-roads or not
The true adventurer will look into where the F-roads in Iceland are. The ‘F’ stands for the Icelandic word for mountain and basically marks that whatever route you’re about to take will be a rough, mountain road. These types of roads are harsh and require an experienced driver.
Since these are narrow roads that criss-cross the mountains, it’s easy to get lost if you haven’t made a plan. Planning out your trip and making sure you take the right routes and avoid any unnecessary driving will play a big part in how to get a cheap rental car rate. Gas isn’t cheap, and the daily rent isn’t the only rate you should keep in mind. Staying off the F-roads is generally a cheaper option since you can rent a cheaper car and pay less in gas costs. It still allows you to see more or less anything but the highlands.
4. Decide Whether You’ll be Driving on the Gravel Roads
Unlike the F-roads, the gravel roads are suitable for 2WD as well as 4x4. It’s easier to travel these roads with a 4x4 car, but it’s cheaper to drive a 2WD, and that’s why we recommend them as a wallet-conscious option. Just keep in mind the speed limits in Iceland when it comes to gravel roads so as to not damage the car.
5. Establish How Long You Will be Driving
This goes for both distance and time. When looking at how to get a cheap rental car in Iceland, time and distance should not be overlooked. Even though Iceland is a small island, taking the wrong turn and driving around a fjord will have a significant impact on your route and planning.
Going for a limited number of driving kilometres will be cheaper in most cases, but it’s a gamble. Make sure to get a deal with infinite driving kilometres if you are in an exploring mood, or carefully plan your routes and follow them properly.
Are you planning on driving throughout the holiday, or are you going to stay at your final destination for the last part of your vacation? Cutting your rental as short as possible is the cheapest way to get a rental car. This might even add to the relaxing part of the vacation if you’ve been moving around a lot.
6. Decide Where You’ll be travelling: Reykjavík or Akureyri?
If you’re planning on travelling around in the larger Reykjavik area, you should gauge how much and how often you will use the car. Instead of renting one from the airport, a cheaper option might be to take one of the many Fly Bus routes from Keflavik to Reykjavik. Only rent a car when you need one whilst you’re in Reykjavik.
If you are planning on spending most of the time on the northern part of the island, we recommend you look into taking a flight from Keflavik to Akureyri and rent a car over there instead. Driving from Reykjavík to Akureyri is a 387km journey that will take at least four and a half hours to make. That's why a flight is likely to be a more economic option. Sometimes the answer to the question of how to find cheap rental car rates in Iceland is to take alternative transport.
7. Decide What You’ll be Driving: Automatic or Manual?
In this automatic vs manual car battle, Iceland is an old-fashioned country that values tradition. Most people are still driving with a manual transmission, and that’s also why vehicles like the Dacia Duster are some of the most common type of cars you will find here. There are, of course, cars with an automatic transmission too, like the Hyundai Tucson but you are more likely to come across the former than the latter.
Being able to handle both will be important when you want to find the cheapest way to rent a car. It opens up your options and will give you an edge in picking a rental car with good terms and low fuel consumption.
8. Ensure You Pick the Right Insurance and Read the Fine Print
Since Iceland offers a tough environment, a lot of the car rentals will include insurance options in the price. This is just to make things easier for both parties! They know the lay of the land and that some wear, tear, and damage on the vehicles come with the unforgiving terrain.
Keep an eye on the fine print and see what the insurance covers as well as whether it’s included in the price or not. You don’t want to unnecessarily hike up your rental prices.
9. Pick Whether You’re Going the International or Domestic Rental Route
Icelanders favor the Icelandic market. Even though you will find most large international car rental companies around Iceland, and they might give comprehensive deals, you might be pleasantly surprised to find an even better deal at the locally owned car rental.
Not only will you stimulate the local economy, but the Icelanders are often very chatty and eager to show off their mystical country. They can point you to the best and most scenic roads and tell you about the hidden gems on the map. The best way to rent a car in Iceland is to get a good deal alongside some exclusive tips!
10. Make a Booking in Advance or on the Spot
When it comes to the cheapest way to get a rental car in Iceland, booking it long before your trip is a sure way to get the price down. See, Nordic people, in general, like to plan things, and they like it when other people plan things too. It makes life easier. For example, if you book a month before you arrive, you can get as much as 20% off the price! Most rentals will give you a discount of some sort if you plan ahead a little.
Pick-up on the spot is a good option if you fancy the freedom over planning. You might be able to snag some good prices with the locals for short-term rentals this way. However, don’t count on getting any good deals on long-term rentals if you don’t plan ahead.
Already know what you’re going with? Then don’t leave us hanging! Follow the helpful advice of point 10 and get your Iceland car rental today!