4x4 Vehicle in Iceland – Is It Mandatory?

DO I need a 4x4 vehicle in Iceland? Must it be an SUV? Will a 2WD be enough? We know many of you wonder what kind of vehicle you need to tackle Iceland's road. So here's our article to address those questions.

Men seating on his rental car in icelandic landscape

blog authorBy Samuel Hogarth shield verificationVerified Expert

    It’s the age-old question or at least the question of our age when it comes to traveling around Iceland. Is a 4x4 vehicle in Iceland a must when tackling the country’s roads? To find out whether a 4x4 rental in Iceland is the right thing for you, check out our handy guide.

    What kind of advantages does renting a 4x4 in Iceland have?

    All-wheel drive vehicles utilize all four wheels at once. Power is transmitted to the four wheels of the vehicle providing additional traction in situations where extra grip is required and beneficial. Such instances might include off-roading and also driving when roads are slippery, such as when they’re covered in compacted snow or the invisible hazard of black ice. 4x4 cars might have the facility to switch off power to two of the wheels when it’s not necessary to have this extra grip, but broadly speaking the two terms are interchangeable.

    4x4s are often sports utility vehicles or SUVs. These typically have higher clearance than saloons or estate cars. If a road is uneven, you’re less likely to bottom out and get yourself stuck. These roomy vehicles aren’t cheap to rent, compared to our fleet of city car rentals for example, but if you’re traveling as a group or family, the extra space can be very useful. Boots tend to be large as well, with plenty of room to store big suitcases and other bags so that they don’t clutter the passenger compartment. Make sure to check our fleet of large 4x4 vehicles if you're planning to visit Iceland with your family or friends.

    Does a 4x4 have to be an SUV?

    In short, no. In fact, if you’re concerned about the impact of very windy weather, you might prefer to rent a 4x4 saloon. Lower to the ground, it won’t have the clearance of the bigger SUVs but it won’t feel like it’s been buffeted about in quite the same manner. Think about where you plan to drive and if there are a lot of exposed sections of road, stick to a 4x4 but opt out of those in the SUV category.

    Are 4x4 rentals really necessary in Iceland?

    When choosing which car to rent in Iceland, that’s not as straightforward a question to answer as you might first think. So, let’s dispense with the easy part – off-roading is illegal in Iceland so that’s a reason for renting a 4x4 that you can rule out straight away. However, if you’re keen to explore the country’s F roads, the ones that cut across the mountains of the interior, then the surface is too rough and uneven for a 2WD car to cope with.

    Don’t forget, those F roads are closed to everyone throughout the winter and for the majority of spring and autumn. Unless you’re planning a summer holiday, that knocks out that advantage as well. When they are passable, you basically have a choice: rent a vehicle that’s up to the job, such as a high clearance 4x4 SUV, or let someone else take the wheel and book an organized tour. Drivers on those super jeep tours you may have read about know the roads and the capabilities of their vehicles.

    Cars driver waving his hand through the open window

    Be honest about your own driving skills

    There’s no shame in ducking out if you feel your driving skills might not be up to the task. If the bulk of your driving back home is spent bumper to bumper sitting in traffic, are you going to revel in the thrill of steep gravelly slopes littered with potholes or is that kind of surface likely to send you into a wild panic? Holidays are supposed to be about having fun, not dreading what’s coming up around the next corner.

    If you’re quite happy looping the ring road and enjoying excursions on good roads to places like Reykjanes and Snaefellsnes, then go for it – a regular car will be perfectly acceptable, cheaper to rent and less expensive to run. Traffic is relatively light, and even in Reykjavik, you’re not going to feel the same kind of pressure that comes with millions of impatient drivers all wanting the same bit of road as you do. That said, if you do want to take on the F roads, then be honest with yourself about the type of vehicle that’s required and don’t be tempted to cut corners. Scrimping might compromise your safety.

    However, even if you’ve ruled out the F roads, when it comes to rental cars, don’t be too hasty to discount a 4x4. Because of Iceland’s unpredictable climate, types of weather such as snow, ice, heavy rain and freezing fog are all possible during a large part of the year. Having that extra hold on the road will be a blessing if you encounter challenging driving conditions as a result. Even though the ring road is a good road, it’s always reassuring when you rent a car that’s not going to struggle when the going gets a little tougher than you might be used to back home. Yes, it’s got a well-maintained, smooth tarmac surface, but that doesn’t mean the weather can’t worsen driving conditions.

    Budget 4x4 rental in Iceland

    Contrary to what you might expect, it is also possible to rent an affordable 4x4 in Iceland. We have a range of cars, including the Suzuki Jimny 4x4, Hyundai Tucson 4x4 and the Dacia Duster 4x4, with prices starting at just 32 euros per day, including CDW, taxes and unlimited mileage. These cars can be driven on F roads. With rates as low as these, you’d be unwise to pass up the chance to tour Iceland in comfort.

    Vehicle crossing a river in Iceland

    What if I have a higher budget? What’s the best 4x4 rental Iceland can offer?

    If you can afford to up the budget a bit, then some of the larger SUVs might be just the upgrade for your rental in Iceland. Reliable, almost unbreakable, the Toyota Landcruiser is big and solid, an iconic off-roader that can cope with pretty much anything. The Mitsubishi Outlander is dependable and unpretentious, while the Nissan X-Trail will comfortably carry a larger group and has a similarly trustworthy reputation. And if you want to go off-the-road combining comfort, power and style, we suggest checking our Land Rover Defender.

    Driving in Iceland is a pleasure. Exploring off the beaten track is one of the great advantages of renting a car. Where will your vehicle take you?

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