Renting a Car in Iceland – What You Need to Know

Our Experience Renting a Car in Iceland

During our 22-hour stopover in Iceland, we knew we’d want to be in control of our transportation to be able to make the most of our short time there as well as avoid the crowded, overpriced tours. This meant that we needed to rent our own car in order to see the Golden Circle in the way we wanted.

If you’re also spending a stopover in Iceland, be sure to read our travel guide, Iceland Golden Circle 22-Hour Stopover.

We frequently rent cars when we travel – even on travels abroad, and we have never had issues like we did renting from Keflavik Airport.

Fortunately, we were clued in beforehand – we had looked through some of the reviews trying to figure out where the rental car counter was located, and instead of that information, we came across several recent reviews where people shared stories of being blamed and having to pay for vehicle damage that they had not done. Yikes!

Because we were aware of this prior to leaving the parking lot, we were prepared to make sure that did not happen to us. We were able to report the existing damage and return the vehicle without issue other than a wait while they very thoroughly inspected the car (seriously, it was like 15 minutes). Below was our experience.

The Process for Renting a Car in Iceland

When renting a car from Keflavik Airport, you will recognize many of the rental car company brands, including Avis, which is who we went through. Although these companies are familiar to you, please be aware that the expectations and experience with them are different than what you may be used to. To avoid the negative experience others had reported in the reviews, we followed these steps:

  1. When you visit the rental car desk in the airport, they will give you a diagram that shows the current damage on the car. Pay attention!
  2. Once you get to your rental car, closely inspect the car for other signs of damage that were not noted on the diagram. We found additional dents and chips on our car.
  3. Take pictures of the additional damage and timestamp the picture.
  4. Before you leave the parking lot, send the timestamp pictures to the email address that the desk associate had given you. We read a review where the person did not make sure the email sent before they left the parking lot, and so they were still held liable.
  5. Be cautious as you are driving around the Icelandic terrain – it gets a little iffy in some areas – to make sure you don’t actually cause damage to the car.

While this process did seem extreme to us, we could somewhat understand the rental company’s position – there are likely many tourists who rent cars and drive recklessly through the rough terrain and do cause damage to the vehicles. Just be prepared and cautious while driving, and you will be fine.

Additional Considerations

Just a quick word on being cautious – there are several hidden speed cameras on the more popular highways, so it would be wise to obey the speed limit. You may think you are getting away with speeding, but you won’t be feeling so confident when you receive a $400 ticket in the mail from the rental company upon returning home, which happened to a friend of ours.

The cost for renting a car was similar to what we’ve experienced in popular cities back home in the United States – maybe a little more. We felt that it was worth it to be able to spend our short time in Iceland in the way we wanted.

We rented our car through the Avis website.

Once you have the rental car figured out, you’ll be on your way for a great visit! Be sure to read our travel guide, Iceland Golden Circle 22-Hour Stopover.

En Route to the Golden Circle!

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