Renting a 4×4 in Iceland (2024 Guide!

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Last update: February 15th, 2024 at 11:07 am

Driving Iceland Ring Road

Affiliate Disclosure: This rent a 4×4 in Iceland post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. All opinions are entirely my own.

4X4 RENTALS IN ICELAND – INTRO

Thinking about renting a 4×4 in Iceland? We’ve all seen those alluring images of a jacked-up truck with giant tires, splashing through a mountain stream, somewhere in the highlands of Iceland. Who doesn’t want to experience that?

If you are toying with the idea of an Iceland 4×4 rental car or truck, I want to give you all the information you need to determine whether or not one is necessary for your itinerary. Please see the following menu to find what you need quickly.

AUTO EUROPE – COMPARE ICELAND 4×4 RENTAL RATES

4X4 RENTAL CAR ICELAND – COST

If you have already started researching 4×4 Iceland car rental options, you have probably discovered how pricey they can be. While all Iceland car rentals are expensive in comparison to most other countries in the world, a 4WD rental is just that much higher.

The least expensive car rental Iceland 4×4 options start at about $100 USD/day. These include models such as the Dacia Duster, The Suzuki Vitara and the Misubishi Eclipse.

If you are a looking for a larger, more robust 4×4, such as a Toyota Land Cruiser or a Land Rover, your daily 4×4 Iceland rental cost will be more like $250-$300 USD/day.

Rental Car Iceland 4x4

In addition, there are fuel costs to consider (fuel is very expensive in Iceland). The bigger the vehicle, the more you are going to spend on fuel.

Having just returned from an Iceland Ring Road trip in a diesel Toyota Land Cruiser, I can tell you that it cost us about $160/USD to fill, and we filled up 7 times (~$1020).

DO YOU NEED TO RENT A 4X4 IN ICELAND?

4x4 Car Rental Iceland Road

It depends. Don’t you hate that answer? I do, but I’m going to make things crystal clear for you in just a moment.

Deciding whether or not you need a 4×4 in Iceland depends on a number of factors including the time of year you are planning to travel to Iceland, and exactly where you plan to go within the country.

From social media posts, you might get the impression that all Iceland road trips require a 4-WD vehicle, but that is absolutely not the case. Please read on to learn exactly when and where an Iceland 4×4 car rental is necessary, and where you can get away with just a regular Iceland rental car.

Car Rental Iceland

PROMO CODE ALERT

Renting a 4×4 in Iceland? I highly recommend Lava Car Rental. (See Trustpilot reviews.) Get free 4G Hotspot WiFi (1500 ISK/day value), by using the discount code TARAWIFI. Check the box for “4G WiFi” when selecting your additional features and the fee will be removed upon checkout. 

RENTAL 4×4 ICELAND – WHEN IT’S NEEDED

Renting an Iceland 4×4 truck or car makes a lot of sense if you are travelling outside of the summer months or if you are visiting some of the more remote regions. Please see the following scenarios in which a 4×4 Iceland rental vehicle would be helpful, or even mandatory.

1. DRIVING ON ICELAND’S F ROADS

4x4 Driving on Iceland's F Roads

To drive on Iceland’s remote highland F Roads, a 4×4 vehicle is required by law. These gravel and dirt roads traverse the country’s beautifully rugged interior and are open roughly from June until September, when weather conditions are fair.

Due to the challenging terrain, giant potholes, stream crossings, and other potential hazards, drivers should ideally choose a 4×4 rental Iceland vehicle that has a high clearance from the road.

Off-roading is illegal in Iceland due to the fragile landscape, but the F Roads allow for a similar experience for those seeking adventure.

Important: Although you can find tons of photos and videos of Iceland rental 4×4 trucks crossing rivers in Iceland, NO RENTAL COMPANY OR CREDIT CARD INSURANCE POLICY will cover you if you get stuck or cause damage to your rental in this way. If you do decide to cross a river, please make sure you proceed carefully and know exactly what you are doing to avoid a hefty bill for towing or damage to your vehicle.

SAVE UP TO 30% ON CAR RENTALS WITH AUTO EUROPE

2. DRIVING IN THE WINTER

4x4 on winter road in Iceland

Iceland’s weather and road conditions can be unpredictable, especially during the winter season. A 4-WD car or truck provides better stability and traction, allowing you to navigate through snow, icy road conditions, and rough terrain with greater ease and safety.

It is a requirement that all vehicles be equipped with studded winter tires in Iceland from Nov. 1st to Apr. 15th. That said, I would still definitely choose a 4WD vehicle over a 2WD during the winter season, even if you are only planning on doing Reykjavik and the Golden Circle Drive.

Note: Having recently visited Iceland in January and February for a road trip that included Reykjavik, The Golden Circle and the South Coast Iceland attractions, I simply cannot imagine having anything other than a 4-wheel drive vehicle. The icy and snowy road conditions were one thing, but the wind was quite another. We saw several light cars blown right off the road while visiting the South Coast Iceland attractions.

Let me show you what I mean in this 30 second driving video from our trip.

3. ADDED FLEXIBILITY

Are you the type of person who wants to take that spontaneous left when everyone else goes right? Renting an Iceland 4WD vehicle allows you to go many places that other visitors may not be able to get to.

With a 4×4 rental car, Iceland can be experienced with less limitations and more flexibility (although off roading is strictly illegal in Iceland). You will have the ability to take detours, discover hidden gems, and enjoy a more personalized and unique experience.

SAVE UP TO 30% ON CAR RENTALS WITH AUTO EUROPE

4. CHASING THE NORTHERN LIGHTS

Northern Lights Iceland

If you want to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, the best time to do this is during the darkest time of year, which means the winter. Having an AWD Iceland rental car can allow you to get away from the main road and access more remote locations for better views with little light pollution.

This is not something you want to be doing in a vehicle that cannot handle winter conditions in Iceland. A 4WD drive vehicle is going to give you much more peace of mind for setting out at night – knowing that your vehicle can perform well in all kinds of road conditions.

CAR RENTAL 4X4 ICELAND – WHEN IT’S NOT NEEDED

While a 4×4 Iceland car rental may be an appealing idea to those planning to do an Iceland self-drive tour, it is not necessary in the following scenarios.

1. SUMMER MONTHS (SOUTH ICELAND)

Drive Iceland Golden Circle
Golden Circle in July

If you are visiting in the late spring, summer or early fall (Apr.-Sept.) and plan on driving around Reykjavik, Keflavik (Blue Lagoon) the Golden Circle, the South Coast and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula – an Iceland 4×4 car rental is overkill.

The main roads in this region are paved, typically well travelled, and well maintained. While appealing, the extra cost of a rental 4×4 in Iceland is just not necessary for this kind of trip. Spend your hard-earned money on something else.

2. TRAVELING THE RING ROAD IN SUMMER

Iceland’s Ring Road is the main highway (Hwy. 1) that circumnavigates the whole country. If you are planning to drive this route from May-Sept., and will be staying on the main road – a 4WD vehicle is not necessary. The road is almost entirely paved, well travelled and well maintained.

The one exception to this rule is if your Iceland Ring Road itinerary includes the Westfjords region where the roads are mostly gravel and the paving less frequently repaired (potholes). A 4WD vehicle may make for a more comfortable, stress-free travel experience.

Please Note: You may still experience winter conditions along the Ring Road in the northern part of Iceland in the shoulder months of April and October.

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WHY NOT RENT A 4WD IN ICELAND ANYWAY?

You might be wondering why you wouldn’t just go ahead and rent a 4×4 in Iceland to cover your bases. Well, there is one very important reason.

THEY ARE SO EXPENSIVE

An Iceland rental 4×4 is exceptionally expensive! (I remember well my own sticker shock from our first trip.) Even the most basic car will likely cost you twice as much as it would in most major North American and European cities.

That said, if the terrain on which you will be traveling (or the season in which you will be traveling) is best suited for an Iceland 4×4, the peace of mind from being able to travel safely is worth every cent!

On a recent South Iceland winter road trip, I rented a small 4×4 (Suzuki Vitara) from Lava Car Rentals. In retrospect, and after experiencing 140km winds on the road, I wished I had booked a heavier, more robust vehicle.

Typically, a basic car rental in Iceland will start at about $70 USD/day (before any additional insurance). The cost of renting a 4×4 starts at about $100 USD/day and can run upwards of $350 USD/day. This is especially true if you have your heart set on a sexy Land Rover Defender.

FINDING A CHEAP ICELAND 4X4 RENTAL

Looking for an inexpensive 4×4 rental in Iceland? To be honest, that is no easy task, but I want to offer up my top tips.

1. BOOK EARLY

Iceland has a very limited supply of rental vehicles, including 4x4s. As supply goes down, prices go up. For the best price, book long ahead of time.

2. GO LOCAL

Cut out the middle man by booking with one of the local companies. I find that these companies provide a lot more transparency around the price of your vehicle with insurance. (Iceland is the one place in the world where I recommend purchasing all the optional insurance.)

I have had a great experience recently booking with Lava Car Rentals, as well as Blue Car Rentals on some earlier trips. Both of these rental companies are located just a short shuttle ride away from Keflavik International Airport.

LAVA CAR RENTAL DISCOUNT CODE – To rent a 4×4 Iceland vehicle with free 4G Hotspot WiFi (1500 ISK/day value), please use the LAVA code TARAWIFI. Check the box for “4G WiFi” when selecting your additional features and the daily fee will be removed upon checkout.

3. BUY THE EXTRA INSURANCE

The unique car insurance offerings in Iceland may seem like overkill, but due to Iceland’s different road conditions and atypical weather events, body damage to rental vehicles occurs quite frequently.

Example: On our most recent summer trip to Iceland, we received a weather event warning on our way back to Keflavik Airport because there was the potential for a sand storm. The wind was so strong, that we were the last flight out that day.

Sand Storm Warning Alert in Iceland

Repairs, like everything else in Iceland, are exceptionally expensive. While you might be tempted to pass on things like gravel protection insurance and sand & ash insurance due to the extra cost, I highly recommend you get them.

While the upfront cost is higher, adequate insurance coverage is a great way to save money in the long run.

4. RENT WHAT YOU NEED – BUT NOT MORE

Find the best 4WD car for your needs, but not more. Vehicles like Land Rover Defenders and the Toyota Land Cruiser are a ton of fun, but unless you are planning to spend a lot of time in Iceland’s highlands, they may be way more than you need. A slightly smaller four-wheel drive vehicle, like a Toyota Rav 4, might do the job just fine.

5. GET UNLIMITED MILEAGE

Many people renting a four-wheel-drive vehicle in Iceland are doing so because they are planning to drive the whole island Ring Road (including F-roads). Be sure to read the fine print in your rental agency contract to make sure it includes unlimited mileage. This will help you to avoid any surprise fees at the end of your trip.

FURTHER READING

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