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Car rental insurance advice

We're finding car rentals to be a bit confusing with respect to insurance. I'm worried (and risk averse), so I'm seeking specific advice about riders for sandstorm and/or gravel damage. We're driving the ring road in August, and we've read damage from sandstorms is a particular concern along the South Coast between Hofn and Vik. I've also received conflicting reports about what the basic CDW covers and whether or not that is sufficient.

And - has anyone had their driving plans significantly disrupted due to wind? I read that driving the South Coast when it's windy can be treacherous. Any advice for this is welcome, too!

Posted by Mary
Reno, NV, USA
774 posts


We rented a car in Iceland that came with collision insurance. We opted to take all of the extra insurance that we could get for the reasons you mentioned. The ring road in Iceland is very good but it has no shoulders. The road has a fairly steep drop off on the passenger side. A moment’s inattention while driving and you could be off the road. There are also many one way bridges where the driver to reach the bridge first has the right of way unless of course you meet up with another driver who doesn’t know the rule. There are also very few turnoffs to stop and enjoy the view. You can also run into foggy weather with poor driving visibility on a road you are unfamiliar with. I would suggest taking a look at the blog “I Heart Reykjaik” which covers this topic as well as a lot of other info on travel in Iceland. It is quite comprehensive and we found it very helpful.

Posted by Mary
Reno, NV, USA
774 posts

You’re welcome. There are also several YouTube videos on driving in Iceland. The cartoon video with “Elfis” is helpful and cute.

Posted by Anita
Long Beach, California, USA
2830 posts

I was just there a month ago from March 30 - April 5. We drove the south coast highway all the way to Jokulskarlon. Stunning scenery!
We had every kind of weather and road condition you can imagine! Long swaths of ice on the road, rain, fog, beautiful sun, and WIND. The wind there was different than wind I've driven in's almost like narrow rivers of wind gusting horizontally across the road from the inland mountains towards the ocean. We had two strategies for dealing with this. Get behind a car or tour bus, wait to see when it gets jolted by a gust of wind, hold onto the steering wheel, and keep it on the road. We also could watch the snow blowing in small ribbons across the road wherever the wind was gusting. Like the previous poster said, the road here is unforgiving. We saw quite a few cars that had either been blown off the road or had gone off the side for whatever reason. They had been taped by the police for pickup later. Just stay aware and take your time.
The biggest thing that scared me were the other tourist drivers who didn't seem to be paying attention to what they were doing on the narrow roads. Several times I had to flash my lights and lay on the horn to alert drivers coming towards me who were drifting over the center line. The one-way bridges were fine for us...we never had an issue with people not taking their turn.
You really do need to make sure you are covered for gravel / sand - we were hit by many rocks on the highway that were thrown up by tour buses, other cars, and trucks. With the wind we experienced I can imagine that, if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, your car would be completely sandblasted! You will drive through large fields of pulverized lava and I'm sure they become tiny projectiles in windy conditions.
I have a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card that covers me for any and all damage so that's the card I used to rent our car. We rented through Fox and they had a sign on the counter that claimed NO insurance covers gravel, sand, undercarriage, etc., damage...they want to scare you into buying their extra insurance. We didn't buy it - the guy behind the counter took my card, looked at it and said, "Oh this card. No one with this card ever takes the extra insurance." Just be sure to know what the insurance you already may have through a credit card might cover, or not cover. With some cards, if you take the extra insurance from the rental agency, it negates the insurance you have through your card. Just know before you go!

Posted by bunness
1 posts

Good afternoon, we are traveling to Iceland next month and find myself confused with the insurance coverage. The rental company already offers automatically CDW, SCDW (up to $900 of coverage), Gravel Protection and Theft Protection. After researching and reading horror stories of renting a vehicle in Iceland, will my Travel Insurance ($67.00 more for rental coverage) cover any excess?

Posted by harryl491
1 posts

After reading Anita's very informative post, I contact Chase VISA re my United Explorer card. I was informed that their insurance absolutely covers all damage, collision or loss, incl. reasonable loss of use fees, towing and administration fees. I was told that I "must decline all damage waivers, collision and loss waivers." Thank you, Anita.

Posted by RTraveler OP
6 posts

Original poster here- thanks for all the feedback. We contacted Bank of America and found that our Travel Rewards card also provides coverage, and we were given the same advice as those with Chase cards - decline coverage, etc. etc. Based on advice I've gathered from other sites, I think taking date/time-stamped pictures of the entire car upon pick-up and drop-off is also advised.