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Car Rental vs Paid Tours

Hi! My boyfriend and I are thinking of going to Iceland the last weekend of September. We’d love to save money but we want to have a great experience to! Which is a better option: renting a car or getting tours to the sites we want to see? If we go it alone will we miss out without a tour guides commentary?

Also, for those that did rent cars was the gas outrageously priced?

Thanks in advance!

Posted by mp125
48 posts

I loved having a car in Iceland! There are so many good guidebooks and websites that we didn't feel we missed out on commentary, though it took a bit more research to get background for what we were seeing. Having a car meant we could see everything we wanted, spend as much or as little time as we wanted at those places, and stop spontaneously when something just off the road seemed interesting. Our trip research showed that car rentals are generally very expensive in Iceland, but we definitely felt it was worth it. (We used Blue Car Rentals -- newer and very nice car, no issues even with a fender bender. Get all the insurance they offer!)

Posted by Mardee
Cincinnati, OH, USA
286 posts

Keep in mind the weather - if you are driving around the end of September, you could experience winter weather that could slow you down significantly.

Posted by jktaylor1
7 posts

06/26/18 09:13 PM
3 posts
Edit | Delete

I just got back from a 5 day trip...4 nights. We rented a car and toured the southern and midpoint of Golden Circle with our rental. We stayed off the F roads as advised. Rick's travel guide was enough for us and we saw so much. The freedom of being our own guides was great. So much is just paying for parking and hiking. Watch out for sheep all the time (I am used to spotting dear already since I live in a rural area). If I went back in winter, I would not drive myself around, but it was great in summer. We stayed at AirBnbs on our route so less back tracking. We also took turns driving so we could relax and enjoy the view. Our own auto insurance and credit card provided insurance for everything, including gravel damage insurance. Just check before you leave if you decide to drive.
The only thing that surprised us was coming back down a road we had driven on earlier and crews were laying gravel...brakes started squealing...steering gear started squealing...we pulled over as soon as we had a safe spot. My niece was so upset. I suggested driving in circles to the right since the steering only squealed when we turned left. It worked! All the gravel came out of the brakes before we pulled over. We were going slow and everyone was passing us. All was fine. No damage.

Posted by jktaylor1
7 posts

No, gas was not outrageous. I think I spent 120 U.S. dolla4S on gas and we drove a lot...rental car was 320 total...we split the cost and it was great because we saw multiple sites a day...stopped at many scenic spots with safe parking, and even stopped for some things we didn't plan that we came across. We pinicked a lot and took wine, champagne, and food to the parksthat we bought at grocery stores. They sell it there so wherever there are picnic tables at the park, you can have your drink too. I Loved the freedom. Ricks iceland Guide was our planning guide. I also preordered a map before I went that was recently published. I used the Iceland National Geographic Adventure Travel Map. It was water resistant and sold for 9.99 on Amazon. I didn't want to just depend on Google or mobile data, or battery operated phone. I wish I would have brought my GPS. Would have been interesting and helpful.
Enjoy your trip. It was a trip of a Lifetime. I will treasure my memories forever.

Posted by robliz75
1 posts

We recently returned from Iceland, also got a diesel car from Blue Car Rental, got extremely good mileage so gas prices not a worry. Agree to get the insurance. Blue is extremely easily to deal with and best price I could find. Driving in Iceland was easier than expected. Speed limits are enforced, drivers are extremely orderly, roads where never crowded for us when out of town. Signage is a problem, no billboard advance warning of the road you need to turn onto to see a certain site, just a small sign at the turn. Our gps in the car was of limited use, we relied on phone gps service more. I felt we were able to see much more with a car than a bus. But do research what you want to see, and plan your itinerary for the golden circle. We identified our must sees and would like to see, then did what we could in a day. Spend time when you find a place that feels right, something you can’t do on a bus.

Posted by srosen17
1 posts

We just returned from 5 nights in Iceland, 3 of which we stayed on the South Coast, and 2 nights in Reykjavik. I would recommend renting a car (although perhaps not in the winter)! The driving was easy, the roads sparsely populated, and it was great to have all our various layers of clothing in the back seat so that if the weather changes at a certain location we could layer up or down. We also packed bathing suits and travel towels for stopping at a baths site on the Golden Circle. We used Rick Steves' book as our guide - was wonderful. And did travel one day to the Westman Islands as he recommended via ferry, where we did a 1.5 hour tour of the island with a local company. One thing I would recommend: take pictures of the outside of your rental car before driving off from the airport. We did that, including one picture of a blue/green paint scratch on the car. When we turned the car in at the end our trip, they were going to hold us responsible for that scratch but we showed several people at Hertz the picture with the date stamp so they could see we were not the cause of it. Diesel gas was a bit expensive, but we got good mileage and it was far less than booking separate tours. Also gave us the ability to stop, go off the beaten path, look up interesting restaurants etc.

Posted by HK
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
123 posts

We just finished 9 days in Iceland with a car. It was absolutely worth it for the flexibility and freedom. For directions, I'd recommend getting a Kortabok - Iceland Road Atlas. We bought ours on Amazon before leaving, but I also saw it at many bookstores and souvenir shops in the country. It was extremely detailed and very helpful for spotting turn-offs well in advance.

Posted by GKelly OP
2 posts

Thank you all for your input! I think we are going to rent. Did you feel a compact car was adequate (there are only 2 of us) or did you feel like you needed something more heavy duty/with four wheel drive?

Posted by HK
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
123 posts

You don't need a four-wheel drive for the paved roads or limited gravel roads. If you are going into the Highlands (F-roads), you need a four-wheel drive.

Posted by commila
192 posts

I see this thread is a bit old, but I saw HK's reply saying "You don't need a four-wheel drive for the paved roads or limited gravel roads. If you are going into the Highlands (F-roads), you need a four-wheel drive."

Are the Highlands considered a must-see within the overall scope of Iceland tourism? Or a more minor/side-trip? Asking since gas will be more expensive with 4 wheel drive.