Do I Need Sand and Ash Protection in Iceland?

Do I Need Sand and Ash Protection in Iceland?

There is nothing worse than the fear of damaging your rental car when on an Icelandic adventure. It can be a common anxiety among most renters. With so many different upgrades and insurance add-ons, it is hard to know what you exactly need. Especially when visiting another country. Go Car Rental is not going to put you through that. So let’s talk about if you need Sand and Ash Protection in Iceland and determine if it’s a good fit for you.

What is SAAP? It stands for Sand and Ash Protection and it covers just that. Most Icelandic insurance companies and CDW policies cover a variety of damages. But damage from ash or sand is not on that list. Mostly because it is not as simple as switching out a bumper. Sand or ash can cause a major mess to a vehicle. Requiring a whole new paint job. At this rate, it can sometimes be cheaper to get a new car than pay to fix it. 

This only matters if I am in a volcanic eruption right?” While this may sound like that, it is not entirely true. While SAAP would come in handy in that situation, it is pretty rare to be caught in one. So why do you need it? Around 20% of Iceland is covered in ash that was left over from volcanic eruptions in the past. This in addition to crazy weather, can cause an ash or sand storm at times. Especially if you are in more remote areas exploring. While most countries have an endless amount of highways and paved roads, Iceland does it a little differently. Maybe you want to drive closer to that mountain peak you’ve been dying to hike? Or there is a dirt road that takes you to the destination of your dreams? Iceland is full of off-the-beaten-path areas that you may wind up exploring and some of them can be sandy. 

sand storm in Iceland

Credit: Kitty Terwolbeck

This scenario makes SAAP good to have in general. It is especially recommended for those traveling to Iceland from February to April.  This is when winds tend to be at a faster speed, whipping through the air. Winter and spring months are also when the snow begins to melt. Which causes the sand underneath to go from muddy to dry and loose. This is the perfect recipe for a sand storm. Which could potentially damage the car you are in. 

What should you do if you encounter a sand or ash storm in Iceland? First, check for vehicles around your car before pulling over. If the coast is clear, pull to the side of the road. Waiting on the side of the road or in a parking lot is the safest thing to do. Try to get out of the way on busy roads. Even if you are on the side, other drivers may not be able to see you. Especially in poor visibility. Most importantly, try your best to stay calm. Let the storm pass before attempting to drive away.

Long story short, yes you should always have SAAP when visiting Iceland. The rugged terrain and unpredictable weather are a combination platter for potential car damage. We don’t think you want your souvenir home to be a hefty credit card bill. So do yourself a favor and add Sand and Ash Protection (SAAP) to your next Iceland rental car.

Sandstorm on a road in iceland

The article was written by: Leah BIlquist.


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