Do I Need Sand and Ash Protection in Iceland?

Do I Need Sand and Ash Protection in Iceland?

Leah BIlquist Leah BIlquist
11. Jul 2022 (Updated: 30. Nov 2022) ∼ 3 min. read


Nothing is worse than the fear of damaging your rental car 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 what Sand and Ash Protection is and how to 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 (collision damage waiver) policies cover a variety of damages. But damage from ash or sand is not on that list. Mainly because it is not as simple as switching out a bumper.

Sand or ash can cause a major mess to a vehicle, sometimes requiring a whole new paint job. At this rate, getting a new car can sometimes be cheaper than paying to fix it.

sand storm in Iceland

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 rare to be caught in an eruption.

So why do you need SAAP? Around 20% of Iceland is covered in ash from volcanic eruptions. Combined with crazy weather in Iceland, it can sometimes cause an ash or sand storm, especially if you are in more remote areas exploring.

While most countries have endless 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 is there 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 or full of gravel.

Watch this video of a sand storm in Iceland.

These types of scenarios make SAAP good to have in general. It is especially recommended for those traveling to Iceland from February to April. Winds tend to be faster during this period, 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. The perfect recipe for a sand storm. Which could potentially damage the car you are in.

In the picture bellow you can see an extreame case of a sand and ash damage that happed late 2022. In this case, the saap insurance would cover the damages.

Toyota rental car after a sand storm in iceland

What should you do if you encounter a sand or ash storm?

First, check for vehicles around your car before pulling over. Then, 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 to your next rental car.

Suzuki Jimny after a sand storm in Iceland