DrivingRental CarsWinter Adventures: Renting a Car with Snow Tires in Iceland
4x4 rental car Jeep Wrangler Rubicon driving in the winter in Iceland

Winter Adventures: Renting a Car with Snow Tires in Iceland

There are so many options when renting a car in Iceland! So we understand why it can be hard to choose which vehicle is right for you. If you are planning on visiting during winter, you will need a heavy-duty vehicle that can handle Iceland’s snowy terrain and unpredictable weather. Fortunately, we have a fleet of top-notch winter rental cars that will be perfect for your getaway.

Winter In Iceland

With a nickname of the land of fire and ice, you might have a suspicion that the winters are bad here. Winter can be rough from December to March, packed with heavy snow and icy roads. But it is nothing our fleet can’t handle!

Snow in Iceland is most common in December and January as they are known to have the most snowfall. With an average 1-inch accumulation, though sometimes up to two inches or more in Reykjavik alone. If you are traveling to North Iceland or the Highlands area, expect way more snow than this.

Road Closures

During winter, a lot of roads can be closed after heavy snowfall. Popular routes such as The Golden Circle and Ring Road normally stay open this time of the year. But, some sections in North and East Iceland are more prone to heavy snow. So you always want to check the forecast and Road.is before heading out on your road trip.

Road closed due to bad winter weather in Iceland.

4X4 vs 2WD

First off, you absolutely need a AWD or 4x4 Iceland rental car when driving on snowy roads. These vehicles have stronger traction on ice and packed down snow.

So what does 4X4 mean? A 4X4 rental car is a car that has four-wheel drive, which means the drivetrain system directly powers all 4 wheels. It is also commonly known as 4WD. 4WD vehicles are made for off-road driving and are ideal for rough weather. This is because they have twice the traction of a 2WD car.

2wd iceland rental car stuck in snow during winter in Iceland

You may also hear the term AWD, which means all-wheel drive. This does count as a 4X4 vehicle. The difference between AWD and 4WD is that AWD is typically always on. You can toggle between having 4WD on and off. 4WD is normally found on trucks, while AWD is more for cars and SUVs. Either of these options is fantastic for winter driving. A 2WD vehicle is not recommended during winter because there is little to no traction. The cars also sit closer to the ground, which means you could get stuck on chunks of ice and high levels of snow.

Snow Mode

Finding vehicles with snow mode is going to be your best bet when renting a car in Iceland during wintertime. Snow Mode can reduce the engine's power and the accelerator's responsiveness. This prevents skidding on ice and snow, alters the transmission's settings to keep the engine speed down, and modifies torque distribution to avoid overloading the wheels that lose traction.

Studded Winter Tires

Snow Tires are very important when trekking through winter landscapes. That is why every year from the first of November to the fifteenth of April, all of our rental cars are equipped with studded winter tires. Regulations and rules in Iceland prohibit the use of studded tires during other times.

Clear road covered in snow during winter in Iceland

Best Winter Rental Cars: Top 10

Dacia Duster

Rated Best Winter Car in 2017.

White 4x4 Dacia Duster rental car parked in Iceland while watching the sunset

The Dacia Duster is one of our most popular Iceland rental cars for winter driving. It was even rated Best Winter Car in 2017 by Carbuyer Bests. The Dacia Duster is a 4x4 vehicle as well and is allowed on the restricted F-Roads in Iceland,

The vehicle is also extremely comfortable and can fit up to four people. But a lot of renters traveling with two people also pick this vehicle. The 411 liters of luggage space provides plenty of room for suitcases and camping supplies.

The car is fuel efficient which is another reason it is a traveler's favorite. With Iceland’s gas prices being relatively high compared to other countries, the Duster is a fantastic cost-saving option.

Suzuki Jimny:

Rated One Of The Top 10 Best Cars For Winter 2023.

4x4 rental car Suzuki Jimny parked on a black sand beach in Iceland

The Suzuki Jimny is known for its high snow performance and for making it up steep hills in the snow. This is because it has great traction while also being equipped with a new and more powerful 1500cc engine that can produce 102hp, generating that extra bit of torque when you need it to tame Iceland’s tough terrain. This car best fits two people and has a good amount of luggage space.

It is no wonder that the Suzuki Jimny was rated one of the top 10 best cars for winter driving in 2023.

Subaru Forester:

Best Subaru AWD Model For Driving On Snow.

The Subaru Forester frequently tops the list of favorite snow cars. First the 4x4 features a powerful 4-wheel drive system and offers a spacious trunk capacity, roomy enough to accommodate five suitcases. The vehicle also has a Snow Mode that simultaneously controls engine output and throttles response to minimize wheelspin. This alters the Symmetrical AWD system's torque split to direct power to the wheels with the most grip. So when you are driving on Snowy Terrain or want to go uphill on a dirt road, this amazing feature will kick on to help you keep control.

It is commonly rated as the best Subaru AWD model for driving on snow.

Subaru XV:

Rated Best Small Vehicle To Handle Heavy Snow.

a subaru rental car parked near the sea in Iceland

One of the best smaller rental car to drive in the snow is the Subaru XV 4x4. This automatic vehicle is great on winter terrain while being a part of one of the most popular SUV brands amongst the locals. It's powerful, comfortable, and one of the safest cars in its class, and it’s very easy to drive. Perfectly suited for groups of 2-3 adults to travel in with all their luggage.

This Subaru 4x4 rental car is allowed on F-Roads in Iceland, but it’s important to remember that off-road driving is illegal in Iceland and most F-roads will be closed in winter. The Subaru XV was rated the best small vehicle to handle heavy snow.

Suzuki Vitara: 

Best Improved 4WD Technology.

red 4x4 suzuki vitara rental car parked in Iceland

Thanks to the improved traction of this four-wheel drive vehicle, the forward motion helps control you in the snow. The ALLGRIP 4-wheel drive technology will make your winter treks a breeze. It is also fantastic for Iceland’s tougher terrain like dirt roads. For that reason alone the Suzuki Vitara is known to have the best improved 4WD technology.

Nissan Qashqai:

Best Heating Element For Snow Storms.

The Nissan Qashqai is an SUV that is recommended to drive in the snow. In addition to its great traction, some other features make this vehicle luxurious. The new Qashqai windscreen has an incorporated heating element. This means that any snow or ice that falls on the windshield can easily be melted and cleared off within seconds. So you will be able to see even better during those windy snow storms.

Another benefit of renting a Nissan Qashqai is its fuel efficiency. Qashqai's fuel economy will help you save money on fuel costs during your trip.

Hyundai Tucson:

Best Winter Driving SUV With High Clearance F.

White 4x4 Tucson rental car driving in a snowy Iceland

Another rental car recommended for snow is the Hyundai Tucson. This is one of the most popular SUVs owned by families in Iceland and offers an excellent 4wd system for driving around Iceland during all seasons. One of the most useful perks is the vehicle's high clearance, which means it's easy to stay safe driving over clumps of snow or ice chunks. This SUV also has a snow mode which will help you keep traction.

Toyota Rav4:

Best Durable Snow Vehicle.

The Toyota RAV4 is a reliable and spacious SUV that is perfect for driving Iceland’s terrain in the snow. It tops the list of safest vehicles to drive in the snow annually, making it a crowd favorite. When snow mode is engaged on the RAV4, the vehicle goes into second gear instead of first. This will help the wheels spin less as you increase speed.

The RAV4 is known for its durability and reliability, so you can be sure that you will be able to tackle any road conditions that Iceland has to offer. It also offers excellent fuel efficiency, which is a huge plus when you're driving around Iceland.

Land Rover Discovery Sport:

Best Vehicle For Offroading In Winter.

Discovery Sport rental car in Iceland

Renting a Land Rover Discovery Sport in Iceland will keep you calm when driving on snow or ice. The sporty vehicle has an all-wheel-drive system that is always on. However, you can add on different services such as snow or sand mode. Since it is a top-rated car for offroading and winter conditions, you can rent it all year round. The traction will keep you safe over ice and snow packs as well as gravel potholes or rough offroading. Most F-Roads are closed during winter, but if you do have to offroad, this is the vehicle to do it in!

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon:

Best Vehicle For Deeper Snow.

Jeep Wrangler 4x4 rental car iceland parked on a snowy road

The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is an adventurer's dream any time of the year. It is even one of the top picks for driving during the winter months. The stock ground clearance on this vehicle is around 10 inches which means your Jeep can handle deeper snow better than other vehicles.

This is hands down the best Iceland rental car to explore offroading and F-Roads in the Icelandic Highlands. While you can’t access them in the winter, you can feel confident knowing they can handle any rough terrain you run into.

Frequently Asked Questions

To answer any remaining queries, here are some frequently asked questions about rental cars for winter in Iceland

Is a truck or SUV better for snow?

Both can be good, but SUVs have rated better thanks to their weight distribution.

Is a heavy or light car better in the snow?

Lighter cars are more likely to slip and slide on snowy roads than heavier vehicles, which is why 2WD vehicles are not recommended.

What do you do if your car is sliding on ice?

Remove your foot from the accelerator and try to avoid slamming on the break.

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