DrivingRental CarsFind the Perfect Standard Rental Car in Iceland
Journey through the beauty of Iceland with our reliable and stylish Volkswagen Polo rental car.
Go Car Rental Iceland travel writer Leah BIlquist
By Leah BIlquistNov 29, 2023 • 12 min read

Find the Perfect Standard Rental Car in Iceland

Renting a car in Iceland can feel overwhelming due to the numerous choices available. Certain vehicles are permitted on F-Roads, while others are more suitable for paved routes.

Standard Cars have quickly become an amazing option for visitors coming to the land of fire and ice. We are going to go over what our standard car options are and when you should consider renting one.

What is a Standard Car?

A standard vehicle is usually smaller than a full-size car and is known for its amazing fuel efficiency. A standard car typically has a 4-cylinder engine, whereas a full-size car usually has a V6 engine

The standard car size is comfortable and cozy. Fitting anywhere from 2-5 passengers and a few bags of luggage.

White Hyundai i20 rental car parked by the seaside in Iceland.

Is a Standard Car a 4x4?

Simply put, no, a Standard Car is not a 4X4 Vehicle. These vehicles usually have a 2WD system.

A 4X4 is a vehicle that has four-wheel drive and a drivetrain system that directly powers all 4 wheels. This helps with off-roading and driving on rough terrain. 4X4 vehicles also have twice the traction of a 2WD car.

White Duster rental car poised for adventure 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. Either way, you are safer in either of these in tough road conditions than you would be in a 2WD.

When You Need A 4x4 Vehicle

You only need a 4X4 vehicle if you are planning on driving F-Roads in Iceland’s Highlands or non paved roads.

F-Roads are illegal to drive with a 2WD vehicle, meaning you absolutely need a 4WD to access any of their locations. You are not allowed to drive F-Roads in a 2WD car and if you attempt to drive one in a 2WD rental car you will not be insured while driving on F-Roads.

Suzuki Jimny rental car traversing an F road in the Icelandic wilderness.

That means you will be liable for fines and costs of repairing any damage to the rental car.  In addition to no coverage, you will also be in breach of Icelandic traffic law, resulting in a fine. Let’s be real, none of that sounds fun on a vacation!

In addition to breaking the law, it is also dangerous for you to try to drive on rough terrain with a Standard size car. They are simply not built for large potholes, rocks, and other rough terrain. If you are planning to drive these types of roads then a standard-size SUV will better suit your travels.

If you are driving paved routes and heading to specific areas, a Standard car is definitely a great pick! Just be sure to research the route before you go.

When to Rent a Standard Car

Do you need a Standard rental car for your Iceland road trip? Here are some reasons why renting one is a good idea.

Driving The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is 140 miles or 230 kilometers long and is well-paved and maintained. Which means no crazy backcountry or mountainous roads.  This is great for those renting a standard car since you do not need a 4×4 vehicle to drive the golden circle.

Strokkur geyser mid-eruption, part of the Golden Circle route, Iceland.

The Golden Circle is an amazing trip to take with your Iceland rental car too. It can be driven in a little over 3 hours and most do it in one day. We suggest spending the weekend enjoying Iceland's top attractions though, since there is plenty to enjoy.

Be sure to get an early start to avoid traffic, particularly during the summer months. There are a lot of tour buses and guided tours visiting the Golden Circle. This is just another reason why we suggest renting a car! If an attraction is too crowded, skip it and come back later.

The Big 3

The Golden Circle has three popular stops, also known as the "Big 3".

These famous locations are Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and the Gullfoss Waterfall. Many travel all over the world just to see these top attractions for themselves. Let’s discuss what makes them so amazing!

1. Thingvellir National Park is the only place in the world where you can walk between two tectonic plates. It's also home to Iceland's largest lake, Thingvallavatn. Both of these attractions draw visitors to the National Park.

2. The Geysir Geothermal Area is an amazing hot spring that's considered one of the best places to visit in Iceland. The Geysir erupts every five to ten minutes, shooting up to 130 feet or 40 meters high. So get your cameras ready!

3. Gullfoss Falls is one of the most visited waterfalls in Iceland. This two-level waterfall combines two falls: the first with a 36-foot drop and the second with a 69-foot drop. The canyon on both sides of the waterfall reaches 230 feet, a sensational view. You can hike to the top by taking the scenic hike from the parking lot.

Summer Road Trips

If you are planning on road-tripping through Iceland during Summer, a standard rental car is perfect for you. As long as you are not intending on heading to the Icelandic Highlands of course, which is full of F-roads.

Driving in summer is easy in Iceland. Not only are the roads clear of snow, but the days are longer and warmer. Fantastic for rolling your windows down while jamming to your favorite tunes.

White cars driving on asphalt roads in the green, mountainous Icelandic countryside during summer.

Summer starts in June and ends in late August and this is Iceland’s highest travel season. This season is rated one of the best times to visit Iceland’s top tourist attractions. It is also known as busy season, due to the number of travelers coming to Iceland during these months.

Thanks to the country’s long daylight hours, you will have more to explore during summer. You can even visit during Iceland’s Midnight Sun when the country experiences 24 hours of daylight. Spend your days hiking until midnight if you want, without the sun even going down.

Solo Travelers

Many travelers and photographers travel to Iceland solo. In fact, Iceland was rated one of the safest countries to travel solo! Not only is the crime index very low, but the locals are extremely friendly.

If you are traveling solo, a standard rental car could be perfect for you! A lot of these vehicles have plenty of trunk space and can fit up to 5 passengers. So you will have plenty of space to stack gear and luggage just for you.

Our standard rental cars are known for their comfortable layout and advanced safety systems. So you will feel comfortable and safe when exploring Iceland by yourself.

Ideal For Short Road Trips

If you are planning a short road trip, a standard rental car is a terrific option. Not only will you be relaxed and comfortable, but these vehicles will get you where you need to go.

We suggest a standard car rental if you are planning to stay around Reykjavik or explore nearby attractions such as the Blue Lagoon. These vehicles are also excellent for taking a weekend trip to Iceland’s South Coast. Here you can explore massive waterfalls and the infamous Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach.

Panoramic view of Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in Iceland.

You can also take longer road trips with standard rental cars, but you have to research the roads before you go. Make sure you will solely be sticking to paved roads and not F-Roads. Not only will your rental car not make it down the road, but it is also illegal without a 4X4 vehicle.

Great For Saving Gas Money

Gas has skyrocketed over the past few years throughout the world. So saving money every time you fill your gas tank could make your trip more enjoyable. Gas in Iceland is infamous for being expensive too. It is actually one of the most expensive countries in the world for gas.

This is mostly due to the fuel tax imposed here. While Iceland's gas is more expensive than other countries, it is worth the cost.

However, saving money can definitely help you enjoy your road trip more. Which is why we recommended renting a standard car. These cars are notorious for having amazing fuel efficiency. That way you can use that extra money for a souvenir or delicious dinner in Reykjavik.

It is important to note that you should always fill up when you can. You can find gas stations all over the country, in the North, South, East, and West. We recommend always filling up when you are near one, even if you are at half of a tank.

Calm tourist filling up her car with gasoline at a gas station in iceland

There will be certain stretches of your road trip where you won’t be near gas stations for a long while. So being over-prepared can provide you some ease. Plan your gas station route before you go and you can put that in your itinerary too.

Best Standard Cars

There are so many vehicle options when it comes to Standard Cars in Iceland. Here are some of our favorite standard car rental examples.

Hyundai i10

The new Hyundai i10 is probably your best choice for exploring Iceland. This vehicle can fit up to 5 passengers, 1 large bag, and 1 small bag.

The Hyundai I10 has a fuel-efficient engine, which is better than the average car. It is also known to be really easy to handle, perfect for those wanting a more leisurely vehicle to drive.

It's also equipped with Bluetooth and heated seats and a steering wheel. If you are looking for a car in Iceland and you are on a budget, this is the rental car for you!

White Hyundai i10 rental car parked on a scenic Iceland route.

Renault Clio

The Renault Clio is a great choice for your rental car in Iceland. It's the perfect car for two or three people to enjoy driving the Ring Road or the Golden Circle.

You will need gas to conquer both routes through Iceland which is why the Renault Clio is a great option. It is very fuel efficient, helping you save some money on gas. The fuel-efficient engine is one of the many reasons travelers go with this easy-to-drive vehicle. This is in addition to its comfort and safety!

Small car, Clio on a scenic landscape in Iceland

Hyundai i20

Hyundai I20 is an excellent choice for your rental car in Iceland. It's the perfect car for two or three people who enjoy driving around Reykjavík on a budget.

The Hyundai I20 has a very fuel-efficient engine for you to take advantage of. It is no surprise that Iceland’s gas prices are high, so save a few bucks when renting the Hyundai l20!

In addition to its efficiency, it is also really easy to handle, unlike some of our large vehicles. The Hyundai l20 is a great vehicle that is reliable and comfortable, perfect for a road trip throughout Iceland!

Hyundai i20 on a road in Iceland with a model standing

Toyota Yaris

The Toyota Yaris is an outstanding choice for your standard rental car in Iceland. This vehicle provides a comfortable driving experience for two or three people.  It's got a very fuel-efficient engine and it's really easy to handle too.

This vehicle is known for its sturdiness and reliability, even though it is a smaller car. It is great for those traveling with 2-3 people with minimal luggage, who want to adventure through Iceland's breathtaking landscape.

VW Golf

The VW Golf Automatic is a great choice for driving around Iceland, thanks to its powerful Volkswagen DSG automatic transmission. You can enjoy the heated front seats for extra comfort in the winter. This vehicle is perfect for chasing the Northern Lights during Iceland’s darker months.

It's an ideal vehicle for driving the Golden Circle with your favorite people. It's got a very fuel-efficient engine and it's really easy to handle too.

Other Rental Car Types

If you don’t think a standard car is the right pick for you, don’t worry! Go Car Rental has so many options for you to choose from.

This includes midsize SUVs, full-size SUVs, intermediate cars and so many more. We also offer manual transmission cars for those who prefer a stick shift over an automatic.

Midsize

If you want a smaller ride that is still comfortable and spacious, you can rent a midsize vehicle. You'll have plenty of legroom and space for your gear and snacks. This type of car is perfect for medium-sized groups.

Renault Captur mid-size car for family

Minivan & Passenger Van

Are you traveling with a large group or family? We got you covered. At Go Car Rental Iceland, we have spacious minivan & passenger vans with 9, 8, and 7-seater vehicles available.

Mercedes-Benz Vito rental car in the stunning landscapes of Iceland.

4X4 SUV

If you're seeking an adventurous trip through Iceland, it's likely that a 4X4 vehicle will be necessary. Our 4x4 standard SUV rentals are a great fit for those who want to explore off-the-beaten paths.

These rugged vehicles are built to help you navigate mountainous terrain in Iceland's mountainous region.

If you are searching for a specific type of vehicle, you can reach out to our team for assistance!

Suziki Jimny 4x4 on an f-road in Iceland

Standard Car Insurance Options

Don’t forget to purchase the best insurance options for your standard car rental. You should know that there are three tiers of insurance that you can purchase. Plus +, Premium, and Premium +. Premium Plus +.

Here are some of the most important insurances you should have when driving through Iceland. Some are even included in the plans above.

Super Collision Damage Waiver

The SCDW - Super Collision Damage Waiver is included in all insurance plans with Go Car Rental.  It will cover collision damages to the vehicle's body and injuries to the driver and passengers. It covers a majority of emergencies, hospital stays, and even medical checkups.

Gravel Protection

Gravel Protection is also included in all of Go Car Rental’s insurance plans. It includes damage due to gravel, including the body of the car, the headlights, and even the front windshield. Gravel Protection can be a vital add-on when driving in Iceland.

Sand & Ash Protection

SAAP is included in our Premium Plus+ plan! SAAP stands for  Sand and Ash Protection, and it covers just that. Sand or ash can cause a significant mess to a vehicle, sometimes requiring a whole new paint job.

It is especially recommended when the snow begins to melt, which causes the sand to change from muddy to dry.

Learn all about Go Car Rental’s different insurance options!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is car rental recommended in Iceland?

Yes, it is hands down the best way to travel around Iceland. Not only can you do everything you want, but you can see it on your time. There is nothing better than having complete freedom on a road trip.

Is it better to drive or take a tour of Iceland?

While Iceland Tour Guides are amazing, renting a car is still preferred. This allows you to enjoy your time at an attraction rather than rushing through it. Tour guides are sometimes necessary in Iceland, especially when exploring Ice Caves.

Is it hard for an American to drive in Iceland?

No, driving around Iceland is easy for Americans. Not only are the roads well taken care of, but Americans drive on the same side of the road.

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