So, I’ve managed to move forward with the planning of the Iceland trip today. The rental car has been secured.
When I started to look into rental car options in Iceland it was a bit of a shock as to just how expensive they were. I understand that, as an island, most of the consumables need to be imported, along with much of the heavy machinery and industrial equipment. But still, as I searched through the various household name rental companies such as Hertz, Avis and Budget I began to wonder if I had underestimated the sheer cost of the endeavour!
After a week of using Google to learn from others who had visited, the general consensus was that a four wheel drive was pretty much a requirement. Iceland essentially has two types of roads: The major arterial roads, such as route 1, which are mostly tarmac surfaces and passable by all vehicles and then the F-roads which are essentially gravel, compacted ground or rubble. Route 1, or the Ring Road as it appears to be called is a 1300km orbital road that connects many of the major sights on the island and has the benefit of taking you back to where you started if you keep moving forward. However, some of the more interesting sights can only be reached via the F roads. Want to see some of the less visited places? You need a 4WD…
However, as I checked out some of the rental companies I was getting quotes of GBP £1200 or more for a 16 day rental. Utterly crazy prices and it was at that point I started to make a big mistake. Sticking to route 1 would allow me to see a lot of wonderful sights. I didn’t need to stray off the tarmac roads at all. Sure, I’d miss a couple of places, but the rental would be half that of a 4WD.
Luckily I spent some time thinking about it and a couple of hours searching for any rental company, not just the big names. A few local companies came to the surface IcelandCarRental, Reykjavik Rent-a-Car, SADcars, Geysir etc. All had prices that were, whilst still high, much lower that the big names. And all had 4WD vehicles that came in at comfortably under GBP £1000 for a 16 day rental.
It’s very easy to get hung up on horror stories about rentals. Dig deep enough and someone, somewhere will have a bad story to tell about such-and-such a company. But a quick Google to for all four companies showed nothing obvious. IcelandCarRental came in with a Toyota Rav4 4WD for GBP £750 and, after a quick email to them I discovered that the vehicles are relatively new (2010 or newer) and that they are actually they are essentially the same company as Reykjavik Rent-a-Car.
So, a booking has been confirmed for a Rav4 and I’m really glad I did spend the extra money; it’s going to be an expensive trip anyway and so the extra £200-£300 won’t really matter once I’m back and the journey is a memory. My justification is simply that, to me at least, whilst keeping costs down is a wise move, spending £2500 to have half an experience is worse value for money than £3000 to have the full experience. Plus, you never know – I may just get that killer shot…