Car Rental Tips: Pick-Up, Driving, and Returns

Emily Draper
(Updated: )
9 min read

Renting a car in a foreign country like Iceland can seem like a stressful process at first, especially if it's your first time doing so. However, there are many ways to make the process seamless and stress-free. As a car rental company, there's nobody that can advise you on renting a vehicle like we can, which is why we have compiled our expert list of top car rental tips! From choosing your vehicle to pick-up, driving, and returns, the list covers every aspect of car rental you need to consider for a flawless Icelandic road trip.

Consider your driving needs and preferences

The vehicle that you drive on your Iceland road trip will make all the difference to your experience. Therefore, it's important to consider what qualities you'd like to prioritise in your vehicle.

Will it be performance, comfort, fuel consumption, space, or practicality?

Or perhaps a combination of them all?

Of course, there are also external factors to consider like how far you're driving, what type of road trip you're planning, and what time of year you're visiting.

Iceland Rental Car Tips - Vehicle Types Northbound
Northbound.is - Vehicle Types

With a diverse selection of vehicles on offer from economy cars and family cars to 4x4s and motorhomes, Northbound makes it easy to find the vehicle that best suits your needs and preferences. With the right vehicle, you could be venturing deep into the Icelandic Highlands, sleeping beneath the Northern Lights in a rooftop tent, or treating your family to the ultimate Ring Road trip.

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Book in advance

Don't wait until you arrive in Iceland to arrange a rental car. Although there are car rental services able to arrange last-minute rentals in the arrivals hall of Keflavik Airport (KEF), they are more expensive and have a limited choice of vehicles to choose from.

By booking in advance, you can choose from a greater selection of vehicles to suit your needs. While big families might be looking for a spacious hatchback, off-the-beaten-path adventurers might prefer a 4x4. Plus, by booking in advance, you are ensuring a seamless transition from the airport to your accommodation upon arrival.

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Learn Iceland's Road Rules

Unless you usually drive on the left side of the road, you might think driving in Iceland will be just like driving at home. But remember, there are many more road rules to follow than ?which side to drive on', and each country has its own. Therefore, it's really important to familiarise yourself with the country's road rules before you pick up your car rental in Iceland. The more knowledgeable you are about these rules, the more likely you are to have a safe and seamless journey. If you don't learn them, you might be caught out by traffic enforcement officers for driving incorrectly.

Iceland Rental Car Tips - Road Signs
4x4 River Crossing Sign

Below are some of the essential road rules for driving in Iceland:

  • The speed limit is 30-50 km/h in populated areas, 80 km/h on F-roads, and 90 km/h on the highways
  • Headlights must be switched on at all times of day, regardless of the weather
  • It is illegal to drink and drive (yes, even just one drink is too many)
  • The inner lane has priority on a two-lane roundabout
  • Seatbelts must be worn at all times and young children must be in car seats

For more information on How to Drive in Iceland, watch these fantastic videos by the Icelandic Transport Authority.

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Ensure you have the right car rental insurance

While general comprehensive insurance comes as standard with all of Northbound's vehicle rentals, you can also purchase excess guarantee insurance. This covers the cost minus the excess value that your rental company may charge in case of loss or damage of the vehicle you hire. In other words, excess guarantee insurance protects your credit card from being charged more than you can afford to repay if a claim arises.

Iceland Rental Car Tips - Insurance
Help Center at Northbound

Click here for Help Center at Northbound.is

Although this additional insurance option is by no means necessary, it certainly gives you greater peace of mind when driving through Iceland. After all, how can you make the most of your Iceland adventure if you're going to spend your entire trip panicked about scratching your hire car?

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Keep us up-to-date with arrival times

When booking your Iceland car rental with Northbound, we will ask you for your flight's estimated arrival time. This is so that upon your arrival at Keflavik Airport (KEF), a chauffeur can be ready to meet you at the arrivals gate to take you the car hire office where you will pick up your Iceland car rental.

Having worked alongside airlines for a long time, we know that flights occasionally get delayed or arrive earlier than expected. To ensure you don't have to wait around for our car service to collect you in this circumstance, we encourage you to keep in touch with us on your travel day and inform us of any changes in your flight's schedule. This will allow us to seamlessly transfer you to your rental car once you arrive so that you can get your much-anticipated holiday started!

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Know what to expect at pick-up

Iceland Rental Car Tips - Car Rental Pickup
Car Rental Pickup

There are a few preparations you can make to ensure your Iceland car rental pick-up goes smoothly so that you can hit the road as soon as possible.

  • Firstly, we ask that you have all of your paperwork prepared and ready to provide. This includes your car rental confirmation, a copy of your return flight details if applicable, and a copy of the driver's passport.
  • At pick-up, we will also ask for the driving licenses of all elected drivers. Licenses not published using the Roman alphabet will have to provide an international driving license instead. These can only be applied for in your home country, so be sure to do so well in advance to receive it in time for your Iceland trip.
  • Lastly, have a credit card in the primary driver's name at hand during pick-up because you can't drive away in a rented car without one on file. The credit card is only charged in case you should incur any traffic fines or car damage during your road trip.

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Always check the weather before you drive in Iceland!

Since many of Iceland's roads are remote and there are long stretches between one town and the next, it's important to practice safety when driving. One of the best ways to do this is to make sure you aren't going to be caught out by poor weather conditions.

In Iceland, the weather is very changeable and sometimes hard to predict. You might set off on a road trip in bright sunshine with full visibility of the road, but within half an hour, you can be battling with rain or snow. This can be pretty scary when driving along unfamiliar roads! However, it's easy to avoid this if you keep up-to-date with the local weather forecasts and plan your road trips around it.

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What to do if you break down in Iceland

Northbound prides itself on supplying only the latest vehicle models and carrying out thorough vehicle maintenance checks to ensure your Iceland car rental is of the highest safety standard. Unfortunately, no matter how well we care for our vehicles, there's always a small chance you can break down on your Iceland road trip.

Iceland Rental Car Tips - Car Breakdown Towing
iceland Car Breakdown Towing

However, since we provide free 24-hour breakdown cover, they are easy and less stressful to deal with if you do. All you have to do is give us a call and tell us where you are. If you're unsure of your location, or you're not close to anything specific, the best way to show us where you are is with the What3words location tracker. It tracks your location to a three-metre radius and gives you a unique three-word combination to share with others, which acts much like coordinates.

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What to expect at drop-off

First things first, it's very important to drop your vehicle back to Northbound within the agreed window of time to avoid any penalties. You are also required to return your hired vehicle with a near-full tank of gas ? failure to do so could also incur penalties.

So, be sure to allow plenty of time for your return to the airport, and don't forget to calculate refueling into that time! When you arrive, the vehicle will be thoroughly checked just to ensure it's in the same condition it was before you drove it. Once that's done and dusted, one of our drivers will drop you at the airport departures. To arrive at the airport on time, we recommend arriving at Northbound one hour before check-in.

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Rent your vehicle with Northbound

Hopefully, this list of top car rental tips has given you the confidence to go on your dream Iceland road trip. Whether it's a small stint around the Golden Circle or an epic Ring Road trip around the entire country you dream of, Northbound has got your car rental covered. Enquire here [insert link] to find out about our diverse selection of vehicles on offer.

Search and Rent your Desired Vehicle Right Here!