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Navigating Iceland: Do You Need a 4-Wheel Drive Vehicle?

Most of us when planning to rent a car from their trip to Iceland think that the safest thing is to rent 4 wheel drive vehicle.

But things are not like that in reality!

We made the same mistake as most of you and rented a 4 wheel drive for our Ring Road tour. We visited Iceland in October so we considered that it is mandatory to have 4 wheel drive.

Iceland rent 4 wheel drive vehicle

Iceland car rental 4 wheel drive

We were so wrong! We had 4WD and we entered on a terrible snowstorm, and all the road was covered with ice and snow and 4 WD did not help us a lot! Thank God we managed to get safe to the hotel! It was the longest drive of our lives! We drove 180 kilometres in 5 hours! Was a real nightmare!

So, what I would like to point out is that with or without full traction, if you don’t have winter tires or even studded tires you should not adventure far from the main cities.

You know why? Because the weather can change dramatically from one moment to another! And rent 4 wheel drive vehicle cannot change the weather!

Iceland Road snow Ice Mountain blue sky coulds

Iceland Road snow Ice Mountain

And from a sunny and warm day in a matter of a few moments and a few kilometres away you can get into an awful winter day with ice on the road and very strong wind! Trust me! None of the safety shields from your car can save you if you don’t know how to drive in winter conditions and if you don’t have studded tires.

Most of you consider that if you are stuck in the mud or in snow, 4 wheel drive will help you. But this is not always true! It might help you get off but you need to know exactly when to activate this function and what manoeuvres to do.

Still, there are some cases when it is BEST to rent 4 wheel drive vehicle.

1. When you need more power for heavy pulling at low speed.

2. You have low speed and you need more power to climb a steep road

3. When you are on a slippery road and need to have traction on all your wheels

What I am actually trying to tell you is that car traction is not everything when you want to rent a car.

First of all, you need to evaluate your skills of driving on an icy road. Have ever driven in such conditions? If not, that I don’t recommend you to do it in Iceland for the first time.

If you did, then you should know what you have to do when you get stuck in snow or when the road is full of ice. The most important thing when renting a car is to check what type of tires it has if it is properly equipped for the worst weather conditions possible.

And there is another thing you should know about 4WD. When it is used, it increases fuel consumption.

Iceland car rental 4 wheel drive

Iceland car rental 4 wheel drive

To sum up, what I would like to tell you is that a 4 wheel drive vehicle is not something which you should rent when visit Iceland, but check for the tires first.

Now that you know all these things, you might reconsider your plan and know exactly what type of car you want to rent: a small one of short trips or a normal or an SUV for doing the Ring Road. Don’t forget: rent 4 wheel drive vehicle is not mandatory when traveling to Iceland!

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