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Choosing a Camper Rental: Do I Need a 4x4 in Iceland?

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

Most people, when planning their road trip in Iceland, think that a 4x4 car is the best choice straight away. And that has an apparent reason. They google Iceland, and they get snowy, gravel roads that look almost impassable for a standard car. That is indeed true, but only in some areas of the country, mostly the remote ones like the Highlands. But what if you are not planning to go that far? Then you will ask yourself a question, do I really need a 4x4 in Iceland? Will I be able to see all the main attractions with a standard 2wd vehicle? And these are excellent questions. To answer them, you will need to take into consideration a few factors.

One of the paved roads on whcih you will not need a 4x4 in Iceland.

4x4 vehicle rental in Iceland

What should I expect?

Iceland is a small island but became one of the top tourist destinations during the past few years. More travelers are choosing this land for their adventurous trip. As a result, the tourist market developed significantly in Iceland. If we take into account the country’s infrastructure, the best way to explore it would be by car or camper van rental. Thus, many new car rental companies grew like mushrooms after rain.

This is a good thing, up to a certain point, as you will have a wide variety of options to find a vehicle that suits your needs best. However, The whole process can give you a headache. Well, getting the best camper rental is not an easy task at all!

Most of the companies offer a pick-up and drop-off directly from Keflavik airport. There are some others which offer their services 24 hours. That is very convenient, especially if you are arriving on a night flight and do not want to bother with booking a hotel for the first night. There are local companies, which still have a wide choice of campers, including 4x4 ones. You need to be aware that the price of those will always be higher than the standard 2WD vehicle.

Do I need a 4x4 in Iceland?

The view on the gravel roads where you will need a 4x4 in Iceland

As I have already mentioned above, whether you need a 4x4 in Iceland, depends on a few factors. Of course, your personal preferences and budget will probably be the decisive factor. There are, however, other aspects you should also take into consideration.

Itinerary for your Iceland Trip

If you are coming to Iceland for a weekend and your main destination is Reykjavik and possibly the Golden Circle route, there is no need for a 4x4 vehicle. You will exclusively use the Ring Road during this short road trip, which is suitable for 2wd cars and RV’s. There is no need to rent an all-terrain vehicle. Now, the situation does change if you are planning a more extended trip around Iceland, particularly if you feel like visiting the Highlands.

There, a 4x4 car is undoubtedly necessary as you will be using F-roads, which are only suitable for such vehicles. When planning your trip to Iceland, make sure you do it carefully. Take your time in checking the roads you might use, and check places that you would like to visit. Based on that, you can then decide if you will need a 4x4 in Iceland.

Time of the year you visit Iceland

This section is strictly connected with the first point. You should always plan your itinerary based on the time of the year you will choose for your journey. The reason for this is quite evident. You cannot expect to visit Highlands in winter, because F-roads remain closed at that time of the year. This remote part of Iceland has harsh climate conditions. Therefore roads open only during the summer months. Please note

Driving a 4x4 is much more comfortable. Those cars are way more stable on F-roads, especially if driving o frosted or snowy roads. That is why it should always be the first choice if you are planning a road trip in Iceland in winter. In 4x4 cars, the torque is always distributed to both axles. This means that the vehicle has a center differential that allows simultaneous transmission of power to both axles. In short, it helps to transfer power to all of the wheels. You won’t have to learn any unique driving technique, but it will help you to move on icy roads, overcome snowy parts of the roads quickly and keep the car stable on curves and when breaking. It becomes much useful in Iceland during the wintertime, even though you will not be using gravel roads.

The 4x4 cars are usually associated with large SUV cars like Jeeps. Remember, though, that not every SUV vehicle is automatically a 4x4. So make sure that the one you rent has that option. Even some standard looking vehicles can have this option.


Even though it is in third place, for many, it will be the decisive factor. No wonder why. 4x4 vehicles in Iceland can be quite expensive. Renting the right camper for your trip is essential. It will become your temporary home during the time you spend in Iceland. You need to feel comfortable while driving so you can fully enjoy your Icelandic adventure. That is one thing you should not save money on.


Most of the 4x4 vehicles in Iceland are at the same time automatic. You should check that in advance, at the time of booking. If you have never used an automatic gear, the first hours of driving might be quite stressful. If you can only drive a manual, check with your rental company if they offer that precise model in manual transmission. In theory, switching from manual to automatic is more natural than the other way around. You might want to try the automatic transmission before coming to Iceland, to make sure you can safely drive it. It might find out it is even more comfortable for you to drive an automatic one.

Personal preferences

One can have personal preferences when it comes to cars. We had some cases in which customers wanted to get the identical model they have back in their home country. That is understandable. We get used to driving a specific model, and it having the same vehicle does ease our minds.

Others, who already drove a 4x4, know the difference and cannot imagine driving a standard 2WD. You should take into consideration all these things and choose the vehicle which best suits your needs.

An aerial view on the gravel roads where you need a 4x4 in Iceland

Choosing a Camper Rental: Do I Need a 4x4 in Iceland?

We know that Driving in Iceland can indeed be challenging, especially if you will be coming during the winter months. If you are visiting the Highlands, you should follow the safety rules as well. In both cases, the 4x4 in Iceland is much recommended. Having a vehicle that is stable on the roads will make you feel safer and comfortable. This will make your experience in Iceland much more enjoyable. The hours spent driving will be much more pleasant.  


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