Not the most exciting of subjects we know, but an important one none the less! Choosing the right car insurance for your Iceland trip is an integral part of the planning process. Many people see all those added extras from camper and car rental companies as a way to upsell and get a little extra money from your credit card. This may be true in some countries, but Iceland is different. Extreme weather and harsh road conditions are the norm here and effective insurance cover is a big deal. Even the most careful and experienced of drivers can fall foul of Iceland’s driving conditions. The potential hazards are many and they will be mostly beyond your control.
So what’s the big deal?
To begin with Iceland has a mix of road surfaces. Much of the Ring Road route and the roads around Reykjavik are paved asphalt. But around 50% of the roads across Iceland are gravel roads. Gravel can play havoc with your rental campervan paintwork. Then there’s volcanic sand and ash to content with. Yes, Iceland’s volcanoes are many and they have been very busy over the centuries. Sand and ash whipped up into a storm is particularly hard on paintwork and windscreens.
Last but by no means least is the weather. The weather in Iceland is notoriously changeable and quite wild. On an island with few trees the wind can be extremely fierce at times. Larger vehicles like motorhomes will be particularly affected by high winds. Then there are hailstorms, snowstorms, sand storms and ice. And these hazards are not just confined to the winter months. Summer storms can come suddenly and with great force.
Don’t let all this put you off though. Travelling in Iceland by camper or car is an incredible experience. You just need to know the hazards, plan well and check the weather forecast regularly. That way you can be prepared to change your travel plans accordingly. A great resource for up to the minute weather reporting is the Vedur App. Now let’s look in a little more detail at the different types of insurance cover your camper or car rental company may offer you.
Gravel Protection (GP Insurance)
You may be taking a short trip and planning on sticking to paved road surfaces only. But think again. Avoiding gravel roads will seriously restrict your Iceland adventures. In fact gravel will be nigh on impossible to avoid. You may not be planning on traversing the highlands or the F roads (mountain roads), but you are certain to hit some gravel none the less. Nearly all of the main sights have at least a short stretch of gravel track to negotiate before you reach the car park.
Even if you drive slowly and carefully there is no accounting for other drivers. Gravel can easily get kicked up by a speedy passing car and damage your paintwork. Note that this form of insurance protection is for the vehicle paintwork and not the underside of the car or the tyres. So if you do take it out (as we advise) you still need to be careful of speed limits and your driving style on the gravel roads.
Sand and Ash Protection (SAAP Insurance)
There has been a whole lot of volcanic activity on Iceland over the years. This means that this small island has plenty of black sand and ash kicking about. This is especially true in South Iceland where sand storms are quite common occurrences. The problem with sand and ash damage is that it is hard to predict. The winds can whip up a storm quite quickly and seemingly out of nowhere. With few trees to break them up these storms will sand blast your hire car or campervan paintwork. Without an appropriate insurance policy to cover these damages you will have to fork out the repair costs.
Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW Insurance)
All motorhomes, campers and car rentals in Iceland come with some insurance cover as standard. There will be a basic third party liability or Collision Damage Waiver (CDW). This basically means that you will be liable to pay up to a certain amount of excess insurance. This can be quite a high figure depending on the insurance company and the rental terms. The Super Collision Damage Waiver will bring this figure down considerably. This form of cover is often combined with Gravel Protection and/or Sand and Ash Protection. In these cases it can be well worth taking out.
Iceland driving and car insurance tips
Read the small print… Do take a close look at your rental agreement to see what is already included in your camper or car rental insurance. Some car hire companies will include certain types of cover as standard. So you may not need to add any or you may be better served adding a combination insurance package.
Watch out for sheep… Iceland has a very high population of sheep. These fluffy fellows wander the island straying onto the roads quite often. Much of the land is unfenced so their grazing pastures are criss-crossed by roads. Keep an eye out for them in the distance.
Hold on to that door… One of the most common insurance claims in Iceland is for wind-damaged doors! It is something that you don’t often think about in other countries. But in Iceland the strong winds can easily catch a vehicle door and swing it violently open. Always pause before jumping out to see the view and keep a firm hold on the door as you open it. If you are travelling with kids or forgetful teenagers then that back seat child lock is your friend.
A word on 4x4s… If you are planning a winter adventure in Iceland then you may opt to hire a 4x4 camper or car. This might also be the case if you are heading onto the highland roads and the F roads. It’s certainly a good idea but you will need to be a careful and confident driver none the less. Obey the speed limits and always check the weather before you travel. Note that there is no insurance to cover river crossings of which there are a couple in the wilds of Iceland. Also, check your tyres after and before any long trip. It’s always best to spot any damage and act on it before hitting the open road.
That's it for now. We hope that we have answered all of your car insurance queries and we wish you a happy (and safe) Iceland road trip!