Renting a car:

Cars in Iceland range from mini Euro-style zippers to massive all-terrain campers

This guy is not messing around.

This guy is not messing around.

that look like tanks meant for the arctic tundra, but most people drive something in between.

We chose a four door jeep with low mileage. I tend to lean toward smaller cars that are easy on the wallet when fueling and easy to park. But in Iceland, the objectives in choosing a car are similar to to those in choosing a space ship. You want something highly reliable that can handle changing conditions and protect you from the elements. It has to drive on dirt and gravel, and when needed, forge small rivers that can pop up out of nowhere. You also want good brakes, traction, visibility and comfort.

This was my steed.

This was my steed.

Believe me when I say this is not the place to rent a wreck or short change yourself on a quality experience. An extra $20 a day won’t seem like much when you’re winding down a slick, muddy road surrounded by waterfalls and so much beauty that it will be hard to focus on driving. Iceland is magical – its awe-inspiring views and breathtaking scenery don’t cost one red cent – so pony up and make it great. You won’t regret it.

I wouldn’t say this in most places, but when you rent a car in Iceland, buy

The main ring road is mostly paved but the shortcuts are hard pack gravel.

The ring road is mostly paved but the shortcuts are hard pack gravel.

insurance. It covers some unusual but very real possibilities. I got several provisions here I wouldn’t buy elsewhere. One offered the usual comprehensive and collision protection, but I supplemented it with “pebble and wind’ insurance, which protects you from damage caused by pebbles flying through space at ungodly speeds as well as having your door fly clean off. This actually happens. There are few trees to gauge the wind and when the grass lays down it looks peaceful. If that ‘peaceful’ wind hits the rear of your car, you probably won’t think about it until you open the door and it almost jerks your arm off.

p1060564I waived the theft insurance for reasons already explained, but the only thing you can’t insure is damage caused by being swept down a river. You’re on your own there, which is another reason why I chose a jeep.  It would be bad enough to be swept down a river with my wife cursing my name, only to end up at the bottom of a fjord somewhere, but drowning in a tiny compact would be too much to bear.