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Lately, when people ask me about rental car recommendations (which actually happens quite frequently) I’ve started to recommend Rentalcars.com or AutoEurope.eu. I used to collaborate with a local company here in Iceland by offering rentals through them on the blog but I stopped because the prices were usually better through these websites and I didn’t want my guests to pay more than they needed to.
Although I’m not a fan of all international third-party booking sites (I can’t tell you how often I’ve had to help lost travelers here in Reykjavík with vouchers that contain incorrect information from an unmentioned tour booking giant that provides no help on the ground) I think when it comes to car rental – booking through a third party site often makes the most sense.
Although the booking process on both these sites is fairly simple, there are still a few things I want to share with you that it’s important to consider before booking.
It matters where in the world you are located at the time of booking
When I’ve used Rentalcars.com to compare prices for our guests, it has always surprised me that I never see Avis and Budget on there as they are among the bigger names here in Iceland and just in the world in general. By accident, when I was researching this post and forgot to turn off my VPN (a service you can use to make websites believe you’re located somewhere else in the world than you actually are and is often used for privacy reasons) I noticed that Avis and Budget are available when booking from the US. I tried changing my VPN location to the UK and the same thing happened there – options that were not available when booking from the US and Iceland appeared.
So it matters where in the world you are when you book.
This is not a huge issue but if you search for cars from home and find a great offer from Avis or Budget, for example, you won’t be able to book those options once in Iceland so you may want to consider booking before you leave home. It seems like Budget and Avis, at least for the days I checked, offer some of the lowest prices when booking through Rentalcars.com from the US.
From a quick test I did with AutoEurope.eu they don’t seem to operate in the same way. I got the same options no matter where in the world I was located.
It matters who you book with
When you use a website like RentalCars.com or AutoEurope.eu, it’s tempting to just jump at the lowest offer available without giving any thought to who you are booking with. If you have a very limited budget and you don’t mind a few inconveniences if it means you get the car for a lower price then this may be a good method for you. However, for everyone else, who you book with matters.
There are only four car rental agencies that have a desk inside the airport terminal at Keflavík Airport: Avis, Europcar, Budget and Hertz. All the other car rental agencies have offices outside of the terminal which means that if you book with them, you will need to find their representative in the arrival hall at Keflavík airport (or a sign outside of the terminal) and in most cases, they will take you in a shuttle to their office where you will finish all your paperwork for the rental. If they have a lot of clients arriving at the same time you may have to wait a while before the shuttle leaves. If you book with the agencies that have desks inside the terminal, on the other hand, you can just walk to their desk and wait in line until it’s your turn.
If you don’t plan to book a car for your entire stay and you want to pick up the car in Reykjavík, many of the smaller car rental agencies only have offices in Keflavík. Budget, Avis, Hertz, Europcar, Enterprise, Sixt, Thrifty and Dollar, to name a few, all have pickup locations in Reykjavík. Some offer pick-up locations in downtown Reykjavík while others offer shuttle services (like Avis/Budget) from downtown hotels to their offices out of the city center. Some of the bigger companies also offer pickup at Reykjavík Domestic Airport which is centrally located.
Finally, it really matters who you book with when it comes to the service that is offered in case of a breakdown or malfunctions with the car. You want to rent with a company that has rental locations all around the country so your car can easily be replaced if needed. Hertz, Europcar, Avis and Budget have the biggest numbers of service stations around the country.
I have had good personal experience with Avis, Budget and Europcar and recommend them to my guests and book with them myself when I need a rental car. I’ve heard from my colleagues that they also like Enterprise although I have no personal experience with them. These are also the companies that get some of the highest ratings on Rentalcars.com from previous guests.
Be careful of the extra insurance sold onsite
Both Rentalcars.com and AutoEurope.eu offer extra insurance if you book with them. Rentalcars.com calls this “Full Insurance” while AutoEurope.eu calls it “Refundable Excess”.
You need to be careful because this is not the same as if you buy the SCDW or Zero Excess package directly from the car rental agency at the counter when you pick up the car. With the insurance you buy from the counter, you reduce the excess you need to pay in the case of an accident so you never have to pay more than X amount when you return the car. In the case of Zero Excess, you don’t have to pay anything unless you damage something that is not insured under the policy (such as the undercarriage or water damages if you cross rivers)
With the Full Insurance or Refundable Excess you buy on these sites, you will need to pay for the damages when you return the car and then you can claim it from Rentalcars.com or AutoEurope.eu once you’re back home. If you have car rental insurance on your credit card it will work the same way: You pay when you return the car and make a claim with the appropriate insurance company once your home.
I personally always skip the insurance offered on the website and buy it directly from the car rental agency at the time of pickup.
Read the terms carefully
One of the things I like both about Rentalcars.com and AutoEurope.eu is that they take the most important things out of your car rental terms and display them in a way that is easy to read and understand. I find if you book directly with some of the car rental agencies you almost need a legal degree to understand what you are agreeing to.
The things that matter are the security deposit (the amount varies between car rental agencies), which credit cards are accepted (VISA and MasterCard are always accepted, AMEX and Diners sometimes not) and what charges if any, you may expect when you pick up the car. If you are renting a car somewhere outside of Iceland these charges may include border crossing charges, for example.
I think AutoEurope does a bit better job at this as they display actual prices while Rentalcars.com just say that extra charges may apply.
Although the advice above specifically applies to rentals through Rentalcars.com and AutoEurope.eu, it can be applied in more general terms as well even if you choose to book elsewhere.
For more good advice about car rental in Iceland, check out these posts about how to avoid getting caught in a car rental horror story and why I always recommend you pay for the extra insurance (directly from the car rental agency). Find more helpful posts in my Ultimate Iceland Self-Drive Guide.
If you’re still deciding whether self-drive is for you, this post about whether you should rent a car or do day tours in Iceland might help.
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