Renting a SADcar in Iceland – My Experience Driving A Second-Hand Car Around Route 1

Meet Sick Car, our transportation around Iceland. It was the nickname we gave to a little Toyota-that-could, which we rented from Icelandic car rental company SADcars. SADcars is a car rental company that rents fairly new, second hand cars at very low prices, perfect for budget visitors who can’t afford hundreds of Euros for a 4×4 car rental. Iceland is a country where having private transport opens up all kinds of doors to adventure, and thankfully SADcars is there to help shoestring visitors.

Drawing of a blue SadCars rental car in front of a glacier in Iceland

There were 4 of us, and we were travelling around Iceland via the coutry’s ring road, Route 1, stopping along the way at lots of amazing sights. The first thing we did was to pick up our wheels at Keflavik airport.

Picking Up The SADcar At Keflavik Airport

The plane landed at 2am under a torrential Icelandic thunderstorm. After heading over to the SADcars office using their free shuttle bus, I soon had the keys to the car. We prepared for the 45 minute drive from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik, under heavy rain. I turned the key, and a kaleidoscope of check engine warning lights filled the dashboard. The first thing we needed was fuel. At 2:30am in the morning, we found one of Iceland’s self-service petrol stations on the outskirts of Reykjavik. They’re quite a cool sight to behold – without a building, attendant or shop, it was a lonely little pump on the side of the road. Very minimalist!

The weather cleared the next morning, and we had a chance to properly inspect our ride. The paintwork was scratched in places, and rust was fringing the wheel wells, but overall, Sick Car looked good. We weren’t complaining about anything, because renting her was very affordable. Besides, Sick Car had character! Our first day trip to the Golden Circle gave us time to see how we fared on a long stretch of highway.

It soon became clear that the driver’s side tyre was constantly running flat. We pumped it up at every single service station along the way, a ritual we kept up for the 10 days of our trip. Whilst filling up the tyres, I snuck a closer look at the brake discs, which seemed to be made out of a fine crust of brittle rust flakes. Concerning? Maybe.

Stay On Iceland Route 1 For Easy Driving

Luckily for us, Iceland is an absolute breeze to drive, and Sick Car ran like a dream on the country’s wonderful paved national highway, Route 1. But a harrowing moment arrived as we attempted to visit (the utterly unpronounceable!) Fjaðrárgljúfur Gorge.

drawing of Fjaðrárgljúfur
Fjaðrárgljúfur Gorge

For insurance purposes we weren’t allowed to drive off-road, and we weren’t brave enough to try anyway. But, now we faced a short unsealed gravel road which was little more than a stony driveway. With our small tyres, it felt like slipping on ice. At one point, there was a slight incline, and I thought we’d stop dead halfway up, spitting gravel for the rest of our lives.

We made it up the mighty hill eventually though, and continued on our journey. Note to self – no more gravel roads. The next scariest moment arrived when we crossed a mountainous area from Höfn to the town of Seyðisfjörður, to see the puffins there. The cloud cover had come in so low that it looked like we were driving with a smoke machine attached to the hood. With our headlights on, visibility was limited to just a few metres. Ghost cars burst out of the fog without warning, and we crawled along the winding tarmac, knuckles white on the steering wheel. In these moments, slow and steady was the way to go, and luckily, Sick Car was a specialist in being slow.

As we curled around the north from Myvatn to Akureyri, and down again to Reykjavik, we found ourselves on some mind-bendingly picturesque fjords and mountain passes. Iceland was stunning, and these treeless landscapes looked like something from another planet. We reflected on Sick Car, our little buddy that helped us on this journey. Appearances aside, Sick Car was the perfect vehicle, and took us safely all around this amazing country.

Stranded Fishing Boat at Hofn

***

SadCars was absolutely wonderful. While we grumbled a bit at the flaws and imperfections of the little Toyota, it was completely reliable in the end. For first time travellers in Iceland like us, using Route 1 to see most of the sights, it was the cheapest and best way to explore this amazing place.

Just how cheap is SADcars? Check out their website here for up to date prices.


3 thoughts on “Renting a SADcar in Iceland – My Experience Driving A Second-Hand Car Around Route 1

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