Winter Road Trip in Iceland – Top Tips For an Early Start

Scraping ice
Always clear snow and ice off your rental car.

You're in Iceland and of course can't wait to get in your rental car and start exploring. But then you realize that the weather conditions are not the best. There is snow and ice everywhere and you have no idea where to start.

When you visit Iceland in the freezing winter months, getting an early start on your road trip isn’t always as easy as it should. This is a problem as getting an early start can make all the difference when traveling.

There is no reason to panic though. There are ways to overcome these winter obstacles. 

So, let's go over our top tips for winter driving. Giving you an early start for your winter road trip in Iceland!

Iceland in winter - Weather conditions

The Icelandic winter can be rather hard. There are only a few hours of daylight with freezing temperatures, both day and night. On top of that it snows, and the wind is often quite heavy. 

While this might not be a constant situation, snow storms and other bad weather conditions  should always be expected. The weather in Iceland can be unpredictable, especially during winter.


Not only does snow and ice make bad road conditions. In these winter conditions just getting to your car and getting it ready for the road can be extremely difficult. 

This is something everyone who has rented a car in Iceland during winter needs to consider. 

That's why our first advice is to check both the weather forecast and road conditions before traveling. 

This should give you some idea of what is to be expected. At least for a moment and perhaps for the next few hours or so. Although nothing is guaranteed.

Snow covered cars.
Snow covered cars in Iceland.

Best way getting to my car

Let's set up a likely situation for winter travelers in Iceland. You wake up in the morning, it is dark and over the night the Icelandic winter has hit hard. Temperatures are way below zero and you want to start your day as soon as possible.

Now there are a few things we recommend keeping in mind at this point.

First is to wear something warm. Make no mistake, it is cold outside. Therefore, have your winter clothes on when going outside. That means winter jacket, gloves, hat and boots.


It is also dark and if there is no light outside, we recommend having one on you. The path to your rental car might be icy and you do not want to slip and injure yourself on the way to the car. 

With a light you will see where you are going and you are less likely to fall. Metal spikes are also useful if you have them. Just make sure to remove them once you enter the car.

What if the car is frozen?

Now you're standing in front of the car in the freezing cold and discover that the car is frozen. What is there to do?

The first step is to open the car and start the engine. As soon as you get the car started it will start to warm up.

Do note, that the engine is cold, and it takes time for it to warm up. So, if you start blasting the AC on full it will only blow cold air into the car.

What if the car wont open?

That can happen. Frozen doors are a rather common issue in winter.

In such a situation, try every door on the car. They might not all be frozen stuck. You might have to give every door a few tries before being able to open. You might have to wiggle and use a bit of force as well.

If that proves impossible you can try pouring some hot water on the side of one of the doors.

Do not pour hot water on the glass as it might shatter. Once inside, start the car right away and let it warm up.

The most effective way to prevent this from happening is to park inside or wipe off any potential moisture from inside the door.

Cold car in iceland.
Keep yourself warm when clearing the car of snow and ice.

What if I don't have time for the car to warm up?

While not ideal there are a few tricks you can use to start a cold drive. 

All the electric heating devices, such as for the seats, steering wheel and windows, do not need to warm up. They will be active as soon as they are turned on.

We also recommend wearing gloves and a hat.Gloves and hats will keep your hands and head warm which should be enough for a few minutes and are easy to remove once the car gets warmer

But take off your winter coat. The car will warm up eventually and when it does it will be dangerous to remove the jacket while driving. 

Scraping the windshield

The first thing you will notice when walking up to your rental car in the morning is the ice on the front windshield.

It is highly important to scrape off the frost and remove all snow as it will block your view. That's why it is necessary to have an ice scraper in the car at all times.


To make this task more bearable we recommend always to keep the scraper at the same place inside the car. So you do not have to spend time looking for it in the cold.

Also, wear gloves. Scraping is often hard work and you will have to use your hands. Therefore, it will be much more comfortable with gloves protecting you from the cold.

Scrape off from all windows of the car. Not just the front windshield. This will not only give you a better view and the car will warm up faster.

Also, clear snow from the car roof. It can fall off and block your view or other cars while driving.

Heated seats.
Electric heating devices, such as for the seats will be active as soon as they are turned on.

A warm car is a safe car

If it is freezing outside the car will be freezing cold when you get to it in the morning. That's why we recommend getting out and starting the car and keeping it on for a few minutes before driving.

This will not only be more comfortable, but it will also give a better view and you will not have to undress while driving.

With that being said, we also recommend not to keep the car running for too long and never in a closed area. The engine produces carbon monoxide which is dangerous and bad for the environment.


Leaving the car overnight 

How you leave the rental car before parking it overnight can make a huge difference. Keeping it away from the elements is of course your best option. That's not always possible but there are a few tricks you can use to get the car back on the road faster, even though it is freezing cold outside.

One tip we recommend is to clear the car on the inside when leaving it overnight. 

Liquids create moisture which will freeze. Therefore, by removing items, such as clothes, drinking bottles and even the floor mats reduce the possibility of icing forming on the inside.

Meaning you will not have to scrape the inside of the windshield as well as the outside. It will also be easier to open the car and it will take less time to warm up.

If possible we recommend parking where there is less chance of getting snowed in. Backing into parking spots can help and asking your accommodation for advice might save you a lot of time and trouble.

The northern lights over the Blue Lagoon.
See the Northern lights over the Blue Lagoon.

The best rental car for an early start

As always, we recommend doing a bit of research before traveling in Iceland. Not just on where you want to go and see, but also on how it is best getting there.

Whether it is to see the Northern lights, driving the Ring Road, visiting the Blue Lagoon or simply driving from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik and back.

By having a rental car you will have the freedom to travel on your own time and make your own schedule. So to make the most of your vacation in Iceland it is important to have the right car.

The best car to rent depends on your own interest. But, as we are here to give out driving tips for the best early start for a winter road trip in Iceland, here are some points.

We recommend selecting a rental car that has heated seats and steering wheels. Also once with preheating windshields and backing cameras. 

These abilities will make a big difference and are a huge timesaver for early birds in Iceland.

For driving in winter conditions in Iceland we recommend a 4x4/ADW. There are several SUVs that have these abilities, such as the Kia Sportage and Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

If you like to be even better prepared for Iceland, we recommend taking a look at our some of our other articles about driving in Iceland and other highly practical informations on our website. 

Most importantly, remember to get a great rental car from Blue Car Rental for your winter driving in Iceland. 






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