Interestingly, Icelandic’s first word for a car was “sjálfrennireið” which translates to “self-gliding ride”. Nowadays, the word for a car is “bíll”, derived from “automobile”. According to Statistics Iceland, there are currently 330,193 registered vehicles in the country. In the past year, 17,549 new passenger cars were sold, which reflects a 5.1% increase from the previous year. Of these new cars, 7,874 were sold to individuals, indicating a 12.4% increase in sales to individuals year-on-year. Car rental companies bought 6,973 vehicles last year, representing a 7.7% decrease from the previous year. Meanwhile, companies purchased 2,695 cars, indicating a 36.6% increase from the prior year.

Electric vehicles comprised most of passenger car sales last year, accounting for 50.1% of sales. Hybrids represented 16.5%, diesel accounted for 13%, petrol made up 10.5%, and plug-in hybrids represented 10%. When broken down by sales to individuals and companies, electric cars made up 71.7% of sales. In comparison, gasoline cars only made up 2.7% of new registrations.

The Tesla Model Y was the best-selling car in Iceland last year, with 3,261 vehicles sold. The Dacia Duster came in second place, with 1,024 SUVs sold. Toyota’s new electric vehicle, BZ4X, took third place with 662 units sold.

To drive 1 kilometre on electricity in Iceland costs 3 Icelandic kr. In contrast, it costs 30 kr to cover the same distance with fossil fuel. Additionally, a mileage fee of 6 kr/km is charged, which is about one-third of the cost compared to traditional internal combustion engines.

Rental cars waiting at Reykjavík airport, but almost half of newly registered passenger cars buy the rental cars.

Over 330 thousand vehicles are registered in Iceland.

The road system is expensive, financed by a mileage charge on electric cars and surcharges on petrol and diesel.


Reykjavík 08/01/2024 – A7R IV : FE 1.8/135mm GM, FE 2.8/100mm GM

Photographs & text: Páll Stefánsson