Sad Cars

For over two years my wife had been talking about going to Iceland. So many of her photographer friends had gone or were planning on going and she wanted to discover this photographers mecca for herself before everyone else had already been there.

We discussed options for going and it just kept on coming down to money. It was too expensive. It was nearly $2000 each to fly out of Cincinnati and there was no way we were going to be able to go there and then rent a car for that amount.

I began researching flights out of other airports. I tried all the surrounding ones; Dayton, Columbus, Indianapolis, Lexington etc. No luck, they were all hovering close to $2000 each, which would make the trip impossible on our budget.

I stared long and hard at our map of the world. I was looking at Cincinnati and the surrounding states, wondering if one of the cities would have a deal that was good enough for us.

Hang on! I thought, what about Toronto? It occurred to me that Toronto was no further away than the eastern cities, in fact it was a little closer. I wonder if it would be cheaper. After all, Toronto is actually in a different country.

I ran a search on flights for dates we were interested in. No way. Oh my God. You’ve got to be kidding me! The flights were nearly a third of the cost of the flights from Cincinnati and surrounding cities.

I wasted no time. For much less than the cost of one ticket from Cincinnati, I booked our tickets to Reykjavik Iceland from Toronto Canada.

When my wife got home that evening I was cooking outside on the grill. We started talking and I asked her the question “so do you still want to go to Iceland?”

“Of course I want to go to Iceland, but we can’t afford it.” She answered.

“Well, I did some research and I found us some tickets to get there.” I responded.

“Oh yeah?” My wife replied, intrigued.

“Yeah. In fact. I went ahead and booked them.” I said with a smile.

“No you didn’t!” My wife exclaimed.

“Oh yes I did. We’ve got tickets to go to Iceland.” I replied, beaming.

“You’re serious?” My wife asked, with pleading eyes for it to be real.

“Of course.” I replied.

She embraced me, lost for words, with happy tears in her eyes. I had just started our journey to a magical island she had been dreaming about for years.

But how were we going to get around?

Now that I had the tickets booked I had to find a way for us to travel around the island.

I figured in us bringing our camping gear and staying at a couple hotels along the way to relax and freshen up. But we had very little left for a car.

I started looking at different car companies on the main car rental websites. I couldn’t believe the costs. They were about as much as the tickets out of Cincinnati, far too much!

How on earth were we going to get around?

Enter Sad Cars.

I can’t remember exactly how I stumbled across them. No wait, I do remember now. Google of course. I was starting to worry about how we were going to pay for a car, so I started researching more affordable ways to get around Iceland, and popped up.

So what is Sad cars?

Well, as the name suggests they are a bit sad. Basically they’re an older fleet of cars, usually 10 years or older. They’re well used and well worn, but they’ve got good motors on them and are well serviced. They’re about half the cost of the new model competition from the big name companies.

For us it was perfect. It was the only car company we could afford. So I went ahead and booked us a 4×4.

We drove up to Detroit, crossed the border into Canada, drove to Toronto, stayed the night in a hotel, then flew with Iceland Air the next day to Reykjavik.

After landing at the airport we went through immigration and picked up our bags. As we headed out into the arrivals area we saw a young guy holding up a SadCars sign. We told him our names and he checked us off on his notebook. We and another two couples followed him to a van and he drove us a short ways down the road towards a hanger were the Sad Cars are located outside of the airport. After the two other couples had collected their cars from him, he gave us our keys after we signed off the paperwork.

He showed us our car and said goodbye as he was off to pick up more sadcars customers.

To be honest my wife wasn’t that impressed, but she was so tired she didn’t say anything.

The car was definitely worn in. When I fired it up I noticed that it had over 200,000 kilometers on the clock. I put it in gear, backed out, and then drove around the corner to our hotel by the airport.

The next day we loaded up the sad car and began driving to our next hotel for the night.

When we picked the car up, I noticed the front license plate was a bit loose. “Don’t worry about it” the young guy had said. So I didn’t.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I noticed it had fallen off somewhere on the way over.

The drive from the first hotel to the second hotel wasn’t much fun. The wiper blades were incredibly noisy and made a very distracting squeak every time they dragged awkwardly across the windscreen, smudging an already difficult view ahead.

The steering wheel had to be turned at a slight angle in order to keep the car going straight, and I had a hard time getting it to go into 5th.

After the first day of driving I bought some rain-x to help with the squeaky wiper blades. It was simply too distracting.

The second day of driving I started to actually enjoy the car. We had discovered that despite the rattly interior and squeaky wiper blades, the car had one very nice feature: heated front seats.

My word was that nice!

Iceland in September reminded me a lot of my native England. Very wet and windy!

What a relief and luxury it was to have heated seats!

Over the next several days I fell in love with this car. I even took lots of different pictures of it against the stunning scenery around us.

I loved how rugged the car felt. It was like it truly belonged in its environment. It had been around the block a few times and lived to tell the tales.

It safely got us almost the entire way around Iceland.

I say almost, because unfortunately somewhere on our second to last day, as we were heading back towards Reykjavik, it lost all of its coolant. I pulled over and let it cool down for a bit before removing the cap. I filled it up with water, with hopes to nurse it back to the capital city. But no luck. After trying to kick over the motor several times, we realized it was no good. A proper mechanic would need to look this over good and proper in his shop.

My wife called SadCars and told them what had happened. About an hour later a local mechanic came by with his trailer. He took a look at the car and engine, tried to fire it up, and came to the same conclusion as me. This was a job to be undertaken in a garage. I helped him hook it up to the trailer and he gave us a lift back to the nearest town.

He asked where we were staying and we tired to explain that we didn’t actually have a place to stay for the night. We were planning on camping one more night before staying in a hotel our final night in Reykjavik.

He was very considerate and called the main office. They arranged for someone to pick us up. He then dropped us off at a local restaurant/gas station.

As we sat down to eat I called the hotel we had reservations for the next night and explained our situation. I asked if they had space for us to stay that night. They replied that they did indeed, and were happy for us to stay for two nights instead of just one.

When the man from the main office arrived, he asked where we were staying. I told him the name of the hotel and he drove us back towards Reykjavik.

I told him what had gone wrong with the car, and apologized for losing the front licence plate. “Oh don’t worry about it.” He said, just like the young man had two weeks earlier.

As we got closer to the city, we were talking about how much we had enjoyed using the car and that it had grown on us, and that it was a shame how it had broken down so close to the end of our journey.

To our surprise the driver revealed that he was actually one of the owners of sadcars and that SAD actually stands for the names of the three co-owners. I thought it was very nice of him to personally come out all that way and pick us up.

He explained to us that often the newer cars from other companies break down on the island. He said there is more of a risk with the older cars from his company, but with the risk you get the savings.

As we pulled up to the hotel he said that they would be able to get a replacement car around for us sometime in the morning. I thought quickly and suggested that instead of them going to all that trouble, that they simply refund the last two days of our car rental. He agreed to that and said it would be no problem. We shook his hand and gave our thanks and he left us with our bags inside the lobby of Hotel Klettur.

The next day we were able to have a full day in sunny Reykjavik. The breakdown enabled us to enjoy a whole day rested up and able to enjoy the amazing capital city of Iceland. It also gave us an insight into just how friendly the people of Iceland are, but to how professional and helpful the owners of SadCars are.

A few days after the trip had ended and we had made our way back to Cincinnati, the refund for our last two days of car rental had made its way back into our account. It ended up being enough to pay for that extra night in the hotel. Nice.

If you’re looking to go to Iceland and need a cheap car to rent, SadCars is the place to go. As the owner explained to us, there’s a risk in renting cars in Iceland no matter which company you go with, but at least with SadCars you’ll be able to afford it.

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