9 Useful Tips For Renting A Car In Spain

I don’t know why, but it seems for the past few weeks many of you want to know more about renting a car in Spain.  I find it odd, as the high tourist season is over, but we are happy to respond and do our best to answer your questions.  Of course each person asks a slightly different question, but all relating to a rental car in Spain.  Of course when things like this happen, what do we do?  We compile all of our info into a post and share it on the blog, this way we have an easy link to point people to in the future.

Car Hire in Spain - Tips and Tricks for your rental car. Read more on WagonersAbroad.com

If you are planning to Visit Spain, you may be faced with the decision of renting a car in Spain or giving it a go with public transportation.  I don’t think it is any secret that we prefer to have our own transportation and explore off the beaten path a little more than the average Joe.  All of that said, so we can share with you all of the car hire tips and tricks we have learned along the way.  Of course we owned a car in Spain for 2 years as well, but we have plenty of experience driving in Spain.  We will share some of our favorite Spain photos as well, just so you can see what we’ve found along the way.

Renting a Car in Spain or Car Hire In Spain (for the Brits)

  1. Rental Car in Spain vs. Car Hire

    – Let’s start with a little lesson with the terminology.  So you don’t have any experience renting cars in Spain, but I am sure you have searched the internet for a rental car at one point or another. Often you would just type in the search something like: “Best Rental Car in Spain”, “Best Prices for Car Rental in Spain”, or “Car Rental Deals in Spain”,.  This is great for the Americans as it is a common term and the way Americans refer to a car which you want to rent.   Well there are far more British tourists in Spain than Americans, so you are likely to find more accurate results when searching British style with terms like: “Car Hire in Spain”, “Best Car Hire Tips in Spain”, “Car Hire Deals In Spain”  or “Spain Car Hire”.

  2. Manual vs Automatic

    – For the die-hard stick shift (manual) driver, you will have it made in Spain!  Most of the cars available for rent are stick shifts.  If you only know how to drive an automatic, I have 2 bits of advice for you.  1.  Be prepared to pay a crazy amount for a car with an automatic transmission.  2.  Try to learn how to drive a stick shift before arriving in Spain and save some money, it really isn’t difficult.

  3. Size Matters –

    Who ever said it didn’t?  Well if there is one place where this phrase is true, it is in Spain.   The size of your rental car does matter.  Of course you need it to be large enough to accommodate all of your passengers and luggage, so that is a given.  You also want to consider your destination and size of the roads.  If you plan to stick to the main highways and bigger cities, then it isn’t as much of an issue.  If you have any plans to venture into the smaller villages and really explore Spain, then don’t hire a big car!  Many roads are wide enough for one car, but they are meant to be two-way streets.  Yep, that is how these old villages work, they weren’t planning for the future all those years ago.  Many roads today are based on old walking or herding paths.
    Setenil de las Bodegas, narrow roads in SpainWe usually rent the MPV style (Multi Purpose Vehicle), this is similar to a Peugeot Partner or Citröen Berlingo.  There is plenty of space for 5 passengers and it likely has the most luggage space you will find.  It is similar to a small mini van and is the style of car we owned for 2 years in Spain.  It is not too big for the streets and fairly easy to park.

  4. Should I Buy Car Insurance when renting a car in Spain?

    – This is the million dollar question when you have a car hire in Spain!  Actually when you rent a car anywhere, but I do believe it applies even more so in Spain.  When driving around Spain, you will see many cars a bit banged up with dings and scratches.  Much of which is caused by those narrow roads.  Auto bodywork is fairly inexpensive in much of Spain, so people just go get things repaired or just start a collection of dings.  It is all cosmetic and it is also bound to happen over time, especially on the rear view mirrors or the front/rear bumpers.  Look into the insurance options carefully and decide what works best for you.

    Car Hire in Spain - What should you do about insurance?

    1. The full coverage insurance provided by the car rental company is often as much as the rental.  Many max out at €180 or so, but it is often €10 a day or more.  This is often the worry-free option, where anything that happens to the car is covered.  Check to be sure there is no deductible or the term they use here is “Excess”.
    2. Which insurance is included?  Many include the compulsory car insurance, vehicle occupant insurance and third-party insurance in its fees, in compliance with the current legislation.  Sometimes you will also have collision damage waiver (CDW) and theft with excess fee included too.
    3. What is an Excess fee? – An excess fee is the maximum amount that you will have to pay in case the vehicle is damaged.  The will often place a pending charge, from €800 – €3000, on your credit card for the excess.  Once you return the car undamaged, it will be removed.  If they find any damage, you will be charged for the amount of repair, up to your excess amount.
    4. CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) – Many times this is automatically provided with any car hire in Spain.  This is often just basic insurance in case of an accident and typically comes with a high deposit to cover any potential deductible / excess.  The will often place a pending charge, from €800 – €3000, on your credit card for the excess.  Once you return the car undamaged, it will be removed.  If they find any damage, you will be charged.
    5. But my credit card provides insurance coverage for me. – Read the fine print!  Most credit card companies state you must decline the insurance and they will need proof of that.  If you want to use this as your coverage, take the time to read your terms and conditions or better yet, give them a call and be sure you are very clear on what is covered, the length of the rental, the location of the car hire and what would be required if there was a claim.  These things are key to give you peace of mind while renting your car in Spain.
      Ronda Romantica Spain
  5. Car Hire Fuel Policy

    – Ah the ever so lovely Fuel Policy!  Check the fuel policy carefully when searching for your car hire.  With some you will receive a full tank of fuel and need to return empty.  They may charge slightly inflated prices for the initial tank of fuel.  Other rental agencies provide you a full tank, and you need to return full.

    1. Just pay for the fuel you use – Sounds easy and you don’t need to worry about finding that gas station on your final approach to return the car.  When you pick up your rental car, the gas tank will be full and you need to return the tank empty.  Upon check out, they will likely charge you for that tank of fuel, at a price slightly higher than the going rate around town.  They will often also add a refueling or service fee to this.  Read the fine print!  We have paid up to €110 for this.  Of course it all varies depending on the car type and gas tank size too.  If you return your rental with fuel in the tank, they often refund you down to 1/8th of a tank, but you don’t receive any refund on the service fee.  Of course it isn’t at the same rate which you purchased the fuel from them, but it is something back.  Keep this in mind when renting.
    2. Full to Full – They provide you with a full tank of gas and expected it to be returned with a full tank as well.  I am not sure why, but many companies charge a slightly higher daily rate with this option.  I think they really want you to buy that initial tank of gas.  You will be charged a service fee, if you do not return the tank completely full.  Verify the rates for that fee.
      Murcia Spain - Wagoners Abroad at Mar Menor - Lo Pagan Mud Bath Read more on WagonersAbroad.com
  6. What’s Included and What Isn’t?

    Once again, I can’t stress enough to read the fine print.  These are some of the critical variables you need to consider for your rental car in Spain. These are the most common items which can vary depending on where you rent.  Pay close attention to the terms.

    1. Additional driver
    2. Insurance
    3. Road side assistance (pay fee or deductible)
    4. Fuel
    5. Theft protection
    6. Free cancellation
    7. Changes to reservation
  7. Is An International Drivers License Required?

    – By law if you do not have an EU driving license, you are required to have an international driving license.  Most rental companies state this in the T&C’s.  However they may or may not request to see your international driving license when picking up your car rental.  It may vary depending on pick up location and/ or agent, but we have rented many times in Malaga, Madrid and Barcelona and have never been asked to show this document.  That said, we have always held a valid international drivers license with us, just in case.  If you are pulled over by the police, it would be a big fine for a US Citizen to drive without one.  We figure a quick trip to AAA and $15 or so, is worth it for peace of mind.  We haven’t had any stress on the matter when renting a car, as we have had it handy if requested.  Once again, it is your call as to how much risk you would like to take and when.  If you currently have an International Drivers License and it will expire while you are away from your home country, you may apply for a renewal remotely.  Click here >>> for information on how to obtain an International Drivers License, in country and while away.

  8. How long can I rent a car in Spain?

    1. Many companies will only allow the maximum of a 28 day car rental, you may also have day limits for the insurance coverage from your credit card.  Check all of the details in advance.  There are also companies which will rent a car to you for longer periods, but the daily rate often rises significantly when you pass that 28 day mark.  Some also have in their fine print, you must return the car every 2000 km, so these small details matter.
    2. European Car lease / buy back programs available via Peugeot and Citröen for rentals longer than 3 weeks.  Of course these are both French based companies and will charge an extra fee for pick up/ drop off in Spain, but it may be worth it.  Please check here for their offers Peugeot Open Europe Program and the Citröen Europass Program.
      Something gorgeous around every corner Pampaneira Las Alpujarras Granada Spain
  9. How do I rent a car in Spain?
    What are the best tips fo find deals for a rental car in Spain?

    To get the best deals on a rental car, there isn’t just one way to find the deals.  I usually search many ways and compare and play with the dates and times for the car rental.  We usually search a few ways:

    1. Google:  use those search terms for best deals on rental cars in Spain, lowest prices for car rentals in Spain etc..
    2. Directly with a car rental company.  We have rented via Gold Car many times from the Malaga Airport.  This summer we rented June, July and September and paid from €93 to €300 for each 28 day rental from them.  This was the price only for the rental, excluding the fuel policy or insurance.  We needed to return the car and rent another every 28 days.  We find if you are in their loyalty program they email you great deals.  We have also used many others visa the aggregate option.  
    3. Through a search aggregate:  These are search engines which compile many car rental companies and provide a nice matrix or comparison chart, so you can find the best deal possible.  This is usually how we rent our cars, but this summer, we couldn’t pass up the email deals provided to us by Gold Car.  We almost always compare prices from all major car hire companies with Skyscanner.  Some friends of ours like to you DoYouSpain, or you can check prices for a Car rental in Spain with Easy Car.  You may search for a rental now in the box below.    
    4. You really need to check all of your options and all of the details.  On the surface something may appear less expensive or more expensive, but check to see what is included.  Often with the aggregate searches, they will include a free additional driver and perhaps fuel, so that could save you quite a bit of money.
      Iznalloz - Granada Spain Sunset. Off the beaten path driving in Spain. Read more on WagonersAbroad.com

I am sure after reading all of this, you have thrown the option of a rental car in Spain out the window.  If you have decided to enjoy Spain via the bus or high-speed rail instead of opting for a car hire in Spain not to worry.  You are in luck, we can also provide you with a link to Alsa Bus as well as the train.  Click here for Rail Europe, to make your way around the Spain and more of Europe.

All joking aside, driving in Spain is really a piece of cake and we have loads of driving tips we would like to share with you as well as understanding those odd road signs.

Driving in Spain and Spanish Road Signs, All of the tips are provided for you with many resources for your time in Spain. Read more on WagonersAbroad.com

Save Money when you plan to drive while in Spain?

If you plan to drive, you should read our Driving in Spain ebook.  It will save you so much time searching on the internet and it will also save you money!  You will learn how to find out where the speed cameras are, what the most common road signs mean, how and where to park and more. Read more about it now!

Driving in Spain- Everything you need to know & more. If you are planning a trip to Spain and intend on driving, this is an essential book for you. We offer you a complete guide to driving in Spain.

What are your thoughts about renting a car in Spain?  Have you rented a car in the past?  Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

Are you planning to move to Spain or would  you like to visit?  We have a wealth of information available to you for free! Click on an image below to go to the appropriate section.

We help you plan and adjust for your move to Spain. Read more on WagonersAbroad.com

We help you plan your trip to Spain. Read more on WagonersAbroad.com

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21 thoughts on “9 Useful Tips For Renting A Car In Spain

  1. Hi Alan and Heidi,
    Thanks for the tips on renting cars in Spain. It seems like the best way to get around if you want to discover things versus using the train and bus. Did you opt to just rent this time in Spain versus putting up the money for a purchase? Also do you know if you can take the rental car into a neighboring country like Portugal or France or do they frown on that? On a side note, are you still using a storage facility in the U.S.? We are still kicking around the idea of getting storage here in the U.S. when we leave to travel for at least a year or just sell everything. Thanks again for a very informative post on car rentals.


    • Hey Louis, thanks for the comment and compliment! Love those 🙂

      This go round we rented for a few months rather than making a purchase right off of the bat. The reason for that choice, well it is because of our resident card renewal. It expired in August and we wanted to be 100% sure we were approved for the 2 yr renewal before investing in a car. We have just received word we are officially approved, but we will continue as long as we can without the car.

      As far as taking the rental car to other countries, just read the fine print in the Terms and Conditions. Each company has slightly different policies. Most are okay with you driving within the Schengen zone, but do verify.

      We are enjoying the pedestrian life around town and are looking into getting bicycles. We will rent for the random road trips, but it is going to take some getting used to this way. We typically like to be a little more spontaneous and hop in the car and go explore, so we will see how long we last.

      As far as storage, yes we are still paying for that unit and all the “stuff” in it. Do we regret our decision to store? No, for the things we have stored it was the must have items. We don’t have furniture or anything like that, but things that we think will be useful again. At some point in the next year or so, we need to decide if and when we will return to the US and what we should do with things in storage.

      My advice is go as light as you can and only store what you really need. I suppose if you live near family they could store things for you, but none of our family lived any closer than a 3-5 hour flight away. So that wasn’t an option for us.

      I hope that helps and if you make it to southern Spain, look us up.

  2. Oh! You just made me miss Spain so much! I remember being in a narrow-streeted hill town in the south when it started to rain and I suddenly had to drive in REVERSE on a steep hill to make it! 😉 Great tips.

  3. Wow, Heidi, this is such a helpful and thorough article! I absolutely agree with all of it; especially the comment about the car sizes. We rented a station wagon for our drive through Spain, thinking it would have plenty of room for us, our 2 kids, and way too much luggage. Turns out, Spanish station wagons are considerably smaller than those in North America! Luckily, they had a bigger car, but it only came in a stick shift! We can both drive stick, so off we went, but it would have been a bit of a disaster if we couldn’t!

  4. Hi Heidi,
    As always, your posts are awesome!
    I’ve read that after 6 months of residency in Spain you have to get a Spanish driving license. Did you go that road?
    Thanks a lot,

    • Hi Eve, yes you are supposed to get a Spanish license after a specified period in Spain. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to obtain. Formal classes are required and the instructor let’s you know when they feel you are ready to take the exam. The price can start at about 500 euros and go on up. We have one friend who attended for several months and it was over 800 euros. We have just returned to Spain and currently don’t own a car (or a rental either), so it is moot point for us at this time.

  5. Pingback: From Malaga To Almuñécar - Almuñécar Info

  6. Thanks Heidi!
    Yours was one of the resources we looked at when planning our sabbatical in Spain. We are living in Toledo now but would like to get out of town to alot of the small pueblos that aren’t served by public transportation.
    Thanks for the car rental info. I am looking at picking up a car around Toledo but my searches keep returning zero available options. Any suggestions? We are thinking about picking up a car in Madrid instead.
    Pete and Maria
    P.S. My wife is from Madrid but has ben in the US for 24 years so her skills at navigating many Spanish procedures is a bit… rusty. 😛 😀

    • Hey Peter, thanks so much. We may be swinging through Toledo this summer on our Epic #RoadTrip of Spain and France. I will ping you guys if we do, we’d love to meet up. As far as a rental car, the best deals we have found have been through airports. I think you are just about an hour away or a train/bus ride into Madrid, so that may be best for you. I will also send you and email with a little more info.

      You may also be interested in our post for Driving in Spain and Spanish Road Signs.

      • Hey Heidi!
        Fantastic! Let us know if you come this way and we would love to hang out.
        I will check out the airport option. We are very connected here in Toledo, via Renfe, to Madrid and it would be very easy to get something at the airport I think. Great idea!
        Thanks again,
        Pete and Maria

  7. I think you are talking about the refundable deposit. Every rental company will take this, irrespective of whether you have a car rental excess policy. The way an excess policy works is that if there were any accidents and the excess is charged by the car rental company to you. You then claim that back from your insurance policy.

    I hope that this explains it for you.

  8. Why you have to add pictures depicting the cruel treatment and goading of animals is beyond me …but hey, some people have just not caught up yet!

  9. You’ve posted a great blog, the most of the people who go to roam in Spain if they have trouble paying their car rentals. Your post will be very beneficial for them. The information and tips that you have to share in car rental in Spain are excellent and useful. Thanks for sharing the great information. Good Luck!

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