9 Useful Tips For Renting A Car In Spain

WhatI 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. 

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 Tips or Car Hire In Spain Tips

Rental Car in Spain vs. Car Hire Spain

Let’s start with a little lesson with the terminology if you are planning on renting a car in Spain.  Though you may not have any experience renting cars in Spain, 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”, “Car Rental Spain”.  This is great for the Americans as it is a common term and the way Americans refer to a car that 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”.

Car Rental Spain – Manual vs Automatic

For the die-hard stick shift (manual) driver, you will have it made in Spain!  Most of the rental cars in Spain 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.

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 Spanish roads.  When you are renting a car in Spain, it will likely be small and a stick shift.

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 side 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.  Some roads today are based on old walking or herding paths.  You don’t want to pay for the bumps and bruises when you return your rental car.
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 minivan 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.

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 or careless drivers.  

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 Spain 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 the excess fee included too.
  3. What is an Excess fee? – An excess fee is a maximum amount that you will have to pay in case the vehicle is damaged.  They 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.  
  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 car Spain, 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

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

What’s Included and What Isn’t when I’m Renting a car in Spain?

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. Roadside assistance (pay fee or deductible)
  4. Fuel
  5. Theft protection
  6. Free cancellation
  7. Changes to reservation

Is An International Drivers Permit 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.

Get the international driver’s permit anyway!

As stated above it is required by law, so just spend the little bit and have it with you.

Just because a car rental agent doesn’t ask for it doesn’t mean you are home free. If you get pulled over by the police and don’t have an international license you will get a hefty fine ($300 to $600, sometimes more!). Not only that, it will likely invalidate any insurance you have purchased.

That said, we have always held a valid international driver’s 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 $30 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.

If you currently have an International Drivers Permit 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 Permit, in the country and while away.

Renting a car in Spain age minimum and maximum?

18 years of age is the minimum legal age for driving in Spain.  Please note that most car hire suppliers require a minimum age of 21 in order to hire a car. 

In addition, drivers under the age of 25 can be subject to a “young driver fee”, to be charged by the supplier at the time of pick up.  So your rental car in Spain just got more expensive!

If you are older than 65, 70 or 75 you may also be obligated to purchase the full insurance directly from the car rental company.  All three ages are listed, as it varies depending on which rental car company you are using.  It will likely be more expensive, but you will be covered.


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 daily limits for the insurance coverage from your credit card.  Check all of the details in advance.  There are also companies that 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 / buyback 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


How do I rent a car in Spain?

What are the best tips to 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 for many ways and compare and play with the dates and times for the car rental.  We usually search a few ways:

  1. 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 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.  
    • Sixt we’ve used them 2 times in Spain and they are pretty popular, save up to 10% on car rental worldwide
    • AutoEurope is another and the have an offer to save up to 30% on Car Rentals Worldwide.
    • Hertz is also readily available in Spain and see their deals here. Save $100 each time you rent with Hertz Free-To-Go Pass
  2. Through a search aggregate:  These are search engines that 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 and believe me I search them all for the best deals.  
  3. 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.  “I can’t handle the process for a car rental Spain”. 

If you have decided to enjoy Spain via the bus or high-speed rail instead of opting for 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 Trains, to make your way around 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. Driving in Spain – Everything you need to know!!

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.

Of course there are plenty of Spain guides to follow as well. Click on any of them to go directly to Amazon!




Additional information for renting a car in Spain or general driving in Spain

FAQ’s for renting a car in Spain – very useful information to capture all of the options for renting a car and understanding what is common in Spain.

Driving in Spain – everything you need to know and more!  This is our ebook on just about anything you would want to know about driving in Spain.  We receive glowing feedback from our readers.

Curious about those Spanish road signs?  We help you figure many of them out and have a little fun with it.

Do you plan on Driving in Portugal?  You may want to read these tips on the toll roads first.

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.

A Local’s Guide to Tipping in Spain?

Do you tip in Spain? Tipping in Spain may be a bit different from what you are accustomed to. We provide you with advice from locals and our Spain tipping guide. Read more on WagonersAbroad.com

Are you planning to move to Spain or would you like to visit?  We have a wealth of information available to you! 

Alan has written a very thorough e-book, Live in Spain, which walks you, step by step, through the entire process of the non-lucrative visa requirements and the Spain retirement visa requirements.

It is full of tips and tools to help you and a matrix with spells out the special things for each Spanish consulate in the USA.  It also provides you with a checklist to make sure all of the organization and timing of documents are on target. 

We have helped hundreds of families, couples and singles successfully move to Spain!  Updated: As of September 2019

Live In Spain

We also have a book to help you prepare for your move and getting settled once you arrive!  Getting Settled In SpainIf you are moving to Spain from the US or just about any other country, this will help you with your residency paperwork, setting up banks, utilities & services. Save you money on ATM's, transfers and cars. Read more on WagonersAbroad.com


Some other articles that may be of help to you.

Move to Spain Consulting

If you want a quick answer or someone to speak with, we also offer consulting.  Check out our Spain nonlucrative visa consulting page now, for our latest offers!

Move to Spain Relocation Packages

From relocation planning and visa application to residency and getting settled, we offer our expertise and knowledgeable advice.  We can help you with your move to Spain with children or without. 

We also offer custom packages for your move to Costa Tropical.  Click here to read more about our relocation to Spain packages.

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

Sign up for the Wagoners Abroad Newsletter and for a limited time, receive your free ebook “Experience Spain – Getting Started With Spain Facts and Information”.
Disclosure:  Some links presented on this page are affiliate links, for which we will receive a small % of commission if you purchase something.  This is always at no extra cost to you.

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

  1. Excellent info for my next travel to Valencia Spain, I was reserved a house with a real state on Gandía a very good price, and now I’m looking for a car to move around the city, and beaches of this zone.

  2. Excellent post on car rental in Spain!!! You refreshed my mind and gave me some “light” for my search. We lived for 2 years in Barcelona for work purposes, and we are planning to return to Spain for unfortunately 🙁 a short visit.

  3. Hello, thanks for the tips. I heard that the best way to get to know the wineries near Barcelona is by car. Is there a lot of police check points? In case i don’t have a international license? Thank you.

    • I am not certain about Barcelona, but we have been through Valencia several times and they have some. Also in our small town they have them sometimes. I wouldn’t take the chance and just spend the $20 or so for the AAA international driving permit. It doesn’t seem much and I used to write it off in my mind as a waste. The reality is the fine print when renting a car. Insurance only covers you if you have a “valid driver’s license”. As a US citizen, you only have a valid license if it is paired with an international driving permit. It isn’t the car rental company or possibly not even the police to be in fear of asking you for it. You need to think about what would happen if you were in an accident and didn’t have a valid license. If you are already on the road or have left the US, you can obtain the internation diver’s permit via the mail. We have done that before.

  4. Wow, Great tips. I am a searching on google for Spain rent car information. Because i have planning to Spain in December. Your blog is really awesome. Thanks!

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  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. 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

  9. Pingback: From Malaga To Almuñécar - Almuñécar Info

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. Great tips! We always rent a car when we travel, because my disabilities make public transportation not a real option. Time to head to Spain!

  13. These are some wonderful tips, and they may just come in handy if I decide to rent a car when I go there in May.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

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