How to Rent a Car in Spain

How to Rent a Car in Spain

Navigating the Open Roads

Joyful Road Trip in Desert Landscape
WRITTEN BYMaricor Bunal
PUBLISHED ONJune 8, 2023

Photo by Daniel Corneschi on Unsplash

As a seasoned traveler, I've explored the world through various modes of transportation. Among the most liberating of experiences is renting a car in a foreign country, allowing me to roam free and experience the diverse landscapes and cultures on my own terms. Spain, with its vibrant cities, charming villages, and breathtaking coastlines, is no exception. In this article, we'll delve into the ins and outs of renting a car in Spain, combining insights from various sources, including Salt in our Hair and Traveling in Spain, to help make your journey an enjoyable and hassle-free experience.

Discovering Spain by Car: The Unparalleled Freedom of Renting a Vehicle

Renting a car in Spain can truly enhance your travel experience, as it provides the freedom and flexibility to explore this vibrant country on your own terms. With a car at your disposal, you can create your own itinerary and travel at a pace that suits you best. This allows you to venture off the beaten path, discover hidden gems, and immerse yourself in the local culture and landscapes.

Spain is a country of diverse landscapes, from the bustling streets of Madrid to the idyllic Mediterranean coastline and the lush greenery of Galicia. A rental car enables you to witness this stunning diversity firsthand, as you seamlessly transition from urban centers to quaint villages, and from coastal drives to mountainous terrain.

Public transportation, though widely available in Spain, can be limited in certain areas, particularly in rural regions or smaller towns. A rental car ensures that you're not confined to the constraints of bus or train schedules, which can be especially helpful when exploring lesser-known destinations. This independence empowers you to make spontaneous detours, stop for impromptu photo opportunities, or simply take the scenic route.

Furthermore, renting a car can prove to be a more comfortable and convenient option, especially for families or groups traveling together. With a car, you can easily manage luggage, choose rest stops, and adjust your schedule as needed, without the hassle of coordinating with multiple public transportation options.

In some cases, renting a car may even be a more cost-effective choice. By pooling resources and splitting the cost among a group, the expenses related to car rental and fuel can become more affordable than individual bus or train tickets for longer trips. Additionally, with a rental car, you can choose more economical accommodation options outside city centers or major tourist hubs, where prices tend to be lower.

Car rental in Spain: Quick Guide

Embarking on a Spanish escapade? Nothing beats the freedom and flexibility of exploring this vibrant country by car. Whether you're cruising along the picturesque Costa del Sol or winding through the enchanting villages of Andalusia, renting a car in Spain opens up endless possibilities. But before you hit the road, it's essential to familiarize yourself with the basics of car hire in the land of flamenco and tapas. In this quick guide, we'll provide you with the essential information to ensure a smooth and enjoyable car rental experience, so you can focus on creating unforgettable memories in Spain. Let's get started!

Choosing the Right Type of Car

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When renting a car in Spain, it's essential to select a vehicle that suits your specific needs and preferences. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the right car for your Spanish adventure:

Transmission: In Spain, manual transmission cars are more common and generally cheaper to rent. However, if you prefer driving an automatic, most rental agencies offer a selection of automatic vehicles, though they may be slightly more expensive.

Size: Consider the size of the car based on the number of passengers, luggage space, and the type of roads you'll be traveling on. Smaller cars are easier to maneuver and park in narrow streets and tight parking spaces, which are common in many Spanish cities and towns. On the other hand, larger cars may provide more comfort for long road trips or when traveling with a bigger group.

Fuel efficiency: With fluctuating fuel prices, it's wise to choose a car with good fuel efficiency, especially if you plan on covering long distances. Diesel cars are generally more fuel-efficient than gasoline ones, but make sure to compare the fuel consumption rates of different models before making a decision.

Type of journey: Your choice of car will also depend on the type of journey you have planned. For city breaks, a compact car would be the most practical choice. If you're planning a road trip through the countryside or along the coast, a comfortable sedan or a convertible for a more scenic drive might be ideal. For adventure enthusiasts heading to mountainous regions or off-the-beaten-path destinations, an SUV or a 4x4 vehicle would provide better ground clearance and traction.

Budget: Your budget will play a significant role in determining the type of car you rent. While luxury and high-performance cars can provide an unmatched driving experience, they often come with a hefty price tag. Economy and compact cars, on the other hand, are more budget-friendly and still provide a comfortable and enjoyable ride.

Special requirements: If you have specific requirements such as child seats, GPS navigation, or additional storage (e.g., roof racks), make sure to communicate these needs to the rental agency beforehand. Some cars may be better suited to accommodate such requirements than others.

Booking Your Rental: The Best Car Rental Companies

There are numerous car rental companies in Spain that cater to various budgets and preferences. Some of the best and most popular options include both international and local agencies:

Europcar: As one of the leading car rental companies in Europe, Europcar offers a wide range of vehicles and extensive coverage across Spain. With a reputation for excellent customer service and quality cars, Europcar is a reliable choice for travelers.

Avis: Another well-known international brand, Avis boasts a substantial presence in Spain, offering competitive prices and a diverse selection of vehicles to choose from.

Hertz: With a long-standing reputation in the car rental industry, Hertz provides excellent service and a vast fleet of vehicles. Their presence in Spain is significant, making it easy to find a rental location.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car: Known for its customer-centric approach, Enterprise Rent-A-Car offers a reliable and hassle-free car rental experience. With various locations across Spain, it's a solid choice for travelers.

Sixt: This German-based car rental company has gained popularity in Spain due to its extensive fleet of vehicles, including luxury options, and competitive pricing.

Budget: As the name suggests, Budget offers affordable car rental options for travelers on a tight budget. With a presence in Spain, they provide a decent selection of vehicles at lower price points.

Goldcar: A Spanish car rental company, Goldcar is known for its affordable rates and decent customer service. They have a strong presence in the country, particularly in popular tourist destinations.

Centauro Rent a Car: Another local option, Centauro Rent a Car is popular among tourists for its competitive prices and a wide range of vehicles, including family-friendly options.

When choosing a car rental company, it's essential to compare prices, read reviews, and check for hidden fees. Booking through online platforms like, Kayak, or Expedia can help you compare offers from various companies and find the best deal for your needs.

Choose the Pick-Up and Drop off Location

In Spain, there are various pick-up and drop-off locations for car rentals, depending on the company you choose and your travel plans. Some common locations include:

Airports: Many car rental companies have offices at major airports in Spain, such as Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport, Barcelona-El Prat Airport, Málaga Airport, and Palma de Mallorca Airport. Picking up your rental car at the airport is often the most convenient option, especially if you're arriving by plane.

Train Stations: Major train stations in cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville often have car rental offices nearby or within the station premises. This can be a convenient option if you're arriving by train and plan to explore the city and its surroundings by car.

City Centers: Car rental companies usually have offices in city centers, which can be an ideal pick-up and drop-off location if you're staying in the heart of the city. However, it's essential to consider factors like traffic, parking, and narrow streets when picking up or returning a car in a city center.

Hotels: Some car rental companies offer pick-up and drop-off services at hotels or other accommodation facilities. This can be a hassle-free option if you prefer not to navigate through busy city centers or transport hubs.

Smaller towns and tourist destinations: Car rental offices can also be found in smaller towns and popular tourist destinations across Spain, such as Marbella, Granada, or San Sebastián. This can be a convenient option if you're starting your road trip from a less busy location.

When choosing pick-up and drop-off locations, consider factors like convenience, proximity to your accommodation, and potential surcharges. Picking up or dropping off a car at airports or train stations may come with additional fees. It's essential to research and compare options to find the most suitable locations for your travel plans.

Know the Requirements

Before hitting the open road, it's essential to be aware of the requirements for renting a car in Spain. Typically, you'll need a valid driver's license from your home country, along with an International Driver’s Permit if your license isn't in English or another EU language. You'll also need to be at least 21 years old, and in some cases, drivers under 25 may face additional fees or restrictions. Don't forget your passport and a credit card for the deposit!

Car Rental Insurance Matters

Car rental insurance in Spain is essential to protect you against unforeseen accidents or damages during your rental period. When renting a car, you'll typically encounter the following types of insurance coverage:

Collision Damage Waiver (CDW): This insurance covers damages to the rental car in case of an accident or collision. CDW usually comes with a deductible, which is the amount you'll be responsible for paying before the insurance covers the rest. Many rental companies include CDW in their rental price, but it's essential to double-check this when booking.

Theft Protection (TP): This coverage protects you against financial losses if the rental car is stolen. Similar to CDW, TP often comes with a deductible. It may be included in the rental price, but always verify this with your chosen rental company.

Third-Party Liability Insurance: This insurance covers damages or injuries caused to other people or their property while driving the rental car. In Spain, third-party liability insurance is mandatory and usually included in the rental price.

Personal Accident Insurance (PAI): This coverage provides financial protection for the driver and passengers in case of injuries sustained in an accident. PAI is typically an optional add-on and not included in the basic rental price.

While the above insurance coverages offer some protection, there are often exclusions, deductibles, and coverage limits that leave you exposed to potential out-of-pocket expenses. To further protect yourself, you may want to consider additional insurance options:

Excess Reduction or Super CDW: This insurance lowers or eliminates the deductible for CDW and TP, reducing your financial responsibility in case of an accident or theft.

Personal Effects Coverage (PEC): This optional insurance covers the theft or damage of personal belongings in the rental car.

Standalone Car Rental Insurance: Third-party providers like World Nomads, Allianz, or offer comprehensive car rental insurance policies that cover most of the risks and can be more affordable than purchasing additional coverage from the rental company.

Before renting a car in Spain, check with your credit card company, as some cards offer complimentary car rental insurance as a cardholder benefit. Make sure to understand the terms and conditions, coverage limits, and exclusions of any insurance policy before making a decision. In the end, whether to purchase additional insurance depends on your risk tolerance and individual circumstances.

Spain Car Hire Pricing

Car hire prices in Spain can vary significantly based on several factors, including the type of car, rental duration, location, season, and the rental company you choose. Here's a general idea of what you can expect in terms of pricing:

Economy or compact cars: These are the most budget-friendly options and are suitable for city breaks and short trips. Prices can range from as low as €10-€30 per day (approximately $11-$34 USD) during low season, and may increase to around €30-€60 per day (approximately $34-$68 USD) during high season.

Midsize or family cars: These cars offer more space and comfort, making them ideal for longer road trips or traveling with a group. Rental rates for midsize cars typically start at around €30-€50 per day (approximately $34-$57 USD) during low season and can rise to €60-€100 per day (approximately $68-$114 USD) during high season.

Luxury, sports, or premium cars: For a more luxurious driving experience, these high-end vehicles come with a steeper price tag. Rental rates can start from €60-€100 per day (approximately $68-$114 USD) during low season and may soar to €200 or more per day (approximately $228 USD or more) during high season.

SUVs and 4x4 vehicles: These cars are suitable for off-road adventures or navigating challenging terrain. Rental prices generally start at around €40-€60 per day (approximately $45-$68 USD) during low season, increasing to €80-€150 per day (approximately $91-$171 USD) during high season.

Please note that these prices are approximate and can fluctuate based on various factors. Additional costs, such as insurance, extra driver fees, and optional equipment (e.g., GPS, child seats), may also affect the total rental cost. To secure the best deal, it's advisable to book your car rental well in advance, compare prices from different rental agencies, and consider any promotions or discounts available.

Fueling Up in Spain: A Guide to Gas Stations and Prices Across the Country

In Spain, you'll find a variety of gas stations, from well-known international and national brands to smaller, local establishments. Some of the major gas station chains include Repsol, Cepsa, BP, and Galp. Gas stations are generally easy to locate in urban areas, along highways, and in larger towns. However, in rural areas and smaller villages, they can be few and far between, so it's a good idea to keep an eye on your fuel levels and plan your refueling stops accordingly.

Spanish gas stations offer both gasoline (benzina) and diesel (gasoil or diésel) fuel options. Unleaded gasoline is typically labeled as "Sin Plomo 95" or "Sin Plomo 98," referring to the octane rating. Diesel is often labeled as "Gasoil" or "Diésel."

Gas prices in Spain fluctuate with global oil prices and can change frequently. As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, Spain's fuel prices were generally lower than those in countries like the Netherlands, Italy, or the United Kingdom, but higher than in Eastern European countries. However, this information might not be up-to-date, so it's crucial to check current fuel prices before planning your trip. Websites like or apps like GasBuddy can help you stay updated on the latest fuel prices.

Steering Through Spanish Streets: A Guide to Driving and Traffic Rules in Spain

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Navigating the bustling streets of Madrid or cruising along the picturesque Mediterranean coast, driving in Spain offers a truly liberating experience. However, before you hit the road, it's essential to understand the local driving and traffic rules to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey. Here's a rundown of some key rules and regulations to keep in mind as you explore Spain on four wheels:

Right-side driving: In Spain, vehicles drive on the right side of the road, just like most European countries. Remember to keep right, especially when negotiating roundabouts, which are a common feature in Spain.

Speed limits: Adhere to the designated speed limits, which vary depending on the type of road and motorways. In urban areas, the speed limit is typically 50 km/h (31 mph), while on secondary roads, it's 90 km/h (56 mph). On main roads or highways (autopistas and autovías), the speed limit is generally 100-120 km/h (62-75 mph). Speeding fines can be hefty, so keep an eye on your speedometer.

Seat belts: Seat belt use is mandatory for all passengers in the vehicle, both in the front and rear seats. Failure to wear a seat belt can result in fines.

Child safety: Children under 12 years old or shorter than 135 cm (4 ft 5 in) must be seated in an appropriate child restraint system in the rear seats. It's the driver's responsibility to ensure that children are properly secured.

Drinking and driving: Spain enforces strict drink-driving laws. The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.05% for most drivers and 0.03% for drivers with less than two years of experience or driving commercial vehicles. Penalties for driving under the influence can be severe, including fines, license suspension, or even imprisonment.

Mobile phones: Using a handheld mobile phone while driving is illegal in Spain. If you need to make a call or use your phone for navigation, use a hands-free device.

Road signs and signals: Familiarize yourself with Spanish road signs and traffic signals, which generally follow international standards. Pay special attention to stop signs, yield signs, and traffic lights, and always give priority to pedestrians at crosswalks.

Toll roads: Some highways in Spain require payment of a toll, particularly in heavily touristed regions. Tolls can be paid with cash, card, or via an electronic transponder system called Via-T or Telepeaje.

Exploring Spain's Hidden Gems: Unforgettable Road Trips

Montserrat Abbey Mountain View

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With your rented car in Spain, you have the freedom to explore a variety of destinations that showcase the country's rich culture, history, and natural beauty. Here are some travel tips for must-visit places in Spain:

Andalusia Road Trip: Discover the enchanting charm of southern Spain, where you can visit iconic cities like Granada, Seville, and Córdoba. Wander through the Alhambra palace, admire the majestic Seville Cathedral, and explore the mesmerizing Mezquita of Córdoba.

Costa Brava Coastal Drive: Cruise along the picturesque coastline of Catalonia, where you can visit charming seaside towns like Cadaqués, Tossa de Mar, and Begur. Don't miss the chance to explore the Cap de Creus Natural Park and the stunning beaches of the Costa Brava.

Picos de Europa National Park: For nature lovers, a visit to the Picos de Europa National Park in northern Spain is a must. Enjoy scenic drives, challenging hikes, and breathtaking views of the rugged mountain landscapes.

La Rioja Wine Route: Indulge in a gastronomic adventure by exploring the famous La Rioja wine region. Visit wineries, taste local cuisine, and immerse yourself in the picturesque vineyard landscapes.

Basque Country Exploration: Discover the unique culture, history, and landscapes of the Basque Country by visiting cities like Bilbao, San Sebastián, and Vitoria-Gasteiz. Don't forget to sample the region's famous pintxos and tour the iconic Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

Road Trip through White Villages of Andalusia: Venture off the beaten path and explore the stunning "Pueblos Blancos" or White Villages of Andalusia. Drive through the charming towns of Ronda, Arcos de la Frontera, Grazalema, and Zahara de la Sierra.


How to rent a car in Spain - for people over 70 years old?

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Renting a car for people over 70 years old in Spain may come with some additional considerations compared to renting for younger drivers. It's essential to research different car rental agencies and their age policies, as not all companies have the same requirements for senior drivers. Some rental companies may have an upper age limit, while others might require specific documentation or charge additional fees for drivers over a certain age.

To find a suitable rental agency, start by comparing options online or contacting them directly to inquire about their policies for drivers over 70. Look for agencies that cater to senior travelers or have more flexible age requirements. Keep in mind that local rental agencies may have different policies than international chains, so it's worth exploring both options.

When booking your rental car, make sure to provide accurate information about the driver's age to avoid any surprises at the pick-up location. If the rental agency requires additional documentation, such as a medical certificate or proof of recent driving experience, be prepared to provide these documents.

Consider opting for a car with an automatic transmission, which can be easier and more comfortable for senior drivers, especially if they're not accustomed to driving a manual vehicle. Additionally, prioritize features like power steering, parking assistance, and GPS navigation to ensure a smooth and safe driving experience.

It's also a good idea to review the rental insurance options carefully. Senior drivers might want to consider purchasing additional insurance coverage, such as collision damage waiver (CDW) or personal accident insurance (PAI), for added peace of mind. Make sure to discuss the available options with the rental agency and choose the best coverage for your needs.

How to rent a car in Spain as an American

As an American looking to rent a car in Spain, there are a few things you should keep in mind to ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience. First and foremost, you'll need to have a valid driver's license. In most cases, your US driver's license will be sufficient for driving in Spain for short-term visits, usually up to six months. However, it's also recommended to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP), which serves as an official translation of your license and can be useful when dealing with local authorities or rental agencies.

To find the best rental car deal, start by comparing prices from different car rental agencies online. Keep in mind that prices can vary depending on factors like the type of car, rental duration, location, and season. Booking well in advance and considering any promotions or discounts can help secure a better deal.

When making a reservation, be sure to provide accurate information about your driver's license and any additional drivers. It's also essential to review the rental agreement carefully, noting any specific terms and conditions, including insurance coverage, mileage restrictions, and fees for additional drivers or optional equipment.

Speaking of insurance, while basic coverage is typically included in the rental price, you might want to consider purchasing additional insurance options, such as a collision damage waiver (CDW) or theft protection, for added peace of mind. Before opting for extra insurance, check with your credit card company, as some cards offer rental car insurance as a benefit when you use the card to pay for the rental.

When picking up your rental car, make sure to inspect the vehicle thoroughly, documenting any pre-existing damage or issues to avoid potential disputes when returning the car. Familiarize yourself with the car's features and controls, and don't hesitate to ask the rental agency staff any questions you might have.

Do I need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to rent a car in Spain as a foreigner?

While an IDP is not mandatory for most short-term visitors, it's recommended as it serves as an official translation of your license and can be helpful when dealing with local authorities or rental agencies.

Is it better to rent a car with a manual or automatic transmission in Spain?

It depends on your driving preferences and experience. Manual cars are more common and usually cheaper to rent in Spain, but if you're not comfortable driving a stick shift, it's worth opting for an automatic transmission for a more comfortable driving experience.

Are there any toll roads in Spain, and how do I pay for them?

Yes, there are toll roads in Spain, particularly on major highways. You can pay for tolls using cash, credit cards, or electronic payment systems like Via-T. It's a good idea to carry some change and be prepared for potential tolls on your route.

Can I take my rental car from Spain to another country?

It depends on the rental agency's policy. Some companies allow cross-border travel within the European Union, while others may restrict it. Be sure to check the rental agreement or consult the rental agency for specific information on cross-border travel.

What are the requirements and restrictions for young drivers when renting a car in Spain?

Typically, car rental companies in Spain require drivers to be at least 21 years old, with a minimum of one year of driving experience. However, drivers under 25 may face additional fees or restrictions, such as limited vehicle choices or higher insurance rates. It's essential to check the rental agency's specific age policy and additional requirements for young drivers before booking.

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