Car Rental in Spain

Car Rental in Spain is certainly not difficult and is much the same as hiring a car anywhere else. However if you think you will need a car to get around in a big Spanish city do be aware that the metro and bus system are better options, as you will have to contend not only with Spain’s rules and regulations but also very busy roads, traffic jams and the problems of finding parking. Also, if you have to watch your budget remember that car hire in Spain is not the cheapest option. Just basic car hire in Spain is going to cost more than a train or bus ticket and on top of the hire cost there is the cost of fuel which is high in Spain.

Should I rent a car in Spain?

hiring a car is great if you want to get to little out-of-the-way villages, the mountains, vineyards or perhaps more secluded beaches. For this sort of touring a hire-car is ideal.

It is just as well to read through a few tips before you go ahead and book a car.

Requirements for Driving in Spain

  • You must be over 21 and have held a valid driver’s licence for 1 to 3 years (this varies depending on the Car Rental company you choose).
  • Seat-belts are mandatory
  • Child seats are mandatory for children up to 3 years of age.
  • Children below 12 may not sit in the front seats and also if their height is less than 135cm.

Your driving licence

If you are an EU-citizen then you can drive in Spain using your present valid licence.

However, when you actually collect your car no matter, where you have arrived from you will have to show a valid ID and it is more than likely that you will have to present your passport.

The easiest way of avoiding any possible frustrations with a car hire agency is best to get an International Driving Permit before you leave for Spain no matter where you reside, whether within the EU or outside the EU. This is not a substitute for your licence so you will still need to have your valid licence with you. The IDP is valid for 12 months only.

UK- Citizens/Residents – you can choose to purchase from the Automobile Association, the RAC or your local Post Office. The cost at present is £5.50.

The USA and Canada – those with a valid American driving licence can apply to the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the National Automobile Club (NAC) – cost US$20.00. Similarly, if you hold a valid Canadian driving licence you can apply to the Canadian Automobile Association – cost $25.00

To purchase your International Driving Permit you must be a resident of your home country and be over 18, and you must have:

  • A valid driving licence.
  • 2 recent passport size photos
  • Completed application form
  • Payment for the application fee

Rental Cars in Spain

Car Rental in Spain

The majority of cars for hire in Spain have a manual transmission, although you can rent an automatic car in Spain, cars with automatic transmission are available from some car hire agencies, they will cost 100s of Euros more than a manual Cars. If you add the cost of your insurance, petrol and tolls to the cost an automatic drive it is quite formidable. It is more cost effective to hire a manual drive. So if you have only ever driven a car with automatic transmission, it is a good idea to get used to gear stick driving before you hire a car in Spain.

Period of Hire

Time limit: Most Car Rental in Spain Companies allow for a maximum period of hire of 28 days. There may also be a limit on the period of hire if you insure through your credit card or have an add-on insurance through your travel insurance company.

If you hire for longer than 28 days the cost will go up quite significantly so if you do need the car for longer than 28 days, it is a good idea to return the first hire-car and hire again.

Not time but mileage limit: Be very careful and read your agreement carefully as some Car Rental companies have a limit on the amount of mileage either within a certain time period or no time period but a mileage limit.

What to look out when choosing a Car rental company in Spain


Car size: Whilst you have to consider the number of passengers who will be travelling with you, it really is a good idea to go with the smallest car in which you and your passengers will be comfortable, particularly if you plan on visiting out-of-the-way villages or really go exploring as provincial roads in and around small villages are very narrow which means you will have trouble with traffic coming the other way. Although the roads are meant to be two-way roads, they very often only accommodate one car width. If you will be driving only on the main highways and main artery roads then clearly the size of the car you hire will not matter.

  1. Beware of car-hire companies that offer really cheap deals as they may have a number of expensive hidden costs on fuel, mileage, insurance and additional drivers. Check your agreement carefully.
  2. Check your agreement before you sign and check for the following:
    1. Additional driver
    2. Surcharge on a driver under 25
  • Insurance
  1. Road-side assistance or European breakdown cover
  2. Fuel
  3. Theft protection
  • Charges for changes to a reservation
  • Free cancellation
  1. The small print is extremely important so read it carefully before you book your car.
  2. Car-Hire Fuel Policy – It is worth your while to check this carefully when you are choosing a car-hire company in Spain. As the fuel policy can vary according to which car-hire company you choose, or they may have a choice. Some hire cars come with full tank and require you to return it with a full tank, while some might come with a full tank and do not require a full tank on return.
    1. Pay for the fuel you use: This is usually when a car comes with a full tank but does not require a full tank on return. At check-out, you will be charged for the full tank and the cost will be slightly higher than the going rate for fuel. This is usually done through a ‘refueling fee/service. If you return the car with a full tank it is usual to receive a refund up to about an eighth of a tank but there will be no refund on the refueling fee/service. The refund, however, will be based on the going rate.
    2. Full to Full: You check-out with a full tank and you must ensure that the tank is full in return. This option usually costs a bit more, plus a refuelling fee/service will be charged if the tank is not full in return. So a good idea is to top up the tank at a nearby petrol station just before you return the car.
  3. Be assertive when dealing with the front desk and make sure you are not fobbed off with something you are not really happy with.
  4. When you have signed and are collecting your car from the car-hire, carpool, make sure you have one of the staff with you to check the condition of the car both the outside and the interior before you agree to take it. Also, check if the spare wheel is in place and in good condition. If there are any existing dents or scratches photograph them and go back to the counter and on their diagram of the car, mark the existing damage and ensure that the existing flaws are signed off by the car-hire representative.
  5. Check the fuel and also make a note of the mileage if you have a restricted mileage agreement.

Car Hire and Insurance

Understanding the terms

Excess: This is the maximum amount that you will be expected to pay to cover any potential damage to the hire-car. It is usually quite a lot of money but is a pending charge. If you pay with a credit card the amount will show on your credit card but be removed once you return the car in good condition. If there is damage to the car, the car-hire company will charge you for the amount of the repair only but if the damage is severe the repair cost may be as high as the excess reserved amount, on your credit card

CDW (Collision Damage Waiver): This generally costs around 30% more on your daily hire cost but can be a little less if it combined with theft/loss insurance. CDW waives the car-hire company’s right to collect a high deductible (see excess) if you return a damaged vehicle. It does not eliminate the deductible but reduces it because CDW usually does not cover the undercarriage, roof, tyres and windshield or windows and side mirrors. What it does cover are the inevitable dings and scratches.

  1. The Full Coverage option often pushed by the car-hire companies is extremely expensive and can cost as much as the car hire itself, but it is a worry-free option. If you decide to go this route check if there is an ‘Excess’ clause and if so, what options there are.
  2. Included cover – many car-hire companies include Spain’s compulsory car insurance in the hire cost. This cover complies with current legislation and covers vehicle occupant insurance and 3rd There are also some car-hire companies who include collision damage waiver (CDW) and theft with the excess fee but don’t expect it to be included. It is wise to check thoroughly before you sign.

Insurance options: Given that the cost of insurance through a car-hire company is high it is worth checking insurance offered by your credit card company or your travel insurance company.

If you decide to take the option offered either by your credit card company or travel insurance company be sure to check that your contract with the Car hire company has not included CDW before you sign. If you accidentally accept the cover of the car-hire company you will not be covered by either your credit card company or travel insurance company.

Travel Insurance cover: If you are purchasing travel insurance it is worth looking into their collision cover as many offer this as an add-on to your travel insurance policy, and most offer collision cover in Spain. If this an option and you have the add-on, be sure to provide your insurer’s name and the number of the policy when you hire your car.

Before you drive off

Check that your car has all the accessories required by law:

  • Vehicles must carry 2 warning triangles in the event of a breakdown one to be placed at the front of the car and one behind.
  • A fluorescent jacket to wear in the event of night time breakdown.
  • A first-aid kit
  • A spare wheel/ jack and spanner
  • Spare bulbs
  • A spare fan belt

Return a rental Car

When you return your hire car you will still have to be vigilant, this is the case the world over and is not particular to Spain. You will need to safeguard yourself from any unwarranted claims so, although it may seem like a lot of trouble it is worth it.

  1. If there has been no damage during the time you have had the car and the fuel in the tank is according to your agreement (full to full, or full to empty), when you have parked the car back in the car pool, you should walk around the car and photograph all the panels of the car, the wheels and the milometer. It’s a good idea to also take a few shots of the interior.
  2. Do not hand your keys to someone in the car-park. They may be opportunist car thieves. Make sure you hand your keys back at the desk, or if it is late, post them into the box provided.
  3. Keep all the paperwork at this stage.
  4. Credit card. A few days after you have handed back the car it is a good idea to check your credit card to ensure that all applicable refunds and excess charges have been carried out and that no mysterious charges have materialized.
  5. If repairs had to be carried out for damage that occurred during your time with the car, you should request evidence of such repairs to check if what you have been charged for was in actual fact, carried out.

Finding for best rental deals in Spain

  1. Using the internet: some good terms to type into your search engine:

Hire cars best deals Spain,

Lowest price car hires Spain,

Best car hires Spain,

Car hire Spain.

  1. Price comparison: There are sites on the internet that give you a chart showing the price range and the car-hire company applicable to each price allowing you a one stop site to find the best deals. You can then go straight to the site of the car-hire company that appeals to you.

Suggested sites: Goldcar, Avis, CentauroEnterprise and Hertz 

NOTE: You should check your options carefully and be particularly careful to read all the details. A car-hire may seem expensive but when you add up all the inclusions it may work out to be cheaper than one that seemed to be a cheaper option at first glance.


Driving in Spain

Spain’s road network covers over 16000 km of top-class highways in Spain. Major roads, in particular, are of international standard, sometimes even better, which altogether make driving in Spain a pleasure. It is possible to avoid toll roads altogether as many of the new dual-carriageways are toll-free and are excellent.

However, that said you do have to be wary of local drivers especially away from the main cities as driving is not going to be what you are used to. Discipline on the roads seems to be rather flexible. The use of indicator lights is pretty erratic and sometimes no signal at all is given, so be careful of driving too close behind other cars. Remember to always slow down or come to a complete stop at the pedestrian crossing if necessary.  Many pedestrians would just cross the street without looking for incoming traffic as by law they always have the right of way.

In rural areas, watch out for cows on the road particularly in Asturias.

Parking in Spain

City Parking: Ticket machines control parking in city centres and are in Blue Zones (blue ticket machines and blue street markings). The ticket must be displayed on the dashboard of the car.

Siesta time usually means free parking: between 14:00 and 16:00 Monday to Friday; after 14:00 on Saturday and Sundays usually all day.

Private Parking facilities: off-road car parks are to be found in most of Spain’s cities and towns. As in most other countries, you receive a ticket as you enter and pay with the ticket on exit.

No Parking: If you park in a ‘No Parking’ Zone be prepared for a hefty fine or worse, your car is likely to be towed away.

Fuel grading in Spain:

Spain’s petrol stations dispense:

  1. Unleaded 95
  2. Unleaded 98
  • Diesel A (Gasoleo A in Spanish.  Be careful at the petrol station when filling up, because Gasoleo sounds like Gasoline but actually its Diesel)
  1. Biodiesel

Website with all petrol stations and the price of the fuel available:


Rules of the Road

  • Drive on the right-hand side. Pass on the left.
  • Wear your seat-belt at all times
  • Have your driver’s licence, International Driving Permit and proof of insurance with you at all times.
  • Children up to 3 years old must be in a child seat in the back of the car
  • No children in the front

Speed limits:

  • Highways 120km/h
  • Dual carriageways 100km/h
  • Single carriageways 90km/h
  • Residential and built-up areas 50km/h


Speed Limits: 120km/h on major highways. There are speed traps and speed cameras. If you are caught speeding, as a foreigner you will be fined on the spot. Failure to pay the on-the-spot fine will mean that your car is immediately immobilised. Oh and leave that radar detection device at home they are illegal in Spain and a very nasty fine will be the result if you are caught with one.

The Outside Lane: Don’t sit in the fast lane use it only if you have to and only when passing – return immediately to a slower lane.

Drink and Drive: Don’t do it! The authorities have clamped down and taken this offence very seriously. Spain has the most stringent blood alcohol limit in Europe. The blood alcohol limit is 0.05% (50mg alcohol to 100ml blood) and for those who have only had a driver’s licence for 2 years or less the limit is even stricter at 0.03% (30mg alcohol to 100ml blood). Be careful of driving ‘the morning after the night before’ as your blood alcohol could still be high even though you feel perfectly sober.

Toll Roads marked ‘Péage’: Intercity these are great but the cost of the tolls is going to add a substantial amount to your budget. Free roads are better if you are just touring without a rushed schedule.

AA toll routes and prices:

Your belongings: Never leave anything on view when you leave your car unattended. Breaking into cars is a popular pass-time, and particularly if your car is spotted as a hire-car.

Mobile devices while driving: It is illegal to use a mobile device while driving. The hands-free option on the device is not permitted nor earpieces. Only total hands-free devices are permitted. You may not message or check messages while driving.

Manipulating the GPS while driving is illegal, you must pull over and be completely stationery to set/change your GPS settings.

Use of the Hooter: You are not permitted to casually sound the car’s hooter. Using the hooter is only legal.

  • In emergencies
  • To avoid an accident
  • To get people’s attention only if it is a serious matter such as theft, crash or hit-and-run)

Paying a fine: Most fines on foreigners must be paid on-the-spot, however if you have been fined and have to make payment later you can make payment by credit card online through the Department of Transport’s website or you can pay in any Banco Santander branch or any Post Office in Spain. If your fine is paid within 20 days of the date of the fine there is a 50% reduction in the initial amount.

If your fine was incurred on an urban road it is wise to go directly to the traffic department of the City Council of that town/city.

When you pay your fine you will need the case file number

Finding out about road conditions before you drive: Real-time road conditions are available through the Department of Transport’s website

General Information

Recently Spain has invested a lot of helpful road signs across much of their main road network in an attempt to make the roads safer.

Triangular signs flashing orange to warn of approaching hazards, there are illuminated signs at some of the roundabouts. Flashing arrows in the direction of movement.

Intelligent signage to assist in terms of congestion – i.e. warns of queues of traffic ahead.

Read more: ‘Driving in Spain : All you need to know’ »

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