Every time I travel to an airport in Spain, I see at least one person in an argument with the car hire company they booked with, while everything on my end goes fine, but this was not always the case. However, I have learned how to avoid problems with hiring a car in Spain over the years. There are many reasons you might run into issues, mostly because people don’t read the small print and the increasing number of hidden charges.
10 tips for hiring a car in Spain
- Get the full-to-full fuel policy
- Make sure you have a credit card in the drivers’ name
- Book fully comprehensive insurance (SCDW) for peace of mind
- Don’t trust deals that sound too good to be true (anything under 5 euro per day)
- Price compare to find fair deals and see reviews before booking
- Bring your own children car seats for long trips
- Don’t take pictures of the car to prove damages but make sure they are marked on the documentation instead
- Book early to save
- Make sure the road assistance is included
- Hire for a week or more to get the best deals
Best website for hiring a car in Spain
I always compare car hire prices and companies with HolidayAutos (affiliate):
1. They don’t fear giving bad ratings to car hire companies with lousy service. Making it easy for you to pick out the company you should use. Here are just some of their ratings to prove my point:
2. On top of that, they also give you a clear breakdown of where things could go wrong:
3. Since you can trust their rating system, simply select the top customer ratings for the best car hire experience:
(NOTE: The ratings above are for companies at the Mallorca airport, and they are different from location to location. So even tho these companies got a bad rating here, they may have a good one somewhere else because they might provide better service in some destinations due to competition.)
Best Spain car hire practices explained
Full-to-full fuel! That is the only thing you should do when hiring a car for your holiday in Spain. Many companies will advise you to select other things like “full to empty” or “pre-purchase fuel” or the same thing by any other name. Very often, they don’t mention that this comes with extra hidden fees. These can range from refilling costs to higher fuel prices.
This will make it much more expensive and not make your life easier. Simply select full-to-full and bring the car back with the same amount of fuel you picked it up with; it is that simple.
Make sure road assistance is included. It often is included as a standard. But if it is not and the car breaks down, or you have an accident, this can get very expensive. But if it is included, you should have no problems. In most cases, it will be included and will be clearly mentioned if so.
The two different car hire insurance offered in Spain are CDW and SCDW, but they can also go by many other names. The cheapest is CDW (basic third party insurance, limited cover), and the best is SCDW (all-inclusive, premium cover or fully comprehensive insurance). Often the CDW is included as standard and offers protection with a part of own liability (ranging from 200 to 1500 euro in most cases).
I would advise the SCDW always as you can have complete peace of mind during your holiday and no liability for a few euros more a day. The SCDW also includes protection against theft, vandalism and fire. So you can enjoy your holiday and will not have to worry about anything.
Finding the right price can be tricky as you often can find cars for just a few euros a day. However, if you consider a vehicle costs at least 1500 euros a year in depreciation and maintenance, you can see that per day hiring a car at just a few euros is not possible (1500/300 days= 5 euro).
So why can you find these prices on the internet? In most cases, these companies want to get some money from you and, when you arrive at the desk to pick it up, will up-sell you everything that is not included at a high price.
As a rule, if you find cars for hire for less than 5 euros a day in Spain, something is wrong. But one of the exceptions is the Canary Islands (Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura), where you can often find these low prices. This is because they can hire out cars all year round because of the better climate and the different tax systems on these islands. So if you see prices lower than 5 euros on the mainland of Spain or the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza), then have a look at the reviews for that company, and often you will find out why the cars are so “cheap”.
Depending on the company you are renting with, child seats can be expensive or fair priced, but often they are a bit worn out and not very clean. Bring your own for long rentals as it can save a lot of money and you know you have good quality.
I still see many people taking pictures of damages on their car when hiring it. However, this has very little value if those damages are not marked on your car rental documentation.
So always make sure that any scratches and damages are marked on your documentation. If you end up with a disagreement after the hire period about damages to the car, the pictures you took hold very little value. Unless you are willing to go to court over it in the country you hired the car in and even then might be dismissed. Also, for this reason, I always book with fully comprehensive car rental insurance. If you have fully comprehensive insurance, you do not need to worry or take pictures.
You will always find a better deal than booking in the car rental office by booking in advance online. Many companies also offer free cancellations, so you don’t have anything to lose. The sweet spot seems to be at least one month in advance or more. If you book later, you can often find that prices are double or triple compared to what you usually would pay. So price compare, book early and take advantage of free cancellation when needed.
Hiring a car at the airport in Spain for your entire stay is often the best choice. Especially if you are staying for 1 to 2 weeks. This can often be much cheaper than hiring a car in your hotel or resort for just a few days. So before flying to Spain, make sure to look online to see if there are reasonable car hire prices at the airport.
You can often find total week prices by pre-booking online for pickup at the airport, similar to just a few days of renting a car in your holiday destination. Also, like this, you will be spending less on airport taxis and shuttles.
Most car hire companies ask for a credit card in the drivers’ name when picking up the car “just-in-case”. They usually won’t make any charges unless something happens, and the insurance you contracted does not cover that. This is also why I always advise the SCDW insurance, so everything is covered except things like putting in the wrong fuel or losing the keys that might still be charged on your card in this case.
If you don’t have a credit card in the drivers’ name, some companies will use this as an excuse to upsell you the most expensive insurance they have. Some companies will also accept a debit card but take an actual deposit of up to 1500 euros or more while you have the car.
Car hire price comparison websites are good, but if you compare different price comparison websites, you will often see the same car rental companies with very different review scores. That is because they use a different scoring system. Many price comparison car hire websites don’t want to (or are not allowed to) show their “car hire partners” with a low or bad score… so they don’t.
If you want a clear guide to the best car hire companies to use, I would advise this price comparison website (affiliate). They show reviews whether the car rental company has good or bad reviews, so you get a fair overview:
Also, car hire comparison websites are often a good place to find the best SCDW insurance (fully comprehensive insurance) at a much better price than booking directly with the car hire companies. Do make sure that the insurer they work with is a good one. The website I mentioned on this page uses Allianz, one of the more prominent and well-known insurers.
Why rent a car for your next holiday in Spain?
Renting a car for your holiday in Spain (if done right) can add a lot of value to your holiday. It also can often even be cheaper than not renting a car. Yes, that is correct, cheaper than not renting one! You can save on excursions, airport taxis and shop in better and larger supermarkets at non-tourist prices. It will save you lots of money.
But if money is not important to you there are other reasons to rent a car on holiday:
- You can escape the summer crowds by visiting less touristy beaches.
- You don’t have to arrive everywhere on big busloads and stand in line.
- You are free to come and go when you want from any excursions.
- You will generally have a more authentic and free holiday experience.
All of this makes renting a car in Spain the best decision to make for a better holiday.