Car rental

All you need to know to rent a car in Spain

To hire a car in Spain, you must usually be at least 22 years old – 25 for certain cars – and most companies also have an upper age limit, e.g. 65. Drivers must produce a valid licence and non-EU licence holders require an international driving permit. All the drivers’ names must be entered on the hire agreement.

The major car hire ( alquiler de coches) companies, such as ATESA, Avis, Budget, EasyCar, Europcar, Helle-Hollis and Hertz, have offices in most cities and at major airports. ATESA are generally cheaper than the international companies, although cheapest of all are small local rental companies. Car hire companies are listed in yellow pages under Automóviles Alquiler and local companies are listed by town. You may be approached at airports by representatives of local companies, most of which are reputable (but check their credentials). If you’re a visitor, it’s advisable to reserve a hire car before arriving in Spain, particularly during peak periods (more visitors hire cars in Spain than any other European country). When booking, you should specify an automatic model if you’re unused to a manual (stick-shift) gearbox, as most hire cars in Spain are manual. Fly-drive deals are available through most airlines and travel agents.

Prices for car rentals in Spain

Car hire in Spain is the cheapest in Europe, due mainly to the cut-throat competition, particularly during off-peak periods. The rates of major international companies vary little, although you may get a better deal by booking well in advance. One of the advantages of using a national or international company is that you can hire a car in one town and drop it off in another, although you should check the cost of this service. Although cheaper, some small local companies require you to return the car to the office you got it from or to the local airport.

Business tariffs are higher. Note, however, that some inexpensive hire companies cut corners on maintenance and repairs, and cars can sometimes be unsafe . Always carefully check a car (e.g. for body damage and to ensure that everything works) and the rental contract before setting out.

Most companies have low rates for weekend hire, e.g. from 4pm on Friday to noon on Monday, and for rentals of 14 days or longer. When comparing rates, check that prices include insurance and taxes (VAT at 16 per cent), that insurance cover (including personal accident) is adequate and that there are no hidden costs.

Check the cost of any extras that aren’t included in the basic price, such as collision damage waiver/CDW (cobertura de daños por colisión), theft cover (cobertura contra robo), personal accident insurance/PAI (asistencia por lesiones personales), airport tax (cargo de aeropuerto), roof rack, baby seat, air-conditioning, and additional drivers. Some companies don’t offer unlimited kilometres (kilometraje ilimitado), which usually works out more expensive unless you plan to drive only a short distance. If required, check in advance that you’re permitted to take a car out of Spain, e.g. to France or Portugal, as you may need extra insurance.

If you’re touring, you should ensure that you have sufficient power for mountain driving, e.g. at least a 1.6 litre petrol engine or a 2 litre diesel engine for two people and their luggage. If you’re going to be doing a lot of driving in summer, air-conditioning is a must.

Unless you’re paying by credit card, you must usually pay a high cash deposit; in some cases, the whole rental must be paid in advance. When paying by credit card, carefully check your bill and your statement, as extra unauthorised charges aren’t unknown.

This article is an extract from Living and Working in Spain.
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