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Hiring a Car in Spain: Everything You Need to Know

Hiring a Car in Spain: Everything You Need to Know

Thinking about hiring a car in Spain? Great idea!

Spanish roads are a joy to drive and having a rental vehicle makes it easier to venture beyond the hotspots. US travelers will appreciate that Spaniards drive on the right (UK travelers, not so much).

Renting a car in Spain is a straightforward affair but you do need to clue up on what’s required before you go.

What to expect from driving in Spain

Spanish roads are well-maintained and in great condition. For the most part, they’re paved. Occasionally, you’ll have an unpaved road if you choose off-the-grid accommodation.

Some areas yield gnarlier conditions but that’s due to the roads being windy in mountain zones. Additional care should always be taken in winter where snow, ice, and frost may occur. Always check your route in advance as in some cases it might be safer to join a guided tour for the day.

Road signs in Spain are more or less in keeping with other places around the world. However, it’s also worth having a quick lesson on the most common Spanish road signs. Remember, they drive on the right but they do register distances in kilometers rather than miles!

We recommend that you read this Spain car hire guide in conjunction with these handy tips for driving in Spain. This article covers rules of the road, speed limits, important driving laws, tourist tips, and things that could otherwise catch you off guard.

Who can rent a car in Spain?

Hiring a car in Spain is very simple if you’re from the UK, EU, or any other country on this list.

For those holding a driver’s license issued in the US, Canada, or any country that is not on that list, you will need to purchase an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) before you leave your home country.
These cost a couple of dollars and are available at post offices and via the AAA/CAA websites. However, IDPs are only available in the country where your driver’s license was issued. Therefore, you will need to make arrangements ahead of your trip.

An International Driver’s Permit is also required if you do not have a photocard-style driver’s license. If you are lucky to be spending over 90 days in Spain, an IDP is also necessary for car hire.

man driving a car with the sky getting dark at twilight.

Driving in Spain is relatively straight forward, especially if you have driven in other European countries before.

Age for hiring a car in Spain

The legal driving age in Spain is 18 years old. However, Spain car hire companies usually only rent to drivers aged 21 and over. Others might stipulate that you must be at least 23 to rent a car. It’s standard to pay a young driver surcharge if you are aged under 25, regardless of when you passed your test and if your license is squeaky clean.

In addition, it might be necessary to have held the driver’s license for a minimum of 12 months.

Documents required to rent a car in Spain

To rent a car in Spain, you will need to have these documents on your person:

  • Valid driver’s license from your home country
  • Valid passport for identification
  • International Driver’s Permit (IDP) if relevant
  • Credit card (not a debit card) in the driver’s name (it cannot be someone else’s name)

It is sometimes possible to pay the rental fee with a debit card. However, this might have a hefty surcharge. Furthermore, a credit card will still be required to cover the refundable security deposit plus any deductibles.

Insurance for renting a car in Spain

Unlimited Third Party Liability (TPL) insurance is mandatory when hiring a car in Spain. This is usually included in the price of the car rental and normally comes as a deductible hold on your credit card. This is why a debit card won’t do – rental firms require a credit card.

A Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and theft protection are also recommended but aren’t mandatory.

person looking out the window of the passenger's side of a car on a road with trees on all sides.

There are so many places to explore off the beaten path while you are in Spain, so don’t miss out on exploring the best vacation destinations in Spain with a rental car.

Additional driver charges

Most companies allow an additional driver but a charge usually applies. This varies from €12-20 EUR ($13-22 USD) per day and will depend on the company, location, and specifics of the second driver.

It’s something to check out before committing to hiring in Spain. Daily charges might be higher in some places and it’s not a surprise you’ll want to run into after landing.

Hiring a car in Spain after Brexit

Brits are still able to rent a car in Spain after Brexit. There are no changes and an International Driver’s Permit is not required for most British passport holders.

An IDP is not necessary if you have a photocard driving license issued in the UK.

If you have a paper driving license, then you will need an IDP when hiring a car in Spain after Brexit.

Those with a driving license issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, or the Isle of Man will need an IDP to rent a car.

There are additional rules to satisfy if you are planning to bring a car into Spain that doesn’t have a Spanish registration plate. In terms of car hire, onwards we go.

Best car hire in Spain

All the usual suspects operate car hire in Spain. Avis, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz, National, and Sixt have agencies throughout Spain. These are safe hands when it comes to efficiency, availability, and a variety of vehicles. However, you can also check out local rental agencies based on your chosen destination.

All the major Spanish airports have car hire kiosks for hiring a car in Spain upon arrival. Málaga Airport, Madrid Airport, Valencia Airport, Ibiza Airport – the list goes on. In most cases, you will have the option to collect your rental downtown.

Discover Cars is the natural starting point for sourcing the best car hire in Spain.

This third-party company works like Kayak or Expedia by aggregating the prices across major and independent car rental firms. All quotes detail exactly what is included in the lease – such as mileage restrictions and a Collision Damage Waiver.

Discover Cars is available across the mainland and islands in Spain. It works to rent a car in Málaga, Madrid, Tenerife, Ibiza, and more. It’s also possible to collect the hire in one city and drop it off elsewhere in the country.

All you need to do is type in your desired pick-up location, drop-off destination, and travel dates.

Discover Cars will help figure out the cheapest car hire in Spain. Choose to filter the results by price for the cheapest deals. However, it’s important to pay attention to the inclusions and check the review score.

Toggling to price/rating will present a better idea of the cost and reliability of the provider. This is a safer bet with a smaller firm that might not have international credibility.

It’s very straightforward to rent a car in Spain via Discover Cars. Although, you could always partake in additional research before you commit. Always cross-reference views on other platforms to get a clearer picture.

person driving a car with the photo being from the perspective of someone in the back seat.

Always make sure you have everything you need before hiring a car in Spain.

Types of cars available for hiring in Spain

The vast majority of rental cars in Spain have manual transmission. However, it is possible to find automatic vehicles – they’re just far less common, especially in smaller cities and rural regions.

These days, you can also find a growing selection of electric and hybrid designs.

Manual, petrol cars are still the most common. As such, if you prefer a different type of car, you’ll need to plan ahead.

Items you must have in the rental car

This is an important one! Spanish law dictates that several items must be available in the trunk of a car at all times. The following things should be provided but do double-check before departing.

  • One spare tire and the necessary tools to change it.
  • Two warning triangles.
  • High-visibility/reflective vests or jackets for every person traveling in the vehicle.

If towing a trailer or caravan, you are also required to keep a fire extinguisher in the vehicle.

Finding the cheapest car hire in Spain

Naturally, car rental rates spike in key travel periods. Summer and school holidays see rental rates boom whereas you’ll find the cheapest car rental in Spain during the low season – aka, winter.

If you are traveling to Spain on a budget, you might be happy to accept cooler conditions. The winter months are ideal for road-tripping as the highways are less congested, the accommodation is cheaper, and the attractions are quieter.

Have a read over our guides to the weather in Spain in January, February, and March as part of your car hire in Spain.

Another reminder: avoid snapping up the cheapest car hire in Spain without further research. Make sure you do some additional homework before signing up for a bargain.

sitting in the backseat of a car as someone drives and the light from the sun makes it hard to see out of the front windscreen.

Hiring a car in Spain is a great way to get out and explore some of the lesser visited beaches.

Fuel policy for car rentals in Spain

All Spain car hire companies have their stance on fuel policy. In most cases, the tank will be full or half full/partially full when you collect the vehicle. The expectation is that you return the car with the same level of fuel in the tank.

On Discover Cars, this is marked as “full to full” or “same to same.” Always double-check before you leave and make sure you do return the vehicle with whatever was agreed.

If the agency has to top up the tank, you’ll pay far more than you would at a gas station of your own choosing.

How early to book car hire

Spain is a pretty popular destination – to put it mildly! Car rental is extremely popular among national and overseas travelers and the demand is off the charts over the summer.

Always book ahead – this is the best way to find the cheapest car rental in Spain (without falling into a dodgy deal). Aim for at least a month when traveling in June, July, and August.

At other times of year, you can leave it until closer to departure but do plan to have everything firmed up a week ahead of arrival.

If you need an automatic transmission, book even earlier – regardless of the season. They’re far less common in Spain.

road leading to the ocean.

My #1 reason for renting a car in Spain is to get to the smaller towns and beaches away from the tourist crowds.

Alternatives to renting a car in Spain

On the fence about hiring a car in Spain? Truth be told, renting a car has countless advantages and it’s a decision you’ll not regret.

However, it’s not essential to rent a car in Spain and still visit everywhere you hope to see.

Spanish cities such as Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Málaga, Valencia, and Bilbao have sophisticated public transport networks. It’s completely unnecessary to drive in the downtown areas. A car is awesome for day trips from all of these destinations and does make for far more flexibility.

Furthermore, these major cities have decent links to neighboring cities. Buses do take longer than a Spain car hire but on the plus side – you can have a beer before heading home.

On the other hand, there are wonderful guided tours that support the tourist economy and take you to harder-to-reach places.

Check out these posts for some inspiration:

It’s worth digging out your calculator and estimating the price of car hire, public transport, and guided tours. Even with the cheapest car rental in Spain, it might work out lower to sign up for tours – especially if you’re traveling solo or as a twosome.

Remember that Uber works in Spain. However, Cabify does often function better than Uber in Spain and it’s always wise to check the specifics of your chosen destination.

driving in a tunnel with the lights streaming above.

There are so many places to explore in Spain, check out the rest of this website to discover the best places to explore with your rental car!

Checklist for hiring a car in Spain

Before you fly to Spain and hit the road, remember to make a checklist of all the things you need to remember before and after arrival.

These are the key things to remember when renting a car in Spain:

  • Check your driver’s license is valid before departure.
  • Purchase an International Driver’s Permit for Spain (if applicable) before departure.
  • Ensure you have an active credit card with sufficient credit to cover the deposit/security hold before departure.
  • Search for the best car hire in Spain on Discover Cars.
  • Pack a spare pair of glasses if you wear spectacles. Carry your prescription in case you damage or lose your eyewear – there are penalties if you’re caught driving with impaired vision.
  • Brush up on the Spanish rules of the road.
  • Download handy apps such as Waze, Google Maps, MAPS.ME, and GasAll. And maybe, Spotify.
  • Take photos of the vehicle before setting off and check for existing scratches and dents. False damage claims aren’t common but there’s always a risk of an agency trying to pull a fast one.
  • Check that the ITV sticker is on the windscreen. This is proof that the car is fit for purpose and has undergone routine inspection.
  • Note the fuel policy.
  • Double-check that your rental car has the three mandatory items in the trunk.
  • Plan routes, check the weather forecast, and consider any challenges.
  • Study these tips for driving in Spain.