Spain, one of the most popular travel destinations in Europe, has breath-taking beaches, numerous charming cities with cultural heritage and varied landscapes that can be easily explored with a rental car. Since the country has well-developed and safe roads and traveling by train is often expensive and time-consuming, a rental car is a good alternative to discover the beauty of the country.
Since there are several car rental companies at almost every airport, it is very easy to rent a vehicle in Spain. In some cases, it is also worth looking for providers in the surrounding area. Many offer a shuttle to the airport and back here.
Before choosing the new rental car and starting your vacation in Spain, it is particularly important to note the following points.
Tips for booking the rental car
Book early! In the holiday season, rental cars are very popular and popular models are fully booked.
Always agree on comprehensive insurance WITHOUT deductible.
Anyone planning a trip through the area with a rental car should ensure that underbody protection is included.
After receiving the rental car, you should point out any damage and document it with a photo. The same applies to the fuel level of the tank (depending on the tank regulation).
The minimum statutory coverage in Spain is significantly higher than in other countries in Europe: it is 70 million euros for personal injury and 15 million euros for property damage. Due to the high coverage, tourists do not need to worry about the Police. However, it is advisable to book fully comprehensive insurance without a deductible, since even small accidents can reduce the holiday budget. Damage to tires, glass or the roof is usually not included in comprehensive insurances.
The fuel regulations differ depending on the car rental company. In Spain, the “full-to-empty” rule is particularly widespread with smaller, local providers: You get a rental car with a full tank and return the car with an empty tank, but you have to pay the first fill plus service fee. This offer is particularly worthwhile if you use the rental car extensively on vacation. The “full-to-full” rule usually applies to providers operating worldwide: you get the car with a full tank and return it with full fuel. If the tank is not completely filled at the end, a service fee is usually due.
Some rental companies allow cross-border trips to France or Portugal. However, it is advisable to inform yourself about the rental conditions beforehand so that nothing stands in the way of an excursion to the wonderful beaches of the Algarve or the Basque Country. Depending on the provider, a fee may apply.
Finding the right car
Since the road network in Spain is very well developed, in principle you can use any vehicle. However, it is recommended to choose a smaller rental car for larger cities, as this will help you find a parking space in the narrow streets of the old town. A larger limousine or an SUV is particularly suitable for covering longer distances or trips to the mountains.
In Spain, it is possible to rent a car from the age of 18. However, many providers set a higher limit, for example, 21 years, and levy young driver surcharges for people under 25 at different levels.
Credit card and security deposit
To rent a rental car in Spain you have to present a driver’s license and a valid identity card. With some providers, payment by EC card is possible. A credit card is definitely necessary to pay the deposit. The amount of the deposit differs depending on the car type and provider. It will be refunded after the return. If the car has not been returned with a full tank despite a “full-to-full” rule, or if the rental car is damaged, part of the deposit can be retained. That is precisely why you should thoroughly inspect the car at the terminal before picking it up and returning it.
A toll is levied on all motorways in Spain, the amount of which depends on the distance traveled and the size of the vehicle. The city motorways near Barcelona, Valencia, and Zaragoza are exempt from the toll. However, the city motorway near Madrid is partly subject to charges. The roads on which a toll is due are marked with the signs “A” (Autovías) and “AP” (Autopistas). The toll fee can be paid in cash or by credit card at the respective points, either directly with the staff or at the machine.
Always make sure to lock the car when you leave: there is a risk that valuables can be stolen from the rental car.
Traffic rules in Spain
Since the fines are significantly higher than in other European countries, tourists should pay particular attention to compliance with traffic rules. A violation can be costly. The speed limit for cars is:
- urban 50 km/h
- out of town 90 km/h
- on expressways 100 km/h
- and on highways 120 km/h
All passengers must wear safety vests, which must be worn when they leave the rental car in the event of an accident or breakdown. Two warning triangles are mandatory in Spain, which must be placed 30 meters in front of and behind the accident site. Daytime running lights are also mandatory in Spain.
The Best Road Trips in Spain
In theory, every season is suitable for exploring the country with a rental car, but it is particularly beautiful in spring, summer, and autumn. Tourists should pay attention to the climatic differences: while it is very mild in winter in Andalusia and the Mediterranean, it can snow in Madrid and in the center of the country.
In the southernmost region of Spain, you can still feel the Arab influence. Andalucia is particularly suitable for a round trip by rental car because it allows you to explore the cultural wealth of these cities. The Andalusian capital of Seville, the Mosque of Cordoba, Granada and of course Malaga are particularly worth seeing.
Malaga or Málaga is located on the Mediterranean coast, the Costa del Sol. With half a million inhabitants, it is the second-largest city in Andalusia. The city has a beautiful fortress, the Alcazaba, from which you have a unique view of the city and the sea. The fine sandy beach, the Malagueta, invites you to swim. A popular destination from Malaga is Granada, where the famous Alhambra is located.
Madrid has an exciting nightlife, numerous important museums, and the impressive Palacio Real. With a rental car, you can reach the medieval city of Toledo and the impressive castle complex El Escorial, which is around 45 km away from Madrid.
Barcelona, the lively Catalan capital on the Mediterranean, is best known for the buildings by the architect Gaudí. The imposing Sagrada Familia cathedral and the extraordinary Park Güell are among the landmarks of the city. With the rental car, you can explore the beaches around Barcelona or take trips to Girona and Tarragona.
The third-largest city in Spain combines modernity and tradition. Old buildings such as the cathedral and the silk exchange as well as the ultra-modern city of arts and sciences are a magnet for tourists from all over the world. The Albufera National Park is just 11 kilometers away from Valencia and is home to rare animal species.
The port city of Alicante or Alacant is located on the east coast of Spain south of Valencia. It has very beautiful beaches, exciting nightlife, and the famous Castillo de Santa Bárbara. A popular destination is the city of Elche, 20 km away, which is famous for its beautiful palm gardens.