Must-Read Advice about Renting a Car in Spain
Photo by Carles Rabada

Must-Read Advice about Renting a Car in Spain

Renting a car in Spain undoubtedly brings more freedom and flexibility to your trip. You can drive through sleepy villages of Andalucia or choose your own adventure stopping at hidden coves along the coast of Mallorca. Luckily, the Spanish drive on the right side of the road, so all you American drivers will feel more comfortable with that. There are, however, a few key points that will be very helpful to know before renting a car while traveling through Spain. Take notes! 

Get an IDP just in case.

 Americans, you will need to bring an up-to-date driver’s license with an International Driver’s Permit (IDP). The IDP is a translation of your license in case you get pulled over in Spain. You can get an IDP through AAA without being a member, and it costs $20. Do this before your trip.

I’ve never had an IDP while renting a car in Spain, but I heard it’s more expensive if you get pulled over without one. 

Young drivers (below 25 years old) get faced with steep daily fees.

Whatever happened to age ain’t nothing but a number?! In Spain you’re looking at around 15-30 euros extra per day for a Young Driver Fee, so be aware of this extra fee.

Cantabria mountain road

Check for any damages to the vehicle.

This includes scratches and marks on the car. Take photos. Note anything you see that isn’t already on the rental contract. 

Drive manual (if you know how).

Automatic cars are usually way more expensive to rent in Europe. If you can drive manual, that’s the way to go, but it’s better to feel more comfortable on the road if you’re not sure about driving stick shift. 

Reserve before.

Definitely make a reservation ahead of time and have the confirmation number at hand when in the car rental spot. 

Click here for our favorite site for car rentals in Spain.

Small rental cars are preferred.

Smaller cars work way better with the tiny little roads in small towns and villages. A friend of mine got stuck down a one-way street because his car was too big to fit. He ended up scratching BOTH sides of the car and had to reverse all the way back, causing a whole commotion and lots of spectators in the small village.

Mini Cooper in Spain
Photo by Sonnie Hiles.

Check the fine print.

The charges are raised with one-way drop-off fees, airport pickup, or insurance policies that are unnecessarily added on. This is the same as within the U.S. but it can be more overwhelming when in another country. Ask for the contract in English so you can read through it! 

Be sure to ask what type of fuel it takes.

Most vehicles in Spain take the ‘95 Gasolina’  that says “sin plomo” (the one with the green sign).  

sin plomo

Check the fuel policy.

Some companies give you the car with a full tank of gas and require you to bring it back with a full tank. It’s called the full/full fuel policy.  If you forget, they’ll charge you a hefty fee. 

Compare pick up location costs.

Airport pick-ups are usually more expensive than city center pick-ups. Be sure to plan the pick up and drop off during business hours.

Does renting a car in Spain make sense with your itinerary?

If you were going from Barcelona to Madrid for a weeklong vacation, it would be more of a hassle to rent a car than to just take the train. If you’re looking to be more independent on your trip through the countryside or smaller towns, renting a car is a great mode of transportation! 

Beautiful open roads in Spain
Photo by Damien Dufour.


Have a great time driving through beautiful Spain! Be sure to read about Spain train travel as well. If you haven’t got an itinerary set, read over my suggestions here. If you prefer we take care of the travel planning for you, read about our travel planning services. Gracias amigos!

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