Renting a Car in Spain in 2024: All you need to know Renting a Car in Spain in 2024: All you need to know

Renting a Car in Spain in 2024: All you need to know

Spain makes an impressive country. The diverse landscapes range from scenic coastlines to the mountaintops of the Pyrenees and the Sierra Nevada. Go from busy history-rich cities to calm villages that lay in between valleys. It’s safe to say that there’s plenty to explore in one of Europe’s more prominent countries. While there is a good interrail system and many other public transportation options, driving yourself is the best way to discover Spain at your own pace. Here’s all you need to know about renting a car in Spain.

How to rent a car in Spain

Many travelers are familiar with Spain’s advanced railway and bus systems, however, driving a car is arguably the best way to see the country. Renting a car in Spain gives you the enjoyable freedom to make up your route and follow it at your own pace. Most roads are very well-maintained and reach every corner of the country.

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Drive from the mountains to the sea, stopping to visit stunning cities like Barcelona and Valencia in between. Or head into the hills of Andalucia to discover the many beautiful white villages and fairytale-like castles. Whatever it is that you would like to see in Spain, a car makes the perfect transportation method. In this guide, you’ll find exactly how to drive and rent a car in Spain.

renting a car in spain

What do you need to rent a car in Spain? 

When you rent a car in Spain, you’ll need to bring the following documents:

  • Your driver’s license from your home country
  • Your ID (passport) 
  • Credit Card in your name
  • International Driver’s Permit

The legal driving age in Spain is 18 years old. To be able to rent a car, however, most rental car companies in Spain require you to be at least 21 years old. Some might also ask that you have had your license for at least one year, and some might require you to be 23 or over. All drivers must present a valid driver’s license, an ID as proof of their identity, and a credit card to make the payment. 

renting a car in spain passport

Note: Most car rentals in Spain charge an extra fee if you’re under 25 years old. It is also required by law that you hold an International Driver’s Permit if you’re a non-EU citizen driving in Spain. You will be asked to present this to the rental agency, as well as the Spanish police in the event you’re stopped while driving. An International Driver’s Permit costs just 15 USD and is valid for one year. You can arrange yours here.

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Rental car insurance in Spain

When renting a car in Spain, it is required that you have unlimited third-party liability insurance. With most companies, this is typically included in the price of your car rental and will be in the form of a deductible hold on your credit card. Make sure to check if your credit card can cover the costs of this deposit before you rent a car. Additional insurance such as a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or theft cover is recommended, but not mandatory.

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When you decide to add additional coverage, try to arrange that in your initial booking as the prices are best when booked like this. You can also check if your credit card policy covers car rental insurance in Spain. The proof of insurance, the car’s documentation, your passport, and IDP need to be in the car whenever you’re driving.

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Road conditions and speed limits

In Spain, much of the country is relatively flat or gradually inclines which makes getting across fast and easy. The roads and motorways are in excellent condition and typically don’t have much traffic, leaving room for you to enjoy the surroundings.

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On a road trip through Spain, you’ll often find yourself driving next to beautiful flowers or over high bridges, perched in between the mountains. Outside of major cities like Madrid or Barcelona, it’ll get busier but it remains easy to drive around. 

renting a car in spain madrid

On motorways, called autopistas and autovías, the speed limit is 120 km/h. Autopistas, indicated by the letters AP, are often toll roads, whereas Autovías (A) are free highways that run parallel to the Autopistas. It’s important to always keep the speed limit in mind when driving in Spain, as the roads are policed by the national guard and police. When driving on main roads, the speed limit varies from 80 km/h to 90 and sometimes 100 km/h. In urban areas, this is either 50 or 70 km/h. Try to look out for traffic signs and to follow the indicated speed limit.

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Tolls & Offline maps

Even though Spain does have a few toll roads, on some Autopistas (AP) and radial roads (R), they’re significantly less common than in the neighboring countries Portugal or France. These roads are typically ones that go through mountain tunnels or involve another form of engineering and, therefore, require more maintenance.

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Renting a Car in Spain in 2024: All you need to know

When you opt for one of these roads, you can pay the toll in cash, by credit card, or with the electronic device Via-T. The toll routes in Spain typically cost between 5 and 30 EUR depending on the distance you travel on the route and the location of the Autopista. 

roads spain renting a car

Any navigation device or map app will have toll booths marked and can give you the option to avoid these roads. A GPS or offline Google Maps is recommended, as the connection in Spain is not great. Try to load the route on your app before leaving a WiFi zone or driving with mobile data. 

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Traffic in Spain

It’s not uncommon to experience traffic jams in larger cities like Barcelona, and because of that, it’s not recommended to drive there during rush hours. Because of their afternoon break, Spain has four rush hours (horas puntas), but it is known to be busy throughout most of the day. Some cities, such as Madrid, don’t even allow traffic to enter the city’s historical center to reduce pollution. 

rent a car madrid spain

Next to beautiful towns and villages, Spain also has some impressive mountains, like the Pyrenees and the Sierra Nevada. Most of the mountain roads are in good condition but driving cautiously is always a good idea. If you’re visiting Spain’s mountains in the winter, your car might require snow chains. When picking up your rental car in Spain, make sure to ask the agency about it.

driving in spain

Top tips for renting a car in Spain

1. Do a walk around and check the car

When you pick up your rental car in Spain, make sure to do a walk around and check if everything’s there. If you’re traveling in winter and headed for the mountainous regions, see if there are snow tires on the car or snow chains in the trunk. 

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You will have to sign a document called the check-out form. If your rental car has any scratches or other types of damage, which isn’t uncommon in Spain, check if they are listed on the form. If they’re not, make sure to point them out to the employee and have them noted down before signing the check-out form. This form will also list the mileage and the amount of fuel the car has upon pickup time.

If you want to be absolutely certain that everything is logged, take some photos or videos of the rental car’s noted damages, the amount of fuel in the tank, and the previous mileage of the car. 

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2. Opt for a smaller rental car

Unless you’re going to need a lot of space or are planning on driving in the mountains, it is best to opt for a small car when you rent a car in Spain. This is because many streets are narrow, parking spots are often small, and gas is relatively expensive. So, if the rental agency proposes to upgrade to a bigger car, it’s best to decline this. 

What makes Spain’s urban areas so charming, is that most of them are at least a few hundred years old. Similar to the neighboring countries Portugal and France, Spain’s history is very much still present, meaning that you’ll find many narrow cobblestoned roads in towns and villages. Navigating these roads can be difficult, so making sure you have an up-to-date navigation system and trying to follow the road signs is recommended. 

3. Watch your parking

Parking in Spain’s urban areas can be challenging, especially in their ancient centers, and the rules vary per area of the city. Paid street parking can be spotted by blue lines on the pavement, and you’ll have to buy your ticket from a nearby machine. Resident parking spots are marked green or have a black sign with the letter ‘P’ on it. Street parking is typically free on national holidays, on Sundays, and after 7 PM in most urban areas, but make sure to check to avoid a fine. 

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Note that like in Italy, many drivers don’t seem troubled with a scratch or two on their cars in Spain. It’s not uncommon to ‘bump’ cars out of the way to better facilitate parking. Always be mindful of where you park and try not to leave anything on display inside the car. For example, remove all valuables and luggage if you can, as theft from rental cars does happen.

4. Fill your car with the right fuel

Gas stations can be found everywhere in Spain. Google Maps and other navigation services typically show you which one is nearest to you. The average price of gas in Spain is 1,90 EUR per liter (7,20 EUR per gallon), and you can either get diesel (diesel) or unleaded (gasolina). Pay extra attention to the names of the gas types in Spain, as gasoline is gasolina and diesel is sometimes also called gasóleo.

driving in spain renting a car

Most gas stations are self-service, but there typically is someone during the day that can help you if you’re in doubt. If you’re wondering what type of fuel your specific car needs, try to find the sticker in your rental car that provides this information. This can usually be found on the car key, on the dashboard, or on the fuel door. Gas stations can be found in the country, in small towns and big cities, and on the autoroutes. 

traffic spain horse

How much does a car rental in Spain cost?

Rental cars are overall fairly priced in Spain. The price typically depends on a few things; the time of the year that you’re visiting, the duration of your trip, and the type of car that you want to rent. During the summer months, there’s always an increased demand to rent a car in Spain, which drives up the prices.

If you’re visiting in the other seasons, including winter, the prices are considerably lower. The duration of your rental period also influences the total price. Renting a car for a longer period usually brings down the daily price, meaning that 5 days of rental might just be slightly more than 3 days, for example. If you can, consider exploring Spain for at least a week!

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Getting the right vehicle

The general rule in many European countries is that the smaller the car, the lower the price. Bigger cars are more expensive because they require more fuel. Opting for a smaller car will also benefit you on the small roads or in busy cities. If you’re thinking of getting an automatic car, it’s essential to notice that these are the exception, not the rule, in Spain. This means that there’s a higher price tag on renting an automatic instead of a manual car. 

Browse your options online via a comparison site to make sure you get the best deal. If you book in advance, it’ll be much more affordable than stepping into the office and arranging it there. 

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Where do I rent a car in Spain?

There are numerous reputable car rentals in Spain to choose from. If you’re planning on renting a car in Spain in the summer, try to arrange this in advance. Reserving in advance ensures you secure the type of car you want, possibly at a lower price. 

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If it makes sense on your route, pick up and drop off the car in different cities. Many car rental companies in Spain offer one-way rentals, which give you the freedom to travel around the country without the need to travel back to where you picked up the car. This can sometimes be done at no extra cost and is otherwise well worth it if you consider the gas, time, and potential tolls. When you return the car, make sure you know if it’s necessary to fill up the gas and have someone check the car for damage when you’re still there.

Find flights to Spain ✈️

Want to explore more of Europe with the same car? Some car rental companies also allow you to travel one way internationally. This way you have the opportunity to see other countries such as France or Portugal without the need to travel back to Spain. Check with the rental company if this is possible and what the requirements are to do this.

Blog comments (4)

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  • Patra F Madden

    am renting a car in november in Northern Spain. I hear lots of terrible stories about the companies charging for insurance when I already have insurance that covers everything. Even reading all the fine print does not assure me that I will not be charged these extra charges. Is there a way to be sure I will not be charged for this before I rent the car?
    Also, I would like to rent near San Sebastian or Bilbao and would prefer to return the car close to the Portuguese boarder but it seems that the one way charges are very high. Are there particular cities that are better to book one way?
    Thank you so much for your help.

    • Salt in our Hair

      Hi Patra, by renting between large cities, usually the price of a one-way rental goes down. Regarding the insurance and extra charges, I agree with you, and it is for that reason that we only rent at Sunny Cars because there are no surprises. I’ve had damage multiple times, and sometimes it’s directly covered, and other times I had to pre-pay, and they returned those costs asap. Hope that helps! Enjoy your time in Spain.

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