Top tips when hiring a car in Spain

Spain is the second most-visited country in Europe, and for good reason too: it’s packed with historical cities and towns, popular beach resorts and stunning scenery. Spain is also a deceptively big country, and the best way to get around is often to hire a car, allowing you to explore at your own pace. These are our top tips to remember when hiring a car in Spain...
Curvy road through the dunes of Corralejo, Fuerteventura, in the Canary Islands, Spain. Photo: Shutterstock
Curvy road through the dunes of Corralejo, Fuerteventura, in the Canary Islands, Spain. Photo: Shutterstock

Taking a holiday to Spain: how to get started

Insight Guides can help you with planning, organising and booking your trip to Spain. Simply, get in touch and share your budget, interests and travel style. Our local experts will create an itinerary exclusive to you and your requirements, which you can amend until it's just right. 

Alternatively, browse and modify ready-made holidays to create your dream trip today.

1. Always check the hire company’s fuel policy

Full-to-full is the best and simplest fuel policy: pick up the car with a full tank and return it with a full tank. However, the full to empty policy – employed by some Spanish companies – requires you to rent the car with a full tank and return it empty and then pay the hire company’s (often over-inflated) fuel prices to refill. Always make sure you know exactly what you’re signing up for, and how much it will cost you to refill.

2. Know the law

Spanish law requires you to carry a warning triangle and reflective jacket in your car at all times. Depending on your vehicle, you may also need headlight beam deflector (if you can’t adjust them manually). You are also required by law to carry your licence, ID, proof of insurance and proof of ownership.

3. Get your stickers right

If you are driving your own car, you are required to attach GB or European Union stickers, depending on where you’re travelling from.

An impressive road carved through rocks in Mallorca.An impressive road carved through rocks in Mallorca. Photo: Shutterstock

4. Expect to pay more for automatic

As a nation, the Spanish drastically favour manual over automatic transmission, which means that the cost of hiring an automatic can be a lot higher. Supplies become even more stretched over the summer, when floods of tourists arrive for their holidays. Speak to our local experts today to discuss when is the best time to travel.

5. Save time on toll roads

Spain has an efficient, relatively inexpensive network of toll roads. Make use of them, especially in Catalonia, to save travel time. Both cards and cash are accepted at most tollbooths.

6. Always read the small print

This one may sound like a no-brainer, but always be sure to check the company’s policy, especially with regards to minor scratches and bumps, before you sign on the dotted line. Make sure you check the car before you drive away, even if there is no attendant with you. Be especially vigilant about the above in areas with poor quality roads as pebbles can flick up and scratch the underside of the car.

7. Be careful on roundabouts 

Again, this advice may not seem exclusive to Spain, but you’d be surprised. Spain has some pretty busy roundabouts – some with four or five lanes – and these are where the majority of accidents occur, so it pays to exercise extreme caution.

8. Beware of hefty parking fines 

Spanish parking fines – especially in major cities such as Barcelona and Madrid – are notoriously high. Always make sure that you have parked in a public parking spot, and not a residential spot. Parking wardens are not afraid of towing cars and fines can quickly rise to eye-watering amounts. There’s no need to worry when parking in small towns and countryside villages though.

This blog was originally published on December 22, 2016

Read more:

Spain's Best Beach Resorts

Winter in Spain: Top 6 Highlights

Madrid: A Local's Guide

7 Reasons to Visit Andalucia