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Sally Wilson

Sally is a key member of the MoneyMaxim editorial team. She is a frequent hire-car user and often goes on holiday with her family. With an interest in getting great value for money, Sally shares her hints and tips for travelling and insurance.

Sally Wilson is one of our Team of Experts

How to save money on your car hire deal in Spain and Portugal

Cut back on the cost of your car hire in Spain or Portugal and know how to deal with the hard sell at the desk

aeroplane in sunset

Spain and Portugal are two of the most popular holiday destinations. They are vast countries with a wonderful mix of landscape and culture. Each region has its own traditions and personality so you can go back time and time again and experience a whole different holiday each time.

Car hireis an excellent way of travelling from the airport to your accommodation and for getting around whilst you are there. However there are many stories in the press about car hire in Spain and Portugal which may cause concern. We want to help by showing you how you can save money on your car hire and also how to be prepared for the conversation at the car hire desk.

Your Car Hire

  • Consider off-airport suppliers.Yes, you may have to take a shuttle bus but these are almost always free and run regularly. Rental prices off-airport are often lower and queues can be shorter than those at the airport.

  • Could you use a different airport?Flying into a less busy airport could not only save you money on your car hire but on your flights too.

  • Compare the full cost of the rental.If you are a younger or more mature driver you may be required to pay additional fees. They may not be included in the base price quoted for your rental. 'Cheap' car hire deals can work out not so cheap.

  • Book daytime flights to avoid out of hours fees.You can find out the opening hours of car rental desks before booking your flight. Some do stay open until the early hours if you are taking an evening flight.

  • Take your own extras if possible. Will you need a car seat for your child? Some airlines will allow you to take them free. Install an app on your phone rather than pay for Satnav hire. The cost of extrascan really mount up!

  • Look out for fair fuel policies.Best is usually full to full. You are provided with a full tank of fuel and you need to return it full. You only pay for the fuel you actually use.

  • Book early.And, as long as it's not a lot more expensive, try to find one with free cancellation so, if you find a better deal later, you can always switch.

  • Book daytime flights to avoid out of hours fees.You can find out the opening hours of car rental desks before booking your flight. Some do stay open until quite late if you are taking an evening flight.

  • Keep to the speed limits.You can still be fined in a hire car and they are fairly strict. Most car hire companies will charge an administration fee for handling any traffic offences too.

  • Look at getting a transponder if you are doing much driving in Portugal.It means you can use the Via Verde lanes without having to stop at a booth but also you won't be fined if you use one by mistake.

At the Car Hire Desk

Firstly- Know what insurance you already have. Hiring from a European car hire company you will normally find the basic insurances included (although you are normally liable for an excess - the first part of any claim - and damage to the tyres, wheels, glass roof & underbody). These are Collision Damage Waiver, Theft Protection and Third Party. Always check the insurance within your car hire package to be sure as there are the occasional exceptions. Make sure you have a credit card with you which has sufficient credit to cover any deposit required by the car hire company.

Remember- Any additional insurances are voluntary except if the terms and conditions say otherwise. For example, if you are over 70 and hiring in Spain, the car hire company may insist that you take out their own insurance but this is exceptional. If the salesperson tells you theirs is compulsory, ask them to show you where it says so on the rental agreement.

Your Choices

1)Take the car hire company's own extra insurance.This can mean that there is no excess, sometimes a reduced one. Some companies offer various packages such as Excess reduction, Cover for Tyres and Glass, or Breakdown cover. Find out about the options before you go so you know what they are talking about. An advantage is that it can mean the pre-authorisation you have to leave on your credit card is reduced, or in some cases a debit card can be used.

2)Go with an independent car hire excess policy such as those through the MoneyMaxim Comparison Service.These are reimbursement policies which means that, in the event of an incident, you would pay the car hire company and reclaim the funds through the policy. You will have to leave that per-authorsation mentioned above though.

3)Don't take out any extra insurance.This is upfront obviously the cheapest of the choices BUT it does mean that you will be responsible for any excesses. In Spain and Portugal these can be as high as 2000 euros. You will also have to pay for any damage excluded from the CDW such as chipped windscreens, punctures and dented hubcaps.


Generally, the car rental companies that offer the lower basic prices for their hires tend to be the ones that will try harder to sell their additional insurance packages. If you want to try and avoid the sales pitch then paying a little more can help.

Busier airports can have longer queues - another good reason for trying a different airport. If you have been waiting a long time you can be more easily persuaded into taking an option that you would rather not.

In busy airports such as Faro (it is the only airport in the Algarve) consider sending the lead driver ahead to the car hire desk while the rest of the party wait for the luggage.

Always take plenty of photographs or video of the car when you pick it up. Go around the vehicle with a member of staff and get them to note down all scratches and marks. Don't forget the wheels!

Although there are articles about car hire in Spain and Portugal in the papers, we know that the majority of the time everything goes smoothly. The key point is to understand what your options are so that you can enjoy a relaxing holiday in this stunning part of the world.

Image courtesy of: Pixabay