Thinking about hiring a car for your trip to Spain? There’s no better way to discover some of the country’s most beautiful areas and get off the beaten track, but there are a few things you need to bear in mind before taking the plunge. Here are our essential tips for making sure your Spanish road trip goes without a hitch.
1. Do your homework – don’t leave it until you roll up at the airport to start looking for a great deal on car rental as you run the risk of getting royally ripped off. Also, don’t forget your driving license -you won’t be able to hire a car without it.
2. Always book in advance – on some of the Med’s smaller islands, there is a small but genuine risk of the supply of hire cars running dry. And yes, we have seen the angry queues to confirm it.
3. Cheap is not always cheap with car rental. Beware of booking the cheapest deal on the price comparison website as you may well end up paying a premium on basic services like insurance, breakdown cover, etc. Also, watch out for the middlemen, as many car hire websites do not tell you which company you will actually be hiring the car through until you have paid.
4. Choose your car rental company carefully. Ask friends and check review sites for tips form travelers, especially as this can vary even between different branches of the same company. Gusto Guides have used Avis, Hertz and Europcar with no problems. Autos Valls in Menorca deserve a special mention for being kind enough to deliver a new car free of charge on a Sunday when our original car would not start. We have used Goldcar a few times and been dissatisfied with the service, and it looks like we aren’t the only ones.
5. Keep an eye on your petrol and bear in mind that some companies oblige you to pay for a full tank from their own supply on pickup, even if you only plan to use the car for a few days and drive relatively short distances. This can often cost considerably more than the going rate, as companies are seemingly free to inflate prices at will. On our last trip, we were charged around €20 more for our tank of petrol than it would have cost us in the local garage. More reputable companies tend to ask that you sort out petrol yourself, but return the car with the pointer at roughly the same point – e.g. You take out a car with half a tank of petrol, you return a car with half a tank of petrol. Simples. It does have to be the same car though.
6. Remember, many car rental companies ask you to leave a fairly large deposit. On our most recent trip, we were required to leave a £600 deposit, so it pays to make sure your credit card limit is high enough to allow for this.
7. Check the car carefully when you pick it up. Make a note of any scratches and damage that may already be there when you take the car out so that you can avoid being charged for any damage that was not your fault. We tend to take photos of the car before leaving the parking lot.
8. Read the small print. It seems to go without saying, but every year someone is caught out because they forgot to read the boring, long piece of writing that they signed their name underneath. Don’t be that person.
9.Consider adding a second driver – many car rental companies offer this free of charge or for a small fee, and it gives you the added flexibility of sharing driving duties.
10. Find out about local driving conditions before setting off. Roads in Spain are generally good, and any experienced driver should be able to manage perfectly well. There are, however, a few notable exceptions. We found some of the roads on Tenerife hair-raising, especially the winding road to the beautiful mountain village of Masca. Beautiful but terrifying. Some roads in old towns and rural areas can also be rather narrow, so it is sometimes a good idea to choose a small car.
11. Bonus tip! Insurance. Yes, this is one of those boring words that you try to blank out whenever possible, but insurance is great! It means you don’t have to sell your kidneys if something really bad happens to your hire car! 50 quid can seem like a lot of money when you are sat at home and thinking about how much more fun it would be to buy, say, wine or a donkey or a giant sombrero rather than boring old insurance, but when you are standing next to a lump of smouldering metal that used to be a car, it is nothing.