Car Hire in Spain
Car hire in Spain is something of an issue for anybody who has, or aspires to, a property in Spain. In fact it is also obviously an issue for many people just visiting on holiday or for short business trips. Who do you go with and why? Will smaller companies leave you high & dry and why is there such a variation in price?
I visited Marbella last week and had to hire a car (not the one pictured unfortunately, I never intended to do a post on Spanish car hire, so forgot to take a picture of the car I did hire. This very nice Merc is for sale and is parked outside the Claddagh Irish bar in Marbella).
This post is merely to pass on my experience of car hire in Spain, nothing else really. I don’t claim to have any unbelievable insights into the industry or tricks to help you get car hire for a pittance. This is simply an outline of how I found the process.
I’ve hired cars in countries like Sweden and Canada before, but never mainland Spain and never for town driving, so I didn’t even really know where to start. As with most of us these days, I visited the internet and did a search for Malaga Car Hire, seeing as I was visiting Marbella but flying into Malaga airport. A friend who’d recently visited Puerto Banus was quite taken aback that her taxi fare from Malaga airport to the Port was €75. For this reason I was pretty sure hiring a car was going to be a more cost effective option. It should be noted that this visit was in January, so the car hire companies have a lot of spare cars hanging about. Off-season it is possible to get a really good deal, even without trying very hard.
In any case, my internet search for car hire in Spain got me to a price comparison site which informed me that the cheapest option for a Ford Focus or similar would be Record Go. I have to admit to never having heard of the company before and having no problems with them subsequent to booking, but there was a German guy at the desk next to me going apoplectic, feeling he’d been royally had. I suspect he just didn’t read his booking documents correctly.
The headline booking rate was just €8.83 for four days. Once you get there they charge you for a full tank of petrol on top of that, costing €60, but they give this back to you if you return the car full, which I did.
The Debit Card Issue
The only issue I had was ownership of a Debit Card rather than a Credit Card. I had heard of this issue before, but wasn’t sure what it entailed. Apparently it is to do with insurance. If you damage the car the insurance doesn’t kick in until after €1,200 so the company will want to keep that €1,200 ring-fenced in case you do damage the vehicle. They can’t hold money on a Debit Card, like they can with a Credit Card, so they would have to take the full €1,200 out of your account. This is more than most people have in their account and, in any case, who wants to give a car hire company you don’t know from Adam a big chunk of your money? Their way around this is that they will sell you supplementary insurance against any claims up to the €1,200 mark. In my case the cost was €23.50 per day. I was fine with this, but I knew it was an issue in advance. The disgruntled German client didn’t seem to have been aware of this and really didn’t seem to want to part with the cash for which Record Go were looking.
As it turned out, the supplementary insurance was a small price to pay. The garage in which I had to park the car, which turned out to be a very nice Hyundai i30, was excruciatingly tight. I have to admit, I did put a couple of significant scratches on the vehicle. I’m pretty sure my €1,200 would have been blitzed if I didn’t have the supplementary insurance. So somebody was looking out for me.
In any case, the gist of the cost element of this story is that it is possible to get a car for under €10 (not including petrol) for 4 days in Spain at the end of January, but you’ll need a Credit Card to do it. I don’t recommend doing so as the supplementary insurance does mean that you are covered for any minor bumps or scratches that may occur.
Incidentally, a Hyundai i30 is not a huge car, but if you’re not used to driving in Marbella, which has some very narrow streets, and parking in the teeny-tiny spaces they allow, it is actually too big. If I were to do it again, and I do hope to sometime, I’d go for a smaller car just for this reason.
When I arrived at the car hire desks at the airport in Malaga there was a very long queue at Gold Car and a slightly shorter one at Record Go. There was nobody at any of the others – which included all the usual big-name brands. I found out later that this was because you could get a vehicle from Gold Car for the princely sum of €1.50 per day. I am presuming the usual terms and conditions that occurred with Record Go apply, but I can’t vouch for this.
Finally, petrol prices in Spain are not terribly dissimilar to Ireland. At the time of my visit they were around €1.14 per litre while they were hovering a little over €1.20 per litre at home. The i30 managed to drive a fairly substantial chunk of the Costa del Sol (I never thought to check Km travelled unfortunately) for just €20 which was quite impressive. To give an idea, firstly I drove from Malaga airport to the accommodation in central Marbella. Then I had separate trips from my accommodation, close to Marbella’s Old Town, to Golf Valley, Benhavis, Puerto Banus and then Estepona & San Pedro together. On the way back to the airport I visited the village of Mijas and had a bit of a detour on the motorway (story for another time) and on to the airport. The i30 is certainly not heavy on juice.
That is pretty much it for my experience of car hire in Spain. If you have any pearls of wisdom you care to add please feel free to do so in the comments section below. I’m sure they’ll be greatly appreciated by anyone hiring a car in Spain in the coming months.
Update: A few people who visit regularly have commented that Malaga Car is well worth looking at for car hire in the Costa del Sol.