Last Updated on August 29, 2023 by Caitlin

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Planning a road trip in Spain? You’ll love having the freedom to explore the country’s diverse regions and culture at your own pace. While the process is similar to renting a car at home or in other countries, here are a few things to know before you go.

Essential Tips for Renting a Car in Spain

Book from home.

Don’t wait until you get to Europe to rent a vehicle. It will be cheaper to book your car from the United States before you go. The further ahead you reserve your car, the better the chance of landing a deal because you can watch out for price drops.

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You need an International Driving Permit.

U.S. residents need to get an International Driving Permit to drive in Spain. This document is simply a translated version of your state-issued driver’s license and can be obtained from the AAA. Give yourself some lead time to apply before you leave on your trip.

You’ll drive on the right.

Spain is one of a majority of countries where people drive on the right—the same as at home.

Pay for the rental in euros.

You may have the option to pay for the rental in U.S. dollars, but this option will cost you more in the long run. Pay in the local currency to avoid Dynamic Currency Conversion fees. If you opt to pay in U.S. dollars, the rental car company converts the purchase amount from the local currency on your behalf. But this process is entirely unnecessary, since your credit card company will process the transaction in either currency, and you will pay through the nose for the non-convenience.

Automatic transmissions can be harder to find and pricier.

Do you know how to drive a car with a stick shift? The vast majority of rental cars in Spain have manual transmission. If you don’t specifically request an automatic transmission, the vehicle will have a manual transmission. If you need an automatic vehicle, it can be easier to find one if you rent at an airport location. You’ll likely be charged an additional fee for an automatic vehicle.

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Double check your insurance coverage.

Before you leave for Spain, contact your credit card company to see what coverage, if any, it offers on car rentals abroad. A car rental contract in Spain generally covers the minimum required insurance and you will have the option to purchase additional insurance. You can decline this, but it’s best to first find out what your liability is in the event of an accident.

Be aware of toll roads.

Express highways in Spain,or autopistas, charge a toll but you can avoid them by taking alternative, usually slower and more scenic, routes.

Don’t rent a car when you’re in a city.

While a rental car can be great for checking out sites in the countryside, driving in Spanish cities has the same frustrations as elsewhere in the world. Instead, plan on using public transit and cabs to get around.

Return the car on time.

Although Spaniards are notorious for lax punctuality, this custom does not extend to rental cars. If you’re more than 30 minutes late dropping off your rental car, you could be charged for an extra day’s rental.

Inspect the car carefully before driving it off the lot.

Make sure to protect yourself from potential false damage claims by carefully look over your car before taking it for a spin. Document every nick, scratch or dent. Your smartphone will come in handy for taking photos of any imperfections to ensure you won’t have to pay for them later. Narrow, winding roads in Spain’s small towns are notorious for leaving cars a little banged up, so you’ll want to make sure you aren’t blamed for any dings left by previous renters.