Please sign in to post.

Car Rental for 2 weeks in Southern Spain

Can cars be rented easily for touring Southern Spain cities (Granada, Seville, Córdoba, coastal towns) for 2 weeks in May, 2020? Is US-CA driving license valid in Spain?

Is it advisable to make car rental reservation online BEFORE going to Spain, or can this be done easily over-the-counter in Spain?

Is US-based automobile insurance valid in Spain, or is CDWaiver recommended to reduce automobile insurance costs for rental car?

Thank you so much for your replies,

Posted by
1524 posts

Jeepu - To drive in Spain, US citizens are usually required to have a valid passport and a US driver’s license. It is also recommended that you apply for an International Driving License (IDL) to be on a safe side.

US citizens who want to rent a car in Spain are required to apply for and get their IDL before going to Spain. Consider that international driving permit does not replace valid US state license. You should use it as a supplementary document.

Most personal policies for car insurance in the United States won't cover you in Europe, there are plenty of ways to get the coverage you need.

Most major credit card companies offer free insurance coverage for car rentals in Europe, with provisions for vehicular damage and towing, plus some other expenses. Seeking coverage through your credit card is usually the cheapest option for car insurance abroad, and often one of the simplest. You can either Book your car rental in advance or book at the hotel you will be staying in.

Posted by
3892 posts

Renting a car is easy and an International Driving Permit (IDP) is required. An IDP is not a license. It just shows what your authorizations from your U.S. license are. I’ve never been asked for it, but you don’t want to be pulled over or get into an accident and not have one. The fine is fairly hefty. You will need to show your U.S. license when picking up the vehicle. IDPs are easy to get at any AAA office for $20. We always reserve a car before going over, but I know people who have gotten theirs at the counter. Your U.S. insurance will not cover you in Spain. You credit card may cover CDW, but we always get separate insurance through Allianz. Insurance prices through the rental company may not be too terrible as they don’t seem to be as expensive as they used to be. It’s worth checking out the options especially for damage to windshields or in case of theft. Rental companies will generally offer zero deductible options too. Liability insurance in Spain is compulsory and should be included in the rental price. We always rent through Avis and have been very pleased.

Posted by
39 posts

Previous replies are all great in regard to license and insurance requirements. One additional warning, is to be very aware of speed limits in Southern Spain. They change frequently and the limit may drop for only a short distance, but there are traffic cameras everywhere. (translation: speed traps) Fines are hefty, and the rental company will charge a ridiculous fee for providing your contact information to the Spanish authorities.

Posted by
3892 posts

As HH05 stated, there are speed cameras all over the country, but they are not speed traps. On the rural roads you’ll find them mostly when entering and leaving a town, and there isn’t much distance from the speed limit change until you pass the camera. The advice about staying as close to the limit is good. When I received a ticket outside of Santiago de Compostela, I was going less than 6kph (3.6mph) over the limit. I never received notice from Avis and wasn’t charged anything from it. When I received the actual citation in the mail, the fine was €100, but if paid within a specified timeframe, it was only €50. In all my trips to Spain, that’s the only citation I’ve received. As a side note, on the citation it stated exactly where I was speeding, so I went to Google maps street view and found it. In Germany, I was notified by Avis, and it charged €15 to let me know I’d be receiving a citation.

Posted by
20855 posts

I don't rent cars in Europe, but it is often stated that rental rates can be lower from one of the consolidators (AutoEurope, Kemwel or Gemut) than directly from the rental company.

The train will be a lot faster than a car for Madrid-Cordoba-Seville or Madrid-Cordoba-Malaga. Seville to Granada is a bit faster by train. I think the car and train times are fairly similar from Seville to Jerez and Cadiz. A car will be most helpful if you want to drive to a few of the white villages and/or see small coastal towns (not just Malaga).

You'll need to consider availability of parking when selecting lodgings. Parking in historic European cities is very often both scarce and expensive.

Posted by
2405 posts

Driving in Southern Spain is wonderful, because as others have stated, you can easily access some of the hill towns as well as coastal areas. Adding to the above advice to get an IDP, I would also suggest that you familiarize yourself with European driving signs.

The AutoEurope website has a good summary.

European rentals are often manual transmission, so you want to be comfortable driving a manual on hills. Alternatively, automatic transmissions may be available, often at a higher price.

Since you are traveling in May, I would suggest reserving your car in advance both for peace of mind and to simplify the process at the rental counter. Compare rates for your pickup and drop-off locations and check whether there are any "drop-off fees" if you're planning to rent in on location and drop off in another. Just as in the US, you can also compare prices for various locations - fees can vary from big cities to smaller towns and based on supply and demand.

Posted by
209 posts

We learned a few things from the forum and from our trip in October that might be helpful. I researched prices for awhile and was amazed how much the same 'car' price fluctuated. When I saw a really good price, I booked it. Consistently read to get the smallest car possible, and very glad we listened to that advice. Especially because the spaces in parking garages were tiny and hard to even drive around in them. Also glad we went ahead and just paid the bit extra for full, non-deductible coverage. Didn't have any damage but could have very easily happened and just didn't want to worry about it.

We also only rented a car when leaving Granada to stay in Ronda/visit some white villages, and then turned it in when we arrived in Sevilla. We even said more than once when on buses/in taxis, that we were glad we didn't have to drive elsewhere! So consider where you can use public transportation instead of renting a car. Buses and trains went well. Have a great trip!!

Posted by
360 posts

We rented a car in Seville and dropped in Grenada from Enterprise. We've always used American Express to cover our insurance needs, so we don't augment it with the insurance through the rental company. My only caution is to look for when some of the smaller locations are closed, as we had to drop our car on a Sunday and had limited options in Granada. And though we've rented cars in several European countries, it is always slower than anything you'll experience in the US., so just be prepared to wait on either end. And be sure to keep a copy of your inspection report for when you turn it in, as we've had issues during other trips where they've tried to claim we scratched the car, but then thankfully, we had the documentation to prove it was already there.

Posted by
2405 posts

And be sure to keep a copy of your inspection report for when you turn it in, as we've had issues during other trips where they've tried to claim we scratched the car, but then thankfully, we had the documentation to prove it was already there.

This is great advice! I also take before and after pictures of the rental car.

Posted by
11 posts

THANK YOU ALL so much for your recommendations & advice about renting cars in Southern Spain in May, 2020. I have tried to summarize main points below for the benefit of future travelers and to create a checklist for my own forthcoming trip.
Please review and feel free to edit or to add any points that I may have overlooked:

  • Definitely need to carry valid US Passport and valid US Driver's License
  • Apply for, and carry, International Driving License (IDL) at AAA office (cost $20) - don't want to be caught without IDL!
  • US auto insurance will not cover accidents in Spain. Credit cards may cover CDW, but advisable to arrange full, non-deductible coverage from any reputable third-party insurance co, such as Allianz, BEFORE leaving for the trip. Insurance coverage directly from rental co may be quite expensive. Liability coverage is mandatory in Spain and usually included in car rental cost.
  • Be specially aware of Speed Limits in Spain, which change frequently within short distances, monitored by cameras, which can serve as "speed traps". Speeding fines can be heavy, and the rental company can also charge for the privilege of forwarding driver's contact info to Spanish authorities - that's like having to pay for your own execution! Hilarious, but true!
  • Renting from "consolidators", such AutoEurope, Kemwel, Gemut, may be cheaper than from large Int'l auto rental companies. AutoEurope website:
  • Smaller cars will be useful for visiting "white villages" and small coastal towns off the beaten path. Parking is a perennial problem, which should also be considered in selecting lodging. Parking in larger historic cities in Europe can be scarce & expensive.
  • European rental cars are often Manual Transmission -- Automatic Transmission may be available for a higher price.
  • Need to factor in "Drop off fees" if returning car at a different location than rental location.
  • Reserve a car in advance for peace of mind -- specially during heavy tourist summer season. Research prices online, book smallest car possible due to lack of parking space.
  • Takes much longer to Rent and to Return cars in Spain than in US, so pack some patience at the counter.
  • Keep copies of "Inspection report" BEFORE and AFTER renting car in order to avoid false claims. Best to take photos of car when Renting and also when Returning car as proof, if required later.
  • Also consider public transportation if convenient. Buses and trains are good choices, much less hassle, and quite reliable & inexpensive.

Thank you all again and feel free to add any other helpful recommendations.
Happy New Year,

Posted by
1524 posts

Jeepu - looks like you have mastered all the requirements to drive in Spain. Your trip will be much simpler now with all that knowledge you acquired. Here is a link that has additional info on driving in Southern Spain of which you can add to your splendid summary.

Bon Voyage Jeepu!

Posted by
1273 posts

One other precaution we take is to walk around the car taking close up
pictures as we go. Dust and shadows can sometimes hide scratches or dents which may later be charged to you. So pictures are a good addition to the rental agreement.