If you’re planning a trip to Portugal and want to make the most of your time here, renting a car is often the most cost effective way to unlock freedom and flexibility to explore this beautiful country at your own pace. In this complete guide, we’ll provide you with essential tips on how to rent a car in Portugal, help you avoid hidden fees, guide you through navigating local driving regulations, understanding rental options and how to find the best rental car deals, ensuring a hassle-free and enjoyable road trip in Portugal. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveller, our guide to renting a car in Portugal will have you ready to hit the road in no time!
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Why Rent A Car in Portugal?
Unless you’re visiting for a weekend city break and plan to explore the one area, you’ll need your own wheels to make the most of your trip. It might be a tiny country with a fairly good public transport system between the Algarve, Porto and Lisbon, but unless you hire a car you won’t be able to visit central gems like Monsanto or Evora without a costly taxi ride or group tour. Renting a car in Portugal means you won’t have to rely on someone else to get you from A to B and have the freedom to make up your own Portugal road trip itinerary.
What do you need to hire a car in Portugal
Renting a car in Portugal is similar to most other EU and English speaking countries, you’ll need:
- Your driver’s licence from your home country
- Your Passport
- Credit Card in your name
- International Driver’s Permit (recommended)
A credit card is always on the list for hiring a car. We’ve been travelling for 7+ years now without a credit card and always been fine using our standard bank card and on some occasions our wise card. If you don’t have a CC, call the hire company and ask them before booking to avoid being turned away at collection.
If you’re coming from an EU country or have a driver’s licence in English or Portuguese, it’s unlikely you’ll be asked for your IDL but if you plan on crossing borders you could be asked for it there so it’s best to have one just in case. A British IDL costs £10 and can be done at your local post office, they can’t be done online so don’t get caught out.
It’s also worth noting that the legal driving age is 18 but to rent a car in Portugal you’ll need to be 21. Drivers under 25 will have additional fees to pay and some rental car companies in Portugal require the licence to be at least a year old. All named drivers will need to be present at collection inorder to show the above documents.
How much does a rental car cost in Portugal?
Like most things when you travel, the cost of rental cars in Portugal fluctuates with the seasons and local events. The duration of your rental and the type/size of car you pick will also impact the price.
June to September is Portugal’s peak season, outside of this you can usually pick up a car in either of the major cities for €5-10 a day. We’ve seen rental prices rise considerably in recent years, with prices last summer soaring past €100+ a day! So if you want a cheap rental car in Portugal for summer, the best thing to do is shop around and book as early as you can.
So that’s the daily base costs but there are other costs to consider and without planning for them, they could end up being expensive hidden costs to your car hire in Portugal:
Whichever car you choose, whatever season you’re travelling, make sure you check that your policy includes unlimited kilometres. Some Portugal car rental companies still limit how many free kilometres you get, then charge you per km after that when you return. This can add surprise costs to your rental, making it much more expensive than you planned
Portugal has quite a few toll roads across the country and depending on the rental car company, you’ll be offered the toll device as an optional extra.They’re around an additional €2 per day for the device alone. Toll costs are extra and will be taken from your card within 30 days of returning the vehicle. Europcar provides these as mandatory but you get the cost of the device back if you haven’t used them during your rental term.
Make sure your rental agreement states to return the car full, and it’s full when you pick it up! This means you’re only paying for the fuel you actually use but some rental companies will sneakily try and hire it out with a quarter less hoping you won’t notice
This one seems so obvious but it’s one that nearly caught us out and it’s especially important if you opted out of the full insurance. Make sure they note down every piece of damage to the car before you drive away. If you return the car with the slightest scratch that isn’t on their document, and you don’t have full coverage,they can deduct hundreds from your deposit. We like to do a full video of the car while we walk around with a member of staff so we have our own document of the damage to fall back onto. Be thorough and point out even the tiniest of marks.
Drop off time
Depending on the company, they’ll charge you for an extra day if your drop off time is even an hour later than your collection time. Bare this in mind when planning your trip to avoid unknowingly paying for an extra day.
What car should I get when getting a rental car in Portugal?
Many of Portugal’s roads are narrow and winding. So it’ll be no surprise to hear a smaller car is usually the better choice, especially if you’re looking for cheap car hire in Portugal!
Manual cars are popular in Portugal so if you’re used to driving automatics, you’ll need to make sure you filter your search. From what we’ve seen most rental car companies in Portugal will have some available but they do cost extra.
Do I Need Rental Car Insurance In Portugal?
Yes. When renting a car in Portugal you must have at least basic third party coverage. Most rental car companies in Portugal include basic insurance within the initial price but this usually comes with a large deposit which can be over €1000 depending on the company. You’ll get this back when dropped the car off with no damage (it usually takes 1-7 days)
You can opt for a higher level of insurance to reduce your deposit but this isn’t mandatory. When we’re doing small trips, we almost always hire with Europcar. They’re not always the cheapest but their deposit amount is only €300 which is much much lower than other companies
Make sure to always have the rental agreement and your passport handy when driving. If you’re pulled over for any reason you will need to show ID & proof of a rental agreement.
Where can I rent a car in Portugal?
When it comes to Portugal car hire, you’re never short of companies to choose from and can collect a rental car from every major city as well as plenty of towns around the country. If you’re flexible, use Rentalcars.com to check Portugal rental comparisons and see which location is cheapest.
Airports are usually the most convenient place to collect your rental car in Portugal but you’re certainly not limited to that. If flying into a city, my biggest tip is to not hire a car straight away. Explore the city on foot to avoid expensive parking costs and hire a car when you’re ready to move on.
Remember, if you’re renting a car in Portugal during peak season, plan it in advance and book early!
One way rentals within Portugal are really easy to organise, which means your road trip doesn’t have to be in a loop. You can collect your rental car in Lisbon, and drop it off in Porto or elsewhere. This usually adds to your rental cost but if it fits in with your plans, it’s usually better in the long run
If you’re driving into Spain, your options for one way drop off will be more limited but again, not impossible. Which leads me to the next frequently asked question about rental cars in Portugal:
Can I Take My Portugal Rental Car Out Of Portugal
Depending on the rental company, yes, it’s usually fine to take your car abroad. However, this is usually limited to mainland Europe. You typically can’t take your rental car from Portugal to the UK or other Islands even if the company is active there too.
Most rental car companies in Portugal require you to notify them at collection of any border crossings that you have planned. They’ll also recommend adding extra recovery insurance, it isn’t essential but it’s worth doing to reduce any nasty surprise costs in the event of a breakdown. It’s usually only an extra couple of €’s a day.
What is driving like in Portugal?
Let’s start with the basics. In Portugal they drive on the right. This can be confusing for those from the UK or somewhere else that drives on the left. A little hack I’ve seen people do is putting a bobble or similar on their right hand to remind them which side to be on.
When it comes to traffic, outside of the busy cities & the algarve region, traffic generally isn’t too bad. There can be a lot of road works happening as you approach towns but we’ve never sat waiting for longer than 5 or 10 minutes. As I mentioned before, If you’re planning on visiting cities, look for parking on the outskirts and commute in or pay for underground parking. Don’t rely on street parking as it’s expensive and hard to find.
If you’re visiting rural areas or mountain towns, most of them have small narrow roads, so again we recommend finding parking on the outskirts and walking in to explore – especially if you have a larger car!
For mountainous areas, especially Estrella National Park, you might need to add snow chains to your rental if you’re here in winter because yes Portugal gets icy, snowy roads in some areas. Ask the rental agent when you collect the car, they’ll be able to advise based on current conditions.
Hiring A Car In Portugal With A Dog
We have never had an issue renting a car in Portugal since having Lilly but we’ve heard that other’s have faced additional costs and/or a bad attitudes from staff once they realised a dog had been in the vehical. The key here is to return the car as you recieved it – even if this means getting it thoroughly vacuumed on the day of drop off. You can also use a complete car seat cover to minimise how much fur and drool gets on the seats.
Quick Overview For Rental Cars in Portugal:
- Book as early as you can
- Pick the smallest car possible for your group & luggage
- Get unlimited kilometres
- Do same time pick up/drop off
- Do a thorough check at collection
- Return full
Do you have any more questions about rental cars in Portugal? Let us know in the comments!