I love spending time in Madrid. It’s a vast city brimming with culture, exquisite architecture, world-famous fine art museums, expansive urban parks, traditional tapas bars, and stylish rooftop cocktail lounges. You can easily spend days nibbling on churros dipped in chocolate sauce, wandering around artisan foodie markets, visiting Spain’s only Egyptian temple, or shopping in designer outlet stores.
In this article, I’ll go through the documents you need for renting a car in Madrid, share some top tips, and detail a few places worth visiting during your stay! Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Hi, I’m Timon!
I’ve experienced the heartbeat of Spain firsthand. Over the last five years, I’ve immersed myself in the dynamic cities of Spain, truly living the Spanish way. My insights into this beautiful country are rooted in genuine experience.
Why Consider Renting A Car In Madrid?
If you’ve ever asked yourself, is Madrid worth visiting? The answer is a resounding yes! And it’s even better when you hire a car. Renting a car in Madrid allows you to explore off the beaten path, heading into charming neighborhoods to delve deeper into the diverse and vibrant culture of the city.
You can spend leisurely days walking and picnicking in Casa de Campo or Parque El Retiro. There are three famous art museums of the Golden Triangle to visit – The Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen Bornemisza. Plus, there’s Puerto del Sol, the Royal Palace, and local markets and specialty shops for when you fancy a spot of retail therapy!
As you can imagine, Madrid is vast, and the thought of navigating a car here can be pretty daunting for first-timers. However, surrounding the city, there’s a ring road, the M-30 – also known as (Autopista de Circunvalación). To reach attractions located far apart, you simply whizz around the ring road and take the exit nearest your preferred location. It’s super easy!
Discover-cars.com: Your Trusted Car Rental Service in Madrid
On my previous visit to Madrid, I rented a car via Discovercars.com, and I found them a pleasure to deal with. Their website was super easy to use, and I found they had many advantages over their competitors.
They compare prices with other car rental agencies in the area (500+) to get you the best deal and offer a variety of vehicles, from economy and compact cars to Intermediate Monospace vehicles and elite SUVs, all of which come with a full tank of gas.
Discover-cars.com customer service is multilingual, and they are efficient if you have any queries too. They add all mandatory taxes, fees, and chosen additions into your final price, with no hidden extras, so the price you see before you book is what you pay.
All of these elements made my trip so much easier at the start, and I have to say it contributed to a memorable experience in Madrid!
Renting a car in Madrid with Discover-cars.com
If you’re planning to stay just one day in Madrid, I recommend renting an economy or compact vehicle with a smaller engine to get around, especially if there are just one or two people in your traveling party. These cars won’t use much fuel. They are cost-effective for zipping about the city and easier to park.
If you plan to stay 2 days in Madrid or longer and want to venture a little further afield, mid-range vehicles like the compact SUV, Intermediate Monospace, or Economy Elite are great options, particularly for groups and families traveling together.
As with renting any car in Spain (or anywhere in the world), choosing the right coverage is important too. I always sign up for the full coverage policy as it covers me for any unforeseen mishaps and gives me peace of mind.
So, what does renting a car in Madrid with Discover-cars.com entail? Well, it’s pretty easy. Let me show you in this 10-step process.
1. Making Your Online Reservation with Discover Cars
- Go to the home page on Discover-cars.com and choose the location from which you wish to collect the rental car. This could be Madrid Barajas Airport if you’re arriving by plane, or you may wish to collect the vehicle from a location or train station in the city. It’s also possible to return the car to a different location. Just remember to check the box below.
- When directed, search for options and pop your pick-up and drop-off dates onto the page.
- This next section involves choosing the right car for the duration of your stay. The cars range from compact to elite and SUVs, plus the list can be sorted by supplier rating or price for ease of use. I always choose a supplier with a minimum rating of 8.5+ and good reviews.
- Choose whether you wish to drive a manual or automatic car. Select if you require air conditioning (recommended in summer) and how many seats you require. These elements can be added by using the left-hand filter column.
- Beneath the car description, you’ll find the rental agency fuel policy, the details of your pick-up location, and any applicable shuttle services available. It will also show you any mileage restrictions (usually unlimited) and what is included in the final price. This will include theft protection and CDW (Collision Damage Waiver).
- If there’s a chance that your plans may change, there’s a section on the right in green that informs you of the last permitted date for cancellation before you will be charged.
- When all of these steps have been completed, and you’re happy with your choices, click the green-colored tab labeled “View”. This takes you to a map showing your rental car in Madrid collection point and what time you can pick it up. There are also details of any free shuttle services available to you and any further instructions or directions to get to the pick-up point.
- Go through your insurance coverage needs (more details below).
- Choose any optional extras ranging from GPS to infant seats, and add any additional drivers here.
- Finally, enter your details as the lead driver, then read and understand the rental agreement. If there’s anything you’re unsure of, check with customer service prior to booking. When you’re happy, reserve the vehicle and the confirmation will be sent to you digitally.
2. Importance of Full Coverage with Discover Cars
You may be wondering if it’s worth paying the extra money for full coverage. I would say yes, definitely, if only for peace of mind. It’s barely the price of two cups of coffee a day and well worth it.
If you do decide to go ahead with full coverage, it protects you from any repair costs for damaged windows, door locks, mirrors, or tires as a result of a collision.
It also covers any towing and taxi costs. The company will help you out if you lose your keys or lock yourself out of the hire car, and it covers deductible excess charges for theft or damage too.
Renting a car in Madrid: FAQ
You can usually pick up and drop off your vehicle in various locations around the city, such as the airport, main railway stations, and at designated points in the center. My recent article where to stay in Madrid will also help you decide which neighborhood to stay in. This will enable you to determine which vehicle collection point will be the most convenient. Below, I’ll detail the documents you will need to rent a car in Madrid.
What do you need to rent a car in Madrid?
Any car rental agency in Madrid will ask you to present your valid driver’s license (it must have been held for a year or longer). You’ll also need your passport and a credit card with the lead driver’s name on it (this is super important as the rental desk will take a refundable damage deposit). In addition, if you’re not an EU citizen, you must have an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) to drive in Spain. It doesn’t cost much, around $20, and is valid for a year.
How old do you have to be to rent a car in Madrid?
The legal age for driving is 18 in Spain. However, most rental companies require you to be aged 21 or over. Some prefer age 25+ and will charge extra fees if you’re younger. It’s advisable to check the specific requirements of the rental agency before booking.
Do you need a car in Madrid as a tourist?
It depends on how long you plan to stay in the city and what you want to see. If you wish to travel to designer outlets just outside the city or to the attractions of Casa de Campo with forest hikes, zoo, and aquarium, I recommend a car. It’s also handy to explore other beautiful historic cities like Toledo, Segovia, or Zaragoza. I will say that having access to a car in Madrid enhanced my stay significantly and allowed me to visit areas that most tourists don’t get to see.
Can I rent a car in Spain with a US driver’s license?
Absolutely! You will also need an IDP (International Driver Permit), a passport, and a valid credit card in the driver’s name with enough funds to cover the deposit.
How much does it cost to rent a car in Madrid?
It can be really cheap, costing as little as €12/$13 per day for an economy vehicle such as an Opel Corsa or a compact car like a Fiat 500X. Mid-range compact vehicles (Ford Focus or similar), economy SUVs (Nissan Juke or comparable), and Intermediate vehicles such as a VW ID.4 cost from €18/$19 a day which is still reasonable.
Where can I pick up my rental car in Madrid?
There are multiple locations from which to collect your rental car in Madrid—these range from Madrid Barajas Airport and locations in the city center, including Plaza España. You can also collect your car at one of two train stations – Madrid Atocha or Charmartin. There are also further points within and on the city’s outer fringes.
Insurance for Rental Cars in Madrid
When renting a car in Madrid, it’s important that you have unlimited third-party liability insurance. You may have this with your own insurance policy, or you can add it to your Discover-cars.com booking. This element is mandatory in Spain and protects you, the driver, from any liability if a property is damaged or a person is injured during your trip. You can be fully covered for around €6 /$7 a day. In my opinion, it’s totally worth it for peace of mind.
Understanding Insurance with Discover Cars
In this section, I’ll cover what a Discover Cars full coverage policy covers and how it works.
What they cover:
- Bodywork and roof damage.
- Windshield and windows.
- Any damage to wheels, tires, mirrors, or suspension.
- If you lose your keys or lock yourself out of the vehicle.
- Any taxi or towing expenses.
- Any admin charges and suppliers fees for loss of rentals during times of repair.
What they don’t cover:
- Any damages resulting from uncontrollable or unforeseeable events.
- Damages that occur when you’re not complying with your rental agreement.
- Any third-party damages or cleaning costs.
If you do have an issue where the car is damaged (hopefully not), you’ll pay the amount from the initial deposit (blocked on your credit card) to the rental agent in Madrid. If you have full coverage with Discover Cars, you must submit a request under the My Booking section. They will assess your claim and refund you the costs related to any damage or loss. You have 28 days from the incident date to submit the claim (no longer).
Do I Need Spanish Car Insurance?
No. That is adequate if you already have valid car insurance or a travel insurance policy that covers you for driving overseas. You don’t need specific Spanish car insurance as the rental agencies and authorities are required to recognize your own policy. Do check that it covers third-party liability though, as this is a requirement.
5 Tips for Renting a car in Madrid
If you are wondering the best time to visit Madrid, consider that the city hosts a lot of festivals throughout the year. These are times when more people arrive in the city to experience live music, cultural events, and food festivals.
During these times, the roads are either blocked in some areas with diversions or busier with visitors. Madrid’s climate also plays a consideration when renting a car.
The summers are long and hot (aircon required), reaching highs of 33°C, and winters dip to lows of 1°C (heating required)! Bizarrely, although hot, July and August are easier for driving in the city. Many locals head for the coast on vacation, leaving the city for the entire month. Here are my top 5 tips for renting a car in Madrid.
- Choose a smaller car to allow for easy navigation of narrow streets and for ease of parking.
- Book in advance to gain the best prices – cars often tend to be cheaper in the low season and when there are no festivals or events in the city.
- Always have the correct insurance, which includes third-party liability.
- Even when renting a car in Madrid through Discover-cars.com, check if the rental agency has good feedback 8+ and solid reviews.
- Make sure you have an International Driver’s Permit if you’re traveling from outside the EU, and also ensure there are enough funds on the lead driver’s credit card to cover any deposits. This can be anything from a few hundred euros to over a thousand euros – it differs between rental agencies.
Car Rental Policies: What to Expect and Avoid
I always recommend choosing a car hire company with good feedback. The companies who are transparent with their fees, explain their services well and have excellent customer feedback should be at the top of your list. You’re unlikely to encounter any issues renting a car in Madrid. However, as with everywhere in the world, there are always people who may attempt to take advantage. Here are a few things to look out for:
- Remember, you don’t have to take the rental company’s insurance policy; your own insurance or full coverage from Discover-cars.com will suffice, and they have to accept it.
- If the vehicle you booked and paid for originally isn’t available, insist on an upgrade at no further charge to you.
- When collecting your rental car, check the interior and exterior for any potential issues. If there are scratches, dents, marks on the bodywork, or stains on the upholstery, always photograph, film, or document them and email your findings to the rental agent prior to departing the car. Include a date and time stamp so you can’t be charged for damage not caused by yourself.
If you remember these things, you’re likely to have a stress-free car hire experience in Spain!
Best Car Rental Companies in Madrid
I’ve traveled all over Spain and used a lot of different car rental companies. Some are great, some mediocre, and some should flat-out be avoided! I’ve done the hard work and tried most of them, so you don’t have to! Here are a few of my favorites to use in Madrid.
I like this company a lot, and these days I tend to use them whenever I travel and need a car. They compare prices from every agent in the area and find the best prices. They make it easy to filter requirements, there are no hidden costs, and their customer service is impeccable.
Like Discover Cars, they trawl the internet for the best prices and don’t charge any hidden fees. They have a price match guarantee too, which is pretty good.
They have good online feedback and prices are similar to those of Discover-cars.com. Plus, they offer a multitude of pick-up and drop-off points in Madrid.
Throughout the year, this company offers competitive car hire deals, which are amazing for budget-conscious travelers. Their feedback is decent, and their website is easy to use.
10 Driving Tips for Madrid
When driving in Madrid and Spain in general, there are certain regulations you should adhere to. Here are my top 10 driving tips for Madrid.
- In the center of Madrid, the speed limit is 30km/h. This is primarily for single lanes, whereas streets with two or more lanes in each direction are 50km/h.
- In Spain, they drive on the right-hand side of the road, and they give way to the right. Definitely information worth knowing!
- If you’re unfamiliar with driving in the city, don’t be surprised if locals try to spur you on a bit with some horn honking. Don’t worry if this happens. Just ignore their impatience and focus on your driving.
- Some neighborhoods in central Madrid are now restricted to decrease pollution in the city center. Look out for the RAA signs that show you the inaccessible areas.
- Plan your route prior to departure and avoid driving during rush hours when the traffic is heavier.
- Motorways in Spain are known as ‘Autopistas’ (AP), with a speed limit of 120km/h.
- If you discover a toll when traveling outside the city, you can pay by cash or credit card (some debit cards don’t work). There is also a mobile app known as Awai, which can be used in some instances. I suggest downloading a map prior to your journey to determine if there are any tolls on your route.
- Always have a reflective jacket, triangle, and your rental and insurance documents with you in the vehicle, along with your ID.
- If traveling off the main motorways, you may not find a gas station for quite a few kilometers – always fuel up prior to embarking on longer journeys. Also, fill up with the right fuel – ‘sin plomo’ is unleaded, and ‘diesel’ is diesel.
- If you’re unsure how to get off the road to reach your next destination, the word ‘Salida’ means exit!
Best Day Trips from Madrid with a Rental Car
If you plan to stay in Madrid for longer than a few days, you may enjoy exploring further afield. Some incredible landscapes and historic cities are around an hour from the capital. Here are a few of the best day trips from Madrid for inspiration.
Spend a Day in Historic Toledo
Toledo is my favorite day trip and less than an hour away from Madrid by car. This beautiful walled city has a rich heritage, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site too! Visit the Alcazar for incredible views of the city and countryside. Step inside the El Greco Museum, the only museum in the country dedicated to the famous artist, and wander along labyrinth streets seeking out traditional tapas bars while admiring the ornate Christian, Jewish, and Moorish architecture of Spain.
Drive to Fairy Tale Segovia
A one-hour drive northwest of Madrid is the picture-postcard city of Segovia. Standing proudly atop a hillside, Segovia is a city of fairy tale proportions. With ancient Alcazars and Roman Aqueducts to see, a visit here is like stepping back in time. The streets are romantic, and the restaurants are fabulous. It’s a destination not to be missed.
See a Former Kingdom on a Hike
The beautiful mountain town of Patones De Arriba, located an hour northeast of Madrid, was its own kingdom before the 18th century. It’s a superb place to drive to for a scenic hike through olive groves, countryside, and along charming, cobbled streets. Bring your camera as this place is an absolute delight to photograph, and be sure to stop off in one of the local restaurants for lunch or dinner before heading back to Madrid.
Final Thoughts: Renting a car In Madrid
Although visiting Madrid is possible without renting a car, I find that having a vehicle at my disposal, even for a small part of my vacation, greatly enhances my travel experience. As mentioned, Discover-cars.com is my go-to website. Not only are they competitively priced, but I always find the right vehicle to get me where I want to go. There’s so much to see and do in this vast metropolis and beyond, so if you are planning to stay in Madrid for a day or longer, I highly recommend renting a car!
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