How to rent a car in Portugal and avoid the sneaky extra fees

During your holidays, probably you’ll rent a car if you want to visit places other than big cities. There are more and more rent-a-car companies in Portugal making it hard to choose from and when we do there is a high probability of being played. Car hire in Portugal is easy, you’ll just have to read this article!

Some companies use all kinds of tricks to increase the price after the rental. In this article I’m going to show you how to avoid being played and get a fair price.

For more tips on how to prepare your holidays in Portugal, click here or check below one of the articles I chose for you!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning i get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you. Please read my disclosure for more info.

Tips for car hire in Portugal

The tips you’ll find in this article are valid for car rentals made through my blog , an online platform or directly on the rent-a-car company’s site.

The advantage of using the blog or an online platform to do your car rental is that you can compare prices from different rent-a-car companies, see customer ratings and get to know rent-a-car companies’ names before renting a car.

After clicking this link , you’ll have to insert your pick-up place (city/airport) and the dates for picking up the car and returning it. By clicking “Search”, you’ll find this page:

The first thing I do is to filter the results. In “Pick-up Location” (side bar) I choose “In Terminal” (when the rent-a-car company is in the airport) so I don’t have to take a shuttle bus and leave the airport.

In “Fuel Policy” I choose “Full to Full” to avoid having to pay an overpriced fuel even if it is a cheap car.

The option “Pre-Purchase” appeared along with the low cost rent-a-car companies – the prices are low but when you get the rental car, the company will charge you an overpriced fuel tank.

On average, you’ll have to pay a 100 € for a full tank. The worst of all is that they’ll ask you to bring the car tank empty because rent-a-car companies won’t return the money of the fuel that remains in the tank (some rent-a-car companies do that now).

If we think about it, these companies profit when we pick the car up and when we drop it off!

Presently I’m comparing each rent-a-car in the economic class (Medium Cars). You can compare in the class that suits you the best.

Before you rent a car, always click on “Important Information”, just next to the company’s logo. This is where you’ll find information about the insurance, covers, waivers and more.

Always check if you have unlimited mileage or how many kilometres are included and how much is the deposit. If you’re a young driver check how much is the fee applied for younger drivers as well as the cost for an extra driver.

After clicking “Select” you’ll have access to information related to your vehicle, ratings from other customers and a summary of the rental conditions (“Important Information”).

You can also choose other extras (GPS, baby car seat, etc) and ask for the rent-a-car company premium cover (insurance).

Information: when I ask for the premium cover option of these companies, know that you’ll have to leave a deposit that will be blocked in your credit card at the time of your pick-up. In case of a responsible accident, you’ll have to ask a reimbursement from the online car rental service insurance.

What’s great about asking for premium cover in the online platforms is that its price is two to three times cheaper than the ones sold by the rent-a-car companies.

When I hire a car for 2, 3, 7 days I always ask for the premium cover from the companies. I prefer to pay a bit more than to risk losing more than 1000 .

If you make a reservation for several weeks, then the insurance won’t be so appealing. If the insurance costs on average 14 € per day (the price range is from 10 € to 19 €), then, if you hire a car for three weeks, the total amount will be 294 €. In this case maybe it would be better to leave a deposit of 1000 €.

Information: If you pay your rental with a Visa Premier or Gold Mastercard, you won’t have to ask for a premium cover in the online platforms or in the rent-a-car companies – your deposit will be reimbursed directly to your credit card. Despite that, always check the reimbursement conditions of your Visa or Gold Mastercard.

Information: If you don’t want the premium cover then make sure your credit card limit is high so you have money for your holidays. If you can’t spend more than 2000 € per month with your credit card, and 1000 € are blocked by the rent-a-car company, then you’ll only have 1000 € to spend. To avoid such problems, and before you go on holidays, ask your bank for a higher limit for your credit card.

Car hire in Portugal

As you must know, in Portugal there are two types of highways: those with the “normal” tolls and those with electronic tolls (ex-SCUTS).

To avoid any problem, my suggestion is that you get the Via Verde device for 1.85 € per day, maximum of 18 € for those who are staying several days. This will allow you to move through every highway, through the lane where only those with this device can pass.

When you drop off the car you’re going to pay the price of the tolls to the rent-a-car company. If you prefer to pay the “normal” tolls and the electronic ones without the Via Verde device then you should read my article How to pay the electronic tolls.

If you rent a car in Porto airport, know that you’ll have to take a shuttle bus to get your car.

Every site (both online platforms or rent-a-car companies) states that some companies are inside the airport but the truth is that they’re 800 metres away, in a place just for rent-a-car companies.

In the airport, you’ll find service desks for different companies (Guerin, Europcar, Avis, etc.), but in 99 % of the cases there is no one there. You’ll have to grab the phone to let them know you have arrived. Then, you’ll have to wait in front of the airport’s entrance for some minutes until the shuttle bus gets there.

When you see “Shuttle Bus” in the online platforms, it means that the rent-a-car company is not located in the airport but some kilometres away.

In conclusion

To conclude, here are some tips that will help your car hire in Portugal:

  • Hire a car as soon as possible – it is cheaper and it’s almost certain that you’ll have the desired class.
  • Hire your car according to your needs, don’t hire a Smart if you’re travelling with too much luggage.
  • Paying the rental on-line will be cheaper than at the company.
  • Concerning car hire in Portugal, you’ll need a credit card (Visa, Mastercard) with your name in it. It is how the companies block the deposit.
  • Always check the terms and conditions, the mileage, the deposit value and, if you choose an insurance, make sure you know what it is for.
  • Hire a diesel vehicle only if you’re going to drive many kilometres. If you drive for 800 kilometres, the money you’ll save won’t make up for the price of the other cars.
  • Never hire a car of which you have to pay for a full tank when you pick it up and then you have to drop it off with an empty tank – always choose the option Full to Full.
  • Always examine your car before leaving the rent-a-car company (interior, exterior and spare tyre) and when you drop it off. Always ask for a copy so you can defend yourself in case of litigation.
  • Before picking up the car make sure the company will be opened at the time you intend to drop it off; if that is not the case, check the terms and conditions.
  • Use the first kilometres to test the vehicle, brakes, clutch. If you find any problem return to the rent-a-car company and ask for another car.
  • Fill the tank near the rent-a-car company just before you drop the car off.
  • Don’t drop off the car dirty because they’ll charge extra for cleaning animal fur or cigarette smell.
  • Drop off the car as scheduled so they won’t charge you another day.

Are you going to visit Portugal? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room, your car or the best activities by clicking the links below. This way you are helping me in the development of my blog and I’ll be able to offer you free tips and travel guides so that you can better prepare your visit to Portugal. Thank you!

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