If you want to explore more of Portugal you’ll often need to hire a car. Outside of the major towns and cities, taxis can be expensive and public transport can be inconvenient or non-existent. Despite it being straight forward to rent a car in the Algarve, one of the biggest complaints I hear is about the cost of car hire and the extra fees. In this guide to car rental in the Algarve, we’ll explain all of these costs and if or how you can avoid them! Although this car hire guide will be a useful reference for Portugal, the second part is specifically for the Algarve and Faro airport.
Wetravel’s Guide to Car Rental in the Algarve: How to Save Money and Avoid Extra Charges?
First thing is to always search, compare websites and, always book in advance.
Once you’ve read this guide to car rental in the Algarve, you’ll understand the importance of doing a little extra research, but you should always book in advance. Not just to save money, but at peak times of the year many companies entire fleets can be booked. Many of the usual car rental comparison websites also have free or low cost cancellations so you’ve really got nothing to lose. Once you’ve got your holiday dates and know when and where to book the car, what do you look out for next? We’ll start with the basic ones that apply to all car rentals and not just those in the Algarve. The deposit, the excess and collision damage waiver, and the various fuel options available.
What is it? The deposit the rental company will hold on your credit card for the duration of the rental period.
How much? It can be nothing, as low as €100 or as high as €1500. It usually always depends on the company, the car, the individual and the insurance/CDW chosen.
Can you avoid it? In many cases you can avoid it before booking, by simply choosing a company that charges lower deposits or none. If you’ve already booked and can’t cancel, then often they’ll reduce or remove the deposit if you pay for their highest (usually most expensive) level of insurance cover.
Top Tip: It is really important to check what the deposit is and have the means to pay it by credit card in the name of the main driver before you arrive. In the last couple of years, I’ve seen people attempt to pay by cash, couples attempt to split the deposit across two credit cards, and people attempting to use a debit card to no avail. It usually cannot be an American Express, a pre-paid credit card or a debit card. It has to be a credit card in the name of the main driver.
The Collision Damage Waiver and Excess (CDW)
What is it? Although all companies provide the minimum insurance cover you need to drive, many include an excess that is not covered. In the event of any damage to the vehicle whether it’s your fault or not, you will be charged from this excess first.
How much is it? The excess often mirrors the deposit, but many companies provide extra levels of insurance or a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW). Companies often advertise very low rental costs – sometimes as low as €3 a day, then charge 10 times that in insurance costs or CDWs.
Can you avoid it? There’s few ways to actually avoid this but there are a couple of methods to reduce the costs involved. If you fancy the risk then you can try your luck of not covering it all, but remember the cost of any damage even if not your fault will be taken from this excess first. It’s pretty risky and you might spend your trip worrying about every possible scratch. The alternatives are to reduce the excess, pay for a Collision Damage Waiver from the rental company, or take out a separate insurance policy that covers your excess. If you used a comparison website often you can take out an additional policy at the time of booking (cheaper and they often include excess cover), or take out a specialist rental car insurance policy (the cheapest option).
Remember that these last two options require you to say no to the car hire agents who can use underhand tactics to push you to still take out their own insurance. In my own experience I’ve been told that the extra insurance isn’t good enough, or even been told it’s a scam!
What are they? The majority of companies have several different fuel options; from pre-paying and allowing you to return the vehicle empty, post-paying allowing you to return the vehicle empty and paying afterwards, or simply returning the vehicle with the same amount of fuel (usually the cheapest option).
Can you avoid it? Yes. If you’re looking to save money, always go for the option that allows you to return the car with the same amount of fuel. Both of the other options usually include a premium on the fuel cost per litre and a refuelling fee. Unless you really want to pay for the convenience of not having to fill the car up on the day you return the vehicle then they really shouldn’t be an option.
Charges Specific to Car Rental in the Algarve
With the basics of car hire that apply in almost every scenario out of the way, we’re now moving to the regionally specific costs. These are associated with car rental in the Algarve and Faro airport. Possibly the biggest complaints I hear about car hire result from these extra charges, so if you want to avoid them read on carefully!
Airport Collection Fee – Faro Airport
What is it? This is always one of the first extras you’ll get charged, and usually payable in cash. It’s a mandatory charge enforced directly by the airport authority in Faro to all rentals that are picked up at the airport.
How much? It’s €15 and payable locally in Euros only.
Can you avoid it? If you plan on picking a car up yourself at the airport, then unfortunately there is no way to avoid it. There are a variety of rental companies that operate buses to collect you from the airport and take you directly to their depots in the local area. Booking a car with one of these will help you avoid the extra charge – if you don’t mind the extra inconvenience.
What is it? The Algarve’s main motorway, the A22, operates an unmanned toll system. A toll transponder is a device that allows you to automatically pay these tolls without having to visit local pay stations or post offices. For a full breakdown of the toll system and how to pay, have a look at our handy guide here!
How much is it? It varies widely. For example, Lagorent charge an administration fee of €5 and charge to a credit card all of the toll costs, but don’t require a deposit. MasterKings charge €25 with €20 being pre-charged credit that is not refunded. Guerin charge €1.85 per day and all toll costs are charged to your credit card.
Can you avoid it? Not if you want to use the main motorway hassle free. However, like much of the advice here you can shop around for a reasonable deal. It’s important to note that many of these companies will still charge you a deposit of €20-25, in case you do use the toll road, which will be refunded if you don’t. For reference, a recent trip to Sagres from Faro and back again cost me €5.20 in tolls, of which I didn’t receive the change from €20 either.
What is it? The fee you pay if you want to take your vehicle out of Portugal and into Spain.
How much is it? It can be free, or anywhere between €10-€80 a day.
Can you avoid it? If you plan to take your vehicle outside of Portugal then unfortunately you can’t avoid it. However, what you can do is choose a company that charges a smaller amount as once again they don’t all charge the same fee. Guerin charges €60 plus VAT payable locally, whereas another company Drive4Fun only charges €10 euros locally. If for example you plan on making a weekend trip to Seville from Faro, these charges can make quite a difference especially on a short-term rental. In general, the larger EU wide companies like Avis and Dollar do not charge for border exit, but the smaller regional companies do.
So from the above two sections, you’ll usually be immediately charged €15 (airport fee), €20-25 (tolls), and a fuel deposit of approximately €50-60. So that super cheap car rental you booked online suddenly gets hit with nearly €100 of charges and that’s not including the deposit for the car itself. Granted some of these will be returned if you don’t use the toll road and bring the car back with the same fuel, but it can still be hard pill to swallow as soon as you arrive. This next section includes some optional extras, which can be avoided but again adds up if you can’t!
The Optional Extras for Car Rental in the Algarve
Out of Hours Collection or Return Fees
What is it? Picking a car up, outside of the rental company’s office hours.
How much is it? Again it varies widely, Guerin operate from 06:00-00:00 daily and charge €44.60 for collections or returns out-of-hours. RentCar4Less operate from 07:00-22:00 and charge €20 for a collection or return out-of-hours. At the other end of the scale TravelRent operate from 07:30 to 23:59 daily and charge €15 for an out-of-hours collection and no fee for an out-of-hours return. You’ll start to see a pattern at this point, because all of the companies charge differing amounts for these extras, it can get quite confusing to keep track of which is the cheapest.
Can you avoid it? Unfortunately, if you have an early or a late flight this can be an unavoidable cost. However, each of the companies has their own hours and different costs associated with this. What you can do, is check the small print and check what each of the companies charge for this service and choose the cheapest option depending on when you’re arriving.
What is it? The fee to rent a Sat Nav direct from the rental company.
How much is it? The fee varies widely but assume from €5-10 a day, with some companies charging up to €200 deposit on your credit card as well!
Can you avoid it? Absolutely, yes. We always recommend using something like Google Maps on your phone combined with a traditional paper map. Something else to bear in mind is that some of the newer fleets also have their inbuilt satnav units. The most recent I hired – a Fiat 500 from Goldcar – had the inbuilt Satnav unit, so it’s always worth asking before you pay for an extra one. If you must rely on a Sat Nav, then consider updating your own with EU maps or even buying a new one before you arrive. The rental charges vary widely but it’s almost always cheaper to update your own or purchase one if you plan on more than one trip! MasterKings charges €5 a day to a maximum of €70, alternatively Guerin charge €11.70 a day to a maximum of €110 a day!
Child Seats and Booster Seats
What is it? To comply with EU legislation children under the age of 12 or shorter than 1.35m must use a booster seat.
How much is it? Cost varies widely but assume between €5-15 a day per seat.
Can you avoid it? When it comes to safety, we really don’t advise cheaping out. However, you can shop around for a different company as once again they all charge different rates. This might be extremely worthwhile if you have a bigger family or you’re planning a longer trip. For example, Guerin charges €6.45 per day to a maximum of €60 for a booster seat, and €7.65 per day to a maximum of €80 for a child seat. TravelRent also available at the airport offer a one time fee of €15 per seat per rental. With these examples you can see how these costs add up differently. Another alternative is to buy one when you arrive. Basic booster seats can be bought at superstores and supermarkets for around €10. The final option is to simply bring your own, which once you find out how much they cost to rent, might seem like a much better idea!
Additional Driver Fee
What is it? The fee to have additional drivers on the rental agreement.
How much is it? It can be free or anywhere between €7-€20.
Can you avoid it? Spotted the pattern yet? It can be avoided by reading the small print and choosing a company that doesn’t charge extra or charges less. Goldcar charge €7.95 per day per extra driver. On the other end of the scale DriveonHolidays charge a massive €18.45 per day per extra driver! Whereas RentAuto don’t charge for extra drivers at all (according to their website). The best question to ask is do you really need additional drivers and to split driving? An extra stop for a coffee and a break might work out much cheaper than swapping drivers for long distances. Or if you really want the extra drivers pick a company that doesn’t charge for them.
Young Driver Fee
What is it? Generally all drivers have to be over 21, however those between 21 and 25 usually receive additional insurance costs and fees. The only company I know that lets 19-20 year olds rent cars is Goldcar, with even higher fees.
How much is it? As always, the fees vary between companies for reference DriveonHolidays charge €15 plus tax, dollar charges €9 a day.
Can you avoid it? Not if you’re a young driver, you can of course do your research and pick a company that charges less.
Top Tip: Even if you’re over 21, you still need to have held your license for over 1 year to rent a car. If you don’t hold an EU license than you also need an International Driving Permit.
Automatic or Manual?
There is a significant premium on automatic cars, the cheapest car for a weekend in May was €28. The cheapest automatic was €75. If you’re looking for cheap car rental it’s best to skip the convenience of an automatic and take a manual. If you absolutely can’t drive a manual and I don’t really recommend learning to drive one in the Algarve, be prepared for higher costs!
One Last Trick: Currency Conversion
After all that, there’s one final trick I feel the need to mention. Charging you in your home currency and letting their own bank provider handle the conversion bumping the costs up to you even further. They’ll gladly hand over the card machine with the currency in your own and even try to convince you ‘I’ve put it in Pounds so it’s simpler for you to know exactly how much it is’ to ‘oh but it will take too much time to go over everything in a new currency’. If you have confidence in your own bank provider (or use a specialist travel debit/credit card with better rates which is what we recommend) insist on paying in Euros and let your own card provider handle the conversion.
With this guide to car rental in the Algarve, you’ll have a much better understanding of what all the costs are and why the price you booked online is almost always different when you arrive. Hopefully you’ll be much more confident to rent a car and you’ll be able to avoid any of the usual horror stories. If you’ve read all of this, then perhaps you’re wondering how you can calculate all of these fees and how can you possibly find out what each of these companies actually charge for lots of these hidden but necessary extras. Experience and research is where lots of this comes from, unfortunately you will need to read lots of small print. Our favourite search provider is rentalcars.com, but you should check other providers like autoeurope.co.uk. These websites allow you to search, compare and see the prices of these extras a lot more simply than other websites.
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