If you want to explore beyond Lisbon and Porto, it may be best to rent a car in Portugal to give you full flexibility over where you go and when. Hiring a car in Portugal is fairly straightforward if you know what to watch out for, as is driving here.
These insider car hire tips will help you save money and avoid feeling ripped off by unanticipated charges when you collect your rental car in Portugal.
There are car rental offices in all major Portuguese airports and cities but don’t wait until you get here to find a car to rent – that will always cost more than booking ahead.
Tips for getting the best price when you rent a car in Portugal
It’s never too soon to book a hire car
You can get some fantastic deals on car rentals in Portugal if you book well ahead. The later you leave it, especially at peak holiday periods, the higher the cost will be.
As an example, when I first started looking at car hire in the Azores Islands, I could have rented a car for 3 full days for about €50 in São Miguel. By the time I got around to booking one a month later, the cost had doubled. If I’d left it until I got to the airport, I’d have had to pay at least €100 per day for a tiny car.
My advice: Use a comparison website like Rentalcars to see what’s available and compare prices between rental companies e.g. Hertz, EuropeCar, Budget and others you may not have heard of. You can filter for a specific supplier, location or rating as well as other important features.
If you find a deal that suits you, book it up. With most companies offering free cancellation, you can always get your money back if you spot a better offer or change your plan
Car rental periods
Car hire is typically charged per 24-hour period so if you pick up a car at 10 am on day 1 and return it at 11 am on day 2, you’ll end up paying for 2 days.
Avoid this by carefully selecting your pick up and drop off times. You also need to double check opening hours for rental offices away from the airports and especially in smaller cities. Many close at 7 or 8 pm during the week and at 1 pm on Saturdays for the rest of the weekend. If you can’t return your car before they shut, you may have to pay to keep it until the following working day or pay an extra fee.
Tip: If you need a car for 5 or 6 days, try altering your search to see how much it would cost over 7 days. You may find a cheaper weekly deal and there’s nothing to stop you returning the car before the end of the hire period.