Information on Car Rental in Spain, including advice on whether it is practical to hire a car in Spain, some Spanish car rental companies and information on combining car rental with a train pass.
See also: Everything You Wanted to Know About Buses and Trains in Spain but hadn't yet gotten around to asking.
Booking Your Car Rental in Spain
With so many car rental companies to choose from, the best place to look is on an aggregator site.
These all the big car rental companies, including Hertz, Budget, National and Alamo, and show the prices for a number of different car classes in an easy to read table.
Compare Prices on Car Hire in Spain
Is it Practical to Hire a Car in Spain?
Hiring a car in Spain will never be your cheapest option, but it might be the most convenient. The basic rental will cost more than your train or bus ticket and then on top of that, you'll be paying for road tolls and petrol.
Renting a car is essential if you want to explore some of the harder-to-reach regions like the Alpujarras, the Rías Bajas (to the west of Santiago de Compostela) or the region around Cadiz and Tarifa.
However, if you're going to be sticking to the big cities in Spain, renting a car is a bad idea. For a start, parking in most big cities in Spain is a nightmare. A journey that would normally take 15 minutes by car often takes double that as you look for a parking space.
Another problem is traffic - it's a well-known fact that you can see traffic jams in Madrid at 5 am!
Also, if a city is big enough for a car to be handy, it will have a metro system. Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Bilbao all have a metro and one is currently being built in Seville. The cities that don't have a metro system - and that includes Granada, Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Toledo & Segovia - are small enough to not need a car.
However, if you really want to hire a car, there are some factors you will need to remember. James Martin, About's Guide to Europe looks at Car Rental in Europe. For more specific details on the rules of the road in Spain, read Driving in Spain.
Car Sharing in Spain
Car sharing is one of the cheapest and most economical ways of traveling around Spain and the rest of Europe. It is safer and more reliable than Hitchhiking in Spain as you can meet the person offering a ride before you embark on the journey (meaning you no longer have to make a snap judgment on their character).
Car sharing is an old practice. "When you drive alone, you drive with Hitler" was a carpool propaganda poster from World War II, which I have seen adapted for the present day (swapping "Hitler" for "Bin Laden"). I'm not sure car sharing is the most effective anti-terrorism move in the world, but it is certainly good for the environment.
These are the most popular car-sharing sites in Europe:
French site, with lots of people traveling from France to Spain, that has gone global in recent years. Bought out or partnered with several of the old 'Covoiturage' French sites and the German Mitfahrgelegenheit site.
Spanish equivalent site that has a loyal Spanish user base.