Car hire in Portugal


A car is always an asset, especially on vacation when you have only a few days or weeks to discover an entire country. Before you hop on a plane and touch down in beautiful Portugal, read on to find out everything you need to know about hiring a car in this country.

Why hire a car?

Unless you plan to stay close to your hotel – which although is perfectly acceptable, may also mean giving up a great opportunity – you’ll definitely need a direct and practical means of transportation. Of course, you can always rely on public transportation, but nothing beats the comfort of having a car waiting for you at the airport. Besides that, with a car in hand you can go wherever you want, at whatever time you want, without having to depend on taxis, bus or train schedules. Even if you’re only taking a short business trip, car hire in Portugal is always a great option.

How does it work?

In general, most car hire companies function exactly the same way. The first step is to decide the type of car you would like to hire – don’t forget that normally what you’re paying for is the type of car you hire and not the specific model. So, it is important to know what your circumstances are and, accordingly, what kind of car you need. Normally, the cars are divided by letters, where “A” represents the smaller, more urban, practical and economic cars. Depending on the variety and specialty of each car hire company, the alphabet division may continue with medium, large, 4 wheel drive, people carrier, luxury and sports cars. Within each car category, most models have identical characteristics and extras. Once you’ve chosen the model, you may also consider the available extras, some of which are mandatory, others just necessary – like a children’s seat or air conditioning. Some car hire companies also rent out GPS equipment or even mobile telephones, accessories that might come in handy if you’re visiting Portugal for the first time.

ACRISS system

Because so many of the models pertaining to the same car category are so identical, many car hire companies in Portugal have been slowly adopting a system developed by the Association of Car Rental Industry Systems Standard. Briefly, this system uses four letters do describe the main characteristics of any given car: category, model, transmission, traction, type of fuel and ar conditioning. For example: a car with the initials “CCMQ” means that this car is compact, four door, manual transmission, diesel and no ar conditioning. This “code” is known as the ACRISS specifications system and has been adopted by all the major car hire companies in the USA. Since most of them are international, this system has been gradually exported. Get to know what all the letters of the ACRISS system mean by consulting this document.

The contract

Before you sign the contract, make sure all your questions have been answered, and that you have read the contract’s conditions and clauses – especially the famous “fine print”. Normally, a rented car may only be driven by one person so, if you would like the option of having an additional driver (spouse or friend), now (before signing the contract) is the time to do so. Most car hire companies no longer have a limit on the number of kilometres driven, but it’s always good to ask. If the answer is yes, ask how much is the fee in case of excess kilometres. In addition, don’t forget to ask about fuel, normally the car must be returned with a full tank. The last question should regard insurance: does the contract include insurance? If not, you should request it and pay the additional cost. It is always better to be “safe than sorry”, so be sure to know exactly what the car hire insurance covers.

Young drivers

Young and/or inexperienced drivers should also be aware that most car hire companies have some restrictions when it comes to renting cars. Normally, you must be 21 years old in order to rent a car, and some car hire companies require that drivers between the ages of 21 and 25 pay an additional fee. In addition, some cars – normally sports or luxury cars – are off limits to anyone under the age of 30. Besides these restrictions, in order to hire a car you must have your drivers license for at least 1 to 2 years.

How much does it cost?

Depending on the car and the contract, costs may vary. The models pertaining to lower categories may cost around €65 per day, whereas hiring a luxurious car may cost €300 a day or more. Just like with airline tickets, you should also book your rental car via Internet, where there are always special prices and sometimes promotions. Most airline and train companies have agreements with car hire companies, which means that is possible to book your car at the same time that you do your trip.

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