If you want to explore the Algarve, car rental is definitely something you should consider. While it is possible to explore a lot of the Algarve without a car, it’s definitely a lot more complicated and a lot more limiting – especially if you want to visit the Algarve’s many wonderful beaches.
Search for car hire on any comparison website and you’ll see that there are lots of different car rental companies at Faro Airport. Some of these companies you’ll recognise, and some you’ll probably never have heard of.
Generally speaking, it’s usually best to approach any car hire company that you’ve never heard of with caution. Many offer incredibly cheap daily rates, but then charge incredibly expensive insurance. They can also be incredibly pushy at getting you to take the insurance, even if you have a separate insurance policy and will say that they’ve never heard of the policy or that it doesn’t cover everything.
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Worse still, if you don’t take out the most expensive insurance they can be a little unscrupulous when it comes to checking the car for damages. Note: this doesn’t just apply for car rental companies at Faro Airport, but everywhere.
Where to search for car rental
Lots of travel companies offer a car rental search facility on their website, but most have just white labeled someone else’s search engine. The following companies, however, all offer their own unique car rental search engine and so are each worth checking if you want to shop around.
What to look for when renting a car
The following is a checklist of just a few of the things that you should think about before renting a car at Faro Airport.
Do I recognise this company?
There are an increasing number of new car rental companies popping up. You’ve probably never heard of them before but, do a search with Skyscanner or any other travel search engine, and you’ll see their names pop up.
Normally, they’re cheaper than companies like Hertz or Europcar. Until you get to the insurance upsell, that is. While the car rental might cost €3 per day without insurance, they’re often the same or more expensive than a known insurance company when you add insurance. These companies also seems to have a tendency to find dents, scratches, and other damages that the more established car rental companies would otherwise ignore.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t go with one of these companies but, rather, that you should be appropriately cautious of a deal that sounds too good to be true.
Check what’s included
Some car rental companies include certain things for free, like a second driver or baby seats, while others will charge as much as €10 per day for those services. You won’t need everything on this list, but here are a few things to look out for.
- Free second driver: This isn’t essential as the Algarve is small and you won’t really need to split the driving, but it’s something you may want to look out for.
- Free child baby seat: Useful although not essential as most airlines allow you to bring a child seat on the plane with you for free.
- Where is the company located: Is the car rental company at the airport or will you have to take a shuttle to pick the car up?
- Cancellation policy: what’s the cancellation policy in case you change your mind or find a better deal.
- Fuel policy: Is the fuel policy full to full (typically the best option)?
What are the reviews like?
It’s always a good idea to lookup reviews for the car hire company, although it’s also worth remembering that most people only leave a review when something goes wrong.
When looking at reviews, you really want to look at reviews for the local car rental outlet and not the company as a whole. A car rental company might have really good reviews overall, but their Faro Airport branch could be terrible. The reverse is also true.
Tip: RentalCars.com shows you the reviews for the local company (e.g. the branch at Faro Airport) rather than the company as a whole.
Should I take out the insurance?
You should definitely take out some type of car insurance when renting a car (although this doesn’t necessarily mean taking the insurance the company is selling). If you rent the car without insurance and there are damages, you will have to pay them. Even something as small as a scratch or a dent can cost several hundred Euros, which is why it’s definitely worth taking out insurance.
Some car rental companies have three options when you get to the insurance part: no insurance, a medium cover option, and full cover.
Generally speaking, if you’re going to take the car rental company’s insurance, it makes more sense just to go for the full cover. The medium cover option usually has an excess that’s somewhere around €500 which means that, if you do €499 worth of damage, you’re responsible for paying everything – despite taking out insurance. If you cause more than €500 worth of damage, you’ll pay the first €500 and the car rental company will pay the rest.
Most damages are likely to be scratches and dents, and not, touch wood, big accidents, so it makes sense to reduce your excess as much as possible.
Car hire excess insurance (and other alternatives)
There are an increasing number of companies like icarhireinsurance.com and Insurance4carhire.com that offer car hire excess insurance, which is insurance that covers you against damages to a rented car.
You simply take out your insurance with them rather than the car rental company and, if there are any damages, pay the damages with your credit card and then take it up with your car hire excess insurance policy provider afterwards.
This does mean waiting for an insurance company to payout, which isn’t something everyone can do, and, if that’s not something you’re able to do, you may prefer to just take out the insurance policy with the car rental company instead.
You *may* also have an insurance policy with your credit card or bank account. Most people don’t and you’ll probably know if you do, but, if you have a premium bank account or credit card, it’s worth checking if they offer this type of car rental insurance as a perk.
Other useful tips
Take the toll transponder
You’ll be asked whether you want to rent a transponder for using the toll roads, either when you book the car hire online or when you go to the desk at the airport. This is a device that allows you to go on the A22 toll road (or other toll roads in Portugal), and the payment is automatically taken from your credit card.
It is possible to go on the toll road without the device, but this involves a time-consuming trip to the Post Office to pay it. There are also other complications as well and, generally, it just makes sense to hire a transponder if you’re going to use the roll roads.
More days = cheaper
Car rental gets cheaper the more days you rent the car for. Rent the car for two days and you might pay €40 (or €20 per day) but rent it for a week and your rental might work out at €10 per day. This is only worth mentioning because some people try to reduce costs by only renting the car for a few days, but often this doesn’t really save you that much money – especially if you’re having to use other forms of transportation like taxis and airport transfers to get around.
There’s a petrol station at the roundabout
There’s a petrol station very conveniently located on the roundabout as you enter and leave Faro Airport, so no need to panic.
Read up on Portuguese driving rules
It’s a good idea to read up on Portuguese driving rules as well as general rules for driving in Portugal (see here).
Things to check at Faro Airport
Are there any scratches or dents?
After you’ve filled out the paperwork, you’ll be taken to the garage to pick up your car. This is where you and the agent look for any dents or scratches and then sign the paperwork to confirm the state of the car.
Many people make the mistake of just letting the agent look for scratches and dents. It isn’t so much that they’re deceptive, but often they can miss scratches and dents that the person who’s in charge of handling your return will notice.
Look at every inch of the car, and also remember to check the tyres and wheels for cuts and marks. Take photos of any scratches that you see, even if they’ve been marked down.
Is the fuel tank full?
The agent will check to make sure the tank is full (or empty, if that’s the policy), and they never really lie about this, but it’s always a good idea to check. It’s also a good idea to check which side the fuel tank is on rather than trying to work that out when you arrive at the petrol station.
How does the car work?
Some cars are very easy to drive (you just put the key in and go) while others are more complicated. The main complications are usually starting the car (do you turn a key or press a button while holding one of the pedals in) and reversing (sometimes you need to press a button under the gearstick to get the car into reverse).
Regardless of what the complication is, the simplest thing to do is just to ask the guy at the car rental company. You’ll have to be quick though: these guys rarely stick around to show you how the car works, so make sure you ask any questions you have before they run off.