Sometimes you need to rent a car in one location and drop it off in another. For example: you might want to rent a car in Porto and drop it in Faro. Most car rental companies charge you a fee for doing this, and the fee varies from around €70 to €150.
That’s if you drop the car within the same country. Drop it off in another country, and you may end up with a drop-off fee that’s in the hundreds of Euros. Some companies won’t even allow you to drop it in another country, even if the location is very close by (Seville is just 2 hours from Faro, for example).
To see which company offered the best one-way car rental rates, I compared the cost of renting a car in Lisbon and dropping it off in Porto from several different car rental companies. Some of the prices are estimates, but it should give you an idea of which companies are cheapest.
|Lisbon to Porto|
|Sixt.com||~ 88.70 (estimate)|
|Hertz.com||~ 110.70 (estimate)|
Prices accurate at the time of writing (April 2019).
As you can see Avis and Budget are the cheapest, with a drop-off fee that’s roughly around €70. Centauro, Guerin, Alamo, and Enterprise all charge more than double what the cheapest car rental companies charge, so it really pays to shop around.
Car rental comparison sites
To make sure I was definitely getting the best deal, I decided to have a look at a few car rental comparison websites.
- zestcarrental.com, which seems to be well-recommended, was the most interesting. There was no charge for returning the car to a different location (although the fee for one day of car hire was €70, which was almost the same as paying a drop-off fee) although the insurance is probably a factor in that: there’s no upsell for insurance on Zest because every rental is fully insured. There was also no additional charge for driving the car in Spain, Gibraltar, Andorra, and France.
- Skyscanner.net also did a good job of including the one-way fees into the cost of the rental, allowing you to compare multiple sites at once.
- Rentalcars.com wasn’t quite as easy to use. While it did list the 1-way fees, it didn’t include them in the total price so you are only able to compare the cost of the car hire minus the drop-off fee (which varies from company to company) as opposed to the total price.
Dropping the car off in another country
What happens if you want to drop the car off in another country? For example: you might start a trip in Lisbon and finish in Barcelona. This is when things get a lot more complicated and expensive.
While drop-off fees within the same country varied between €70 and €150, for an international drop-off the fees are typically closer to €1,000. That’s if the car rental company will allow you to do a drop-off as well. Many companies wouldn’t allow it.
The companies that were cheapest for the national drop-off (Avis and Budget) seemed to be the cheapest for an international drop-off as well. Avis, for example, quoted a one-way fee of €490.
Getting around the international drop-off fee
The easiest way to get around the pricey international drop-off fee is to switch cars when you cross the border: drive to the car rental location that’s nearest the border, get a taxi or transfer across, and then rent a new car from the next nearest car rental company.
It’ll take but more time, but it could save you quite a bit. Drive from Lisbon to Barcelona, for example, and the cheapest drop-off fee is around €490 with Avis. Book 2 separate car rentals, however, and the drop-off fee is going to be around €140 – a saving of €350.
If you only need the car for 24 hours or so, DriiveMe could be worth looking at. The website lists rental cars that need to be moved from one location to another (for example: Faro Airport to Porto Airport). In return for getting the car there in 24 hours or less, customers can rent the car for just €1