Renting a car at Faro airport or in the Algarve is the best way to explore this magnificent region.
Below are my complete answers to how to rent a car in Faro, covering:
- which type of car is best,
- tips on best rental companies and reducing costs,
- insurance recommendations,
- essentials to avoid any scam,
- rules and regulations,
I have tried listing everything you may need to know to enjoy a worry-free car hire experience.
In this article, no ads, no sponsored posts. Just some affiliate links.
If you purchase through them, I get a commission at no extra cost to you (Disclosure).
Renting a car in Faro or in Algarve - Overview
Absolutely essential tips - from my personal experiences
If you don't want to read my answers to all your questions about renting a car in the Algarve, below, I summarize my top tips:
Don't choose a car too large if you are visiting the old towns and also to help with parking
Book early to get the best prices and the choice of cars - the Algarve is very popular
The main scam to be aware of is the fake damage picture. Upon pickup, they notice damages. They take a picture and tell you it will be uploaded, not to worry.
And when you come back, there is no trace of the picture. They make you pay for repair.
Take your own pictures and make sure the damages are written down. This way you won't have any problem.
- Good to know
Most cars in Portugal have manual transmission. You will pay more for automatic and they are fewer options.
Don't forget there are tolls. You can avoid those roads, or take them with a tag / registration.
- Check for border crossing
If you plan on heading to Spain from the Algarve, don't forget to check if your rental agreement allows for it.
The booking platform I personally use
You will see a lot of mentions of Discovercars.com throughout this article.
This is the platform I personally use (well, since I have discovered them).
As soon as I decide on a destination, I go check their deals and car types. And upon research, they often have the best deals for my needs.
This is one of the best customer-rated comparison sites on the market.
Answer 1 - Do I need a car in Algarve?
It depends what kind of holiday you want.
If you want to:
- visit many of the most incredible locations in the Algarve,
- be able to go early before the crowds,
- be able to go off the beaten path,
- be able to stay late to watch sunset somewhere,
- be able to adapt your itinerary depending on the tides (some beaches disappear at high tide),
Then the car is needed.
It will give you a lot of freedom.
However, if you want to:
- Spend most of your day at the beach
- visit only one or 2 places
Then, you can book a place near a beach and enjoy group tours.
In that case, I recommend staying in Albufeira. See my article about where to stay in Algarve.
Looking for the best place to stay in the Algarve?
Answer 2 - What type of car should I rent in the Algarve?
Size and Power
Compared to the rest of Portugal, you will visit fewer villages (unless you are staying in an old town center).
So size is not as critical, but I still recommend not to choose a car too big, so that it is easier to find a parking spot, and drive through those narrow old streets.
There are no long difficult hills, so power will not have an impact on your driving.
Transmission type - Manual vs Automatic
Most cars in Portugal have manual transmission.
You will pay more for automatic and they are fewer options.
Is it useful to have a 4WD?
No, you do not need a 4WD.
It is paved almost everywhere and otherwise the short gravel roads are graded.
Plus, you should know that even if you have a 4WD, the insurance protection associated with the rental probably does not cover use of the car out of paved roads.
This is frequent in many countries. Read the fine print!
Answer 3 - Where to rent a car in the Algarve: airport or town?
If you have not rented your car in Lisbon or Porto to do a Portugal road trip, then you are probably arriving at the Faro airport.
In my opinion, it is better to rent at the airport, even if you don't plan on driving every day.
Comparing the cost of getting to your accommodation and renting for specific days in town vs the cost of renting for the entire stay from the airport should not be very different.
And having the car with you give you a lot of flexibility in your planning.
However, you could also be arriving by train from Lisbon.
In that case you can rent at Albufeira train station.
Check out deals where you need you car:
Answer 4 - Best car rental agency at Faro airport?
Listing the best car rental agencies is always difficult.
How someone perceives the experience really depends on their state of mind and what they find important.
Some will be very annoyed when waiting a long time.
Other will be stressed out by a detail.
Here are a few things to consider in order to choose the best car rental agency for you:
Learn to read the reviews
All rental companies have bad reviews, even the best ones.
You have to analyze them to see if there is a big problem or just the usual complaints:
- Sort by the latest
- Make sure you check those of the company + location. Not the overall comments about a brand. Customer service can vary greatly between offices.
- Don't worry about complaints on the fact that they are a security deposit (you will read this article, so you will know - see answer 7)
- Don't worry about complaints on the fact that they are trying to sell insurance (it is their job get over it)
- Know that some companies require a credit card and do not accept a debit card
- Focus on the potential big problems: any car problems or if they are trying to charge for damages in a scammy way (and the complaint is recurrent).
And remember that most people don't write a review when things go well, so the proportion of bad reviews is very high.
Best rated car rental companies at Faro airport
On the platform Discovercars.com, each rental company has a mark on 10 points. This is an average of the marks given by actual customers.
Don't forget that on Tripadvisor or Google for example, anyone can write a review even if they have not used the company.
I read a lot of reviews for you and some of the best companies to consider are:
- EPI rent a car (not far from terminal)
- Drive4fun (but not right in the terminal)
- Auto Rent Faro Airport (but not right in the terminal)
- And some major international brands (in the terminal)
Faro airport has a large concentration of local companies vs international brands.
Main criteria to keep in mind when choosing
- First, of course, the company must have the type of car your needs
- Then, check out the cancellation fees
- Authorized milage - depending on what you are planning, have a look at unlimited or defined daily milage allowance
- The pick-up location - some require a shuttle to the get to the rental area
You can't have it all
Be reasonable you cannot have it all:
- very cheap price
- perfect car
- no waiting time
- excellent customer service
The lower you trying to get the cost, the more problems you are likely to encounter.
Answer 5 - How much does it cost? Cheap rental car in Faro?
Cost of car rental in Portugal
To give you an idea, based on data from Discovercars.com, prices are around:
- Small cars - Yearly average around 20 USD per day (high seasonality - from 4 to 35 USD averages)
- Medium cars - Yearly average around 35 USD per day (from 7 to 52 USD averages)
- The cheapest prices are generally for when you travel in November
- Price may increase a lot as you get closer to Summer, if you have not booked in advance
It is very easy to compare prices online on platforms.
However, be careful: if you are testing direct websites and trying to compare, it can be very difficult as they hide fees or taxes later in the process.
How to save money - cheap car rental in Algarve
If keeping the cost down is your main concern, you should:
- Book very early
- Return the car at the same location where you picked it up
- Book a smaller car
- Pay attention to pick-up and drop-off times - Car hire is typically charged per 24-hour period
- Choose a rental without cancellation or with limited cancellation
- If renting for 6 days, check the price for 7 days - sometimes companies have a discount for 1 week rentals.
- Book with limited milage
But be careful, if the cost is too good to be true, there must be a reason!
Note: Consider vehicles with sleeping options
Another idea is to rent a vehicle in which you can sleep.
Overall, this could save you money compared to booking accommodations.
- Wild camping is allowed except on Natura 2000 protected land - you need an approved motorhomes (learn more)
- There are camping sites all around Portugal
Answer 6 - Any scams when renting in Faro?
The main scam to be aware of in Faro is the fake damage picture.
Upon pick-up you inspect the car with a company employee.
You notice damages. The employee takes a picture and tells you it will be uploaded, not to worry.
And when you come back to drop off the car, after your amazing vacation, there is no trace of the picture in their system.
They insist that you damaged the car and make you pay for repair.
This is something I recommend anywhere you rent a car, not only in Faro.
Take your own pictures of the damages and make sure they are written down.
Plus, don't forget to check under the bumper and on the roof
They will not bother you after that.
Answer 7 - Rules to rent a car in Portugal?
License to rent a car in Portugal
To be allowed to drive in Portugal, you can use a standard International driver’s license (if staying under 6 months).
A license that has:
- a licence number,
- a photograph,
- a valid date,
- and is in Latin letters,
A valid US license works.
A valid Canadian license works.
A valid UK license works.
Age / years of driving
Official driving age in Portugal is 18.
However, most car rental companies in Portugal:
- will require you to be 21
- will require you to have held a license in your home country for a year or more,
- may add charges, if you are under 25,
- may add charges, if you are over a certain age.
It’s best to make sure to read all the fine prints.
On the platform Discovercars.com you can enter your age, to see any limitation in rental cars available and any additional fee.
A credit card that can handle the hold charge
Remember that unless you have decided to purchase a full coverage insurance directly with the rental company, you will be asked for your credit card to hold a charge a.k.a. a deposit (on top of the payment). This amount, the "excess charge", is blocked on your account via your credit card.
As it is on top of the payment, you may be hitting the limit of your credit card daily/weekly or monthly protection limit.
Once the car is returned without any damage, this amount is unblocked from your card.
I have seen many people at rental companies counters being surprised by this situation and having issue managing it.
So be prepared! Your options are:
- Use a different credit card for the hold charge,
- Contact your bank prior to traveling to change your limits,
- Purchase a full coverage insurance with a 0 excess charge.
On the platform Discovercars.com:
- once you open one option, you can click on Rental Conditions, and you will see the Security Deposit amount.
- And if this is an issue for you, you can pre-select the amount you are willing to have blocked as security deposit in the filters
Answer 8 - Should I take insurance?
Mandatory insurance in Portugal
The only mandatory one is unlimited third-party liability insurance - it is automatically included in the price of all car rentals.
Extra insurances you can be offered
Many levels of insurances are available. And their wording is often not very clear.
They are not really insurances but ways to reduce the deductible in case of an issue:
Should I take it?
It really depends on your level of tolerance to risk.
Can you pay the amount if you destroy the car or would you rather pay a little more the rental, and make sure you don't have much to pay in case of an accident.
How to take insurance
- Option 1 - Use your credit card insurance/ or your own car insurance
Some credit cards have some kind of coverage for rental cars. They all differ.
Similarly, your home car insurance can be covering you as well when renting a car.
You need to read all the fine prints to clearly understand what is covered or not.
- Option 2 - Purchase upon booking your rental car
When you book your rental car, you normally have the option to select the insurances you want. The deals are most of the time better than at the counter (I have seen 3 times less, once).
On direct websites, you get the dealer's insurance, but on platforms, you get a special insurance created by the platform.
For example, on Discovercars.com, they have their own Full Coverage Waiver Insurance Option
Personally, this is what I used. This is the best balance of stress level vs cost for me.
- Option 3 - At car rental
This is the more expensive option, but if you have not done it before, you could purchase it as you are paying.
- Option 4 - Travel Insurance
Get a travel insurance that includes comprehensive car rental insurance with one of the classic insurance companies.
Answer 9 - Extra charges to be aware of?
To be able to compare deals, you need to make sure they include the same.
Often, local brands offer very low prices on their own website, when then you need to add a lot upon arriving at the counter.
Have a look at:
- additional driver
- fuel management
compare full to full, or level to level, or returning empty
- crossing borders
if you plan on driving to Spain, some companies allow it for free, others for a fee, and some don't allow at all.
If renting with Discovercars.com, once you selected a car you can click on "Rental conditions" and then again "Rental conditions" or "Additional conditions" to find the "geographical restrictions".
There are toll roads in the Algarve. They don't have a booth.
You have to go to the post office within a couple of days to pay your toll if you don't have a tag.
Another solution is to avoid those roads.
- Price of child safety seat
To comply with EU legislation, children under the age of 12 or shorter than 1.35m must use a booster seat.
I prefer bringing my own GPS where I pre-entered all my destinations.
But if you need one, don't forget to check the price of renting.
On Discovercars.com, you will get the extra once you select a car.
All my favorite locations are included (with GPS coordinates, map and tips) in my travel guide eBooks that help you easily plan your Portugal road trip:
Answer 10 - What to do when picking-up a rental car in Faro?
1. Check your vehicle at pickup
For a worry-free experience with any rental car company, I recommend you do a thorough check of the car before leaving the carpark.
Sometimes it is done with an agent. Sometimes they just give you a form with the state of the car before renting. Sometimes they tell you nothing...
Make sure all dents and scratches are noted, if not, make sure they add it.
Plus, for peace of mind, you can take pictures before leaving (like in every country).
Things to look for:
- Check all the exterior of the car for dent and scratches
- Don't forget to check the roof!!!! It is often forgotten, but they might check it when you return.
- Don't forget under the bumper
- And don't forget the back of the mirrors
- Check the interior for any damage
- Check the state of the tires
- Check the state of the fender (mud wing above the wheels)
- Make sure the spare tire is in place and in good condition
- Check that gas level and milage match the record
2. Check the mandatory equipment is in the car
In Portugal, the following pieces of equipment must be available in the car:
- Warning triangle
- Reflective vest or jacket
- Spare set of lights
- Spare wheel
Answer 11 - What to do if I have a problem with my rental car?
In case of accident
In case there are people hurt or there is a conflict, the emergency number in 112 is:
The best order of actions is:
- contact emergency services
- contact the police
- contact your car rental agency or any number they gave you specific to accidents
In case of fine or tickets (speed / parking)
You are responsible for any parking tickets or driving fines that you receive during the rental period.
If you are aware of it right away, you can go and pay at the police station or online as indicated.
Just know that it can take up to 3 months for a fine to be reported to the car owner (the rental company).
In that case, they will send you proof and charge you for it and maybe add an administrative fee for managing the fine.
If there is a problem with the car
Don't lose your rental agreement.
On it, you will find the steps to take if you have a problem with your car.
Most use a breakdown assistance service and the number will be listed on the agreement.
Then you can contact the rental company to see how to car can be replaced.
Answer 12 - What to do at drop-off?
Drop-off can be a stressful time.
First of all, if you have taken pictures and have not done any damage, don't stress out. It will be fine.
Your behavior does impact the reaction of the employee.
- Don't forget to bring back with the tank at the level agreed upon
- For peace of mind, drop off the car during opening hours so that the car checks can all be made and validated
- Smile and say hello, even if you had issues. This is probably not the fault of the person checking in your car
- Don't bring back a car full of sand, it does send a bad signal. It does not have to be thouroughly cleaned, but not be a mess either.
If your rental car gets damaged, the first thing to do is to contact the car rental agency.
- If your rental has only basic insurance, you will have to cover the damages up to your deductible amount.
- If you have purchased a full coverage with the rental company, check with them and it should be covered
- If you have purchased with Discovercars.com, contact them and provide all info (within 28 days of dropping off the car). They with refund you for charges and costs related to the damage, if warranted
- If you are using your own insurance, contact them and provide all info. They with refund you for charges and costs related to the damage, if warranted.
Answer 13 - Is driving in the Algarve difficult? Is it safe?
Driving in Portugal is generally easy.
There are a lot of recent roads (thanks to EU investments) and they are mostly well maintained.
Portuguese drivers are overall chill.
The most tension I felt was in the Algarve, because this is the place with the most tourists. So roads can be crowded, but it is not that bad.
You can learn more on my article about driving in Portugal.
Understand the rules
- Driving is on the right side
- Seatbelts are compulsory for driver and passengers
- Use of cell phone - you can use only with hand-free system
- It is illegal to overtake on the right in free-flowing traffic
- National speed limits are - 50km/h in residential areas, 90km/h on rural roads and 120km/h on motorways
- Right lane to enter a roundabout means that you will take the first exit.
Know the potential dangers
Compared to other countries where I have traveled, it felt like there were a lot fewer dangers on the road - no wild or farm animals wandering free, very few one-lane roads...
There are 3 main dangers to be aware of when driving in Portugal:
- People annoyed by the heat and traffic jams
- Idiots and speed lovers... well, they are everywhere. Can't do anything about it.
- At night, many roads are not very well lit.
Answer 14 - more tips for renting a car at Faro airport or in Algarve?
Check opening hours if picking a company not at an airport
If you are picking up your car at the airport, the companies are normally open as long as flights are arriving.
However, if you are renting a car from a town, especially a smaller one, they will have shorter opening hours (especially on weekends). This may mean that you have to rent for an extra day if you can't drop off the car.
Check where pick up is
Some rental companies are inside the terminal, but others are situated along the main road leaving from the airport.
Make sure you know in advance how to get there, so that you don't worry upon arrival at the airport
Answer 15 - Best places to go in the Algarve?
Some of the highlights to consider seeing include:
- The magnificent cliffs at Ponta da Piedade - read article
- Benagil cave and Algarve boat tours - read article
- The famous Marinha beach - read article
- The unique Tres Irmaos beach - read article
- The magnificent orange cliffs of Praia da Falesia - read article
Want to see more of the best Portugal has to offer?
- 30 Most beautiful landscapes in Portugal - read article
- Best things to do in Portugal - read article
- The best beaches in Portugal - read article
- The best villages in Portugal - read article
- Lisbon vs Porto - where to go? - read article
- Driving in Portugal - read article
- The highlights of Sintra and the Sintra-Cascais Nature park - read article
Planning a trip to Portugal?
Check out my travel guide to help you plan:
Plan your ideal road trip around Portugal
And keep track of your own trip!
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