It’s that time of the year again when we struggle with this simple, yet annoying problem: renting a car in Portugal!
We are in January and this is the month when we pack our bags and head to Algarve Portugal. Of course, not before conquering all the obstacles of two flights very hard to connect in the same day (Romania – Portugal) even if we have just one 1 layover.
Our tickets got canceled once already, but we are used to that by now! It happened the same last year, and it’s because of the whole world situation. Is the new normal that now when you travel, nothing is sure anymore. You don’t even know if you can leave the airport, not before being in the actual plane. But we are determined not to let a small issue like a world pandemic keep us down, right?
Still, the primary concern about this trip starts way before getting on the plane, with renting a car in Portugal in 2022. We are staying for a longer period and we need a long term rental. This usually makes our rentals to be very expensive and hard to find.
We usually book from Autorent in Faro, but the quotations are crazier and crazier by the year! We used to pay in January or February, somewhere between 250 euro and 300 euro in 2018 and 2019. Now we received quotation of over 450 euro/month in 2022 for January or February. And for the mid season (this means after March) it will be somewhere around 550-600 euro. And the prices just keep getting bigger and bigger!
Needing a car everyday in Algarve?
We need the car every day, since we are living in an area that is somehow remote, meaning you need a car to get practically anywhere. We do have a grocery store in a walking distance, but it’s on the small side. For going to Faro, to Almancil, for visiting all the places we film, and even to go to our neighbors in Quinta do Lago for a cup of coffee, we need a car.
It is my opinion that you cannot live in the Algarve without a car. I mean you can live in one place and one place only, like in a larger town, where you have everything you need in walking distance. You can try to take a few trips by train or even by bus if you have the patience and the time to set your entire schedule around the bus. They are not very well connected, again, in my opinion.
But if you want to really explore the region, to go where you please, whenever you please, you need a car. If you want to go for a short trip into Alentejo, to explore the countryside, you need a car.
For us, we are in the car each and every day. If not to go to a larger supermarket, then to go for a coffee to Quinta do Lago. Or to just eat sushi in Quarteira at Jin Du.
You could say that is a lifestyle choice. I see it as a necessity in Algarve. For us. In my opinion. Did I say in my opinion already? I just can’t remember…
The rabbit hole of insane prices
Renting a car in Portugal in 2022 has become an insanely stressful thing! When I heard the prices that we received from Autorent this year, I said: that’s it! We are dumping Autorent! There has to be another firm out there who has normal prices! These people are taking us for granted, and even if we are loyal customers they inflate the prices so much! Everybody on the Facebook groups said so! So it must be true, because we heard it on the radio!
For those who are not living in the Algarve, this is a cultural reference. This is referring to a English radio station in Algarve – Kiss FM. Kiss FM is the “English speaking station” and in the mornings they have this really cool show about funny and strange facts from around the world. In the show they have a very catchy song that goes like that:
Back to the renting a car in Portugal subject. So with this in mind, that we are taking for fools, and there are so many other firms out there much cheaper, I started an internet crusade of checking all the car renting companies recommended by people on the Facebook groups. I find that if you are new to a place (like we are in Portugal) and you need something, the shorter route is to go on a Facebook group and just ask for a recommendation.
The companies that are most recommended in Algarve for renting a car, and I mean recommended over and over again by so many people over the years are: Luz Car (where we actually asked an offer, see below) and Zest.
Luz Car is a Portuguese family owned rental company and Zest is an UK based platform that features several companies for car hire.
These two seemed to me – after looking at over 10-15 companies – the ones that have the most decent prices and the ones that I can compare with Autorent.
What we are looking for when we rent – and maybe you should too
I was very happy and proud to find these 2 others companies with similar prices with Autorent. Flavius is in love with Autorent and he doesn’t even want the hear about changing the rental company. For me, the money is insane and unacceptable.
But he is allowed to have a crush on one of our Portuguese suppliers, because I have one too. I am in love with BPI (our bank), and even if they did some annoying things over the years, I would never change them. And by things, I mean some “minor things” like telling us we are going to sign the papers for the house like today, going all the way to the notary and then ended up not signing because they forgot a paper was missing from the file… (it’s all on our YouTube Channel if you are interested to find out more).
Let me specify a few things we are looking for when renting, and especially renting long term.
1. We would like to pay as less as possible of a deposit
I thought OK, I would pay up to 500 euro in deposit if I can get a better deal. Deposits like 1.000 euro or even 1.500 euro seem insane for us. I understand that for Americans, that this is a very common practice, as they all have credit cards and they pay with that. Here in Europe credit cards are not a thing! We never had a credit card before coming to Portugal. Now we have one from BPI just because it was a condition of the loan – we got a better deal if we made a credit card. But we NEVER use it, as the interest is insane!
And as Romanians, used to have from different banks debit cards with overdraft, with a certain amount that you can use each year (based on your income) – that you can use to pay whatever you want WITHOUTH PAYING ANY INTEREST – like a credit card but FREE – to pay interest for a credit card, is the equivalent of burning money.
So, no, we don’t want to use our credit card to block 1.500 euro for 3 or 4 or 5 months and pay extra interest on that. We also don’t want to block 1.500 euro on our debit card because we actually don’t have that kind of money just laying around in our bank. We use the money we have to live, pay the mortgage and invest.
2. When we rent we also want to be fully insured.
In Europe is common practice to be charge for the smallest scratch. Even if you didn’t do it, you have to take extensive measures to prove you didn’t do it and in the meantime they take the money from your account anyway. Fight with the dealer, call the bank to dispute the transaction, complain to the main company… no thanks! We want to be fully insured. Also, you never know what might happen on the road.
And, no excess. In case something happens, we don’t pay an excess.
If you don’t keep in mind these 2 conditions – yes, you might find cheaper options (at the first glance) but you have to pay either an excess of 1.500 euro if the car is damaged or they block this amount on a credit card, and more often than not, both.
Comparing prices – the 3 companies
I started comparing the prices of these 2 companies with Autorent.
First one is Luz Car. Luz Car is a Portuguese family run business and it’s highly praised on the internet. I have never read anything bad about them. I send them an email requesting a quotation and I received a prompt response.
They quoted me 450 euro/month for low season (January – March) and 550 euro/month for Mid Season (April – end of June). This includes full insurance, no excess, no deposits and you can use a debit card or you can pay cash. This does not include the E-tool but you can buy it separately and also you have to pay 15 euro Aeroport fee because you are collecting the car for the airport. This airport fee applies to all renting company and it’s something enforced by the Airport.
There was a mention in the email that said “the payment is made when you collect the car” – I didn’t ask back, but I guess you have to pay all the money for the whole period up front? This would be a bit of a problem but I am not sure this means that.
All in all, I can see why everybody is raving about this company. Everything included, family owned, no fuss, decent prices! If you are wondering why family owned is important, well… if you run into trouble or you need something out of the ordinary, you will be speaking to a person, not a corporation. There are many moments in life when this makes a world of difference.
I actually dare you to find a better offer (if you do, please drop me an email, thank you :)).
The second one is Zest. Zest Car Rental is a portal, an independent broker based in UK. This might be a very comfortable and familiar choice for the British people who come in Algarve.
They don’t let you select a period longer than 90 days, so you would have to rebook. I also read on Facebook that you get a better deal if you book by the month and rebook each time, but I can’t confirm that.
Making the simulation on their site, for the period 12 January – 12 march 2022, I chose a Ford Fiesta, one of the cheaper cars. The quotation with full insurance is 745 euro/2 months. This means an average of 372,5 euro/month in low season.
It would seem cheaper than both Luz Car and Autorent. But this comes with a few conditions. You need to have a credit card on the name of the main driver and they will take a deposit of 300 euro.
Well, 300 euro doesn’t seem that bad compared to other deposits from other companies. And we do have that credit card from BPI. We can used it to pay the deposit and than put the money back into the card, thus not paying interest. 300 euro is for sure double, not like 1.500 euro.
But then I made a simulation on their site for a Mid Season month, meaning 12 may to 12 June 2022 and the price with full insurance was 800 euro. This is way much than the other 2 offers.
The conclusion and our final choice
The conclusion, renting a car in Portugal can be quite expensive. The best solutions depend of what suits you best. For those who don’t mind a little bit of hassle, they could rent the car from Zest Car Rentals for the low season. Starting April, when Zest starts increasing the prices, they could rent from Luz Car. If you want to save some money and don’t mind going back and forth, this could be a good solution.
As for us, after thinking the worse about them, after looking for the greener grass elsewhere, and after negotiating the prices, we stuck with Autorent. But let’s see now the prices from Autorent.
Autorent gave us a different price each month. They tried to keep it as low as possible and these are negotiated prices. Also we try the tell them way in advance we need a car, so for example we started the conversation for this rental back in the mid December.
The prices are as follows: starting 12 january – mid february – 377 euro; mid February – mid March – 377 euro, mid March – mid April 452 euro, mid April – mid May 658 euro, and mid May until end of May (2 weeks) 362 euro.
So comparing this to Luz Cars, we would have paid to Luz Cars for mid January – end of May 2022 a total of 2.225 euro. With Autorent we would pay 2.226 euro.
At equal prices we, of course, chose the company we know and have experience with. The one we are familiar with, the one we have history with.
But it was such a great surprise to see that Luz Car has made us an offer equal to Autorent. And they don’t even know us. If something happens to Autorent (meaning it’s very possible they will run out of cars during high season, because the demand is very high) we have 2 perfectly good alternatives.
Flavius is very happy that he is proven correct, that despite the first impression, Autorent remains one of the few cheapest and hassle free options on the market.
Leave me in the comments your thoughts about these choices and your experience with renting a car in Portugal this year or in the past. Do you think the prices have gone insane, and most importantly, do you think the market will reajust once this craziness is over? Or are these the new prices for renting a car in Portugal?
Have a good stay in Portugal!