Car rental in Lisbon might not be essential if you’re only planning a few days within the city.
There’s also no point in renting a car to take a daytrip to nearby Sintra or Cascais. But if you intend to visit the Algarve or the north of Portugal, then having your own vehicle is the way to go.
Here are a few tips for getting the best and most reliable car hire deals in Lisbon.1
Fuel is expensive, and there are a number of different toll roads across Portugal. For short distances, tolls are not be expensive (a euro here, two euros there). However, tolls may cost more than fuel to get to some destinations. For example, from Lisbon to Albufeira (Algarve) expect to pay around €20 in tolls; the journey from Lisbon to Porto costs around €22 just in tolls.2
Ask for a transponder
If you plan to use motorways, be aware that there a number of motorways in Portugal that are completely electronic (no toll booths). If you travel with a transponder, then you should use the special Via Verde lane on all the motorways that do have toll booths. When you return the car, the toll charges that were recorded on the transponder will be charged on your credit card.3
Don’t drive into Lisbon
Especially on weekdays, avoid the traffic and the parking meters in Lisbon. If you plan to visit the city first, then the best option is to pick up the car right before you leave.4
Take your own GPS
Or download free apps like Navmii. Just make sure you download the latest maps before going. Most car rental companies offer GPS rentals at around €10 per day.5
Use your favourite car rental service
If you have a favourite car rental service at home, consider using the same company in Lisbon. It should probably have an office here. Otherwise, it’s generally an advantage to go with a larger company, with a wider choice of pickup and drop-off locations.6
Book before your trip
If you have decided to go, then the rates are usually cheaper when you book than renting when you arrive in Lisbon.7
Not only are you likely to get a discount, but also a collision damage waiver from the rental company, if you’re planning to get one, will likely also be cheaper when paid upfront. But beware of cancellation fees. Don’t pay unless your itinerary is firm, and you’ve read the company’s cancellation policy.8
Check the car
Before you leave, inspect the car and look for any damage, marking even tiny scratches on the rental agreement. When you bring the car back, take a set of photographs to prove how it was returned, including the wheels and the mileometer.9
Check the fuel policy and the mileage
Most car rental companies in Lisbon have a full-to-full policy, which means that you get a full tank on pickup and you should bring it back full again. This is usually the best option, because with the full-to-empty policy you may end up returning a car with three-quarters of a tank of fuel you didn’t use. Also, most rental car companies in Lisbon don’t limit the mileage, but you should check their policy to make sure.10
To be aware
You may be asked to give your credit card details as a deposit. Before you leave home, find out how much this deposit will be and make sure you have adequate funds available (for the deposit and the rest of your holiday).