Why you now need to book a rental car in advance in Spain

If you're coming to Spain this Easter and want to rent a car, there's a high chance you won't be able to. Here's why.

Why you now need to book a rental car in advance in Spain
Renting a car in Spain at short notice is getting harder and more expensive. Photo: JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH

Visitors to Spain who want to hire a car will have a hard time trying to get hold of one this Easter or even this summer, unless they book well in advance. 

Over the past two years, since the start of Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a shortage in rental cars in Spain. However, during peak holiday times such as Easter, the issue has been brought to the forefront.

It’s now common in Spain to see car rental companies hanging up signs saying “no hay coches” or no cars, similar to the no vacancy signs seen in bed & breakfasts and hotels.

Which places in Spain are experiencing shortages?

While all of Spain is currently experiencing car rental shortages, the problem is particularly affecting areas of Spain with high numbers of tourists such as the Costa del Sol, the Balearic Islands and the Canaries.

According to the employers’ associations of the Balearic Islands, Aevab and Baleval, there are 50,000 fewer rental cars across the islands than before the pandemic.

In the Canary Islands, there is a similar problem. Occupancy rates close to 90 percent have overwhelmed car rental companies. The Association of Canary Vehicle Rental Companies (Aecav) says that they too have 50,000 vehicles, but to meet current demand, they estimate they would need at least 65,000.  

While the National Business Federation of Vehicle Rental With and Without Driver (FENEVAL), which operates across Spain has revealed that they currently have 600,000 cars, which is 27 percent less than in 2019, when they had 820,000 vehicles.

READ ALSO – How to cut travel costs by carpooling in Spain: Eight trustworthy options

Why is there a shortage?

There are several factors that have led to this shortage, which primarily have to do with the pandemic.

According to Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE), fewer than 20 million foreign tourists visited Spain in 2020 and revenues in the sector plummeted by more than 75 percent. While numbers did rise in 2021, the country still only welcomed 31.1 million foreign visitors last year, well below pre-pandemic levels and far short of the government’s target.

Many Spanish car rental companies have admitted that the fleet they offer is down to half after selling off vehicles in the pandemic due to the lack of demand.  They also say that they cannot replace these vehicles because they do not have the dealers to do so.

One of the biggest issues is that also due to the drop in demand during the pandemic, the world is experiencing a shortage of semiconductor microchips, which are an integral part of automobile production. Each car requires an average of 200 to 400 microchips.

“They are manufacturing very few cars due to the lack of microchips”, explained the president of the Business Association of Rental Vehicles in Andalusia (AESVA), Ana María García.  

The car rental sector also complains that car rental companies are not priority customers for manufacturers. “They are selling them to other sectors or to individuals,” explained García.  

President of Feneval, Juan Luis Barahona also echoed this sentiment, saying “we are having problems getting manufacturers to provide us with new cars”.  

What can I do?

If you know that you’re coming to Spain and will need a rental car, the best option is to book your car as soon as you book your flights.

Make sure that you don’t leave it until you arrive, otherwise, you’ll find that you could be left without any private transportation and will be forced to rely on public transport instead – not ideal if you’ve planned a Spanish road trip or you’ve planned on visiting some of the Canary and Balearic Islands where public transport isn’t very reliable. 

In the Canary Islands, Aecav expects this problem to worsen during the summer and recommends “booking well in advance”.

Rise in prices

Due to the lack of availability and increase in demand, car rental prices have soared. As reported by LaSexta TV channel, renting a car from Palma de Mallorca airport in July 2021 cost €880 when booking one month in advance, but now even if you look three months in advance, the cost has gone up to €970.

The rise in prices affects the cheapest models, which together with the rise in fuel prices will make self-drive and road trip vacations a lot more difficult for many tourists to Spain this year.

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Spain to allow unvaccinated non-EU tourists to enter ‘in matter of days’

Spain’s Tourism Minister on Thursday announced that “in a matter of days” unvaccinated third-country nationals such as Britons and Americans will be able to travel to Spain for a holiday with proof of a negative Covid-19 test. 

Spain to allow unvaccinated non-EU tourists to enter 'in matter of days'

Spanish Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto on Thursday May 19th confirmed that it won’t be long before unvaccinated non-EU/Schengen nationals will be allowed to travel to Spain for non-essential reasons such as tourism, visiting friends or family or spending time in a second home in Spain. 

“It’s a matter of days before we eliminate a restriction that could be discouraging tourists from outside the European Union from visiting us,” Reyes told Spanish radio station Onda Cero.

“And that is that we are going to stop requiring the vaccination certificate and allow them to enter with a negative test”. 

Maroto then stated that this would have to be a PDIA test, which in Spain refers to both PCR and antigen tests. If it’s a negative PCR or similar test (NAAT-type test) it must have been issued less than 72 hours prior to arrival in Spain, or if it’s a negative antigen test, less than 24 hours before arriving in Spain.

The surprise announcement comes just days after Spanish health authorities decided to extend the ban on non-essential travel for unvaccinated non-EU holidaymakers until June 15th

Spain’s current Covid-19 travel restrictions only allow in third-country tourists such as Britons, Americans or Indians who have been fully vaccinated (including a booster shot if initial vaccination was more than nine months before travel) and those who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months. 

But for practically the entirety of the pandemic, unvaccinated non-EU tourists have been unable to travel to Spain, with only exceptional reasons for travel allowed. 

Reyes’ comments came about when asked by the Onda Cero interviewer when all of Spain’s Covid-19 travel restrictions will be lifted, as there are still other measures in places such as mask wearing on public transport (including planes) and proof of vaccination, testing or recovery.

“There’s a degree of safety with travel that we have to preserve. We’re still co-existing with the pandemic but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t been gradually lifting restrictions,” Maroto argued.

The minister spoke of allowing unvaccinated non-EU holidaymakers in soon as being another way of boosting the country’s recovering tourism industry, adding that her ministry was putting the finishing touches to the legislation, which will be approved in the coming days. 

A number of EU/Schengen countries have already lifted all their Covid-19 travel restrictions, including Greece and Austria most recently, as well as Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland.

Other countries such as France and Italy, Spain’s competitors in the tourism stakes, have also already allowed unvaccinated third-country tourists in with proof of a negative Covid-19 test for more than a month now.