Getting around in Madrid: rental car

madrid by car rental

Are you looking for different options to get around Madrid? Rental car is definitely not the best one.

Why?

The traffic system in Madrid is complex and demands careful planning if you’re not familiar with the city.

So is it worth renting a car in Madrid?

To put it simple: no.

The only reason to rent a car in Madrid, or use a rental car while being here, is either because

  • You want to do day trips and visit the area around Madrid on your own.
  • You plan to travel out of the city and go to other great destinations in Spain (Seville, Granada, Cordoba, Barcelona or other amazing places…).

Without a doubt the city is better explored by foot!

But if you still need to get around Madrid by rental car, check this complete guide on the best online car rental.

Avoid getting around Madrid by rental car

While it may seem like renting your own vehicle allows you more freedom and accessibility, a Madrid rental car is definitely not recommended to get around within the city. Why?

Because…

  • A large part of Madrid’s tourist area is not accessible by car.
  • Traffic can be heavy; it always feels like rush hour.
  • Car parking in Madrid is a pain in the neck. Most neighborhoods have parking meters and subterranean car parks are expensive.
  • Driving on Madrid’s ring roads (M-30, M-40 and M-50) is messy, complicated and is generally a stressful experience.
  • It enjoys a fantastic and extremely cheap (by western standards) network of public transport which will take you anywhere safely, comfortably and quickly.

You should consider using any other means of public transportation:

  • The subway because it’s faster.
  • The bus because it gets you everywhere.
  • A taxi because it’s more comfortable.

And all of them are much cheaper than a rental car.

The conclusion here is that once you arrive, you should leave your car in a safe place and use the public transport system.

You want to embark on a road trip

OK. You plan to travel around Spain or Madrid’s region by car.

Let’s see the different case scenarios:

1. Madrid is the start or the end of your road trip around the country.

  • If Madrid is the start of your trip around Spain, pick up your car on the day you leave Madrid. So, get to Madrid (by plane or by train), visit the city and once you’re done, rent your car and take the road!
  • If Madrid is the end of your trip around Spain, drop off the rental car as soon as you get to Madrid. There’s no need to keep the rental car inside the city.

2. Madrid is one of the stops along the road.

So you plan to arrive to Madrid by car, visit the city and then continue your trip.

If that’s your plan, find a secure place to park your car. It can either be a public car park or your accommodation’s parking. Make sure you take all your personal belongings with you.

3. Madrid is your home base to explore the surroundings.

In this case you have 2 options:

  1. Book an accommodation with a car park and use it as a home base. Explore the region during the day, and return to Madrid at the end of the day.
  2. Embark on a road trip around Madrid’s region starting from Madrid and then spend each night at a different location.

If you plan to go on some day trips from Madrid, read my recommendations for each destination.

Is it easy to rent a car in Madrid?

Yes, it’s incredibly easy.

And the best piece of advice that I can give you is to do it online.

I suggest you have a look at my complete guide on the best online car rental.

You need a rental car for a road trip around Spain

One of the best ways to explore is by doing a Spain road trip.

With vibrant cities, charming towns and white villages, many historic landmarks, and diverse landscapes, Spain is a great country to explore on road trips.

Whether you choose stunning Andalucía in the south of Spain, or one of the beautiful coasts, or parts of northern Spain, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to places to see and things to do on your road trip.

Thanks to Madrid’s convenient location right in the center of the Iberian Peninsula, it has traditionally been the hub between different areas of Spain and is therefore connected to all major Spanish cities and even smaller destination by an amazing road network.

To help you plan your road trip around Spain, have a look at

Finally, I always recommend getting an international driving permit even if it isn’t always enforced.

You want to visit the region around Madrid

Renting a car in Madrid does have its advantages if you want to explore the surrounding area in around 100 km.

Even if most towns in the region have straight short distance train connections to Madrid downtown or even high speed train connections, they’ll take you just to the main city spots.

If you want to visit the Sierra (the beautiful mountains to the North of Madrid), and historical cities like Alcalá de Henares, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, El Pardo, Aranjuez, Chinchón, La Granja de San Ildefonso, Buitrago de Lozoya, or even nearby cities in other provinces like Ávila, Segovia or Toledo, then renting a car could be a good idea.

The main advantages of renting a car to visit the Madrid region are:

  • All these places are off the beaten track, so most of the time you’ll be almost on your own. Just make sure to explore them on weekdays. Madrileños like to exit the city on weekends!
  • Parking is usually very easy. So you can get there, park the rental car and start exploring in a breeze.
  • Most of these destinations have very good radial highway communications giving a lot of freedom to your scheduling.

Nevertheless, keep in mind that if you just want to visit a particular city and not a region tour, still public transportation is surely the best option when available.
This article is part of a complete tutorial about car rental in Madrid where you can read all the information you need to organize your road trip around the country.

Here is a complete summary of all the guide:

1. Traveling to Madrid by car
2. How to book your rental car online
3. How to find cheap rental rates?
4. Do you need an International Driver’s Licence?
5. Getting around Madrid: rental car
6. 6 tips for driving in Madrid
7. Car parking in Madrid

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