driving in car hire in Malaga

Renting a Car in Malaga Airport vs City Center – Where is Better & Things to Check

If you are planning to rent a car in Malaga, then you have come to the right place. In my time living in this city, I’ve rented cars constantly and eventually opted for a long-term rental plan as it felt that having a car in Malaga was essential.

Does it mean that everybody who comes to Malaga needs to rent a car? Probably not. But for a tourist, a first-timer, or a returning one, a car will make a significant difference if you like to explore more in less time and in great comfort.

The only thing to decide is where to rent a car – in Malaga airport or the city center. As it is one of the few cities in Spain where hiring a car is very convenient in many areas.

I want to share my experience of renting cars at the airport, train station and even having a car delivered to my apartment. All had their own perks and disadvantages.

But before I get there, let me quickly cover the most important points to know before hiring a car in Malaga, where to find cheap car rentals, and how to know that cheap are trustworthy. Because some car rental companies scam tourists a lot.  

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you make a purchase by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you).

Renting a Car in Malaga – Key Takeaways

1.) Opting for a car rental in Malaga airport will be the best decision after landing at the airport or/and if renting a car for a long term (a week or longer) because prices for long-term car hire in the airport are cheaper.

If visiting Malaga on a short city break and thinking of exploring beyond the usual tourist spots outside the city, choose to rent a car at Malaga train station. You’ll save time on getting places.

2.) Hiring a car in Malaga (both airport and city center) requires a minimum age of 18. However, if you’re between 18 and 30 years old, always check the Driver Requirements section before booking as you might be subject to a Young Driver Fee in addition to the rental cost. The fee starts at €5 per day.

3.) When it comes to best Malaga car hire, this website stands out from the rest. They always offer unbeatable prices on rentals and insurance, making them the top choice. However, if you don’t have a CC and want to rent a car, you can do it through this company that works with locals. Just go thoroughly through all their offers and you’ll find a few that allow to pay with cash.

4.) You can find the best luxury car hire in Malaga from Sixt and cheapest from RecordGo. See what’s on offer today.

5.) Renting a car in Malaga, Spain is always so easy, pretty much as in Valencia or Madrid. Just ensure you have your license, passport, credit card, and a digital copy of your voucher.

6.) Hiring a car to explore Andalucia is a good idea at any season. Prices are the lowest in winter, just make sure you pack the right clothes and book accommodation with heating on your trip to stay warm at night.

7.) If you stumble upon the perfect car for your Malaga trip, don’t hesitate to book it right away, especially if you’re visiting during the busy summer season. The best deals vanish quickly, and during peak times, the availability of affordable options becomes limited.

8.) Travelers with a valid US or Canadian driver’s license are technically supposed to carry an International Driver’s Permit (IDP). However, no rental company ever asks for one.

Should You Rent a Car in Malaga

driving in Malaga

This depends. Are you visiting Malaga city or Malaga province?

If the city itself, you don’t need a car to explore the historical center since it is so compact and very walkable. You can rent a bike or use public transportation to move to adjacent neighborhoods. Public transportation system is great, includes buses and metro and most of the major attractions are close to each other and easily walkable. Car will be a burden if you don’t plan to do anything else.

But if you want to explore the entire Malaga region, then having a car is a must because besides hidden gems it will give you the freedom to see the beautiful towns and villages nearby, and take in the stunning countryside at your own pace.

There are some really popular day trips from Malaga, such as the hilltop village of Ronda, the charming white-washed town of Mijas, and the beaches of the Costa del Sol which all can be done by car instead of joining the tour.

Renting a Car in Malaga Airport vs City Center

driving in Malaga car hire

I rented cars at Malaga’s airport and train station together and both options were convenient although in different situations.

In my experience, renting a car at the train station and in other offices scattered throughout the center is best for 1 or 2 days since you’ll spend much less time getting to them and when waiting in line (there are usually fewer people booking cars in the city). 

If you are coming to Malaga only for a few days, it makes sense not to rent a car at the airport but better do it in the city center for that day when you plan to go out. In this way, you’ll explore the city on your own terms not being tied to a vehicle and then have a day (or two) to drive in the region checking out some distant places that are well worth a visit.

Check here car rentals in Malaga’s city center without the need to go to the airport.

Depending on the season, prices can be somewhat higher than at the airport or lower. But even if you pay more, you save time and pay for convenience.

Best Malaga Car Rental Companies

There are many good companies where to rent a car but I personally like RecordGo, Centauro, and Hertz as they proved to be very laid back and easygoing regarding the pick-up and drop-off (and they don’t make up reasons to take part of the deposit). I usually compare prices between them all and choose the one that has better prices and car models at the moment of booking. 

Besides that, RecordGo also often offers the lowest prices which pretty much makes it the cheapest car rental in Malaga. (One more cheap Malaga car hire is GoldCar but this company is a scam. They always charge more in the end if you don’t purchase insurance directly from them, not a third party. I’d recommend you stay away from them at any cost).

Another way where I also rented a car was through LocalRent, a company that brings together local businesses that often offer low or no deposits (good for those who want to rent a car without insurance) and ability to book a car without a credit card.

They also have cars available for rent throughout the city with the delivery to your accommodation (for extra payment) which is very convenient when you have limited time and don’t want to go to the airport. Besides Malaga, they have excellent car offers in Tenerife and in Valencia

Compare Car Hire in Spain Malaga

Rental Car Prices

Overall rental car prices in Spain are very dynamic and react to demand. 

The price range for the same economy vehicle can go from just €4 – €5 to €35 per day. Naturally, you will see the highest rates in July – August. So it is usually better to book in advance for a trip at that time of the year. Early Spring, later Fall, and often February-March is when the rates hit their lowest point. 

At times when it is common to see rates like €20 for a car per whole week, the question is, can you trust these rates? When the company doesn’t make any profits on the cars themselves, they generate money from either insurance packages or from deposits in case there are damages to the car.

So yes, it is a very legit deal to rent a car for a very small amount of money but better choose insurance as well to stay safe and not be charged for a very tiny scratch.

Should You Buy Insurance for Your Rental Car 

Rather yes than no and here is why.

Parking places get very packed, especially the free ones, and they are very tight. People are often a bit careless about parking and can easily leave a dent in your car.

To avoid the stress of paying for the damages, getting insurance is the best way. If you want to save money, you can get full coverage instead of insurance from the aggregator I mentioned above. They offer one of the best coverage packages for just around €6 per day.

Documents Needed for Malaga Car Hire

As everywhere in Spain, the requirements are very straightforward. You need to bring:

  • Passport or EU national identity card
  • Drivers License 
  • Credit card in the driver’s name
  • Digital voucher

In very rare cases, American and Canadian residents may need to show an International Driver’s Permit. This almost never happens but if you can, get one before coming to Spain

NOTE: If you don’t have a credit card and want to rent a car, do it through LocalRent as it often has cars on offer when it is possible to pay with cash and no deposit is needed!

Parking in Malaga

Malaga by rental car

Parking in Malaga usually is not problematic unless you get closer to Old Town (the only thing is it’s usually tight). But in the center quickly finding a parking spot becomes difficult these days, even for paid street parking.

There are actually a good number of free parking spots (marked with white lines as everywhere in Spain). But finding an empty parking spot becomes especially hard in the morning and late afternoons. And usually, your only chance to get a spot is if you see a car leaving. If you don’t mind a little bit of walking, then drive away into the neighborhoods. You can probably find a parking spot there soon enough.

There is a bigger chance of finding a spot on the paid spot (marked with blue lines). They cost €1 per hour during business hours (9 am – 2 pm, and 4 pm – 8 pm) and Saturdays (10 am to 2 pm). The maximum time you can leave your car during working hours is only up to 150 minutes.

Where to Go by Car From Malaga

If you are staying in Malaga for a little longer and living in a good location from where it is easy to go on a drive, take advantage of hiring a car and escaping the city to explore more of the beautiful Andalusian region!

Here are some of the top road trips you can take from Malaga by car, each with its unique charm and beauty:

Costa del Sol Coastal Drive

One of the classic road trip routes from Malaga is the scenic coastal drive along the Costa del Sol. You’ll pass through popular towns like Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Fuengirola, Marbella, and Estepona.

This drive is perfect for people who love being near the beach, as you’ll have plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the Mediterranean sea, sandy beaches, and the vibrant life of each town.

Malaga beach

Ronda and the White Villages

Another popular road trip is from Malaga to Ronda and the surrounding “white villages” like Mijas, Ojen, and Casares. They are known for their white-washed buildings, cobbled narrow streets, and mountain views on all sides.

Ronda, in particular, is famous for its dramatic gorge, ancient bullring, and historic old town. You’ll be able to explore the quaint streets, visit an olive farm (one of the must-have experiences in southern Spain!), and take in the breathtaking scenery.

Sierra Nevada Mountains

If you love mountains (especially with snow which is a rarity in Spain in winter), you’ll love a road trip to the Sierra Nevada National Park from December to about April.

The road towards Granada and then to Sierra Nevada twists through windy roads and beautiful countryside with views of snow-capped peaks in the background. There are also plenty of hiking trails and viewpoints to stop and enjoy the fresh mountain air.

This road trip is perfect for those who want to escape the heat and enjoy some cooler temperatures in summer or to enjoy a bit of wintry landscapes in winter.

driving in Malaga province

Granada and Alhambra

For a cultural road trip from Malaga, head to the historic city of Granada (which you can combine together with Sierra Nevada National Park), which is home to the iconic Alhambra palace and fortress.

On the way there, stop in Velez-Malaga, Torrox, Nerja, Frigiliana, and Durcal. Once you reach Granada, choose to stay in the southern part of the city (neighborhoods like Cervantes and Zaidin) as finding parking there is easy. 


Finally, for a unique road trip experience, consider visiting the British territory of Gibraltar by car from Malaga. The drive can be short or long, as you’ll make it, with many interesting places to visit along the way and breathtaking views of the Mediterranean coastline. 

Overall, Malaga is an excellent base for exploring the Andalusian region and beyond. I have a post with many places to visit in Malaga when you have a car, give it a read if you haven’t done it yet.

Final Word on Car Hire in Malaga

In summary, renting a car in Malaga to explore Andalucia is a much better option than going everywhere on tours or by using buses.

Driving in Malaga city center is ALWAYS busy and parking is also quite challenging. Some drivers are quite assertive and owners of older cars do not care much of the cars of others parked on the streets, so you need to be careful when parking and better consider an option to purchase insurance.

But once you get outside the city, driving in Malaga becomes quite easy – roads are well-maintained, signage is clear, and police checks are everywhere which ensures safer roads and adherence to traffic laws. 

Places to Check by Car in Other Parts of Spain

Malaga car hire in the airport vs city center

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