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4 of the cheapest car hire destinations

Photo of Chelsea DickensonPhoto of Chelsea Dickenson
By Chelsea Dickenson

21 June 20247 min read

Skyline of Valleta, Malta

Malta Cheap car hire is easy to find in Malta, even in summer.

Car hire can be a bit of an afterthought when booking a trip away, but what if you turned this on its head and booked your holiday based on your rental – and where you’ll get it for less – instead?

Where are the places you’re most likely to find a bargain? And after you factor in the price of fuel and hidden fees, do they actually deserve a spot on our cheap list after all?

Whether you’re all about getting off the beaten track or just like having a set of wheels at your disposal, here are four destinations where you’ve got a good chance of finding cheap car hire.

*All prices quoted correct as 21 June 2024. Please note prices can fluctuate daily and may appear differently on provider site for this reason. Prices based on a mini category manual car unless otherwise stated. Deals are subject to the partners' T&Cs.

1. Malta

No matter when you search (yep, even during peak season), you’re pretty likely to find cheap car hire in Malta.

It’s a great driving destination too, and having a car opens up the whole of this Med gem for you to explore, from Valletta down to the south coast and even over to the island of Gozo.

The cheapest car hire prices

Drive manual? You’re set for a bargain in Malta – even in summer, you can find a week’s car hire for under £10 a day:

An automatic SUV will cost more, around £19.17 a day during the cheapest dates I found (5 – 12 October ).

Other costs

Your car needs to be covered by a third party insurance that’s recognised in Malta – it’s the legal minimum, so check with your provider.

In general there aren’t any toll roads in Malta, however there is a city toll if you plan to drive in the capital of Valletta.

The current average petrol price in Malta is €1.34 (£1.13) per litre.

2. Lisbon

While the city itself is reason enough to visit the Portuguese capital, Lisbon also makes a great starting point for exploring the less-traversed parts of the country.

In fact, the last time I rented a car from Lisbon (at just £5 a day), we ended up driving across to Fátima and up to Nazaré, which is famous for its annual surf competition where surfers attempt to conquer 100ft waves!

The cheapest car hire prices

The true bargains for car hire in Lisbon lie out of season, with October rentals around half the price of hiring in August. That said, a manual car can still come in under £60 for a week’s hire, even in peak season:

Want an automatic? Taking the cheapest dates I found (3 – 10 October), an automatic SUV would set you back £11.15 a day.

Other costs

If you’re hoping to travel across the country, it’s likely you’ll end up on a motorway with a toll road. This is pretty straightforward if it has a traditional toll booth but many of them are electronic, with no option to pay by card or cash.

Check with your car hire company if your vehicle is set up to pay for you and how you’ll be charged for this when you return the car. Some car hire companies will have a ‘Via Verde’ device that does this all for you, but some charge for this, too.

The first step is to check the map of toll roads to see if your journey will be affected.

As for petrol, the current average price in Lisbon is €1.96 (£1.66) per litre.

3. Malaga

Many sun-seekers fly into Malaga with the plan to scuttle down the coastline and check into one of its fab resorts. But there’s so much beauty to be discovered in this area if you’ve got the time, the appetite – and four wheels to get you around!

Take the pretty little town of El Gastor up in the Andalusian hills, for example. I stayed there recently and not only did I score cheap car hire, but the accommodation and food and drink were super wallet-friendly, too.

The cheapest car hire prices

It’s interesting that prices are still low for last-minute car hire in Malaga, and so it could well be worth booking a car with free cancellation and checking the cost again when your dates get closer.

As an example, here are some prices I found for a week's hire of a manual car during the upcoming months:

In good news for automatic drivers, a car won’t set you back that much more than a manual, coming in at £11.18 a day during the cheapest dates (20 – 27 October).

Other costs

There have been a few questions over the years about whether driving in flip flops in Spain could slap you with a fine.

While it’s not technically illegal, Spain’s General Traffic Regulations state “drivers must be in a position to control their vehicles at all times”, which some have interpreted as the potential to be fined up to €200 if your footwear isn’t appropriate for driving.

There are also some toll roads in the area, notably the AP-7 motorway. However, the good news is there’s a toll-free option, the A-7, so just make sure you check your route first.

When you need to fill up before returning your car, the average petrol price in Malaga is €1.66 (£1.40) per litre.

4. Athens

Just like Lisbon, Athens is usually a cheap option thanks to the sheer amount of car hire companies that operate out of the city.

It’s also a great base from which to set off on a road trip adventure – from the airport in Athens, you’re only an hour’s drive from the port of Piraeus, where you can catch a ferry out to the stunning Cyclades islands.

Or, you can drive three hours around the coast to visit Methana and hop between the lesser-known Saronic Islands.

The cheapest car hire prices

It might not come as a surprise that off-peak dates are when you’ll get great value for money in Athens, which is also great if you fancy exploring the area without the crowds.

Even so, you can find manual car hire in September – when temperatures hover in the 20s and the sea’s still warm – at budget-friendly prices:

This is another place where an automatic SUV doesn’t have to cost a whole lot more. You can book a car from as little as £8.60 a day during the cheapest dates I found (4 – 11 October).

Other costs

There are several toll roads in Greece, so make sure you check your journey to see how these costs could add up. The good news is that you can pay in card or cash and so it’s pretty straightforward to tackle when you do come across them.

Petrol in Athens, meanwhile, costs €1.91 (£1.61) per litre on average.

Note that drivers are required to carry a warning triangle, headlamp deflectors, a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher in their vehicles. Make sure your hire car has them, or you could get a fine if stopped and asked.

Top tips

  • Make sure you check your vehicle diligently. Take photos and videos on pick up and drop off to make sure you also swerve any potential added costs for damage that you didn’t do.
  • Consider a standalone excess insurance policy so that you’re covered should anything happen – they’re usually cheaper than purchasing the policy offered by your car hire at the desk.

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