If you’re looking to make the most out of your trip to Madeira and want to see all the highlights, viewpoints, and off-the-beaten path spots this beautiful island has to offer, you might want to consider renting a car.

By having a car, you can easily get to all the beautiful viewpoints, the trailheads of the best hikes, and go explore some of the more remote locations around the island.

After spending almost 6 months in Madeira, we’ve rented our fair share of cars for all sorts of different trips so we figured we’d put together this blog post on how to rent a car from Madeira Airport!

In this post, we’ll share where to rent the car from, what you can expect when you land at the airport, and what to keep in mind when finding your rental.

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Everything you need to know about renting a car from Madeira Airport

Things to consider before renting your car

When renting your car, there are a few things to look out for when making the booking.

These are things such as the size and comfort of the car, whether you want a car with an automatic or manual transmission (most cars in Madeira are manual), and what type of insurance (if any) you want to get on your car rental.

We go more into details on insurance further down the post but for now, here are some things to consider and to look for on the booking page when renting your car:

  • Transmission: Automatic vs manual
  • Size & comfort: With the exception of the highway that takes you around the island, the roads are steep and narrow here. A small car is usually better.
  • Parking: Is there parking available at or near your place of accommodation?
  • Extra drivers: Will there be one or more drivers? Additional drivers often cost an extra €25-35 per driver (flat fee).
  • Do you need an international driver’s license? If you have an EU or American driver’s license, you do not need an international one.
  • Insurance: Consider getting full insurance through DiscoverCars or the rental company (more on this below)
  • Drop-off location: Select the same drop-off location for the best rates (in this case, Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport)
  • Pick-up location: Make sure you’ve selected Madeira Airport, not Funchal city or any other location – and yes, there is only one airport in Madeira!
Example of a car rental from Madeira Airport

Getting picked up vs picking up the car

Speaking of pick-up location, please note that a lot of car rental companies don’t have their cars directly at Madeira Cristiano Ronaldo Airport, which is quite a small international airport.

More often than not, the car rental company will pick you up at the airport and drive you 10 minutes to the car rental place.

We’ve done this twice and both times it’s been completely fine (they have shuttles that pick you up). Just keep in mind that this does add a bit of time to your agenda.

Normally, you have to call the rental place after you’ve picked up your luggage (if you have one) and then they will pick you up in 10-15 minutes.

If you are unable to make calls, there are ways to work around this. You can email the company beforehand OR you can download Skype on your phone and add some credits to it.

From Skype, you can make an actual phone call to their local phone number. All you need is WiFi (there’s free wifi at the airport) or a SIM card with data (such as an eSIM).

While it is less convenient to have them pick you up at the airport, it is usually a lot cheaper than picking up the car directly from the airport.

It all comes down to personal preference and budget for the car rental.

How to find the cheapest car rental from the airport

When looking at the price of car rentals from Madeira Airport, there’s quite a big difference in price between the different companies.

Most car rentals range from around €30/day to €90/day depending on the company you rent from and when you’re visiting Madeira (peak season will always be a bit more expensive).

Of course, this also has to do with the size and the quality of the car, but even if you’re renting the same type of car (say a Fiat Panda which is the most common car rental in Madeira), you can often pay a very different price depending on who you rent from.

That’s why we always book through DiscoverCars. DiscoverCars is a search engine for car rentals that compares prices between all the different car rental companies available in a given location.

If you’re familiar with Skyscanner or Momondo for booking flights, DiscoverCars is the equivalent but for car rentals.

We’ve used them in the Czech Republic, Italy, New Zealand, and Portugal + Madeira and not once have we had issues with them.

They have a 24-hour customer support and anytime we’ve had to modify a booking, we’ve just sent them an email or given them a call and they’ve gotten back to us right away with no issues.

Check out DiscoverCars’ options for Madeira here.

Picture of a car rental from Madeira Airport in Portugal.

Best practices when renting a car in Madeira

Pay attention to the drop-off time

More often than not, car rentals work for 24 hours at a time. So when booking your rental car, pay attention to the pick-up and drop-off time.

Of course, if you pick up your car from the airport, you are likely dependent on your arrival and departure time.

But if you are somewhat flexible with the timing, make sure the drop-off time is at the same time of day as your pick-up time. 

This way, you avoid paying the fee for an additional day (note: this isn’t a hidden fee, this is just how the pricing works).

For example, if you pick up your car at 3 pm on Friday and you want to drop it off at 4 pm on Thursday, you are technically paying the same price as you would if you were to drop off the car at 3 pm on Friday.

So if you are a little flexible, you can actually save the cost of a full day’s car rental if you can drop it off at the same time (in this case 3 pm) or earlier.

Obviously, if you’re picking the car up in the morning and dropping it off in the evening, this doesn’t make sense, but if the timing somewhat works and you want to save a bit of money, this is something to consider.

Car rental insurance

This one is up to your personal preference, but we always get full insurance when renting a car.

There are a few ways you can get your rental car insured:

  • Through DiscoverCars
  • Through your Credit Card
  • Directly through the rental company

Let’s look at each of them…

Through DiscoverCars:

We usually choose to get our insurance through DiscoverCars when we rent through them.

We do this because we trust the company and we know they can help handle any issues that may arise. This is what’s most important to us.

The downside of doing it this way is that the rental company will file the claim first should any issues arise, and then you get charged before getting reimbursed by DiscoverCars.

Through your Credit Card:

Some credit cards cover insurance for car rentals. You can call your credit card provider and ask them if they cover – and if so, ask them for the policy.

Directly through the rental company:

It is always an option to get insurance directly through the rental company.

If you decide to do this, you will likely have to pay for the insurance once you pick up the car rental (versus upon booking which is what you do when paying for DiscoverCars’ insurance).

This way, you deal only directly with the car rental company in case any damage happens to the car.

This is maybe the simplest way but the downside of this is that it is only you and the car rental company – you won’t get help from DiscoverCars’ support team or your credit card.

Please note that you should NOT get insurance both directly with the company and with your CC or through DiscoverCars. One insurance is enough.

Our personal preference is to get full insurance through DiscoverCars upon booking the car rental but it is up to you what you decide to do!

📍 Want to know about all the best spots in Madeira?
Then check out our Madeira Maps with +135 locations around the island that we have personally visited and love! 🗺️

What to do when picking up your rental car

Check for scratches and cracks

Depending on the type of insurance you have chosen for your car rental, it’s always a good idea to check for scratches on the car and cracks in the windshield.

Take a video of the car as you walk around it before leaving the rental place. 

Make sure you film any scratches and/or cracks that you notice.

This way you have documentation for any damage that was already done to the vehicle before you picked it up.

It should already be marked off on a piece of paper – and if you have full insurance, this is less important – but it takes less than 2 minutes to do so it doesn’t hurt!

Check the tire pressure

This is very rarely an issue but we did have one time when we picked up a car rental (years ago) where the tire pressure was low (it might’ve even been punctured).

For that reason, we suggest always checking the tires before leaving the car rental place.

Just check if the tires look good from the outside and then again when you turn on the car.

It’s just a best practice so that, in case the pressure is off, you can ask them to fix it right then and there so that you don’t have to deal with this while you’re enjoying your vacation!

Check the gas gauge

Quickly check or ask the employee if the car rental is full-to-full. 

If so, double-check that the gas gauge is actually full by turning on the car. If so, you’re good to go.

In case the policy is not full-to-full, quickly make a note of how much gas is in the car. Take a picture for your own recollection.

This should also be noted on the paperwork you get from the rental company!

Bring a credit card and your ID (important!)

This is important! Please check the terms after booking your rental and what you need to bring.

A physical credit card is oftentimes required. We always bring both a MasterCard and a Visa just in case.

Also, please note that in some cases, it is the primary driver’s credit card that needs to be used.

The company will also need to take a copy of your passport or driver’s license (sometimes both) for their records.

What it’s like driving in Madeira

The highway + tunnels in Madeira

This is a question we get asked a lot! Is it scary driving in Madeira? What are the roads like?

Madeira has a 2-lane highway that goes almost the entire way around the island. It is actually quite pleasant driving here in Madeira.

The roads in Funchal and the ones that lead up to the mountains and hiking trailheads are often steep and narrow – but all the locals are used to the roads and know how to drive.

We were a little nervous about the roads before coming here but we can confidently say that we think they are fine!

Outside of the crazy steep roads, all the other roads are in great condition and nice to drive on.

Of course, you’ll see some crazy drivers like you do everywhere but nothing out of the ordinary other than some steep roads.

But in general, the driving is really good here!

→ We have a full blog post on what it’s like driving in Madeira here if you wish to learn more ←

Book your car rental

If you already have your trip planned and you know the dates of when you’re coming it’s best to book your car rental in advance.

Prices do change and get more expensive the closer you are to the actual date. If you know the dates already it’s best to look at the options on DiscoverCars and book before prices go up.

Especially here in Madeira where there is a peak season but in general the island is quite busy all year around.

Book your car rental from Madeira Airport here.

Picture of a car rental from Madeira Airport in Portugal.

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Conclusion on renting a car from Madeira Airport

A beautiful mountain road in Madeira

Hopefully, this post helped you with your car rental and made it seem easy enough to rent a car from Madeira Airport.

We’ve obviously included a lot of information in this post, but it’s truly pretty easy.

Once you’re here, you’ll realize how nice it is to have a rental to get around the island to visit all of the best spots.

If you have any questions about Madeira such as where to stay, which hikes you should do, what to do in Funchal, or anything else related to this beautiful island, feel free to leave a comment below.

You can also DM us on Instagram @redwhiteadventures where we’ll answer any questions you may have and share a lot more Madeira inspiration.

We hope you have an awesome time driving around and exploring this beautiful island!

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