Car rental in Madeira: tips, my own experiences and car hire from €9/day!!

Written by Sam Van den Haute aka CheckOutSam

The fairytale like Portuguese island of Madeira is best explored by car. At least, if you don't want to spend too much money on tours and excursions that will take you to the most beautiful spots on the island. The roads here are perfectly maintained and the landscapes you get to see along the way are incredible to say at the least.
What should you keep in mind when renting a car in Madeira, where can you find the cheapest car rental companies and what should you definitely see during your little road trip? I'll tackle all of these subjects in the following article.

Sam Van den Haute CheckoutSam

Hi, I'm Sam, the blogger behind CheckOutSam!

Sam Van den Haute has been a full-time world traveler for ten years and has therefore gained a lot of travel and lifestyle inspiration on all continents. Do you still have questions after reading this blog? Ask them in the comments section or send me a message at [email protected] and I'll be happy to help you wherever I can!

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5/5 - (2 votes)
car rental in madeira

Without a rental car you can unfortunately not reach this awesome attraction…

Online car hire in Madeira

When people ask where it is best to rent a car, then I recommend using a comparison site. I always use Discover Cars and Sunny Cars because they pretty much always give me the best prices time after time.

To rent a car in Madeira for two days I paid €60. The price for the car itself was €50 and then I paid another €10 for two days of insurance (Discover Cars). I really think this is nothing, especially if you calculate what you save on excursions and tours. I already thought that I paid too little, but it can get quite a lot cheaper even…
Just look at the screenshot a bit further down!

If you want to drive around worry-free, I suggest to rent your car at Sunny Cars. This company only offers all-in car rentals (fully insured) so that you can travel this gorgeous island without being stressed of damaging your car. Another advantage of this company is, that you can rent a car without a credit card. I haven’t seen any other company that does this.

madeira car road trip

I think the best way to explore Madeira is with a car. And that doesn’t have to be expensive!

Cost of car rental in Madeira

I clearly booked my car too late. If I had reserved my rental car in Madeira a little earlier, I would have been able to get an even nicer deal.
A rental car in Maidera already starts at €78 per week. So that means that you only pay €11.14 per day. Add the costs of an additional insurance (€5.50 for partial insurance, €11 for a complete insurance) and you’re still not paying a lot of money.

Always compare! I personally check Discover Cars and Sunny Cars.

Below is a screenshot from the website, just to show you that I’m not lying:

car rental madeira

Is it easy to drive a car in Madeira?

It seems like some people are afraid to rent a car in Madeira. I don’t really understand why, because the streets are very well maintained and horror stories about narrow streets turned out not to be true…

The only thing that can cause a bit of difficulties is Funchal; the capital of Madeira. This medieval city is -like most cities in Europe- sometimes a bit harder to navigate through. The streets are a bit narrower (but mostly one-way traffic) and there are also plenty of steep roads on which you might sweat a bit, but if I’m really honest, I never encountered any difficulties.
As always, I recommend to take (additional) insurance. You can easily add that online (and cheaper than on the spot!). Sunny Cars only rents out all-in rental cars. That basically means that you never have to pay anything when something happens.

Once you drive outside this urbanized area, you will encounter few difficulties. As long as you stay on paved roads, you should be able to continue without problems.
The drivers are generally courteous and they seem to stick to the rules. Due to the many curves, you’ll probably drive a bit slower in the beginning, but soon enough you’ll get used to these as well. Moreover, these winding roads also give you much better views over this beautiful island. So… What are you waiting for?!

car hire madeira

The roads and infrastructure in Madeira are very well maintained.

What sights can you see by car?

Of course, you will not need a car to visit the many churches or beautiful buildings in Funchal, but if you go to Madeira you must of course also see some of its beautiful nature. To see these wonders, you really need a car.
Drive from one side of the island to the other and enjoy the phenomenal views and the spectacular sights. Along the way, you’ll see quite some gorgeous places but not all of them have a specific name. The more ‘known’ sights that you must see are the following:

The waterfall road

One of my personal highlights in Madeira is without a doubt the ‘Waterfall road’.
You will not believe your eyes when you cruise this old driveway along the coast of Madeira. After a sharp turn, you’ll suddenly see a gigantic waterfall splashing onto the very same road where you are driving on. Do you dare to go closer or not? I certainly recommend to do so! Go have some fun in Mother Nature’s car wash, because that’s kinda what it feels like when you drive under it.
This top attraction can only be visited with a vehicle. And if I’m honest, for this reason alone I would already rent a car in Madeira!

waterfall road madeira car hire

For this attraction alone, I would rent a car in Madeira!

Pico do Arieiro

If you’ve always dreamed of standing above the clouds, then you have to visit Pico do Arieiro. From this (literally and figuratively) highlight of Madeira you get a beautiful panoramic view over the highest point of this island. The sharp mountaintops split through the dreamy clouds and create the ideal setting for breathtaking photos.
Make sure you drive up the right track, because one of the tracks leading to this beautiful landmark guides you through a muddy track. It’s in fact impossible to get up here without a jeep! If you still want to experience this adventure, I recommend to arrange a jeep tour instead.

Ponta do Rosto

The most beautiful view of Madeira is, in my opinion, the one from Ponta do Rosto. The volcanic landscape has so many beautiful colors that you’ll not believe your eyes. The sharp and rocky headland stretches over a few kilometers and thus provides the most dramatic landscape of this island.
Be sure to visit the Miradouro de Ponta do Rosto (the viewpoint), but don’t forget to drive to the other side of this headland too. There you can do a (challenging) walk along this steep attraction. But believe me: the views that you get are definitely worth it!

ponta do rosto madeira rental car

Ponta do Rosto is really dazzlingly beautiful!

Hundreds of other viewpoints

Madeira has many hills and mountains from where you can get beautiful views over the entire island. One is of course more spectacular than the other. I would really recommend a visit to the Cabo Girão Skywalk (a platform with a glass floor!), the Miradouro da Boca dos Namorados and the Miradouro Christo Rei. To reach all these places you really need a car, because often they are located quite remotely along roads that twist and turn almost non-stop.

If you drive from Funchal to Porto Moniz, you’ll also pass a beautiful landscape. It reminded me of a panorama from Vietnam or Thailand. A steep valley is split in two by the road on which you drive. And the views from here are truly phenomenal!

madeira car hire

No idea what this place was called, but I really loved the views!

Porto Moniz

Do you want to see some dramatic volcanic landscapes in Madeira? Then there is no better place to drive to than Porto Moniz.
The black, volcanic rock along the coast also creates dramatic landscapes and the best thing about it is that you can also swim in between them! The wild sea floods these natural pools regularly, leaving only calm seawater in which tourists and locals can relax and enjoy the gorgeous landscapes around them.

Musea da Baleia

This museum may seem like a less exciting attraction, but don’t be mistaken! This museum was twice named one of the best museums in Europe.

The whale museum of Madeira is incredibly interesting and very nice to visit if you’re interested in whales and the whaling industry.
In the interactive exhibitions you’ll learn more about how whaling was done in Madeira and also about the different types of sea mammals. With the aid of an audio guide and 3D glasses you are taken into the world of these mastodons in a fascinating way. Although the museum isn’t very big, you’ll still need an hour and a half to see everything.

Since this museum is quite remote (a ten minute drive from the airport / half an hour from Funchal) you really need a car.

musea da baleia madeira car rental

The Musea da Baleia. An interesting museum about whales and dolphins.

Some more tips for renting a car in Madeira

    • Make sure that you have a credit card in the name of the driver. To pay the car you often have different payment options, but you (almost) always will need to leave a deposit (between €800 and €1500) for the car. This is temporarily blocked from your credit card until you return the car. So make sure that you can spend over €1500 per day with your credit card, otherwise you might not get the car…
    • Always read the rental conditions! Often there is an additional cost if you pick up the car outside the opening hours, or you have to pay extra if a second driver wants to drive the car as well.
  • Always take out insurance. A basic insurance costs about €5 per day (at Discover Cars you are insured for up until €750 if you pay €5 per day), and for an insurance with unlimited damage you pay €10 per day on top of the car rental. Sunny Cars only rents out completely insured cars, so if you’re looking for a worry-free holidays I think you should definitely look at their services.
    A small scratch on the car will easily cost several hundred euros, and believe me … It happens faster than you think! For €5 or €10 extra per day you have peace of mind, so I suggest you just pay that and enjoy the rest of your holidays.
  • Always look out for previous damage when you pick up your car. The damage must immediately be noted on a paper and only when that’s done you should sign it.
  • If you’re not yet 25 years old, then you often have to pay (a lot) more for car hire. So try to travel with someone aged 25+ who has a driver’s license. That’ll immediately save you a ton of money!
cheap car hire madeira

Winding roads and dazzling viewpoints. Exploring Madeira with a car has its perks!

Parking in Madeira

In many places you can park for free in Madeira, but within urbanized areas (Funchal), you have to pay.

Parking in Funchal

You pay between €1.20 and €1.50 per hour if you park on the street, but pay attention to all traffic signs because sometimes it gets a bit confusing.
Many parking spaces are reserved for locals or cars of a certain company/store/consulate. So make sure you are completely certain that you can park somewhere before you actually do.
At a payment terminal (street parking) you have to pay from eight o’clock in the morning until eight o’clock in the evening. On Saturdays you pay from nine in the morning to six in the evening, and Sundays are free.

It can sometimes take quite some time until you find a parking space in Funchal, so if you really can’t find a spot you can also head to one of the underground parking lots. Prices here are similar to parking machines, and for 24h parking you pay about six euros.

Parking in the rest of the island

In most other places in Madeira, you can park your rental car for free. Even at tourist sites.
If you’re not sure whether or not you have to pay; ask a local or someone who sells souvenirs/drinks/… That way you make sure you won’t get fined.

Traffic rules in Madeira

You may never drive faster than 90 km / h on this island. That’s in fact quite logical, because even these ‘highways’ have a lot of turns and twists. On top of that, they often have very short entranceways. Keep to this speed limit, because the police is on the hunt for speed devils regularly!
On smaller roads you can drive between 50 and 70 km / h.
Always pay attention to the traffic signs when parking. Many Portuguese park their cars wherever possible, but if you park somewhere for a long time you should also consider the cost of these fines. Usually it’s very clear where you can park and whether or not you have to pay.
Alcohol is of course forbidden if you’re driving. You may have 0.5 per mille alcohol in your blood. That is basically the equivalent to one or two glasses of (delicous) Madeira wine.

toboggan madeira

Are you looking for another way to descend the steep streets? Then hitch a ride with the ‘Toboggan’!

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In this article you'll find a few affiliate links. When you book something with these travel organizations, I get a small commission. You don't pay anything extra for that. You can thus see it as a way to support this blog if you found the information helpful. I use all of these travel organizations myself, and I will only recommend the ones that I really like.

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