Filling up the tank in Spain

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For those who are going to hire a car to travel around Spain, knowing how petrol stations work is essential information. Let us show you how to fill up at Spanish petrol stations.

Gasolineras

Let’s start with the basics. The place where you fill up your car in Spain is called a gasolinera. When, in addition to fuel, it offers other services, it can also be called a estación de servicio (service station). Service stations that, when you drive on a motorway or motorway, can be located within áreas de servicio (service areas).

On the roads, you will find signs informing you of the location of the next petrol stations and their opening hours.

Main brands

Around 50% of Spanish petrol stations are in the hands of four fuel giants: BP, Cepsa, Galp and Repsol.

There are also petrol stations belonging to supermarket chains, such as Alcampo, Bon Área, Carrefour, Eroski and Family Cash.  They are of the low-cost type.

There are also other low-cost petrol stations that are not associated with supermarkets.

And finally, mainly in the rural hinterland of Spain, there are many independent petrol stations.

Types of petrol stations

Now for the part that raises the most questions: how do petrol stations work, and will I find an attendant to help me?

There are broadly three types of petrol stations:

  • at the vast majority, there is an attendant at the station, but you are responsible for filling up your car.
  • in less than 15% of petrol stations, you will find an employee to fill up your car for you.
  • and in the majority of low-cost petrol stations, you will not find an employee, you fill up and pay for your car.

Even for those of us who live in Spain, when we enter an unfamiliar petrol station we don’t always know what we are going to find. What you can be more or less sure of, from what we mentioned a little while ago is that:

  • at large company petrol stations there will always be an employee, although you will be the one filling up the tank.
  • at low-cost petrol stations you won’t find any employees.

Do the following. Enter the petrol station and stop your car next to a petrol pump. Note that each pump is identified by a number.

Stop the car, turn off the engine and wait. Look to see if there are any uniformed employees refuelling other cars. If you don’t see them, you will probably be the one doing it.

Types of petrol

With or without an attendant, you need to be familiar with the types of fuel you will find at petrol stations in Spain. We are now going to focus on the most basic, which are two, gasolina (petrol) and gasóleo, also known as gasoil or diesel.

A totem in front of the petrol station usually displays the prices per litre of the different types of fuel.

Gasolina, identified with E5 or E10 inside a circle, usually comes in two different formats: 95 and 98. In the vast majority of cars that use gasolina, you will use 95, the most basic gasolina. The hose is finished in green.

Gasóleo, identified by B7 inside a square, also comes in two different formats: A and A+. In the vast majority of cars that use gasóleo, you will use diesel A, the most basic. The hose finish is black or beige.

The way fuel types are labelled and identified in the European Union is changing, but for now this is the basic information you need to know.

The next essential piece of information you need to have is the fuel your car will use. If it is a rented car, remember to ask when the car is handed over to you, but to avoid any mistakes, the place to look, absolutely, is the inside of the fuel cap, where you will find information about the type of fuel that the vehicle uses.

Filling up

Time to fill up. We’re going to describe the most common situations you will encounter.

With an attendant

If you are lucky and the petrol station has an employee putting fuel in the cars, you only have to indicate the type of fuel and the quantity, either in litres or in money.

If you want to fill the tank with petrol, say “lleno con gasolina de 95, por favor“. If you only want part of the tank, say “40 euros de gasóleo A, por favor“.

As we said before, petrol stations with an attendant are in the minority. Two different situations can occur in those that do not have one:

No attendant – pay later

The first is that the petrol station, without an employee refuelling, is the kind where you fill up first and then go to the cashier to pay. You choose the pump gun corresponding to the fuel you want to use, put in what you want and put the gun back in place. Remember we said that each pump was identified with a number? Take a look to see which one is yours.

And now walk up to the cashier, say the number of your pump, and pay.

No attendant – pay before

Mostly at low-cost petrol stations, you will find prepayment system. We are going to show you how the screen of one of those systems works, but you have to know that no two are the same.

Basically, you are going to choose on the screen the type of fuel you want to fill up with and the quantity. You are going to pay by card and fill up your tank.

Clarifications

What happens if you want to fill up? As you don’t know how much fuel you can fit in the tank, the machine places a temporary block on a credit card equivalent to the cost of a full tank. When you finish filling up, the block disappears and you are debited for what you have put in the tank. Sometimes it can take several days for the credit card to release the money blocked during the refuelling operation.

When the amount you have selected has entered the tank, the pump gun will automatically stop dispensing fuel, unless you have chosen to fill the tank.

Attention especially those of you coming from the United States. In order to pay by card, you will need a card with a four-digit PIN number.

Once you have finished refuelling, close the fuel cap tightly, get into the car and continue your journey.

The main concern related to refuelling in Spain is not knowing how the petrol station you have chosen to refuel at will work. But we believe that with the information we have shared here it will be much easier for you to quickly find out and complete your refuelling without any problems.

Ah, if you were wondering about electric cars, the harsh reality is that, today, they are not a viable alternative for long journeys in Spain.

We have not yet published a text about car rental in Spain, but we are preparing it. In the meantime, we recommend Booking.com, the same as for hotels, among the various sites that compare rental offers.

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