Renting a Car in Mexico: What Do You Need to Know

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I’ve been living in Mexico for over 3 years. I’ve rented a car numerous times in the Yucatan Peninsula and Mexico City, so I feel like I’m a qualified person to tell you what’s the best rental car company in the area, and whether renting a car in Mexico is manageable.

I’ve had readers asking me numerous times if they should rent a car in Cancun or not. Some were even simply saying no to a car rental, as they were too afraid to drive in a foreign country. Why?

Because of articles like this one on NYT that tell you it’s way too dangerous to do this. Some even went that far and said to hire a driver, as ‘taking the risk of driving yourself amid all that corruption is a bad choice’. Let me clear your doubts here.

Renting a car in Mexico: What Do You Need to Know

Renting a Car in Mexico

We rented a dune buggy in Cozumel

Is it safe to rent a car in Mexico?

Renting a car anywhere in the world comes with a bit of risk. It’s important to drive with caution and be prepared for different traffic regulations, as it’s a foreign country. Many travelers are afraid of being stopped by a corrupted police, but while you can get stopped, especially in the Yucatan Peninsula, it’s just like any other control.

Also, places like Playa del Carmen or Tulum are extremely safe.

Renting a car in Mexico online

If you look online you’ll likely be impressed with the rental car rates in Mexico: $6 a day, $8 a day, and even less than $20 a day for an SUV. It seems perfect.

Hidden costs of renting online

The problem is booking online. Once you walk to the counter to pick up your car, you’ll suddenly be bombed with an additional cost of compulsory insurance, service fees, and other things.

Many major online travel booking sites will deceive you when it comes to Mexican Liability Insurance. Many times I saw quotes such as ‘car rentals in Mexico form$5/day’.


READ MORE: Road Trip in Yucatan Peninsula


Many times I had a car booked for $5 online that came up to $200 upon arrival. Why?

Because ALL car rental companies in Mexico require you to purchase basic Personal Liability Insurance, which is, at it’s cheapest, about $20 per day. There’s no way out of it.

Don’t even bother booking an insurance online from Orbitz, RentalCars.com or another website. While their insurance works in other countries, it doesn’t in Mexico. They also do not accept liability coverage from credit card insurance.

But don’t be discouraged. These issues are unavoidable, no matter where you are in the world.

I actually recently experienced an issue at Boston Airport as my boyfriend and I booked a car on RentalCars.com. As we were visiting Poland at the time, their website switched to Polish site making us pay in PLN – it didn’t give us any other option unless we had a VPN.

We didn’t think much of it, until we arrived in Boston, only to find out that was required to have a Polish driver’s license as we booked the car from Poland. The provider said that they’re not responsible for the content of RentalCars.com and we’ll need to pay almost double to drive the car in the US with the US driver’s license.

Ridiculous, I know. But I’m telling you this story to let you know that the problem isn’t just in Mexico, but with websites offering car rentals.


What Do You Need to Know

Renting a car in Mexico is much the same as renting in the United States, and you’ll find most of the major players — Hertz, Avis, Alamo, Budget, Thrifty, etc.

Rental agencies at airports will be way more expensive than renting at an off-site agency.

Most cars have an automatic transmission unless it’s a dune buggy or jeep.

Unlike in the US, the second driver fee should be included in your rental price already.

You do need a credit card to rent a car.

You don’t need an international driver’s license to rent a car in Mexico.

bat crossing road

Bat crossing!


Best rental car companies in Mexico:

Playa del Carmen – Hertz (10th Av) & MEX Rent A Car (5th Av)

CozumelHTL Rentals

Cancun – Enterprise & America Car Rental


 DON’T FORGET ABOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE

Don’t forget to arrange a health insurance before heading to Mexico. The easiest and the most reliable travel insurance is World Nomads Travel Insurance. Get it before your trip to skip unnecessary troubles that might ruin your holidays!

Why rent a car in Mexico?

While there are many options for group tours everywhere and buses, that will take you to see all the main sights, there are also many places you can’t see without a car. Having a vehicle can you give freedom to explore as and when you want to, and avoid crowds during peak hours.

See my sample itinerary for a 2-week road trip around Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

Renting a Car in Mexico

Any questions? Don’t be afraid to ask me anything in the comments below!

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36 Comments

  1. Apr 2, 2017 / 11:48 am

    Great tips Anna, sounds like you have heaps of knowledge about renting a car in Mexico or elsewhere. We love hiring a car or motorbike when we go away, we just love the freedom that it gives you.

  2. Danica
    Apr 11, 2017 / 1:56 pm

    hey, great tips, but do you have any rental car company tips for Merida?

    • Apr 11, 2017 / 9:33 pm

      Haven’t been to Merida yet, but will be going this month so will report back!

      • Danica
        Jun 15, 2017 / 2:41 am

        How’d you go in Merida?

  3. Tabitha Walton
    May 18, 2017 / 6:14 am

    Hello! About how much a day does it come out to when renting a compact from a PDR rental car agency like Hertz? We were thinking about getting around via colectivo but I also like the idea of having our own vehicle. 🙂

    • May 18, 2017 / 1:41 pm

      Yeah I totally get it since colectivo doesn’t go everywhere. During high season between $25-50 per day, low season around $25.

  4. Chris
    May 25, 2017 / 12:56 am

    Nice tips, I will be in PDC next month and I would like to visit las coloradas, I saw a story of your boyfriend talking about this, can you tell me how to get there? any advice and stops along the way?

    Thanks,

    • May 25, 2017 / 2:18 am

      Getting to Las Coloradas without a car is tough and honestly VERY pricy. That’s why I’d always say car, but if you really don’t want to drive then… You’d have to take a bus to Tizim (there are like one of two per day only, so don’t miss it). From there you’d have to ask for a taxi to Rio Lagartos. Then you’d have to take a boat to Las Coloradas. The taxi alone would be like $75 at least one way (unless you can haggle a bit in Spanish, but either way there are not many options) – I met some people who did it. I don’t recommend taking a taxi to Las Coloradas directly, as once the taxi drops you off you won’t be able to find a new one (it’s really a tiny town).

  5. Vanessa
    Jun 8, 2017 / 9:48 pm

    Any tips on renting a car when traveling to Tulum

    • Jun 9, 2017 / 1:20 am

      Do you mean a particular rental company in Tulum?

      • Vanessa
        Jun 9, 2017 / 2:20 am

        Yes. And do you recommend renting in cancun airport, or is it better renting once in Tulum

        • Jun 9, 2017 / 7:25 am

          Definitely not at the airport. It’s the worst place to rent. They charge some hidden fees and ridiculous deposit.

  6. Pradeep
    Jun 16, 2017 / 6:35 am

    Hi Anna,
    Do you have any tips on renting a car in Valldolid?

    • Jun 16, 2017 / 7:55 pm

      Not really. You need to get to Valladolid, so it’d be more convenient to rent a car elsewhere. But it’s possible 🙂

  7. Nancy
    Jun 20, 2017 / 10:09 pm

    Hello! I will be coming to PDC arriving from the cozumel ferry end of june and need to rent a car in playa for 6 days dropping in cancun on the 6th day. any advice?

    • Jun 22, 2017 / 2:26 am

      Try the agencies I recommended – MEX Rent a Car for instance 🙂

  8. John Amelia
    Jul 3, 2017 / 12:11 pm

    I just like the valuable information you provide to your articles. I will bookmark your blog and take a look at again right here frequently. Thanks for such post and please keep it up.

  9. Trisha
    Jul 8, 2017 / 9:08 am

    Do you possibly have any honest car rental recommendations in the Cozumel cruise port area yet?

  10. Warren
    Jul 14, 2017 / 12:05 am

    Great article Anna, you have covered so much of the ground rules which I wish I had read before my trip. First time driving in Mexico, I rented online with carrental8, I took the basic insurance for 10 days and came to approx $280CDN. Rental verification was sent and mentioned they would be asking me for upgrades which they did at the counter when I arrived in Cancun. I declined with no additional pressure. One word of caution…don’t swim with the keys in your pocket! If you do something as silly as I did, remove battery and have it blown out with air nozzle. Two infractions, going down one way street in Tulum (bribed officer to return licence) and parking too close to intersection in playa 5th ave section (paid quickly, half price) I am so much smarter now!

  11. Jon Reich
    Jul 18, 2017 / 4:56 pm

    Hi Anna, Will be in Playa in August . Looking to rent a car , have you heard anything about American rental at airport . Just what insurance , do you have to have and take ? Very confusing …
    Thx
    Jon

    • Jul 18, 2017 / 5:37 pm

      Their insurance. Don’t buy any insurance online.

      Never rented from American Rental at the airport, but I generally avoided renting from the airport.

  12. Christi
    Jul 18, 2017 / 11:31 pm

    Hello Anna,
    Do you have a company you recommend in Mexico City for car rental? We are arriving at Juarez airport, but know it is more expensive to rent there. Any advice, I am travelling with hubby and 2 kids. We speak.Spanish.

    • Jul 19, 2017 / 2:45 am

      I’ve never driven a car in Mexico City (despite living there for 2,5 years), since because I’m still a bit too afraid. Driving in Mexico City is no joke, as people drive very aggressively, or at night people drive on the wrong side of the roundabout, just because 😉 When I rented a car when my friend decided to drive, we had to miss our turn 4 times because he was too afraid to turn with all the cars just pushing. So unless you’re a VERY experienced driver don’t do it. The traffic is also horrible, so often you’d be better off hopping on a Metro or Metrobus.

  13. Danica
    Jul 19, 2017 / 12:10 am

    How did you go in Merida? I will be there in a months time. Did you suss out any car rental tips?

  14. Margie
    Jul 27, 2017 / 3:05 pm

    Hello Anna,
    Great blog, very useful. Can you recommend also a rental in Puerto Morelos. We will be arriving however around 20hr in Cancun, so I guess best would be to take a taxi to Puerto Morelos, and next day go for the car.
    Thanks
    Margie

    • Jul 27, 2017 / 5:09 pm

      Hi Margie!

      I know there’s Europcar in Puerto Morelos, but I don’t have a first-hand experience with any car rental companies there.

  15. Jodie
    Aug 4, 2017 / 4:52 pm

    Hi, our family of will be arriving at Cancun Airport in Dec. We have rented a condo in Akumal for 2 weeks. I am looking at renting a car at the airport (Fox) to drive to Akumal and get around for the time we are there.
    I am concerned about the “extra” charges that I keep reading people are forced to pay when renting cars in Mexico. I am aware that my car insurance in Canada and coverage through my credit card are not applicable in Mexico. I also know that I will need to pay for additional liability insurance at the time of rental as well as physical damage protection for the rental car. What I am having trouble with is determining exactly how much this will all cost? In the end will it be have been financially worth it to have rented a car as opposed to a car service to get to & from the airport to the condo and then buses and cabs from there?
    There is so much fine print online when I am on the rental site – pretty tuff to pinpoint the totals.
    Your thoughts?

    • Aug 4, 2017 / 6:08 pm

      To be completely honest, the cost depends on the car rental company and the person renting you the car. On various occasions I was asked to pay a certain number and when I said to give me a normal price as I rented with them before, the number suddenly dropped by half.
      In terms whether it would be cheaper to use cabs, it depends where do you want to go and what do you want to do. Some places (for instance the pink lake) aren’t really accessible without a car unless you’d throw approx. $150 if not more and might get stranded on the way.

      • Jodie
        Aug 4, 2017 / 6:40 pm

        Through Expedia I am looking at renting a car with FOX. The total for the car is $250 CAD including tax.
        Based on the fine print I think I will pay $15.99USD/day for SLI and $24.99USD/day for LDW2 “plus applicable taxes”.
        After $$ conversion the car rental and insurance (before taxes) that will be about $971 CAD for the 2 weeks – plus taxes on the additional insurances. Any ideas what the additional taxes would be? And is SLI and LDW2 that all of the insurance they will “require” me to carry?
        We would use the car to get to and from airport/Akumal, grocery store trips, trips to Play Del Carmen, Xel Ha, Xcarat, maybe some ruins. Things like that.
        My husband will be the driver – he has no concerns about driving there. I just want to be sure we choose the most sensible option.
        I am also investigating the cost of a private car getting us to & from Akumal from the airport and then just cab and buses.

        • Aug 5, 2017 / 12:23 am

          A cab from the airport to Akumal should be approx. $75. It’s a rip off in Mexico but these days it’s impossible to haggle with them. The cheapest option is the ADO bus to Playa and then a cab.

          The most important thing about booking a car would be not booking ANY insurance online, as they aren’t really valid in Mexico. You can ask for a car without the insurance but then your credit card deposit will be high (last time I asked they quoted me $2500 at the airport). The price they gave you is fine, you should probably reach no more than $30-50 per day with taxes.

          You can easily get to all these parks, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and cenotes with a local ‘colectivo’. It’ll cost you 25-50 pesos per person. Chichen Itza ruins are the only place that can’t be reached with a colectivo and you’d need a tour bus or a car. However, if your accommodation is deep in Akumal you will have to walk for a while to get to the highway to get a taxi or colectivo, so it’d be easier to have a car.

          • Jodie
            Aug 5, 2017 / 2:17 pm

            Thank you so much for the info!

  16. Jess
    Aug 4, 2017 / 10:12 pm

    Hi Anna,

    do you recommend booking online a week before?
    And do you know a good rental place in tulum?

    • Aug 5, 2017 / 12:14 am

      If you’re going there during high-season or any long weekends the yes, definitely. If not, you can just show up. The price depends on your ability to haggle in Spanish, your level of Spanish, the person assisting you etc. But it shouldn’t be more than $30-45 a day including insurance.

  17. gaby
    Aug 7, 2017 / 9:47 pm

    Any reliable rental finds in Merida?

  18. Matt
    Sep 9, 2017 / 12:23 am

    Hi Anna,
    Do you have any recommendations for renting a car in Mexico City to drive to Pachuca in Hidalgo? Thank you!

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