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’a 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’.

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 other 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 were 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 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)

Cozumel – to be updated

Cancun – Enterprise & America Car Rental


 DON’T FORGET ABOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE

Don’t forget to arrange a health insure 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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7 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!

  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).

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