From the questions I am receiving from readers, I realized how many people are concerned about renting a car in Mexico, for many different reasons, but most of all because they don’t feel comfortable driving in a foreign country that is also considered “dangerous”. I get it, and in this post, I will give you some useful advice on renting a car in Mexico without getting scammed. I will also share some tips on driving in Mexico. I hope it will help you feel more comfortable and set off for your amazing road trip adventure in this beautiful country.
I have been living in Mexico for the past 10 years, and for most of the time, I used to drive around in my own car until I sold it to set off for my adventure around the world, but that’s another story.
Before leaving Mexico I have traveled around the country and on many other occasions, I have been using car rentals. That’s why I feel confident that I can share some useful advice from my personal experience.
I have learned a lot of tricks and unwritten rules about car rentals and I decided to write this post and share them with you with the hope that you will feel more confident about renting a car in Mexico, but also for you to learn “how to play the game”.
The general reputation of car rentals about using scammy practices might also put you off and let you opt for a car-free vacation.
However, I still believe that driving around is the best way to know a place and if you know how to book and what to look for, it will make your life easier when renting a car and spare you from headaches.
Some Spanish knowledge also could help.
Although I recommend renting a car to explore a region I believe it’s not necessary when you visit major cities such as Mexico City or Guadalajara or Queretaro, where traffic is too high and you are much better off using UBER or taxis. It’s easier, cheaper, and it spares you some headaches/
But let’s go by steps and answer the most important questions about renting a car in Mexico.
Read also: Driving in Mexico: all you need to know
How much does it cost to rent a car in Mexico?
It’s very easy to find car rentals promoting daily costs as low as 6 USD per day. It seems crazy and it has the clear look of a good scam.
The thing is that rental price usually doesn’t include insurance coverage and other tax fees.
So it’s very important that when you make your reservation you read through all the clauses of the booking and make sure that what is included in the rental rates is very well detailed.
Car insurance is a whole different topic and I will talk about it later on in this post.
Keep reading because you need to know this.
You can consider that a more realistic price which includes full insurance starts from 40USD per day for a basic car model.
What is the best way to rent a car in Mexico?
In Mexico, you will find all the major international car rentals, such as Budget, Avis, Hertz, Sixt, and some local ones such as Mex
So here below I am going to share my thoughts on renting a car in Mexico.
Renting a car online through a third-party site
I use discover car rental, which has a very user-friendly site and shows different rates and car options from all the major
Pros – It’s great to compare prices among different companies
Cons – although third-party companies are very useful anywhere else in the world, in Mexico, car companies tend to give priority to direct bookings and would not honor third-party insurance. (See below chapter on insurance)
Find the best car rental deals and explore around freely, at your own pace. My favorite way to enjoy a destination!
Make a booking directly with the rental company
If you have time to do a quick research you can check directly on each
Pros – You can find great deals
Cons – It requires a lot of time to do the search.
Direct booking – Walk-in
It can be more convenient to find the best deals if you just show up at the
Pros – You can get great deals
Cons – You run the risk to end up without a car or spend more in high season.
There are local agencies for the major car rentals in the major cities. However, keep in mind that dropping off the car at a different agency is expensive. On the other hand, even though renting a car at the airport is usually more expensive, renting a car in Cancun airport or Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta Airports is usually not more expensive than renting it in any other local agency.
What kind of insurance do I need to rent a car in Mexico?
Now, this is a hot topic that requires attention.
I have been talking to several car rentals and tried different kinds of car insurance myself. I never need to use it luckily but I always purchase full insurance for the sake of my peace of mind. And now I understand how it works.
This is what you need to know:
- First of all, I would suggest you should purchase full coverage with zero deductible, which means that if you damage the car for whatever reason you don’t have to pay a dime for it (normally windows and tires, and losing the keys are not covered). You will know if there is zero deductible because the deposit you would be required to leave by credit card is minimum, not more than 100 USD.
- Usually debit cards are not accepted as a deposit, because they rental companies don’t actually take you any money, they just make an “authorization” which means they block an amount on your card which they will use in case of any fault. They cannot do that on debit cards. That’s why they are not accepted. But you can pay by debit card, by all means. All major credit cards are usually accepted
- If you buy the basic insurance you will need to leave a deposit that goes from 700 to 1500 USD depending on the amount of the deductible.
- It’s always more convenient to purchase the full package
car rental+ full coverage directly with the car rentalcompany instead of the third party.
- The insurance purchased with the third party company has nothing to do with
car rental, it’s never FULL coverage and you would need to anticipate the payment for the damages first.
- The insurance included by your credit card (if you are from the United States) is not always valid in Mexico, which means that if you don’t purchase the insurance with your
rental car companyyou will still have to pay for the damage from your pocket and then claim a refund with your credit card. I would suggest you make sure you check with your credit card company if they cover your rental in Mexico.
- The CDW (collision damage waiver) is an insurrance that you have fully included with 0 deductible if you purchase the full coverage. Otherwise it’s offered by the rental companies as an additional insurrance that covers damages to the car in case of an accident but not injuries. It normally comes with a deductible.
Hidden costs of renting a car in Mexico on line.
What is sometimes perceived as a scam, it is actually misinformation on our end.
When you book online you will normally find absurd rental rates such as 8 USD per day
The thing is that those third-party companies get a commission from their sale but not from the taxes and additional fees, and that’s why they are added to your final bill directly in the
That’s why I never get tired to repeat that you MUST read very well all that is included in the price you are paying.
Being informed is a great way not to get scammed.
Is it safe to rent a car in Mexico?
It is relatively safe to rent a car in Mexico although you would need to know some tricks on Mexican Roads and Gas stations.
You can read my full guide to driving in Mexico for more details. I assure you it will be very handy.
The first rule, though, is to respect the speed limit and the basic international rules, including wearing a seat belt and not using your phone while driving.
The stories that you hear about the police stopping you with any excuse to try to bribe you are very likely to be true.
Therefore avoid offering them excuses to stop you.
I have been stopped quite a few times and never give them a dime as I don’t like to support this unethical practice.
Sometimes they let me go with a verbal warning, in other cases, I just paid the fine.
Is it worth renting cars in Cancun?
Cancun car rentals require a separate section because like with anything else in Cancun I found it a little more complicated. I used to rent a car with American
I just feel like in Cancun it is getting more difficult to find genuine and honest companies, and they find an excuse to rip you off. Maybe it’s just my impression and you may prove me wrong.
Just please pay more attention and make sure you take a picture of the car before signing off every piece of paperwork.
To be honest, it is indeed worth renting a car in Cancun, because you can explore places where local transportation doesn’t go, around Cancun and the surrounding. For example, you may like to explore the beautiful Cenotes near Cancun on your own and you will need a car for that. Much better than taking a taxi or joining a tour.
You can check out some rates through Discover
Scam to avoid on the road after renting a car
Scams are mainly found at gasoline stations.
Also, sometimes they will tell you they cannot accept credit cards because the system is down.
I am not sure whether it is true or not, but it is advisable to have some cash with you, always.
- When you stop for gas, always ask by the quantity (20L or 40L) and not by the amount of money, otherwise, you will get less gas. (I am not sure why, but so I was told by a local friend)
- Also, it has been a habit to scam distracted drivers that pay by 500 MXN note by telling them it was a 200MXN so they won’t give you any change. Make sure you know well how much money you are handing out and if they try to cheat, do not be afraid to speak your mind. They usually tend to give up if they see you are firm and confident. I know it sounds crazy but it happened to a couple of friends of mine.
- The other thing you must do is to check the gas meter and make sure it’s on zero because some dishonest gas stations tend to reset the number and give you less gas than what you have paid for. Since it has now become a very well-known issue, many gas operators would show you first that the gas meter is on zero, before start filling your tank.
Driving in Mexico: a few things to know
- There are toll roads in Mexico as well. In the Yucatan peninsula, there is only one that takes you from Cancun to Merida. But it’s much more fun to drive on regular roads as you pass through small towns and villages.
- If you don’t take the toll roads be careful to speed bumps (so-called topes). They are not marked and most of the time they are really high. If you drive fast over them you can damage the car.
- Pay attention to road signs and respect them
- You don’t need an international driver’s license to drive in Mexico. A valid driver’s license from your country is enough.
- A rental vehicle is normally on a target for the police especially from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, for some reason, so make sure you don’t give them a reason to stop you.
- Take some Mexican Pesos with you to pay for the gas.
- Road conditions are not always the best unless you drive on toll roads. You will find a lot potholes, especially on secondary roads. So be careful.
- You can find mainly cars with automatic transmission
- Buy a Mexican phone sim card and use google map to find your way around
Car rentalinsurance is usually the best option
- Not necessarily smaller cars have better rates. Always ask the
car rentalcompany if they have any deals for bigger cars. Sometimes they do.
- Keep in mind that the gas station staff sometimes doesn’t even get paid or a very low wage, so giving them a tip is a common practice. I usually give them 20 pesos, although normally they get from 10 to 20.
- If anything happens immediately contact customer care. The
car rentalcompany should have given you a 24/7 phone number (one more reason to buy the local sim card)
And that’s the end of my guide on renting a car in Mexico. I hope it was helpful. Obviously, if you think I left anything out or you have a question, don’t be shy and let me know in the comments below! Happy driving!
- Book your transfers between destinations on the trusted booking platform Bookaway
- Store your bags in the main cities and walk around freely hands and weight free with Bounce
- Check if you need a visa and get help processing it with iVisa
- Never ever leave without
travel insurance. Get complete coverage from World Nomads or long term insurance from Safety Wing
- I find all of my flights on Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, Google flights, Scott’s Cheap Flights, and always remember to compare
- Book your daily tours locally to support local businesses, or if you don’t find any reliable company, or you prefer to book in advance, check out GetYourGuide or Viator. Some of their tours are refundable up to 24h in advance.
- I rent my long and mid-term apartments on VRBO
- Book hotels with Booking.com or Hotels.com
- Compare car rental prices at Auto Europe, Discover Car Rentals
- Check out my travel planning guide if you are planning your trip and feeling overwhelmed