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