Mexico is an incredible country with tons to see and do. And while many travelers opt to fly into a resort city and spend their entire trip there, there’s so much more you rent a car. So I’m going to share just how to rent a car in Mexico and helpful tips for doing so.
This year I’ve traveled to over 10 destinations in Mexico. And along the way, I’ve rented 5 cars now in the country just this year. I had good experiences with Mexico car rentals this year using Discover Cars and that is who I recommend.
Renting a car can unlock so many of the incredible sights Mexico has to offer. Think cenotes near Tulum (about 1.5 hours from the Cancun airport), ancient ruins outside Mexico City, and charming smaller towns like Sayulita near Puerto Vallarta or Todos Santos outside of Cabo San Lucas. And better yet, it can give you the flexibility to explore at your own pace and linger when you want to.
Renting a car in Mexico can have a few quirks, especially with insurance. So I’m going to break down what you need to know prior. Using Discover Cars, I really appreciated that there were lenient cancellation policies, cheap insurance that sufficed for Mexico’s policy, and the ability to search all available agencies.
Here’s my full guide to renting a car in Mexico, with notes on safety, insurance, hidden fees, and more. And everything you need to know about why I prefer to use Discover Cars, particularly for Mexico.
Renting a Car in Mexico
Is it Safe to Rent a Car in Mexico?
For the most part, renting a car in Mexico is safe, and I have personally done it several times without a problem. It’s a huge country with lots to see, and road trips are a popular method of tourism. It should go without saying but all travel has some inherent risk so proceed accordingly.
As always, you should research your route beforehand to understand what precautions you may need. You should also check the U.S. State Department website for any travel advisories related to your destination.
When driving in another country, remember that there may be different signs, customs, and road rules to think about. It is important to follow the speed limit. It is also important to know which side of the road to drive on. Additionally, be aware of toll roads.
Should I Rent a Car in Mexico?
I highly recommend renting a car in Mexico to make the most of what this beautiful country has to offer. After renting a car when I visited Mexico in Zihuatanejo, Merida (on the Yucatan Peninsula), and Los Cabos this year, I can safely say that doing so enhanced my trip and increased what I was able to see and do during my stay.
I remember my first trip to Riviera Maya and not having a car. I was so reliant on booking guided tours and hired taxis, equating to hundreds of dollars spent. Most car rentals (if booked in advance) tend to run so much cheaper than all of this combined. I can’t say more positive things about being able to self-navigate yourself to where you want to go.
Who Should I Use to Book a Car in Mexico?
For all my car rentals in Mexico, I have used Discover Cars, and it’s the only website I fully trust and can wholeheartedly recommend. Founded about 10 years ago, the website gets more than 3 million monthly visitors and is a trusted source for discounted car rentals.
Why Discover Cars?
There are a few reasons I love Discover Cars, but one of the main ones is that they offer an affordable Full Coverage insurance policy that fulfills the legally required insurance stipulation in Mexico. While many travel credit cards come with some form of auto insurance, it’s not accepted while renting in Mexico, so this option is an inexpensive and easy one.
I’ll give an example from just last week at Hertz in Cabo San Lucas:
I was at the counter checking out while another customer was too. I prepaid on Discover Cars and took the comprehensive insurance prior to arrival. The man next to me had used some other service to book his car, thinking his credit card insurance would suffice (like it does in many other countries.) They would not let him leave without taking additional insurance — it was $350 more than his original booking of $100.
Another example (learn from my mistake):
I did the same thing as above but in Ixtapa. I booked a super cheap car rental and didn’t get the insurance before arrival. Only to be hit with insurance at the car agency for nearly 10x. My car rental went from $150 to $650 in minutes.
Tips for Booking a Car on Discover Cars
Pick a Well-Rated Agency
Discover Cars helps you rent cars through local agencies, and you want to make sure you’re renting from agencies that are well-reviewed by other customers. The website allows you to filter by supplier rating, and I recommend checking the box for “Excellent 8+” to ensure you get the best service. This may not always be the case or possible as most agencies in Mexico don’t have good reviews in general (I’d imagine it’s from all of the surprise insurance).
Opt for Full Coverage with Discover Cars
Discover Car’s Full Coverage is an additional product that works on top of other protection—such as the Collision Damage Waiver and Theft Protection, any credit card insurance you might have, or your personal car insurance policy. It covers your deductible to save you from paying out-of-pocket costs that would normally apply before your insurance kicked in.
What is Included with Discover Cars Full Coverage
Discover Car’s Full Coverage covers all the below expenses for complete and total peace of mind:
- Deductible/excess charge for damage;
- Deductible/excess charge for theft;
- Charges for repairs of the car’s body, undercarriage, tires, wheels, roof, windshield, windows, mirrors, locks, and hubcaps which are a result of a collision;
- Towing expenses;
- Taxi expenses directly related to the accident (excluding mechanical problems);
- Costs directly related to losing the key(s) to or locking oneself out of the rented car (e.g., fees for a locksmith or delivery of a spare key);
- Administrative fees relating to damage (excluding other administrative fees, for example, for traffic violations) and loss of use fees (charges to compensate the rental company for the loss of earnings while the car is being repaired).
Will I Have to Get Extra Insurance at the Counter?
Discover Car’s Full Coverage policy legally fulfills Mexico’s insurance requirement, so if you add it at the time of your online booking, you don’t need any other insurance. Companies may try to upsell you their own insurance once you get to the counter, but if you have Full Coverage, you can decline it.
The experience I’m sharing above is what has happened to me on a half dozen occasions in Mexico. I’ve had successful rentals where I declined the expensive insurance because I’ve prepaid the option on checkout at Discover Cars. I always rent from a reputable company as well like Hertz or Sixt. That said, not every car rental or agency process will be similar so I don’t know how yours will go but I hope sharing this has helped you.
Other Things to Know About Mexico Car Rentals
How Much on Average Does a Car Rental Cost in Mexico?
Like in America, car rental prices in Mexico can vary greatly depending on what company you ultimately use for your rental. For example, in Mexico City on a date in mid-December, at agencies with a “Very good” rating of 8 or higher, an economy car was roughly $60 USD per day compared with about $28 at less highly rated agencies. However, it’s important to keep in mind that lower-rated agencies may include more hidden fees later on.
Most of my car rentals this year in Mexico were under $30 a day for example. My four-day car rental in Cabo San Lucas for a midsize, automatic SUV was $120 with full insurance.
What Will I Need to Rent a Car in Mexico?
The four things you need to rent a car in Mexico are a valid driver’s license and passport, a credit card, a driver who is 25 or older (some accept 21 and up), and Mexican Personal Liability Insurance. While many United States credit cards come with some kind of auto insurance, it won’t satisfy the requirement for insurance in Mexico, and a travel insurance policy won’t necessarily either. This is again why getting comprehensive insurance during the booking process on Discover Cars is helpful.
Will They Take a Deposit?
If you decline insurance at a rental car counter, the company will take a refundable deposit in the form of a hold on your credit card. This usually comes to about $2,500 to $2,700 or so, and you get it back when you bring the car back unharmed.
What are the Best Car Rental Companies in Mexico?
According to Discover Cars, Sixt, Enterprise and Avis are the top-rated car rental companies in Mexico as ranked by users of the website. Enterprise ranks highest, with an “Exceptional” rating of 9-plus.
Do I Need Mexican Car Insurance?
Yes—to rent a car in Mexico, you need Mexican Personal Liability Insurance. The Full Coverage insurance from Discover Cars will legally satisfy this requirement, but that won’t necessarily stop some car rental agencies from trying to sell you their policies at the counter instead.
How Do I Avoid Hidden Costs?
Avoiding hidden costs starts with choosing a reputable agency. With Discover Cars, you can filter your search for top-rated agencies that have provided great experiences for other travelers. I also recommend not choosing the cheapest agency; oftentimes, prices are so low upfront because you’ll get saddled with hidden fees later. It is also important to read the fine print in any rental agreement.
How Old Do I Need to Be to Rent a Car in Mexico?
Generally speaking, you should be 25 to rent a car in Mexico, as in many other countries (including the U.S.). However, some companies will rent cars to younger drivers. If they do, they will likely add a daily surcharge.
Some Best Practices from Personal Experience
While all of the details to book a rental car may be easy, there are some other elements I highly recommend knowing beforehand. And I share all of this from my personal experience.
- Always take a video of your rental car when you get it and when you return it. Don’t skip this part, because some agencies like to ding you for everything. It’s the first thing I do and I make sure any damages are noted on the rental agreement.
- Always have cash. I’ve come across several gas stations and polls that require cash, so I always have at least $20-$40 USD before I leave the airport area.
- Be mindful at gas stations. In Mexico, attendants pump your gas for you. Check the gas meter BEFORE they start to fill as a common scam is to not reset the meter, equating to you paying more.
- Make sure things actually lock. I’ve seen this twice now where trunks didn’t actually lock properly, making it an unsafe spot to keep valuables.
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1. Book Your Flights
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Use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.
3. Book Your Tours & Experiences
4. Book Your Car
Use Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.
5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access
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6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.
My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are: