Renting A Car in Mexico: Everything You Need to Know

May 9, 2021 | 0 comments

Looking into a Mexico Car Rental?

You’ve come to the right place, because I live in Mexico, and am going to walk you through the process of renting a car in Mexico. By the end of this article, you’re going to feel confident about the entire Mexico rental procedure — and also have 10 useful tips on driving a rental car in Mexico.

Right off the bat, if you’re looking into renting a car in Mexico, you may have already encountered a lot of conflicting information. There are definitely official rules for how to rent a car in Mexico, and then there’s how things play out in the real world.

You might have also come across people talking about common Mexico car rental scams.

You’re going to find out why this isn’t exactly a “scam,” but that there are hidden fees with renting a car in many countries, Mexico included.

However, by the end of this article, you’re going to know everything you need to know about Mexico car rentals, so you’re not surprised by hidden fees.

Beyond that, you’ll find out about Mexican car insurance, and even get 10 Useful Mexico Driving Tips so you’re comfortable driving in Mexico.

Ready to learn all the ins and outs of renting a car in Mexico? Let’s get to it, starting with the most frequently asked questions about renting cars in Mexico.

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renting a car in mexico

Renting A Car in Mexico FAQ

Is it safe to drive in Mexico?

For the most part, it is considered safe to drive in Mexico. The one obvious caveat to that statement is you’ll be driving in another country, where you’re unfamiliar with driving laws and customs. There are 10 Mexico driving tips below that will help you get more comfortable.

RELATED ARTICLE ✈️ SAFE Solo Female Travel in Mexico: 20 Tips & Safe Destinations

Should I rent a car in Mexico?

Renting a car in Mexico gives you freedom — both to venture off the beaten path to the Mexico hidden gems, and freedom to explore at your own pace. With many tours, you only have a limited amount of time to explore, but with your own rental, you set the schedule.

How much does renting a car in Mexico cost?

Mexico car rental rates will always vary, but figure about $45USD per day for an economy car with full coverage insurance. As you read through this article, you’ll discover why you can’t believe the first price you see quoted online, and all your options for Mexican car insurance which will effect the price.



Can I rent a car in Mexico?

As far as what’s required to rent a car in Mexico, there are only four things you need to have for a Mexico rental car.

1. A Valid Driver’s License

If you have a valid driver’s license in a language that uses the Roman alphabet (this one!), you can rent a car in Mexico with your license. Drivers from countries like Japan and China, which use the character alphabet, will need an International Driving Permit (IDP). 🚗💨 Need an IDP? Apply for one here.

2. A Credit Card or Debit Card

When you rent a car in Mexico, they will swipe your credit or debit card to have on file in the event you damage the car. Different companies hold a different amount of money, but it’s usually about $1,000USD. (Note that if you opt for full coverage insurance, they often don’t hold any money.)

When leaving a card on file for your Mexico car rental, it’s smarter to opt for the credit over debit. When you use the debit for this, the money will be removed from your account (then returned when you return the car), but with the credit card, it’s just on hold.

3. You must be 18 to Rent a Car in Mexico 

As with the U.S., people ages 25 and older can rent a car in Mexico from any company.

Some companies also rent to drivers 21-24 years of age, though they charge about $10-20USD per day surcharge for underage drivers. There are a very small minority of Mexico car rental companies that rent to 18-20 year olds. For those ages 18-24, you’ll want to double each company’s policy before booking.

4. Mexican Insurance is mandatory

There is a whole section of this article that will explain everything you need to know about getting the best Mexican auto insurance, as it’s a big topic. If you want to jump ahead, here’s the link to find out all about Mexican car insurance.

🤔 Wondering, what side of the road do they drive on in Mexico? The right side, same as the U.S.

What kind of Mexican cars are for rent?

For the most part, you’ll find the same makes and models you will in the U.S., with Nissan and Chevrolet and Kia as the most common. Besides those, some common companies in Mexico that aren’t common in the U.S. include Peugeot and Renault, both French companies.

🤔Are most rental cars in Mexico automatic or stick shift? About 99% are automatic, unless you’re renting a specialty vehicle like a dune buggy, or a luxury sports car.


What are the top Mexican car rental companies?

All the big name U.S. car rental companies also have offices in Mexico, like Hertz, National, Sixt, Alamo, Budget, Thrifty and Avis.

If you prefer to use a Mexican company to support the national economy, one of the best car rental companies in Mexico is Mex Rent A Car.

The easiest way to book a car rental in Mexico?

Using Discover Cars, which searches all those companies. Using a search service means you get the best deal because Discover Cars searches all the car rental companies at once so you get the lowest price.


RELATED ARTICLE 🇲🇽 50 Essential Tips for Mexico Travel You Must Read Before You Go

renting a car in mexico

Do I need Mexican car insurance?

Yes, you do need insurance for driving in Mexico. At the minimum, Mexican Personal Liability Insurance is legally required for you to drive in Mexico, and some car rental companies won’t let you take their car unless you either purchase it from them.

While Mexico car rental companies aren’t technically allowed to make you buy insurance from them — the most you can do is argue with them, and at worst, they just won’t let you rent the car.  

For the least amount of headaches on your Mexico trip, buy insurance from the company you’re renting from. If you get full coverage, you could essentially return in any condition and not have to pay them a single cent.

How much is Mexican car insurance?

Different companies price coverage differently, but in general, Personal Liability Insurance (the minimum coverage) is about $20USD per day. For full coverage insurance, plan to pay about $40USD per day.

With just Personal Liability Insurance, you’ll usually have about a $2,000USD deductible, whereas the full coverage deductible is usually $0. 

If you aren’t familiar with what a deductible is, here’s a quick explanation. If you have a $5,000 deductible, and you cause $5,250 in damages to the car, you will be responsible for paying $5,000, and insurance will cover the remaining $250.

As what you select will depend on your budget, do know that cheap Mexican car insurance is one of those “you get what you pay for” situations. If you’re wondering what’s the best Mexican car insurance, that would be full coverage with no deductible.

…but I have Mexican car insurance through my credit card

Some U.S. credit cards do provide insurance for card holders. However, know that if anything happens to the car, you often have to pay for the damages out of pocket when you return the car in Mexico. You’ll then file a claim with your credit card, and hope they fully reimburse you.

I have been in Mexico long enough, and heard enough horror stories, that I 100% always tell people not to rely on this. If you do opt for credit card coverage, you’ll want to call them and double check what they provide so you know you’re comfortable with it.

Purchase general Mexico travel insurance

Another option is to purchase a travel insurance policy for Mexico, and get an upgrade to include your rental car. For this, purchase the Explorer Plan with World Nomads, one of the best Mexican travel insurance providers and top names in travel insurance. (Note: This is only offered on the Explorer Plan.)

RELATED ARTICLE 🧳 ULTIMATE Packing List for Mexico + FREE Checklist Download

renting a car in mexico

What’s the Mexican Car Rental Scam?

What’s commonly known as a scam that’s specific to renting a car in Mexico, is a common practice at U.S. car rental companies as well.

About six months before writing this article, I booked a rental car in Miami online, and had to pay an extra $200USD in fees, taxes and additional insurance costs when I picked up the car. If this has also happened to you, then you’re already familiar with the “Mexico car rental scam,” which is not unique to Mexico.

If you’re lucky enough to have never fallen victim, the “scam” in question is that most renters don’t read the fine print (who does?!) and aren’t aware of the fees, taxes, etc., that get tacked on. For many, the price you end up paying is often double what you saw online when you booked the car.

How to avoid this common mexico travel scam

When renting a car in Mexico, you may see rates as low as $5-10USD per day — and if this seems too good to be true, it is. This base cost doesn’t factor in a whole slew of fees, taxes and the legally-required Mexico car rental insurance, all of which you do have to pay for.

To avoid this most notorious of Mexico travel scams, simply double the price you’re see online listed as the base price for the car if you’re taking the minimum insurance, and triple it for full coverage. This new amount is closer to what you end up paying anyway — and now you won’t feel “scammed.”

Use this formula: For a car listed online as $10USD per day, assume you’ll actually pay $20 per day for this car with Mexico Personal Liability Insurance (minimum coverage), and $30 per day with full Mexican insurance coverage. Annoying? Sure! …but this is just the way car rental companies seem to work.



renting a car in mexico

Renting A Car in Mexico: A City by City Guide

Car Rental: Cancun, Mexico

For a car rental, Cancun Airport Mexico (code: CUN) is your best option. From the airport, renting a car in Cancun is easy, and you’ll find the most rental agencies there. It is also the most convenient place, since you can go straight from your flight right to your rental car.

Should I rent a car in Cancun?

Unless you’re planning for a few Cancun day trips, there is no need to rent a car to stay in Cancun. Though there’s no Uber in Cancun, you can easily get around with taxis and Cancun public transportation.

Is it safe to rent a car in Cancun?

Yes, it is perfectly safe to rent a car and drive in Cancun. As long as you’re compliant with Mexico driving laws, have your Mexican car insurance, and read through the 10 Mexico driving tips below, you’ll have a great Cancun driving experience.

RELATED ARTICLE 🇲🇽 25 Best Places in the Yucatan Peninsula: Ruins, Beaches, Cenotes

Renting a car in Mexico, Cancun specifically, will give you a chance to venture off the beaten path to explore all the surrounding areas.
renting a car in mexico

Car Rental: Tulum, Mexico

Located about 1.5 hours south of Cancun, you’ll be in Tulum. For those wanting to get from Cancun to Tulum in the most comfortable way, consider a Cancun rental car. As Cancun is a much bigger city than Tulum, it’s easier to get the car in Cancun vs renting a car in Tulum.

In Tulum, there are a few Tulum car rental companies located in Tulum Town (AKA Downtown Tulum), and the one road that goes from downtown to Tulum Beach. As mentioned, Tulum is a small town, so there are only about 10 rental centers, so you’ll want to reserve your car in advance.

RELATED ARTICLE 🏝 The Ultimate Tulum Travel Planning Guide for First Time Visitors

🤔 Wondering, where to stay in Tulum? Whether you’re looking for budget-friendly Tulum Airbnbs, Tulum glamping, or a Tulum beach house rental, you have plenty of options for Tulum accommodations.
renting a car in mexico

Car Rental: Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Right in between Cancun and Tulum, there’s the beach town of Playa del Carmen. Much like with Tulum, it’s easier to just rent the car at Cancun Airport and drive to Playa del Carmen. There are several car rental agencies in Playa, but for a Yucatan car rental, Cancun is always the best option.

RELATED ARTICLE 🏝 Traveling to Playa del Carmen: The Ultimate First-Timer’s Guide

Car Rental: Merida, Mexico

Renting a car in Merida, like most cities in Mexico, is easiest at the airport. Merida International Airport (code: MID) is where you’ll find the most options, and in fact, there are very few car rental agencies outside of the airport at all. (💁‍♀️Note: I live in Merida, and have a lot Merida car rental experience!)

Should I rent a car in merida?

With so many great Merida day trips, a rental car comes in handy. Within two hours of the city, there are about five great Merida beaches, even more Merida cenotes, Chichen Itza and other Mayan ruins, the pueblos magicos (magic towns) of Valladolid and Izamal, the pink lakes of Las Coloradas, and more!

Colorful colonial buildings

RELATED ARTICLE 🇲🇽 Merida Yucatan Mexico: A Locals’ Guide to Things to Do, Hotels & More

renting a car in mexico

Car Rental: Mexico City

For a car rental, Mexico City Airport (code: MEX) is your best option. Renting a car in Mexico City airport is easy, as there are quite a few agencies right there.

However, keep in mind Mexico City traffic is very bad, parking isn’t always convenient either, and in general, Mexico City is not somewhere many people actually want to drive. For these reasons, you’ll want to make sure this is the right decision or if it’s easiest to just Uber around.

Should I rent a car in Mexico City?

I lived in Mexico City for about a year, and honestly, I don’t suggest driving there. Unless you’re planning for a few Mexico City day trips, renting a car in Mexico City might not be worthwhile. There are Ubers, taxis, the metro and buses, so you have plenty of other options to get around Mexico City.

Torre Latinoamerica skyscraper and buildings

RELATED ARTICLE 🇲🇽 4 Day Mexico City Itinerary: The Ultimate CDMX Travel Guide

renting a car in mexico

Car Rental: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Much like other cities in Mexico, renting a car in Cabo is easiest from Los Cabos International Airport (code: SJD). From there, Cabo San Lucas is about a 45 minute drive away. As this is a major resort town, you will only really need a Cabo car rental if you’re doing a few day trips. 

🚙💨 Considering a Baja road trip? Head here for a Baja California Sur, Mexico road trip itinerary.

Car Rental: La Paz, Mexico

La Paz is an up and coming Baja California destination, and a bit more rustic than Cabo San Lucas. While La Paz is a beach town, the most beautiful beaches in La Paz — like Playa Balandra and Playa Tecolote — are about 45 minutes from the main area of town, so a rental car in Cabo comes in handy.

As with renting a car in Baja from any city, you’ll want to pick it up from the airport. In La Paz, you have La Paz International Airport (code: LAP).

the beautiful blue water and mountains along Blandera Beach in La Paz, one of the Best Mexican Beach Towns

RELATED ARTICLE 🏝 30 Best Mexican Beach Towns You Need to Visit Right Now

renting a car in mexico

10 Mexico Driving Tips

1. Avoid driving at night in Mexico

When you live in Mexico long enough, you start to realize many people simply avoid driving at night, if they can. If you do drive at night, stick to only main roads and paid highways, called couta roads.

2. Always use the couta roads (toll roads in Mexico)

In Mexico, there are libre, or free roads, and couta, or paid toll roads. For longer drives, and when traveling between cities, always opt paid roads. Yes, they cost money, but they are much better maintained and generally considered safer. When driving, don’t forget to have cash for the tolls.

3. Beware of topes (speed bumps)

Mexican roads are notorious for their abundant amount of topes (speed bumps). While most roads have yellow road signs alerting you to the topes, keep your eyes on the road at all times, as some topes won’t have a sign.

renting a car in mexico

4. Download an offline map for driving in Mexico

Your cell signal will go in and out as you travel through rural areas of Mexico, so you’ll want to download an offline map from Google Maps or Maps.Me. While you’re at it, don’t forget to download some podcasts and songs.

5. Mexico speed limit signs are in kilometers per hour

Mexico street signs are in kilometers per hour, not miles per hour — and for those curious, 1 mile is 1.6 kilometers. Rather than doing conversion math while driving, just make sure the speed limit sign number on the road matches your car’s speedometer number.

6. It’s illegal to use your cell phone while driving in Mexico

Not only is this unsafe, it is also illegal in Mexico. In fact, having your phone in your hand is a ticketable offense, so don’t even hold your phone while driving.

renting a car in mexico

7. Mexico gas stations are not self-serve

When you stop for gas, an attendant will pump it for you and take your payment. These people don’t actually work for the gas station, and live off tips. When they finish, it’s customary to tip them at least $10-20 pesos ($0.50-1USD).

8. Window cleaners will approach you at stop lights

When you’re at a stop light in Mexico, you’ll often be approached by someone wanting to clean your car windshield. If you want them to, there’s no set amount to pay, but $5-10 pesos (about $0.25-0.50USD) is a standard amount.

9. Mexico traffic lights have an extra step

In Mexico, stop lights go from green to yellow, to flashing yellow for a few seconds, to finally, a red light.

10. The rumors are true about Mexico cops taking bribes

If the cops pull you over — and they usually only will if you give them a reason to — they will expect a cash “payment” in exchange for not ticketing you. I can’t defend this practice, but I can say the easiest way to make the problem go away, is by paying them.

Final Thoughts: Renting A Car in Mexico

A Mexico road trip is one of the best ways to see the country; especially places like the Yucatan Peninsula and Baja California. Even if you’re not doing a full road trip, the easiest way to explore the Mexico hidden gems is by car.

Driving in Mexico is generally considered safe, and renting a car in Mexico is a simple, hassle-free process. For the sake of convenience, just pick your Mexico car rental up at the airport when you fly in.

One of the most important things to keep in mind for a Mexico car rental, is to rent with a reputable company like Discover Cars. Make sure you also purchase Mexican car insurance, as you’re not covered in any way through your U.S. policy.


Have any questions about renting a car in Mexico?

Please join the conversation and comment below, and I’ll do my very best to get you the information you need to feel confident about your Mexico car rental.


Enjoy these related Mexico blogs


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I’m Shelley, a former Miami travel magazine editor who ditched the office for the world!

I started this Blog and Podcast to help women like you cross Solo travel and Mexico travel off your bucket list… Read more

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