How to Renting a Car in Cancun, Mexico
First time traveling to Mexico and thinking about renting a car? Renting a car in Mexico can seem daunting for some people, but if you take a few basic precautions, it’s simple and safe.
Renting a car in Mexico is one of the best ways to explore this beautiful country and visit the hidden gems or underrated destinations. Discover the best places to visit in the Yucatan Peninsula on a fantastic road trip.
In our travel guide, you’ll find out where to rent a car in Cancun, how to avoid scams in Mexico, and some tips on driving.
- How to Renting a Car in Cancun, Mexico
- Is it Safe to Rent a Car in Mexico?
- The Most Common Scams in Mexico
- Before Renting a Car in Mexico, You Need to Know
- Is it safe to drive in Cancun, Mexico?
- Traffic and Road Conditions in Mexico
- Driving Tips for Mexico
- Why rent a car in Cancun, Mexico?
- Can I Rent a Car in Mexico?
- Renting a Car in Cancun, Mexico
- How much does renting a car cost in Mexico?
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Is it Safe to Rent a Car in Mexico?
If you avoid the most common Mexican scams and do a little research, you can safely rent a car in Mexico.
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The Most Common Scams in Mexico
1. Don’t Book with Untrustworthy Sites
If you see super low prices on a car rental site, such as 5-10 USD a day, they probably don’t include insurance, taxes, and other fees.
Always read all contract terms carefully before booking your car to avoid car rental scams and hidden prices.
2. Extra Insurance Scam
All cars rented in Mexico have the legally required third-party liability insurance (TPL). Therefore, you don’t have to pay this extra insurance cost if you already have liability cover!
3. Gas Station Scam
You cannot pump your gas in Mexico, and there is no self-service at petrol stations! That’s why one of the most common scams in Mexico is to pay for more petrol than you pumped out.
You can avoid this if you check that it is set to zero before filling up.
4. Some Mexican Cops are Corrupt
Mexican police can be corrupt, and if you are stopped, you may have to pay a bribe.
In our opinion, if you don’t give them a reason, such as not driving fast, don’t use a cell phone while driving, and wearing a seat belt, they won’t stop you.
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Before Renting a Car in Mexico, You Need to Know
- Read the reviews of the car rental company, and compare prices and conditions!
- Check what is included in your booking, such as insurance, free cancellation, transfers, young driver fees, etc.
- From Cancun airport, free shuttles will take you to car rental offices where you can pick up your car.
- Before you sign the rental terms and conditions, check the vehicle!
Write down any problems on the contract, and take photos and videos of any scratches or dents on the car’s exterior.
Check the inside to be sure everything works, such as air conditioning, windows, wipers, doors lock and unlock, trunk, etc.
- Plan your trip in advance, and check the location of gas stations. You may want to get a Telcel sim card with internet access or download an offline map.
- Toll roads can only be paid for in Mexican pesos, and often you can’t even pay by card at petrol stations, so always carry cash.
- Book accommodation with free parking or ask your hotel where and how you can park safely.
- Use regular gasoline, not premium.
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Is it safe to drive in Cancun, Mexico?
One of the most frequently asked questions about renting a car in Mexico. We don’t recommend car hire in all areas of Mexico!
But we have found driving on the Yucatán Peninsula safe and easy, so we highly recommend renting a car in Cancun, Mexico.
It is a bit more stressful for everyone to drive an unknown vehicle in a foreign country. However, you can make your travel experience in Mexico safer by taking a few precautions.
You should plan your route, do defensive driving, not drive at night, obey speed limits, avoid distractions while driving, and always set off with a full tank.
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Traffic and Road Conditions in Mexico
In Mexico, as in the U.S. and most of Europe, you should drive on the right-hand side of the road.
Traffic in the downtown areas of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum can be chaotic, but what major city isn’t?
The roads are good and well maintained, and safe to drive.
There are many checkpoints between cities, lots of police cars in the tourist areas, and unlike the city centers, there are few cars on the highways.
If you only want to visit the tourist areas, you probably don’t need a 4×4.
There are dirt roads to some cenotes and beaches, but a standard car rental is enough in Mexico.
The road signs will always be in Spanish, but they are often displayed and very simple to understand and follow.
Read more about Mexico → Best Places to Visit in the Yucatan Peninsula
You can usually park anywhere, but avoid yellow curbs in the towns or around no-parking signs as they prohibit parking.
What to Do If I Need Help in Mexico
In case of an emergency or accident, you should call 911 and report the problem or call the Green Angels if you need roadside assistance.
Green Angel’s services are free for 24 hours. They speak English and can be reached simply by calling 078 or 01-800-987-8224.
Contact the car rental company and report the problem to your health insurer.
Read our → Chichen Itza Travel Guide
Driving Tips for Mexico
We have put together the most important and safe driving tips for Mexico. Just be confident, drive safely and follow the rules!
- Don’t underestimate the distances!
- Always have Mexican pesos with you!
- There are few gas stations along the highway so always drive off with a full tank!
- Beware of the potholes and speed bumps (topes)!
- Avoid driving at night in Mexico!
- Download an offline map for driving in Mexico!
- Get a local sim card with internet access!
- Don’t use your cell phone while driving in Mexico!
- Always wear your seat belt!
- Don’t leave valuables in your vehicle!
- Use the couta (toll) roads in Mexico!
- Obey the speed limits and rules!
- Don’t pick up hitchhikers!
- Animals are often on the roads.
- Don’t drive drunk!
Why rent a car in Cancun, Mexico?
Mexico is one of the largest countries in the world, and many people underestimate the distances.
If you don’t know how to drive or don’t want to rent a car, you can get around Mexico by ADO bus, rent a driver, take a taxi or join a private or group tour.
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When you rent a car in Mexico, you will get more freedom and save a lot of time!
More about Mexico → Best Cenotes near Valladolid, Mexico
Can I Rent a Car in Mexico?
Wondering what you need to rent a car in Mexico? There are only a few Mexico car rental requirements.
1. Passport and Driver’s License
Check your passport and driver’s license before you travel to Mexico, as they must be valid!
We suggest that you make copies of these and don’t lose them during your journey.
2. International Driving Permit (IDP)
Do I need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in Mexico? Depending on the country you are coming from, you’ll probably need an international driving permit in Mexico.
If your driver’s license is not in English, you’ll need to bring an IDP and always keep it with your driver’s license.
Most car rental companies require an IDP to renting a car.
3. Credit Card
When we were in Mexico, we didn’t have a credit card, so instead of 250 USD, they deducted 500 USD from our deposit.
But after returning the car, we only had to wait a few business days, and we got a full refund without any problems.
Some car hire companies only accept credit cards, so use one or contact the company if you don’t have a credit card.
You can only use the driver’s credit or debit card for payment!
4. Mexican Liability Insurance
Third-party liability insurance (TPL) is required when renting a car in Mexico. You can add the TPL to your online booking or at the car rental counter when you pick up the hire car.
It’s good to know that the advertised price rarely includes insurance, which will definitely increase the cost. If the insurance is not included, you will have to pay a daily fee of up to 10-20 USD per day, although this can be more expensive.
So you should read the details of the rental policy carefully!
You can also add a lot of additional insurance to your booking. We recommend buying full insurance with zero deductible charge for damage or theft!
Mexican car rental companies will not allow you to rent a car without mandatory insurance!
Make sure you have health insurance before you travel to Mexico.
The easiest and best travel insurance for nomads is SafetyWing (especially as it includes Covid-19 coverage)!
5. The minimum age to rent a car in Mexico is 21
Generally, you must be 25 years or older to renting a car from any car hire company in Mexico. However, some car rental services also allow drivers aged 18-24 to rent a car if they pay an extra of around 10-20 USD for a young driver fee.
Read more → How to Spend 3 Days in Valladolid
Renting a Car in Cancun, Mexico
One of the most important questions is where and how to rent a car in Cancun, Mexico.
The Cancun International Airport is the best place to rent a car, where you’ll find all the major car rental companies and some Mexican rental agencies.
You can book on arrival at the car rental counters or in advance.
We booked a car in Mexico with discovercars.com, and our experience was positive.
But if you’re looking for the best car rental company in Mexico, you should read reviews online and compare prices and conditions from different companies before booking!
We spent 14 days on the Yucatán Peninsula and enjoyed the road trip with our rental car in Mexico.
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How much does renting a car cost in Mexico?
Car rental rates in Cancun vary depending on which car rental company you book with or what type of car you choose.
The car rental costs will be different when you travel to Mexico in high season or shoulder season and rent a car in advance or at the last minute.
But you will spend around 30-40 USD daily for a basic car with full insurance.
This travel guide is not legal advice, and we are not responsible for the information as rules and laws may change at any time in Mexico! So we have only shared our personal experiences and opinions about our rental car in Cancun and driving in the Yucatan Peninsula.
If you have any questions or thoughts about renting a car in Mexico, let us know in the comments below.