3 Things you need to know BEFORE renting a car in Cozumel Mexico

Whether you are visiting Cozumel for a day while on a cruise or exploring the beautiful island for a few days the best way to get around is by renting a car in Cozumel.

Escape the crowds and enjoy the freedom of having your own car while in Cozumel will make your visit one to remember. The island is small but transportation options aren’t great and can be very expensive. Avoid the high priced tours and make your own day trips by following this simple guide to renting a car in Cozumel.


Cozumel Car and Jeep Rental Guide

If this is your first time renting a car in Mexico I am sure you have a few questions. We have rented cars around 20 times between Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Cozumel and we put this guide together to help the process more clear and simple for first-time renters in Cozumel.

With just a little bit of help, the rental process and driving in Cozumel is going to be a lot easier than you thought – here’s how to do it right!

Jump to info of Cozumel Rental info: 


blue van parked in Cozumel in front of the beach - Guide to renting a car in Cozumel

Is renting a car on Cozumel Safe?

The first question that comes to everyone’s mind when considering renting a car in Cozumel is safety. Let us help put your mind at ease here. Generally speaking, Cozumel is a safe place to drive.

There are very few roads in Cozumel and even fewer cars on the roads headed to the main tourist destinations. The road conditions are overall in pretty good shape. As long as you are operating your rental car in a safe way you should not have much reason for concern.

Cozumel Driving and Rental Car Safety Tips:

Avoid leaving valuables in your car, while break-ins are somewhat rare, leaving things in plain sight could be inviting trouble.

What side of the road do they drive on in Cozumel, Mexico?

In Mexico, you drive on the right, the same as the USA, the opposite side from the UK.


How much does it cost to rent a car in Cozumel?

Renting a car on the island of Cozumel is very cheap. You can usually get a rental car or even a jeep rental for less than $10 per day. We find the best prices and service from RentalCars.com in Cozumel.

They compare all of the rates and all of their rentals come with the legally required insurance. They also work with the local vendors to make sure when you book the insurance through them that there won’t be extra holds on your credit card. To ensure the cheapest rental car book in advance and prepay the reservation.  Check prices and availability

Here is a screenshot of car rental prices in Cozumel during peak season. This price is for March 19, 2019, for the one-day rental which happens to be during many colleges & school spring breaks. The prices sometimes vary based on the where you are renting a car in Cozumel at the airport or downtown Cozumel.

Cozumel car rental prices

So what’s the catch? Why are rentals so cheap in Cozumel?

There are some catches, but if you know the laws and the games that car rental companies in Mexico play you can actually rent a car in Cozumel for just a few dollars per day.

Catch #1 – The Insurance – These low prices come with only the legally required basic insurance. If you wait to buy insurance until you are at the counter it will be rather expensive. This seems to be the way they make their money.

Catch #2 – Credit Card Hold – If you use your credit card’s insurance benefits or refuse the rental agencies insurance you will have to place a hold on your credit card. The amount placed on hold depends on the level of coverage you select but is generally between $500-2500 USD. The rates vary between rental agencies but if you decline all coverage the hold will be around $2500 USD or Mexican Peso equivalent.


 

red vintage VW bug in Mexico - Understanding Car insurance in Cozumel Mexico Guide

Understanding the Rental Car Insurance in Cozumel, Mexico

The most confusing part about renting a car in Cozumel, or Mexico in general, is the insurance. The cars are cheap to rent, but if you don’t know the insurance laws and rental requirements you can end up paying a lot more than you have to.

Will my home auto insurance work in Mexico?

You’ll have to check with your provider, but the vast majority of auto insurance providers in the United States DO NOT. Confirm before traveling.

Do I need Insurance while renting a car in Cozumel?

The simple answer is yes – but how much is a personal decision you will have to make for yourself. I will try an explain a bit how it works

You are legally required to have $750,000MXP of liability insurance, and just about every online car rental company will include this in their price (every company we recommend will have this). Coverage beyond that is not legally required, but you should have insurance coverage from somewhere, whether that be from the rental agency, credit card, or third party insurance.


Couple sitting on top of their rental jeep in Cozumel - Do I need a Jeep in Cozumel

Jeep Rental Cozumel Mexico

We don’t always recommend getting a Jeep while renting a car abroad, but in Cozumel, there are some adventures that can be more fun in a Jeep. Most of the main tourist sites you can get to in any car, but if you want just go on an adventure to explore empty beaches and hard to get corners of the island, then a Jeep might be what you need.

While they tend to be a little more expensive, we think they are still pretty cheap and remember it’s more than just a car rental, it’s a day trip too! We find RentalCars.com has the best rates on Jeeps and they are a lot less hassle than some of the other companies when it comes to insurance.


Blue and green basic map of car rental pickup locations in Cozumel - created by GettingStamped.com

Rental Car Pick up Locations in Cozumel

Wondering where I can pick up a rental car in Cozumel? There are a few places to rent a car on the island of Cozumel, but one of the best places is near the ferry and cruise ship ports. However, cars are also available to rent at the Cozumel airport and they can be rented from a few resorts on the island.

1. Cruise Ship Terminals – If you are coming in by cruise be sure you choose a rental car pickup location near the port where you will be docking. If you don’t there are plenty of taxis that can take you, but that is just an additional cost and step. We would recommend booking your own car online and not booking through your cruise company, you will not get anywhere near this good of rates, they will probably have 5-10x the cost if booked onboard.

2. Ferry Terminal – Since most visitors will be arriving by boat, either the passenger Cozumel ferries from Playa del Carmen the best place to pick up a car is near the center of town where the ports are located. There are some directly at the ferry terminal or a short walk into town. Make sure to read our complete Cozumel ferry guide.

3. Airport – There are several agencies at the airport, if you are landing directly on the island of Cozumel via one of the smaller planes then you can grab a rental car or jeep here.

4. Hotels – A few select hotels have rental car agencies directly on-site, the cost is a few more dollars than the other locations, but still very reasonable. If your resort does not have a rental agency they can probably arrange on for you, but it will not be very cheap. You are better off renting online and then taking a taxi to the pickup location.

 


Cozumel Coast Aerial Drone

Driving Laws in Cozumel, Mexico

The laws in Cozumel are the same as other parts of Mexico and are pretty straight forward and reasonable. While this list is not inclusive of every driving law in Mexico these are some of the most common driving laws in Mexico.

Do Not Make Calls While Driving – It is Illegal to talk on the phone while driving in Mexico, please refrain or use a hands-free device when making phone calls in your rental car. This is an easy reason for a police officer to pull you over while driving in Cozumel.

Don’t Speed – This should be obvious, but the speed limits are relatively low on Cozumel because it is primarily a tourist island. There are speed traps periodically set up around the island.

On our last visit, I was going faster than I should have been and a police officer stopped me (rightfully so) for speeding. I negotiated my way out of one of these while driving in Cozumel.

Wear your Seatbelt – Another common sense one is just to wear your seat belt for your safety and because it’s the law.

Stop for Police Check Points – Occasionally police checkpoints will be set up on the roads around Cozumel. Be sure to stop and politely answer any question the police have. Also, be sure you are not breaking any of the above laws before or while entering the checkpoint.

What happens if I get pulled over in Cozumel?

First of all, if you happen to get pulled over while driving in Cozumel stay calm. The police officers aren’t the bad guys – even though they might be looking for a bribe sometimes. The best thing you can do when the officer starts to speak to you is to let them know if you know Spanish and how much.

The current procedure seems to be the officer will ask for your driver’s license. They will then communicate what it is you did wrong (usually in Spanish). Here’s where it gets tricky, determining whether what you did warrants a fine. If it does, the procedure is they will take your license to the local police station where you will pay the fine and then get it back.

However, you can usually handle the problem with cash on the spot. The best word for it is a bribe, but that has negative connotations, so if you are going to go this route which we have several times, is to ask what it costs to pay right now. Saying it this way covers you a little better.

So how do you tell if the officer is looking for a bribe? This isn’t a firm rule, but just my feelings, if the officer holds on to your license while talking to you and not writing anything on his ticket pad, then I would say he is probably looking for some off the books money. If there a bunch of other police around, this is less likely because bribes are obviously frowned upon, although extremely common.

What should I do if I have an emergency or accident while driving in Cozumel?

If you have an emergency dial 911 from your cell phone even if you don’t have a sim card it should work. In other parts of Mexico you could also contact the Green Angels at 01-55-5250-8221, however, in Cozumel, it seems they are phasing or have phased out this program.

 


Must have items while driving a rental car in Cozumel

    • Keep a copy of the rental agreement with you in the car at all times
    • Always make sure you have a valid drivers license
    • Make a copy of your passport and keep that with you in the car also, however, avoid carrying the real thing – handing this over to the police gives them real power.
    • Print off or get a copy of your insurance documents no matter what the source whether it’s a Credit Card coverage, from the agency, or third party.
    • Consider getting a local Mexican Sim Card – it will really help with navigation and give you peace of mind.

Cozumel Car Rental FAQ

Q: Do I need a Jeep Rental in Cozumel?

A: Jeeps are a lot of fun, especially in Cozumel. While most of the main tourist sites you can get to with just about any car, renting a jeep in Cozumel makes things a little easier and more fun if you can fit it in your budget!

Q: Can I rent a car while visiting Cozumel on a cruise?

A: Yes, you can rent a car for a day while visiting Cozumel aboard a cruise. We suggest making your booking in advance because cars can sell out when there are many ships in port.

DO NOT rent a car through your cruise company, this will cost you a ton more. Prebook your rental car online in advance. Be sure to select a car rental location near the cruise terminal to making getting your rental car or jeep as easy as possible. Most cruise ships use the port indicated on this map.

Q: Can you take a rental car to Cozumel?

A: Yes, you can bring a car to Cozumel on a ferry from Punta Venado, see our guide below.

Q: Is there Uber in Cozumel?

A: No, currently Uber is not available in Cozumel.


Things to know when renting a car or a Jeep in Cozumel

Less than full tank rentals – It’s common that cars and Jeeps are rented without a full tank of gas. Before you start driving make sure to note the amount of gas you started with and then refill it accordingly. Also, make sure your rental agreement correctly states the level of fuel before leaving the rental agency.

This is super annoying and usually results in you overfilling it on the way back to the car rental agency. They do this on purpose. If you watch your gauge closely you should know about how many miles/km equals 1/8 or 1/4 of a tank to help guess on how much you should need to refill.

Be aware of scams – There are a few scams to keep an eye out for while driving in Cozumel, mostly around refilling your gas tank. Almost all gas stations on the island will be full service, meaning there is an attendant who fills your tank.

Scam #1 – The first scam happens when they begin fueling – make sure they reset the pump before they start pumping your gas. If not you can be unknowingly charged for your gas plus the last person’s gas too. This seems to be happening less lately, but still, make sure you see the pump reset to all zeros.

Scam #2 – The wrong change scam – Be sure to hand the attendant close to exact change or count out the money to them. If not one popular scam preys on your lack of knowledge of the currency to try and trick you that you didn’t pay them enough.

For example, if you owe 370 pesos and you give the attendant a 500 peso note, they might quickly turn around with a 50 peso note in their hand saying you gave them 50 not 500. They do this so quick it is pretty convincing. So, be very clear and confident when you pass them money and don’t be fooled.


Parking in Cozumel

Most places you want to stop outside the city there will be very few parking restrictions and you can park along beach roads as long as you do it respectfully. Inside the town, there are more rules. Follow all of the posted signs and also look at the curbs.

DO NOT park where the curbs are painted yellow or there are other no parking signage.


Cozumel Dune buggy rental

Another fun option for independent transportation around Cozumel are these fun Dune buggies for rent on the island. Grab a bright-colored dune buggy to explore the island.

While these can be a bit more expensive than renting a car in Cozumel, they often don’t come with some of the insurance hassles. You can also book one of these as part of a tour for a blend of independence while still having a guide.

 


Map of things to do with a Rental Car in Cozumel

Top 7 Things to do in Cozumel with a Rental Car

In Cozumel, there is a road that makes a ring around most of the island and will bring you to most of the highlights in Cozumel. There are few stops worth making off the main loop road, but overall you’ll find yourself along the well-paved and marked ring road.

If you are looking for more of an adventure there are a few roads that run out to the further reaches of the island that would be fun to explore with a Jeep. Those who are looking to go a little bit further and see some more remote beaches should consider a Jeep – but be respectful of the landscape and environment and don’t damage things for the future.

1. San Gervasio Mayan Ruins

Continue your Mayan adventures with the ruins here on Cozumel. Drive over to the famous ruins found near the center of the island.

  • Location: See Map
  • Hours: 8am-3:45pm Daily

2. Visit El Mirador

Located on the rocky shore of the Eastern coast of Cozumel is the area known as El Mirador or viewpoint. From here you’ll have an elevated view of the beach and rocks below. This area also has a small cluster of bars to hang out and even have lunch for continuing your road trip around the island.

Location: See Map

3. Celarain Lighthouse

On the southeastern tip of Cozumel is a bright white lighthouse that you can climb for great views of the surrounding beaches of Cozumel.

4. El Caracol Mayan Ruins

Another small set of Mayan ruins lay on the eastern shores of Cozumel and are part of the park.

5. Punta Sur Ecological Park

On the southeast end of the island is the Punta Sur Ecological Park with Mayan Ruins, a lighthouse, and more stunning beaches. Also within the gates of the park are plenty of opportunities to explore Cozumel’s natural beauty.

6. Mayan Cacao Company

On your way back to town stop in here for an afternoon pick me up on your road trip around Cozumel. Inside you’ll find traditional chocolate treats perfect to bring back as gifts or a snack for the road. If you have time stick around and see how it’s the chocolate is made.

  • Location: See Map
  • Hours: 8am-4pm Monday-Saturday | Closed Sundays

7. DIY Snorkel Tour

One of the most popular things to do in Cozumel is to snorkel in the crystal clear waters and nice reefs around the island. Most people do this as a tour, but with a car, you can make your own snorkel trip and stay in places as long as you want and not stuck on a basic tour.

Suggested Stops: 

  • Playa Chen Rio
  • Money Bar Beach Club
  • Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park

Bonus: Jade Caverns & Cenote – ATV or Jeep Required

Dive into the Mayan underworld with a trip to this cenote (limestone sinkhole) located in the jungles of Cozumel. Cenotes are natural caves filled with water and make for a fun day trip and a good place to cool off on a hot day in Cozumel.

 

Related Post: Best Cenotes in the Riviera Maya


Bringing a Rental Car to Cozumel

Can you take a rental car to Cozumel? Yes, it is possible to bring a rental car on to the island of Cozumel as an alternative to renting a car in Cozumel. If you plan to visit other destinations in the Riviera Maya and want to have a rental car for your whole trip including Cozumel it is best to rent a car in Cancun, see our full guide.

This car ferry including car is very comparable price-wise as just taking the passenger ferry from Playa del Carmen and other ways to get to Cozumel. A car plus 2 passengers is around 500-750 pesos total. You can take the car ferry from Punta Venado which is just 10km south of Playa del Carmen.

There are multiple ferries per day. Check the ferry website for current exact times. The site is mostly translated in English, but some pages aren’t but even without much Spanish you should be able to figure out the times and other important details.

It is recommended to arrive around 1-2 hours before your scheduled departure because there is a process when bringing your rental car on to the ferry to Cozumel. First, you need to enter the line marked as “Cars Only”. Here a Transcaribe employee will check you and give you a document to fill out. You then need to the cashier with the document and pay. Once you have done this then go back to your car and wait for your ferry to arrive.

Location: Punta Venado, Q. Roo, Mexico

Related Article: Everything You Need To Know About Taking The Cozumel Ferry


DISCLAIMER

This article is only an account of our personal experience with rental cars in Cozumel. This is not legal advice. Laws can change or other circumstances arise on the island that may make the information contained here incorrect.

We do not make any guarantees of the legal accuracy of any statements made in this article. We take no responsibility for how you use the information in this article. We are in no way liable for your actions or any loss or penalties that result as they relate to renting a car in Cozumel or any activity mentioned on this website.


Places in Mexico to Visit Before or After Cozumel

If you’ve got more time to explore Mexico there are some amazing places nearby you should check out. If you can’t fit it in on this trip consider them on your next trip. Make sure to check out some of our other Mexico articles to fuel your wanderlust.

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