5 Things you Should Know BEFORE Renting a Car in Cancun

We think the best way to see Mexico and especially the Yucatan Peninsula is to drive it yourself. Without a car, you’ll be confined to overpriced, basic packaged tours with hordes of other tourists.

Follow this guide on how to rent a car in Cancun and other places in the Yucatan Peninsula for the best trip to Mexico of your life. Don’t worry. Renting a car in Mexico is easy and safe – and here’s how to do it and avoid the scams and hassle.

The Complete Guide to Renting a Car in Cancun

The process of renting a car in Cancun can be confusing, and that’s why we have put together this guide. We have tried to answer all of the typical questions and give 1st hand insight on how to avoid all the common pitfalls and scams.

Jump to information:

woman standing next to a rental car in Cancun after picking it up from the airport

The Best Rental Car Company in Mexico

We always rent our cars at Cancun airport on DiscoverCars.com. They have several rental companies to choose from. We generally rent from Mex Rental Cars and have been happy with them.

We recently rented from ‘Fox’ but were not very happy with them. It seems they frequently don’t have the cars they offer online. We rented an SUV for a trip with family, and they didn’t have any and replaced our SUV with a compact car and refused to change the price to reflect the smaller car.

We always book here on DiscoverCars.com because they have free cancelations up to 48 hours before your booking.

Is it safe to rent a car in Cancun?

This depends more on your driving ability more than anything else. The first question everyone always has about renting a car in Cancun is ‘Is it safe?’. Renting a car to drive around the tourist destinations in Cancun and the Yucatan is safe.

Whenever we suggest renting a car, there is always someone on Facebook claiming, ‘you’re going to get kidnapped by the cartel’ or something crazy. These are the uninformed people that you need to unfriend. This is just not a thing! Unless you are involving yourself in illegal activities, the chances of something like this happening are just ridiculous.

Find and book a rental car today at DiscoverCars.com

Q: Is it safe to rent a car in Cancun in 2022?

A: Yes, it is safe. We have been renting cars in Cancun and the Riveria Maya since 2013 and have already rented cars from the Cancun airport 5+ times. Recently we have been renting a car in Playa del Carmen and taking a private shuttle from the Cancun airport. Now that we have kids and so many bags, they won’t fit in the rental car. We have driven well over 15,000 km over more than a dozen trips and have had no problems and never once felt unsafe.

While you should always be prepared and take precautions while driving in Mexico or any foreign country, it is a safe activity for tourists.

a couple sitting on the roof of a rental jeep in Aruba during a honeymoon
Explore on your own
#1 Tip – Rent a car in Mexico
Have ultimate freedom and save tons of money on tours with your own rental car! Don’t worry – It’s safe (we’ve rented 20+ times), the roads are good, and it’s easier than you think! We always rent from Discover Cars, it’s easy & they have the best prices.

Heading to Cozumel? Read our Cozumel Rental Car Guide 

*When looking for the best price and biggest selection of hotels, check prices on Booking.com. We’ve found they are the best option and have a great cancelation policy.*

Van drives on the road to Coba and Tulum in Q Roo Mexico - Is it safe to drive in Cancun Mexico

Is it safe to drive in Cancun & the Yucatan?

Driving in a foreign country can be overwhelming, but in Mexico, we find it not too difficult. Inside cities like Playa del Carmen and other larger cities, the traffic can be a bit busy, but outside the cities, there are surprisingly few cars on the road.

The road signs will be all in Spanish. However, they are pretty easy to figure out with even a little bit of Spanish knowledge. Speed limits are frequently marked, and road signage is generally easy to follow. However, it’s a good idea to use GPS or Google Maps if you have cell service or load them while you are on wifi.

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

In Mexico, they drive on the right side of the road, and the steering wheel is on the left side of the car, just like it is in the USA and most parts of Europe. This would be the opposite of the United Kingdom or Australia.

Do I need Insurance for renting a car in Mexico?

This is not an easy yes or no question, but here we will try to explain it in detail. Technically, when you rent a car in Mexico, it typically includes the legally required liability insurance.

Confirm this in the fine print before booking. Every company is different. Past that, insurance coverage is at your discretion. If you choose to decline additional coverage at the rental counter, a large hold will be placed on your credit card.

We ALWAYS recommend having additional insurance like the Collusion Damage Waiver insurance (CDW). Whether that is being covered by your credit card travel benefits, an outside travel insurance company, or purchasing extra car insurance through the rental company. You never know when you’ll need it.

Don’t forget travel insurance! You never know when you’ll need it. We suggest getting travel insurance with World Nomads.  Not only will this include car rental insurance but also medical, trip cancellation, your belongings from theft or damage, baggage,  car rental coverage, and much more.

The below photo is from Discovercars.com. After you select your car and then hit book at the middle of that page, you should see RENTAL CONDITIONS. Click on this and then the drop-down arrow for protection and rental conditions.

Here you will see that damage waiver, theft protection, and third-party liability (TPL) are included in the rate. If there is any injury or damage to such property or injury caused by an accident, this would be the first insurance policy to be called upon.

discover car insurance covered Cancun car rental

You should have additional car insurance on top of the legally required and included insurance because if you are involved in an accident, you may be responsible for the damages.

You do not need to take a policy from the rental agency. You may be able to use rental coverage from a credit card or other source. This will be explained further below. But as we explained in our latest update below, they often force you to take the additional car insurance at the car rental agency.

UPDATE September 2022

Most car rental places in Cancun and Playa del Carmen refuse to accept collision damage waiver benefits from credit cards, even if you bring a letter from your credit card company. We personally have dealt with this issue in person at the Cancun airport car rental office and several different car rental companies in Playa del Carmen.

After fighting with the managers in both English & Spanish, showing them what it says online on their websites and in our letters, it never seems to go anywhere. Ultimately you will leave without a car OR just purchase additional insurance through the car rental company. 

Will my auto insurance cover me in Mexico?

Most US-based auto insurance plans do not cover you in Mexico, but you would need to check with your provider before renting a car in Mexico. You can purchase additional coverage through the rental agency or directly with Discovercars.com when booking your car, and then it’s prepaid. This is what we have done with the last three car rentals we had. 

‘The Catch’ about renting a car in Cancun

When you go to book a rental car at the Cancun airport, or even in Tulum or Playa del Carmen, you’ll likely find that you can get a full-sized car or even an SUV for just a few dollars per day, so what’s the catch?

There are a few ‘catches,’ but if you prepare for them, you can actually rent a car for that cheap. 

Prices fluctuate depending on the season, currently, in winter, the prices are a bit higher, but still, a rental will probably cost you less for your whole trip than an airport transport round trip. While we appreciate all the comments, we can’t control the prices of rental cars.

Below is a screenshot of rental prices for the high season in Mexico, February 2023.

Discover Car Rental Car rates

Renting a car in Cancun can be a ‘bait and switch’ situation. When you get to the counter, there are many ways they will try to upsell you or use other tactics to raise the price of your rental. I am convinced this is part of their job, and they know you are eager to start your vacation and you’re more willing to pay extra charges at this point.

Here are the catches and how not to get caught by them.

#1 – The first catch is rental car insurance. When you get to the counter, the first thing they will tell you is that you need to have insurance. This is most often not true. Every car we rented in Mexico has the legally required liability insurance coverage. (see picture above). While the limits and coverage are pretty minimal, and you may want more, you do not need to purchase additional insurance to rent the car.

We are not advocating you drive around Mexico uninsured. It would be irresponsible not to have more coverage than the basic liability the rental car comes with. However, if you have coverage from a credit card or other source, this will be significantly cheaper. Even if your only option is to take the insurance through the rental car company, the rental plus the insurance is still very affordable and, in our opinion, the best way to get around the Riviera Maya and the Yucatan. Often only $20 a day.

#2 – Credit Card Hold – Catch #2 is related to #1. If you choose to decline additional coverage, you will need to put a rather large hold on your credit card. For most companies to decline all additional insurance, this is $2,500 USD or the equivalent in Mexican Pesos. This may sound scary, but as long as you don’t get in any accidents, it is a non-event.

We have never had an issue with being charged for damages to cars. It’s common for rental cars in Mexico to have plenty of dings and dents in them. Just make sure the rental agent marks them all on your checkout form before leaving the rental lot when picking up your car.

Just note you will need to have a credit card with at least $2,500 USD of available credit to rent a car and decline all insurance. Also, some companies’ holds can be higher depending on car class.

#3 – Car and Car Type are not guaranteed with a booking agent – When renting a car online through a booking agent like Discovercars.com or any other major agent, if you choose to pay when you pick up the rental car, they don’t guarantee the car class you will receive.

While it is possible to get a larger vehicle reserved this way, during high season, it is hard to get larger vehicles. Full-Size cars aren’t generally an issue, but they aren’t really very large cars. Our last ‘full-sized car was a Hyundai Elantra, which was comfortable enough for four people but can be tough with luggage.

If you are renting smaller cars, this is generally not a concern. It seems to be very common practice to overrent larger cars and have them not be available, at least at the Cancun airport. If you prepay your car rental online, the car companies usually see this, and you’re more likely to get your car class.

On our last visit, we didn’t prepay, and they said: “you didn’t pay for the reservation in advance. We cannot guarantee that car.” Going forward, we will always prepay our reservation whenever possible.


Renting Baby Seats & Child Booster Seats

If you prefer to bring your own baby seats & child booster seats to keep your kids safe while driving in Mexico, we totally get it but if dragging them from home through the airport sounds like a chore, consider renting a baby seat.

If you often travel, you might want to invest in the WAYB Pico travel car seat, we have one for our son, and it is so easy to travel with. It folds down small and is lightweight.

On Discovercars.com, you can reserve and add a baby seat or child booster seat to your car rental for $5.99 a day each.

Best Credit Cards for Rental Car Protection in Mexico

Many credit cards have car rental insurance that covers you while driving in Mexico. You will need to check with your credit card company before traveling to Mexico. Here are the credit cards we have with car rental coverage:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Chase Business Ink
  • Barclay World Elite
  • Delta SkyMiles (American Express)
  • United Mileage Plus (Chase)

How to safely use your credit card rental benefits

  • Make sure to read all the fine print regarding coverage.
  • Ensure Mexico is an included country in your benefits (Chase Sapphire is covered).
  • Have a written letter stating your benefits sent to you physically or electronically.
  • Print or make copies of your coverage statement and bring them with you to Mexico.
  • Pay for the car rental on the credit card with the coverage you plan to use.
  • The driver must be the credit cardholder or the cardholder listed as a driver on the rental agreement.

One Must: If you plan on using your credit card for rental insurance, have the credit card company send you your benefits letter in the mail or an email and bring it with you to the rental counter in Mexico.

If there are any questions or problems, this will help. You should have extra copies of this document for all your travels – this is a requirement when renting in Europe. While it’s not required in Mexico, it is a good piece of mind to have. Our Chase Sapphire card emails it to us within minutes of calling them for it.

Our Favorite Travel Credit Card: If you don’t already have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you should get one if you travel often. This is by far our favorite card for travel. It comes with one of the best signup bonuses out there, they will pay for your Global Entry & TSA precheck, rental car coverage in just about every county, and you get a Priority Pass which gets you into the airport lounges around the world.

Honestly, this card, in a lot of ways, changed the way we travel and made our travel days much more enjoyable.

Three of our travel credit cards include a $75,000 collision damage waiver, car rental coverage for car rental damage, and auto theft (no personal belongings). We recommend the Chase Sapphire Rewards card, Chase Business Ink card, and our Barclay World Elite also has the same coverage. But as we discussed above, even though our cards offer this benefit, rental agencies often refuse to accept it, and it just is a never-ending battle with them. They accepted a credit card benefit coverage fine from 2014-2019 for us, but times have changed. We successfully haven’t been able to use this benefit since early 2019. 

Laws tourists should know when renting a car in Mexico

Knowing the law is the first step to having an easy trip to Mexico. While it may not save you from all hassles, it will help you void the easy ones.

  • Don’t speed excessively – This should be obvious, but try not to go more than 10kph over the posted limit. You may be able to get away with 20 over, but you run the risk of being pulled over and paying a ticket or a bribe.
  • Don’t use your cell phone while driving. If a police officer sees you doing this, they can stop you. Trust me. This happened to me.
  • Seat belts are required in Mexico.
  • Technically it’s illegal to pay a police officer directly. However, it is common practice.

Remember, just because you see another driver doing any of these things – you are a visitor, and you are an easy target for a ticket or a bribe.

*This does not reflect all Mexican traffic laws. See the Disclaimer below.

Car driving through a police check point in Mexico- Renting a car in Cancun

What to do if you get pulled over in Mexico while renting a car

We have rented cars in Mexico more than a dozen times and driven at least 15,000 kilometers in the Yucatan, and have only had two run-ins with police, and to be honest, they were justified. We were stopped once in Cozumel for speeding – which we were, and another time we were talking on a cell phone while driving through a Tulum police checkpoint on the highway.

In Cozumel, we paid a 500 Peso bribe and talked our way out of a ticket for the cell phone using some pretty bad Spanish and a lot of patience. Realistically the police in Mexico, or at least in the Yucatan, are pretty decent and should not be feared.

  • Stay calm, while the police may occasionally be looking for a bribe, they aren’t the bad guys.
  • Let the officer know if you speak Spanish and how much Spanish you may know. A common tactic is to intimidate you by speaking very fast with a scary tone.
  • They will ask for your driver’s license first
  • If they hold on to your license and hesitate to write the ticket while talking to you with the ticket pad in hand, they are most likely trying for a bribe.
  • The standard procedure is to take your license and hold it until you return the next day to pay your fine at the police station – If whatever you did warrants a ticket to begin with, that’s the hard part.
  • The police sometimes use your lack of knowledge to scare you into thinking you did something wrong for a bribe.

Related Article: Xpu Ha Beach Is The Next Tulum

Parking in Playa del Carmen & Tulum

Parking in Playa del Carmen is pretty easy to come by. Just don’t park where the curbs are yellow or otherwise, posted no parking. Sometimes the yellow on the curb can be a bit faded, so just look when you get out of your car, especially in the evening. The same goes for Tulum Pueblo (town).

If you are staying near the beach in Tulum, that’s when it can get tricky lately. When looking where to stay in Tulum and you choose to stay on the beach, make sure they have parking if not, there are some lots, but they are rather expensive.

Suppose you are just visiting Tulum beaches for the day, plan to pay 200 pesos to park (which is more than we normally pay for the car). Other than that, just use common sense and don’t block driveways (no matter how small).

When visiting Mayan Ruins in Mexico like the Tulum Ruins, Coba Ruins, etc., also expect to pay 100 pesos for parking. When visiting cenotes in Mexico, the parking is usually free. If you’re planning a day trip to Xpu Ha beach, there is a parking fee, but they are a few restaurants that can validate your parking, ask the attendant in advance to make sure you eat/drink at the right one.

If you plan on visiting Isla Holbox, you can park right by the ferry for 100 pesos a day. Several houses/restaurants offer secure parking. We left our rental car for four nights. It was much cheaper to drive ourselves there and pay for parking than take an uncomfortable shuttle jammed packed with tourists plus, we could stop along the way and sightsee.

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

Article 152 & The Mexican Tourist Card

There are still articles floating around talking about Article 152, which was a program where you could give a police officer this ‘Tourist Card’ or ‘Tarjton Turistico’ if you were stopped for a traffic violation.

This was to curb police bribes, and you would pay for your ticket at the rental agency. However, it seems this program, unsurprisingly, never really took off. This program looks to have ended in 2014 or so. Regardless, when renting a car in Cancun in 2022, you will not need to worry about this law/program. You will handle any violations directly with the police.

What to do if you have an emergency or accident

If you have an accident or any other emergency, just dial 911 from your cell phone. If you are on a toll road or a major highway, contact the Green Angels, which is similar to AAA in the USA. They are a bilingual fleet of green trucks (hence the name). You can contact Green Angels at 01-55-5250-8221.

Related Article: Things to do in Merida

Must follow tips to follow when renting a car in Mexico

  • Always have your rental agreement in the car
  • Always carry a valid driver’s license
  • Carry a photocopy of your passport. Avoid carrying the real thing – You should not be asked for this, and handing over your real passport gives the police real power because you can’t leave the country without it.
  • Carry a copy of the insurance you have – whether it is through a credit card or a separately purchased policy.
  • Don’t use your cell phone while driving for both safety and the law.
  • Avoid excessive speeding, 10kph over the limit is generally tolerated, but a tourist is an easy target to be pulled over for minimal speeding for a bribe.
  • Get a data plan for Mexico from your current carrier, or if that is too costly, you can pick up a Mexican SIM card and plenty of data for less than $20 USD for a month. We suggest Telcel. This will help using google maps and ever-changing plans while on the road.

Google Maps hack while renting a car in Mexico without data service

If you plan to rent a car in Mexico, it is a good idea to use Google Maps to help you get around. However, if you don’t have data, you can still use the maps. Before heading out for the day, load your map with your destination on google maps using the hotel wifi.

Once you leave wifi, the map will stay loaded, and the navigation will work using your GPS, which doesn’t cost anything. The only catch is you can’t get too far off track because the map only loads so far off the main route. Don’t worry if you’re prone to getting off track. If you do make a wrong turn, you just need to get yourself back to the blue line, and you’re good to go again!

Scams to avoid while renting a car in Cancun

The biggest and most avoidable scams while renting cars in the Riviera Maya come at the gas stations. In Mexico, it is common for full-service attendants to fill your tank, and they are known to scam people, even local Mexicans.

There are two main scams to look out for, but always beware while filling up your rental car because new scams happen all the time.

‘The non-reset scam’ – Watch the gas pump meter closely when the attendant starts filling your tank because they are known for keeping the sale from the last car active and continuing filling your car and charging you for both sales. This is an easy one to avoid. Just watch to make sure the meter goes back to zero before they start. This scam has started to fall out of fashion and hasn’t been tried on us recently.

‘The wrong payment scam’ – This scam happens at the end of filling your car, and you pay the attendant cash. They will quickly change out one of the larger bills you just gave them, claiming you gave them too little money.

For example, if your bill is 520 Pesos, and you give the attendant a 500 peso note and a 20 peso note, once you give it to him and turn around to start the car, they will come and knock on your window with a 50 note and a 20 note saying you mistakenly gave them the wrong bill. They are praying on the fact that you don’t know the currency well and people’s short memories. They are so fast with this they might actually be believable, but don’t fall for it.

This was tried on us twice on our most recent visit in 2022, to which I responded with every Spanish curse word I could muster. To avoid this, just hand the notes over one by one, listing off what you are giving them. If they try this and you call them out, they will just walk away, don’t doubt yourself.

Tips for renting a car at the Cancun Airport

  • Pick up your rental car at the Cancun Airport. You can also rent cars in other cities like Playa del Carmen and Tulum, but the cost of a taxi to these destinations one way will cost as much as a rental car for the length of your stay.
  • When returning your rental car at the Cancun Airport, follow the signs for Terminals 2 & 3. When you get closer to the terminals, you will see signs for individual car rental companies. There are shuttles to take you to your terminal to check in.

Related Article: Where to Stay in Tulum – Read before booking accommodation

VW bug driving in Mexico - Cancun Rental Car FAQ

Cancun Car Rental FAQ

Q: Do I need a Jeep or SUV to get around to the tourist destinations of Riviera Maya and the Yucatan?

A: No, the roads are in surprisingly good shape in this part of Mexico. While you might end up on a few dirt roads while heading into Mexican cenotes, just about everything a tourist would regularly visit is accessible by a standard car.

Q: Are rental cars automatic or manual transmissions?

A: We have had both automatic and manual transmission rental cars in Mexico. For the last few years, it has been a mix of manual and automatic what we get, but since we can drive a manual car, it was never an issue. When renting, make sure the car says automatic, and when at the counter, confirm the car is automatic. If you cannot drive a manual, make sure the car rental company knows this.

Q: What side of the road do they drive on in Mexico?

A: In Mexico, cars drive on the right side of the road, just like in the United States.

Where we have taken day trips from Cancun and Playa del Carmen

Over the years of renting cars in Cancun and Playa del Carmen, we have taken some amazing day trips and spent more time exploring the area. Make sure to read some of our other travel articles to find places you can explore with your rental car. 


This article is only an account of our personal experience with rental cars in Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen. This is not legal advice. Laws may change, or other circumstances arise 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.

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We want your comments and questions – However, as a warning, fear-mongering and unsubstantiated comments are not welcome. If you are going to claim something, have facts or credible sources to substantiate it. If not, keep your worries to yourself and hold on tight to the arms of your couch and stay in your small little ‘safe’ world.

Places in Mexico to Visit Before or After Cancun

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

Things to do in Playa del Carmen

The beach in Playa del Carmen in front of Elements condos and vacation rentals

We fell in love with this Mexican beach town on our first visit and actually moved to Playa del Carmen for six months shortly after, and now we return at…

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211 thoughts on “5 Things you Should Know BEFORE Renting a Car in Cancun”

  1. Hi Adam,

    Thank you so much for this very informative post. Unlike my past trips to Mexico (Cabo, Porto Vallarta), I really wanted to rent a car for Cancun/Playa del Carmen vacation but really got stressed out when I couldn’t find anyone who had done so after talking to around 10+ friends/family members who had been to the area. Initial Google search didn’t help either but I’m so glad I came across this post. It gave me the information and guidance needed to get the confidence to rent a car there. We just got back from the trip and we had a wonderful time. This vacation was very different from other Mexico vacations mainly because of the rental car. We were able to cover the entire area from Cancun to Tulum at our own time and pace. I rented with Avis rental car as my company has preferred plus account with them. Thanks again for making our vacation special!


  2. Hey. Great post. This will help me a lot. Quick question. I’m landing in Cancun around noon. I’m planning on getting a rental car from the airport and drive to my airbnb or hotel. My friend is arriving at night after 9 pm and I was going to pick her up and drive back to where we’re staying. Is it safe to go to the airport from our airbnb/hotel and back? I’m a woman and will be driving alone one way then it will be the 2 of us back into town. Any suggestions will be appreciated. Thanks

    • Generally, I would say you are fine driving at night safety-wise, normal road hazards are much more dangerous than the thoughts you may conjure up in your mind. If you are picking up your friend just know you can’t drive right up to the area where international flights arrive and exit the airport (terminal 3). That area is only accessed by taxis, shuttles, and buses. Don’t worry it’s not a big deal, but have your friend exit the terminal and turn left as soon as she exits the glass airport doors. You can park with your car (for a small fee, paid via a ticket system with a machine in the vestibule of T3) near the Departures for T3 and she can meet you there. She will walk down a small corridor outside and exit a turn style gate and meet you on the otherside. It’s easy if you have a plan or even better if you both have cell service. Just know where you are going, it’s best to have google maps with a working cell phone – and you should be fine, just take normal precautions. Have a great trip!

  3. March 2021

    I have now rented cars 3 times in the Cancun area and once In cabo since October 2020. ( Thanks Hannah for the ig help regarding ADO!)
    Solo female driver who speaks decent enough Spanish…and it’s safe! I’ve rarely been pulled over, and always have one phone recording, a copy of my passport that I never offer..and an old license…it’s a permit but no one has ever looked twice at it. Even the scooter police in Cozumel (🙄)
    Another thing to look out for, I learned about on this trip, when traveling with two additional gringo, we had a very nice Guarda National. He informed us of the following. As plating/registering cars is expensive here, many companies only use temp tags that last two weeks or so. So always check the tag on the rear window of the car for date validity for the duration of your trip. If a car sits for months or weeks it’s literally cheaper to just constantly do temp tags. The fee will rest with the rental company..or should but it’s another good time for someone to expect a bribe. This stuff is very rare in the highways, but not the city police.

    Additionally, I’ve been able to refuse additional insurance each time, sometimes with a fight to the point where I start recording ( Damn, I feel like a Karen in Mexico but only with cops and rental agencies!). I have the CSR and have gotten out of it, with the large deposit. This last trip with the first time I actually had the letter ready, and it wasn’t needed with Adocar.
    Now, ADOcar is a breed alone which doesn’t explain policies or practices and will test ones patience, but in the end I got a car.and for much cheaper than the standard companies. I wouldn’t recommend them to people who aren’t used to a different level of Mexican service or who are on a tight schedule

    Always always always take lots of photos, including the guy showing you the car, and I even video when marking the damage to the car. I’ve never had problems, but had friends who did.
    These tips shouldn’t dissuade one from renting in Mexico..but let’s remember it’s a different culture and different rules, so this article leaves one well prepped to start adventures off well!

  4. Hi, thank you for this information! Great to have it all in one place. I’ll check with my travel insurance company first about the rental car insurance, curious to see what their advice will be.
    I was wondering if you know if any of the rental companies do different car pick-up and drop-off points?
    We’re going on a diving trip in Cozumel first, so we’d like to get the car at the Ferry terminal in Playa del Carmen. But we’d like to drop it off at the airport in Cancun.
    Otherwise we’ll have to get the bus to the airport from Playa del Carmen, and then pick up the car there to drive to Valladolid, which seems silly…
    Thanks, Heleen

    • Helen,

      We do this all the time, renting in Playa del Carmen and dropping off the rental car at the Cancun airport. When making your booking you will just set your pick up location as Playa and your drop off as CUN airport. It’s super common and easy. Hope this helps.

  5. Hi Adam, thank you kindly sir, for your much detailed, helpful and informative information. I have experienced no equal. The Full Monty of car rental in Mexico!

  6. Thanks for the tips! How are the road conditions driving A rental from Cancun airport to Tulum? Is it one road that gets you there or do you need to get on a lot of different roads to get there? Are the roads bumpy and are there any tolls along the way. Also How long does it take to get from Tulum to playa del Carmen? Thanks

    • There is literally one right turn on to HWY 307 and that takes you right into Tulum from the Airport. The roads are in pretty good shape, as good as most places in the US. There are a few sections with speed bumps, they are well marked but still can sneak up on you at night. There are no tolls on this stretch of road. There is a toll on one of the routes to Chechen Itza if you choose to do a day trip there, which you should if you haven’t been before. The drive take 1:30 minutes from the Cancun airport to Tulum. Have an awesome trip!

  7. Great info, we do always rent a car and it is surprisingly easy to drive around, and cheaper than anything else. I usually stick to well-known companies like Hertz, Enterprise, or National and there are no problems, especially if you are a member of one of them.

  8. Hi Hannah & Adam, great thread and terrific website, thanks so much for sharing all this relevant information !

    We’ve volunteered and traveled extensively in QR over the years, and the two things that stick most in our minds about driving in that territory are:

    1) topes aka, speedbumps

    2) left-turns on the highway

    The speed bumps (“topes”, pronounced “toe-pays” or “toe-pace”) are frequently encountered on highways and main thoroughfares, but are somewhat haphazardly marked. Beware, these are not your garden-variety generic parking lot speed bumps ! Topes vary in dimension, but if you don’t reduce your speed when driving over one, you may launch yourself, your belongings, and your vehicle into the stratosphere. Take if from a veteran Mexican highway driver who has missed signage and gone full-speed right over a tope, it is a heart-racing experience. Keep your eyes peeled, ESPECIALLY at night, and obey all rules of the road, and you’ll be fine 🙂

    The left turn custom is inexplicable, other than to note that this is a practice that many drivers south of the border engage in, and if you are not aware, it can be disconcerting at the least, and dangerous. In order to make a left turn off a highway, onto a lateral road, drivers will often pull over to the RIGHT HAND SIDE of the road, and wait until traffic clears sufficiently, and then make a sweeping left turn from the far right hand side. We could write chapters on this custom, but the important thing is to pay attention, and never assume that the vehicle you spot on the far right side of the highway is immobile, regardless of which blinkers (turn signals) are flashing.

    Good luck all, safe travels, and please relax, be friendly, an enjoy all that the Yucatan and Quintana Roo have to offer !

  9. Okay you are soooo on point about everything on renting a car in Cancun! We did so for 3 mths straight. But we always pay about 500-600 US. and both times, we lost hub caps driving to Punta Allen, had our mirror broken by people in Tulum because we parked in the wrong place, and were cheated several times by the gas attendants. Now we literally get out of the car and watch them. Aside from all this madness, we’re going back tomorrow for another month. But I had no idea you could deny the insurance. I’m tempted to do it but scared that they’ll find SOMETHING at the end of the trip. I think we will go for it. Although I may have an extended anxiety attack for the rest of the month haha! Thanks for the great article. You def know your stuff!

  10. Hi I went through most comments here but I have been trying to convince my friend to rent a car when we get to Cancun. We are going to tulum and staying there for 4 days. Since our flight lands around 9 pm is it okay to still rent a car at that time and drive to tulum? How do we deal w/ burglars?

    • I am not much more worried about burglars in Mexico than I am at home. Don’t keep valuables visible in your car and you are unlikely to have a problem. If you added up all of our rentals we have had a rental car for 6+ months total, always parked in unsecured parking overnight, and haven’t had an issue. Arriving late isn’t too big of a deal. There is literally one right turn from the airport all the way to Tulum. Have your phone GPS/Maps ready and it’s easy.

  11. Adam, curious if you saw my comment about Alamo claiming the required insurance is 3,000,000 pesos? any thoughts on how to fight that next time?

    • Maybe skip Alamo next time, we have not had anyone claim we needed this insurance. The best bet is to stand your ground whenever the rental agents tries to tell you anything other than what we’ve listed here. The more you know or at least seem like you know the less they will try and take advantage. The law is 750,000 MXP, if you can state facts and rebut their claims they will probably stop trying to upsell you. Generally, you can decline all additional coverages, but this will result in additional holds on your credit card.

  12. Im a flight attendant, and travel lots. I was planning to rent a car in Cancun, to drive to Tulum and maybe go to Chichen Itza. Some people have tried to scare me. As long as I obey traffic laws…. do I need to worry about police or cartel while driving to Chichen Itza? Plz, forgive me if this is a repeat question. Thank you for such a helpful post!!!

    • Don’t listen to people who haven’t done it or don’t know much about Mexico besides the overhyped news stories. If you obey traffic laws the chances are low that you will have any interactions with police, and even if you do it’s not a big deal. In the nearly 20 times I have rented a car in Mexico I have been pulled over twice, and both were justified. Here’s the thing about ‘the cartel’ – they are in the business of transporting drugs, messing with tourists would draw a lot of unwanted attention, which would be bad for business and that why it doesn’t happen. Rent a car, drive safely, and enjoy all the freedom in this awesome part of the world.

  13. Hi Adam,

    What is the best rental car company that you can recommend? Booking from US a week ahead, also should I pay for the insurance online or over the counter. Is it possible to rent a car in Yucatan and return it in Cancun?

    Thank you so much for your help in advance. Very highly appreciated.

    • We typically book extra insurance online or you could wait to do it in person too and see all the options there, that is up to you and what you are most comfortable with.

      We personally have rented a car in Playa del Carmen and returned the rental car at the Cancun airport. This was not an issue at all. Just make sure to have the pickup and drop off location set the way you want it.

      Safe travels to Mexico!

  14. Ive been down to Playa del Carmen once before and vowed to get a rental next time which looks like this year. Ive never been skiddish to drive in foreign countries, but man thanks for such a great write about it. The questions and comments being just as solid. You are so helpful I cant thank you enough—soooo thank you thank you thank you.

    Take care

  15. Thanks for the tips! This is my 2nd time in Mexico renting cars. Scams at the gas stations ARE REAL! They were trying to scam me at every station on my first trip! I wanted to add to your scam bucket:
    1. Although US Dollars are accepted in Mexico everywhere, if you try to pay for your gas at the gas station they will take it like 5:1, you are lucky if they take 8:1 so yes, have pesos, CC reader will be conveniently not working.
    2. You already mentioned it, but yes – fight for your rights! I caught them every time and yelled and they give up fast. (but yes, they got me with hiked exchange rate payments).
    3. Know volume of your gas tank in liters and estimate cost of filling it up – it will be much easier to notice when you are scammed. One gas station worker was trying to tell my Toyota Yaris had 120 liters tank :-0 thinking I am American, therefore don’t know liters.

  16. Great info thanks!

    Now if we were to use the insurance through the credit card company and have proof of coverage in a written letter, would they still try to put a $2500 hold on the card?

    • If you are using the credit card insurance coverage there will be a hold on your card. Each company has its own hold amount, but $2500 is generally the max. We have done it like this multiple times and haven’t had an issue.

  17. Hi,

    thanks for this article! I´m travelling too Mexico at the end of this month and getting nervous about the insurance. I want to rent a car through from AVIS rentalcar.com and they have very attractive insurance. Our credit card is from Europe so I don´t think we will be able to use their insurance. Can I use the renatlcar insurance for Mexico or do I have to buy one at the counter like many articles and people say?


    • We recommend booking the insurance through the Rentalcars site at the time of booking the car because it is much cheaper than what they will charge at the counter. The only way to know if your credit card covers you is to call and ask about your card benefits from the card company. Hope you have an amazing trip!

  18. Hi
    Can I book through RentalCars as a UK National or would I be excluded from taking up their Insurance as I am not a US citizen?
    Thanks for all the great work you do providing this information

  19. Hey!

    love this post its been so helpful!
    I have another question for you: even though ive never driven on the right hand side of the road and just know basic Spanish,im happy to try and drive in Mexico during the day. BUT on our way back from Tulum our flight out of Cancun leaves at 7am which means leaving Tulum around 3-3.30 am (our 9am original flight got cancelled and we got transferred to the earlier one) and then that would be night time.. do you still recommend to do that ? or maybe instead get a one way transfer to Cancun ? thank you 🙂

    • Hi Alice, I personally wouldn’t have an issue with driving at this time of the day, besides needing some coffee! There should be very few cars on the roads at this time. The main thing to worry about is that there are portions of the road where there aren’t as many street lights as their should be and sometimes it can be hard to the see the speed bumps which are on the highways near the towns. If you don’t feel comfortable at that time you can always rent a car where you return it in Tulum. It will be just a little bit more money but a good option! Have fun in Mexico!

  20. Hi, just returned from Playa Del Carmen. Took all of your fabulous advice and ended up paying around $15 (total) for a six day rental from Mex. Car took about an hour to pick up, very friendly agents who did not argue with me for a second when I produced my letter from Chase Sapphire Reserve and declined the SLI. Return took five minutes and the shuttle to the terminal was prompt. Gas stations are still very suspect, they run a scam with two attendants and try to distract you from the pump (and pull the standard crap with the bills, which you can respond to with a string of curses). I highly recommend paying in pesos and asking for a set amount of fuel. No issues with la policia or the roads in general.

    Thanks so much for the info!!

  21. hi.. can you tell me if the time we are going is an expensive time of year.. 20th april till 6th May? as prices for car hire seem to be around £27 per day … or $35 US.. am i missing something..? really would love to get the $11 per day. thanks

    • The start of your trip is during the Easter holiday which is a peak week, prices will be at some of their highest. You may be better off splitting your car rental into two parts if you are trying to cut costs.

  22. Hey,
    Nice post have driven in Mexico a few times with no problems in Cado and From the border to Ensenada. This will be my first time driving thus deep into Mexico and plan to drive to the different sites in the area ( chichin, playa de carmen) thanks for making me feel my comfortable about renting.

  23. Wow great post! Congrats !! What about doing the Chichen Itza night show (which ends at 9:15pm) and then drive to Playa el Carmen (seems like a 2-2.5 hour drive). Is it safe to drive through this road at this hour?

    • We haven’t personally taken this route at night, but I really wouldn’t see a problem with it. There is no one on that road during the day so I would imagine you wouldn’t see too many other cars. Make sure you have plenty of gas because there are very few gas stations on this route, we almost screwed that up once.

  24. Great write-up!

    One question though: I was going to book a car in Cancun with RentalCars.com and if I click on “Important Information” next to each search result it will always show me the following message: “Please note: This company will not accept prepaid, recharge or virtual credit cards – or any card on which the relevant characters are not raised (embossed).”

    The Chase Sapphire Reserve cards does not have raised/embossed numbers though. Did anyone have issues with this?

    • We have used the Chase Sapphire Reserve card several times before in Cancun and haven’t had a problem. I think that wording is in there in case their machines are down and they have to take an old school mechanical paper/carbon copy of the card. I wouldn’t worry too much about it, we personally will always use this card – there probably is a very tiny chance of them enforcing it and just be aware of it – but it won’t stop me from using it.

  25. Emboldened by your advice we booked through Rentalcars.com with Mex. We paid $9.64 USD for 5 days, Sunday evening through Thursday afternoon.

    We refused the insurance offered, but they did NOT pressure us. Of course we had to sign that we were taking full responsibility, so there is a risk in refusing the liability insurance. Our credit card covered the collision only and not liability. To purchase the liability insurance would have been $130 – which is not horrible compared to US rental prices. Anyway we took the risk, drove carefully, and had our own car in Cancun for less than $10 bucks!

    It took an hour to get the car and no time to drop off. At the drop off they had us shuttled to our terminal in 15 minutes.

    When you arrive in Cancun you will find a Mex counter on your way out of the airport. Let the guy there know that you have arrived and he will direct to to the pick up area where you will board a shuttle from Mex. It is very easy to Identify the Mex shuttle. It is their personal shuttle so it is easy to know you are getting on the correct van. Then, hang on, they drive quickly.

    As noted, we waited one hour to pick up the car. They were very busy the entire time and the line was out the door when we arrived and when we left with our car it was still out the door. Be sure to ask about the drop off place, it is not the same as the pick up. The drop off is right down the street but it is good to know so as to avoid any confusion when you drop off.

    We opted to return the car with the same amount of fuel. We picked up a car with 5/8ths of a tank and returned it with a little less than 3/4 tank. Gas was about $4 USD per gallon. Our Toyota Yaris got excellent gas mileage.

    I have read many horror stories about renting cars in Cancun – charging for damage you did not do, charging for sand in the floor boards, forcing you to purchase extras. We had no trouble and a very smooth and satisfying experience. Mex was professional and easy to deal with.

    Make sure the gas is at or above what you began with. Also, I took a video of the exterior and interior and gas gauge before we drove away from Mex in case there was any trouble. I also swept out the floor boards with a broom before returning to make it as clean as possible – it was just my wife and I so we did not make any messes in the car anyway.

    Great experience with Mex!

  26. Hi there Adam!

    My boyfriend and I are flying into the Cancun airport on the 26th. Super excited our trip is so close!! We are staying at the all inclusive Barceló Maya Palace Resort on the 27th. We wanted to rent a car to take down to Tulum just for one night. My question is: if we rent from a company at the airport can we return the car near the Barceló?? Do said car companies have multiple locations? I’m just trying to figure out the best way to get from the airport to Tulum to the resort! Thanks for your help!

    • Yes, this is possible with some car companies, but honestly, the cars are so cheap that keeping it for your whole trip will probably be cheaper than the cost of the taxi back to the airport. Just an option. If not, you can drop off in Tulum – there will be a oneway charge and you’ll then need a taxi back to the resort, but it’s all possible.

  27. I’ve just returned from the trip to Mexico. I’ve done the booking through Orbitz. The price on the website was 20USD in total. Of course they first tried to sell me primary liability insurance (PLI). I told them I have the basic one that it’s included in price and I’m fine with it. Next they tried to tell me it’s for 250,000MEX, and it’s not enough. I stopped them and told them the basic insurance included in price has 750,000MEX coverage and it is enough. They asked me how I know this so I handed them printed rules&terms from the booking website, and showed 750,000 number. They scanned it and stopped the scam. Of course, they included ~15% airport fees, as previously mentioned by someone, but still, the total was around 25USD so awesome price for a week 🙂 The rental company was Thrifty.

  28. Thanks for the great info. One thing that happened to us that I don’t see listed here was having the Police take our front license plate for illegally parking in Puerto Morelos. We didn’t notice it was gone until we returned the car to the rental agency, at which point they made us pay $200 to deal with it. Of course we are at the airport and trying to catch a flight home, so no choice really at that point but to pay. So, if your plate goes missing try to figure out why before you return the car

    • Thanks for the tip! We have never had that happen, but I am sure it does. Were you able to confirm that the police actually took it, and not a rental agent (sorry, I am always skeptical of those guys)? We have actually never been charged for anything during the rental return, even with close to 20 rentals (knock on wood). It’s a good reminder to look over your rental car before bringing it back to the agency. Sorry, that happened, Mike.

      • We had our license plate taken by the police. The hotel where we were staying was having an event and they told us where we could park. Evidently the police didn’t like it. It’s a real hassle to get your plate back so luckily the hotel took care of it, as they should have.

  29. Hi Adam! Your article is awesome and very helpful. My question to you is, can you pay cash for the price of the rental but use your credit card just for the hold ?

    • I would not recommend this, the rates at the rental counter are extremely high compared to what you can get online. They are easily 3-10x times the prices you’ll find online. You will need a credit card for the hold.

    • We are here to help. After living in Playa del Carmen and renting cars from the Cancun airport and Playa often we know how it works and hoped we could share the word with fellow travelers. Safe travels to Mexico.

    • Most rental agreements would not allow you to do this. While it might be possible to find an agency that allows it – we generally recommend separate rentals in each country and taking the bus between.

  30. Is it possible that third party liability is not covered? I searched in RentalCars.com and showing same as your screenshot above. But notice that $750k coverage is in grey, not green. Furthermore, next pages during the booking do not mention about the included insurance anymore. Detailed page in final screen says, I have to purchase third party liability. Very confused.

  31. Is it possible to rent a car at the Cancun airport and drop it off in Playa del Carmen when done? We are going from the Cancun airport straight to Tulum for a few days, then will are going to Playa del Carmen to stay at a resort where we do not think we’ll need a vehicle. We would just love the flexibility in Tulum to check out a few other places (Punta Allen, Coba, etc) before we stay locked at the resort. *Resorts are not our ideal way to travel, but we have a 3 and 1 year old now and thought we would give ourselves a break from the bustle of our usual adventure style of traveling until they get older!

    • Yes, it is. We have rented cars many times in Playa del Carmen and return them at the Cancun airport so I am sure you could do it the other way around. You can also reserve a car seat when booking. Safe travels!

  32. Hello!

    Myself and two friends are planning on travel to Tulum/PDC and want to rent a car out of the airport in Cancun. This post has been super helpful, so first of all – thank you!

    We are wondering about the possibility of paying the insurance and how to go about it safely. I have a Chase card but as it is my father’s I don’t feel comfortable having a $2,500 hold (We all have debit cards with this amount but BofA doesn’t offer the insurance coverage). There are various websites where it would only cost $6-7 for a 7 day trip, and with insurance it’s about $77. We are happy to pay this amount but are worried about crazy hidden fees.

    1. Will it make a difference if we pay for the car rental in general online vs paying at the desk?
    2. Will it make a difference if we pay for the insurance online vs at the desk?
    3. Are there any companies you would recommend? One of the cheapest is Economy Rent-A-Car but it only has bad reviews online. Unfortunately, we don’t see many people leaving good reviews for rental companies. Thoughts?

    Thanks so much!

    • You will pay significantly more if you pay for the rental at the desk, they have these crazy rates at the counter. If you can’t have a hold on your card at all, you can book the insurance at the counter – it will be much more expensive than online but then you should avoid any hold if you book their top tier insurance package at the desk. ACE isn’t too bad, but honestly, there isn’t a big difference between most of them – they all have similar policies and fees.

  33. Wow, great blog!
    I just wanted to point out that anyone renting from Europe won’t be able to get prices as cheap as mentioned here, this is because CDW insurance is automatically included in the rental price. We don’t have the option of renting without CDW. The cheapest price I found for May is €12 per day, with a company called CarFlex (I don’t know what they are like).
    One thing I did want to ask about is driving at night. Our flight does not land until 20:00 and we are staying in Tulum. I am a bit concerned about finding our way there in the dark and how safe it will be (I’ve read lots of stuff about how it’s fine to drive during the day, but it is not as safe at night). We’ve never been to Mexico before.

    • Hi Becky – Being from Europe shouldn’t have anything to do with being required to purchase insurance, you may not have the credit card options discussed though. Either way, driving between Cancun airport and Tulum at night shouldn’t be a problem. I would not hesitate to do this at 20:00. The trip is on a main highway which is partially lit with street lights. Take normal precautions for night driving for road hazards, but I don’t see safety concerns outside road hazards. The road is in pretty good condition and well marked. From the rental agency there is literally one right turn on to HWY 307 southbound, once you are on that highway the town of Tulum is right on this road, you really can’t miss it. Hope that helps – let us know how it goes!

  34. Hi Adam,

    I am going to Cancun and Tulum in March, 2019 with my two children and am looking at car rental options. Mex Rental is the only rental company that allows “now now” option but is also the most expensive.

    Is it worth paying for it now when I am okay with getting a mid-sized car for my two young kids and myself?
    I do plan to visit some cenotes around Tulum and Sian Ka’an Reserve but will stay mostly off dirt roads.

    Thank you for your advice in advance!

    • Paying for it now will guarantee you have the requested rental car when you arrive. Chances are it would probably be fine, but that’s up to you. A mid-size car sounds like it would be big enough and capable of the trip you are talking about.

  35. We are going to be in Mayan Rivera in March 2019, staying 4 days in Puerto Morelos and then heading to Cozmal for a few days. If we rent a car in Cancun can we take it over to Cozmal?Do we even need a rental car on Cozmal? Thanks for the great article.

    • To enjoy Cozumel independently I think you do need a car. You can rent a car in Cozumel for the day or you can use the car ferry to get there. There is a ferry from Punta Venado – Calica to Cozumel operated by Transcaribe that runs daily ferry service from just south of Playa del Carmen to Cozumel. We personally have never done this, but it looks to be possible. It looks like they have 4 ferries per day and a personal car would cost about 500 MXP. https://transcaribe.net/

      If you use this service, please let us know how it is – we plan to try it soon.

  36. One more Scam to Avoid:
    While tanking up our rental near the airport in Jan 2018, I gave the attendant our credit card for the sale. He told me that it was declined and offered to run it again. He said it was declined and I gave him a debit card, which was also “declined.” Finally, I gave him all my remaining pesos (a bit short of the total).
    Turns out each charge was a few cents different and they all went through. My credit union refunded the charge, but Bank of America did not.

    I would recommend paying cash pesos and counting out the money as you described.

  37. We rented through Firefly in Jan 2018 and they were fine to work with, but impossible to find at the Cancun airport. I think the Hertz shuttle driver took pity on us with two small children and tons of luggage and called the Firefly shuttle for us. We saw no kiosk, sign, or phone to contact them. Returning the car was also a bit tricky as you drive through a parking lot for another company to get to the Firefly office.

  38. Adam & Hannah,

    First I want to say you both are so patient even for those that ask the SAME question over an over! Kuddos to you both! My husband is originally from Mexico but has never been to that part of the country so we’ll be going to Cancun in March 2019 as we had $200 airline vouchers that had to be spent or lost so great excuse for a romantic get away! Had originally planned to stay just in Cancun the whole 7 days but wondering if you guys think it would be beneficial to stay a few days in each … Cancun & Tulum.

    I know this is not a rental car question but due to the fact that I found your amazing info, we now feel comfortable with driving while there and we do not care for touristy places…love to go off the beaten path everywhere we go and renting a car I feel will let us be our normal adventurous selves!! 🙂 It sounds like you have been all over there so that is why I am asking. We love to hike, scuba, nature, and enjoy local cuisine. Been looking at some airbnb places in Cancun but thought I’d get your thoughts before actually booking because I’m not sure if a day trip to Tulum is possible or recommended.

    Many thanks in advance for your kind recommendations and advice!

    • Hi Arlena, Renting a car is pretty easy and if you or your husband know any Spanish, it’s even easier. As for where to spend your time – we personally like Tulum and Palay del Carmen more than Cancun. Cancun is primarily made up of a bunch of large resorts which can be challenging to visit here with the kind of independence it sounds like you are looking for. Also, from a day trip perspective, there are more things to see and do closer to Tulum, but these are reachable from Cancun too if you go that route. I am sure you can have a good trip while based in Cancun, but if you want to get off the path a bit I would suggest part of your time in Tulum. Have a great trip!

  39. Hi there, I have plans to go to Cancun in January, and would like a ‘specialty car’ – a jeep or similar so we can do some real exploring. What is your advice to best get one? Book a jeep and hope they have it available? Or book a regular car and try to upgrade? Thanks!!

    • A jeep is not really needed in and around the Rivera Maya – but if you want one I would reserve one. There is a chance they might not have one, but they should – full-size cars seem to be more of a problem. You could make a second cancellable booking just in case, but if you do a prepaid booking it should be guaranteed. The problems we referred to in the article are more related to non-prepaid bookings when trying to reserve the cheapest basic cars.

  40. I found your article very informative. I am planning a trip to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and hopefully Belize in 2 weeks. I was wondering if you had any tips, experience, or insight of crossing from Mexico into Belize, and the process of obtaining permits, insurance etc.

    • Due to the complexity, we generally don’t recommend taking a rental car from Cancun to Belize. You are likely better off traveling by bus across the border and renting separate cars.

  41. Hi, Thank you so much for this blog! Its been super helpful in putting together our thoughts. We will be in Cancun next week and made a last minute decision to rent a car. We decided to go with your recommendation of Ace car rentals on Orbitz. Did you purchase the collision protection plan from Orbitz that it offers before check out or did you wait till you got to the car pick up to purchase a plan? Thanks

    • I would wait to buy the package at the counter because you run the risk of them not accepting the insurance and still putting a hold on your credit card, not that the insurance wouldn’t work or cover you, they just don’t always recognize 3rd party insurances. However, if you aren’t worried about that then it is a fine option.

  42. Adam, I love you for this article and your helpful responses to al, the questions. I just pray that everything goes well with my rental. I am going to playa del Carmen 01/10-01/17.. I don’t mind the hold on card, I just want the $35 weekly rate I purchased. I plan to decline all and take the hold and use my Amex insurance.
    I’ll make sure I will pay in pesos to avoid the currency issues.

    What has been your average wait time for a rental pick up?

    Again, Thanks

    • I would give yourself at least 30 minutes, but more likely 45-60 minutes if it’s busy. Every rental takes a while because most people don’t know the details of the rental that I explained here. So, many people are surprised and everything just takes a long time while the agents try and upsell them on insurance and other things. Hope your rental goes well!

  43. Thank you for sharing! I’m headed to Tulum in January and was debating a rental with ACE or Avis. ACE has the better price and is closer, but their option to rent online is down. Have you had any luck with walk-in reservations with ACE?

    • We strongly recommend against walk-in bookings, the prices they will offer are outrageous compared to what you can book online. ACE is generally a pretty good company, but I would book it online through a 3rd party booking site.

  44. Very helpful post. Just one clarification where you said you use the atm for pesos cash. I am presuming the common US banks atm cards work in mexico. Pls clarify.
    Is it still better to carry mexico currency before departure from US ?

    • You can get Pesos from an ATM using most American debt cards – Visa brand is the best. However, if you feel more comfortable bringing Pesos is fine too. On the resorts and tourist towns you will be able to use US cash, but outside the main areas, it can be difficult.

  45. Question –
    What if I’m renting a car and traveling to Cozumel for a few days? Is there somewhere safe wehere I can leave it? Or can I take it with me somehow?


  46. Hi, I am traveling to Cancun 12/11-12/14. I have a booking with Enterprise for $28 today for the 4 days. I also booked with American Rental which was about $90 but claims to include all Insurance’s necessary. I also have a Delta Gold AMEX. What would you suggest? Do you have any experience with either companies? I won’t have $2500 to hold on a CC

    • I would generally avoid prepaying insurance, you run the risk of them not accepting it and still having to put a hold on your CC. If you can’t have the high hold on the car I would book the insurance at the counter.

  47. Glad I stumbled on this post, great info and great info in the comments too!

    Quick question… does anyone have any experience with Firefly? They are the cheapest by far for August on Orbitz (33% of the cost of Budget, the next cheapest). Problem is, they only have 26% positive reviews… wouldnit be worth it to pay triple or more to go with a different company?

    Thanks again!

    • We rented through Firefly in Jan 2018 and they were fine to work with, but impossible to find at the Cancun airport. I think the Hertz shuttle driver took pity on us with two small children and tons of luggage and called the Firefly shuttle for us. We saw no kiosk, sign, or phone to contact them. Returning the car was also a bit tricky as you drive through a parking lot for another company to get to the Firefly office.

  48. Extremely empowering site, thanks! We are going to CUN 12/22/18 – 01/05/19. Perhaps it is the busy travel season but Fox is $30/day, Ace $26 and Payless is $11 – 13 for a manual transmission. Today is 11/25. Will the prices fluctutate that substantially in the next few days?

    • That is PEAK weeks so car prices will be much higher during that time frame. I can’t say what the prices will do but if you rent on RentalCars.com or Orbitz you can cancel for free so there is no harm in just booking now. We have never rented with Payless so we can’t speak about that experience.

  49. Hi,

    Thanks for this detailed article! It has a lot of helpful information.

    I am looking at Orbitz now and the prices for ACE and Fox start at $22/day (these being the most expensive priced) and for others such as Alamo, Economy or Budget being around $2-$10/day. While the price range is pretty big, the recommendations on all of the options show the frowny face and below 32%. I guess my question is do you have experience with other rental companies? Will renting from ACE or Fox with the higher price be a better/safer option than the lower priced companies? And is the recommendation percentage something to watch out for? (I do see the comment “Disappointed with pick-up experience” so it may have to do with the hassling that you mentioned in the article?)

    • We like ACE, but you still have to know the details of renting a car in Mexico that we explain in the article. The experience won’t be hugely different between rental brands.

  50. I just come back from cancun. I rent from Thrify through expedia. The renting process is pretty smooth and I have no issue with returning the car. I prepared a copy of my credit card insurance, but they didn’t even ask for it. I think booking through expedia is a little expensive, a standard size car for 8 days cost C$120 (U$90), but it only takes me 20 mins to get the car. I didn’t get stopped by a police when I was driving in cancun.

    • Great to hear renting a car in Mexico was easy for you and you had no issues driving. We are rarely asked for that letter from our credit card company but we always have it just in case we do. I don’t think it will matter if you book Orbitz vs Expedia but more that it was Thrifty. We might give them a try when we go back in January.

  51. Thank you for sharing precious information. I got nervous when they took the 2500$ deposit ( it has never been that high worldwide) but I feel better now after reading your article.

  52. I will be in Cancun/Playa del Carmen for a week and I am interested in renting a car. I am worried because I may not have the space on my credit card to have a hold placed for $2500. I was thinking of renting through orbitz then paying the full insurance at the counter to avoid this hold (hopefully won’t be to expensive). My questions is If I were to add the insurance offered during booking with orbitz ($11/day), will the rental company in Cancun still try to make me buy additional insurance through the counter and place a hold on my CC if I decline? In this case, would it be better to pay for just the car on orbitz and then pay the insurance they offer at the counter to avoid this hold. What would you recommend I do?

    • I personally would book the car on Orbitz, but do not book the insurance. You do run the risk they will not accept that insurance without still putting a hold on your card. The insurance may work just fine, but you have a chance that it’s through a third party and they may still put a hold on your card. I would book the insurance directly with the agency to avoid holds on your credit card. While this is somewhat more expensive, it is still pretty cheap all things considered. Have a great trip!

    • I don’t know if this comment is too late, but I did this in Playa Del Carmen – I used the insurance option from Expedia when I booked a car from Firefly ($1 a day plus $22 for insurance) but when i got to the counter they claimed they couldn’t see this and were still going to place the full hold on my credit card. We went round and round in circles trying to argue it and in the end they won and I paid full price for the rental direct at Firefly which i think ended up being around $40USD a day. Now after reading this article I feel like I should have just put the hold on the card.

  53. Hi Adam
    Your site has been very comprehensive. Thanks for sharing it.
    We are looking to rent a car from Cancun in mid November and want to use it for 2+ weeks. Do you have any ideas if we can drop the car off in Chetumal rather than returning it to Cancun? We are planning to travel on to Belize and other destinations. I don’t want to have to back track to Cancun.

    • Yes you can do that, just put Chetumal as the returning location. We have rented a car in Playa del Carmen and returned in Cancun. Sometimes they may charge you a small for doing so but you’ll know this before booking.

  54. This is great info. I just returned from my Cancun trip and thought I’d leave my experience to help others.

    As the article mentioned, even with my Chase Sapphire Reserve insurance paperwork, the Cancun Hertz tried to convince me that I needed additional insurance by first, leaving it on my bill for me to sign, and second, showing me “news articles” and other insurance companies recommendations to purchase the insurance.

    After that, I was able to get all other fees taken off, although it took several attempts.

    The only surprise to be aware of is the 16% tax that they charge and the 4.5% fee charged for using a credit card instead of a debit card.

    Good luck, and stand firm!

    • Yes, stand firm! The 4.5% fee for using a card we have never heard before or been charged ourselves. I would have to guess that might be against Visa/Mastercard rules as well. The 16% is probably the standard VAT tax and 16% on a few dollars isn’t much anyways. Great to hear your Chase Sapphire saved you some money. Did you have any issues returning the rental car in Cancun?

  55. Hi, thank you very much for sharing your experience, it’s very valuable! I’m from Colombia and I’m planning to travel to Mexico, Cancún to the Rivera Maya, and of course rent a car, but it seems that my credit card does not offer car protection when traveling abroad, so I was thinking in buying an international car protection with an insurance company, do you think is a good idea? because just the idea of acquiring a protection plan with a rental car company (based on what you described) seems to be a nightmare and I think tell will try to push me to buy an overpriced full protection plan that I think it will be cheaper with an insurance company. Thanks!

    • Unless it is significantly cheaper than the insurance plans available for purchase at the rental agency I would not necessarily go that route. The insurance is only a hassle if you try and decline it(which you would be if you purchased outside insurance), if you are purchasing it through them it is very easy, that’s what they want and how they make most of their money. Overall even with purchasing the full insurance through the rental agency, it is still a very reasonable price for the freedom and transportation a rental can in the Yucatan Peninsula gives you. Have fun in Mexico!

  56. My wife, myself, and our 12 year old is going to the Cancun Area in Feb-2019. Looking forward to it. We were planning on using taxis or some shuttles as we do not plan on doing much other than what our resort offers. But I am trying to push to rent a car. I have two questions. 1) If we do not have a credit card (we save for our vacation and use cash and or debit). What is the normal cost of buying extra insurance so we do no have to have a hold of 2,500 on a card? 2) Also, god forbid, what if a police officer wants a bribe. What is normal and am I going to be arrested if I offered $50.00 and that officer is legit?

    • The cost for insurance can be around $15-30 USD per day, sometimes more. 1 – In order to not have any hold, you would have to buy the highest tier plan, and there is still a possibility you would have to have a card on file (they may allow debt cards depending on the agency). 2 – We have rented cars more than a dozen times and only had one interaction with police like this. I wouldn’t just pull out your wallet and try and hand them money, I would instead ask how much the fine is and is there an option to pay it now – knowing that that is not the proper process, but then everybody can pretend it’s not a bribe – you were just paying now.

  57. Fantastic article! I wanted to ask…I will be going to Tulum for a very quick honeymoon, arriving day 1 in the late afternoon and flying back day 4 early afternoon, so all in all not much time there when you include the 1.5 hr drive from Cancun to Tulum. I was debating whether to pay the ridiculous roundtrip van fee of $200 vs renting a car. I’m mostly worried about the time it’ll take to pick up and drop off…would like to utilize our time as much as possible!

    Have any thoughts on which way to go? I know it can differ per person, but about how much extra time does it take to deal with the car rental process? Thank you so much! Your insight is much appreciated.

    • The car rental process will add at least 45 minutes and up to 2 hours getting it, in our experience. Dropping it off is always quick and smooth. We like the freedom of having a car so we would still get a car even on a 3-night trip. It really depends on how many people are in front of you and if they are having any issues.

  58. ☀️ muchos Gracias!!! I am so grateful for this ‘on the ground’ information. Thanks so much. Also very helpful to hear other folks recent comments. Thanks!! I’m so excited to go to Cancun next month and rent a car safely!! Will let ya’ll know what I learn. Thank you!!!

  59. Just booked the car for $2/day ( with tax and fees $16 for 6 days) for 01/18/19
    I anyone going to stay in Cancun at that time ?

  60. Great information Adam and everyone else that has posted here! It is great to be able to read others experiences and to try to avoid being overcharged. Has anyone had to rent a van? We have 6 in our family group (2 adults/4 kids) and 6 suitcases. We are travelling November 26 – December 3, 2018. I read to make multiple reservations for the larger vehicles because the rental companies don’t always actually always have the larger SUV/Van rentals. I want to make sure there is a vehicle large enough for us as we are driving 4 hours from Cancun Airport down to Bacalar so we need to have enough space for all of us and our luggage. Thank you!

    • We highly recommend renting 2 cars. We have rented SUV’s several times for 4 adults with 4 large bags and carry on’s to get there and they are sold out of SUV’s and you are given a car. There really isn’t much you can do about it either. The best bet is to reserve a few cars just in case. That is quite the drive from Cancun to Bacalar so you won’t want to be too packed either.

      Safe travels in Mexico.

        • It’s a pretty easy drive once you are out of the airport area. If you are looking for a good place to stop for lunch/dinner go to El Fogons in Playa del Carmen about 2 mins off the highway or go to El Asadero in Tulum. Safe travels!

  61. I loved this post! We arrive in Cancun on Sep. 16th for 11 days, I just booked through Chase Sapphire rewards program and paid a little less then $5 a day for an economy car with Alamo, the total for our trip was $50 that our points covered. My husband called the credit card and they will be sending all the paperwork required for the insurance coverage. We will make sure to deny any additional insurance, and have no problem with the hold on our card.
    Thank you so much for the tips and advice. I do have one question, somewhat related to the subject, out of the 11 days, we will be spending 2 nights in Isla Mujeres, not quit sure what to do with our rental car then, should we just leave it at the hotel in Cancun for when we return, or do you know of any parking available close to the ferry? This is our first time in Cancun, and we will be going all over, including Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
    Thank you for all your help!

    • Great to hear you got a cheap rental car in Cancun! Yes, make sure to have your paperwork to show the rental company and just stand your ground and say you don’t want it and be willing to place the hold on your credit card. There will be places you can pay to park the rental car while you are there. We haven’t taken the ferry to Isla Mujeres but we have taken the ferry to Isla Holbox and there were places to park where they watch the cars for about $5 a day. Possibly ask your hotel in Isla Mujeres if they have a secure parking lot they suggest by the ferry.

  62. Adam-
    You’re probably ready to shut down your forum, pull your hair out (if you haven’t already), develop a drinking problem etc. with all of the insurance questions but, I’ve got one more; I’m arriving in Cancun with my grown son and will be renting a car for 8 days. We are excited about driving and exploring. My VISA provides collision damage insurance and I have copies of their letter in hand to provide proof. I’m fine with having a $2,500 hold (or any reasonable amt. required) on my C.C. so, am I OK with declining the Mexican “3rd party insurance?” I’m in my late 50’s, very cautious & I’m seeing that this coverage ranges around $15-$18 a day. I’m not not asking for advice, just your clear answer.

    Many Thanks- Frank

    • Hi Frank, legally yes you should be ok to decline the additional insurance, as long as your rental agreement says something like ‘includes required liability insurance'(usually 750,000 MXP) which most seem to do currently, but you need to check yours. Be prepared for the agent at the counter to tell you that you still need to buy it even when showing them the letter. They must make commissions on insurance sales, but be firm and show them you know their games. For us, the most stressful part about driving in Mexico is the rental agency! Good luck and travel safe!

  63. Hi! This post is amazing! My partner and I are going to Tulum in January of 2019. I just purchased our rental car from Eurocar for 7 days via Chase Sapphire Preferred rewards website (we didn’t use points, we just purchased through that website to get the extra points). Our car rental cost is $37. I was just reading the “fine print” and it appears it has the legally required insurance; will need to double check that by calling. Our friends that have rented a car in Cancun told us there’s not really a way to get around purchasing additional insurance, but after reading this post there seems be a way. My questions is: What is the best way to show proof of coverage so we are not hassled into buying their insurance? Just print out the documents and show them at the counter? Thanks!!

    • The best way is to have your credit card company send you a letter with proof of coverage and bring it. The rental agent may still tell you that you need to buy insurance from them, but that’s just a sales tactic, as long as everything is in order you don’t legally have to. Safe travels!

  64. So, as promised, I just wanted to share my own experience of the car rental from this trip to Cancun. Based on the experience shared by Adam and Hannah here, I booked a standard sized car for 8 days (07/24 – 08/01) with “Ace Rent a Car” through Expedia. Expedia total including taxes and fees was 159.08 USD. Just to be on the safer side, I made additional reservations as well, one directly on “Ace Rent a Car” website (for the exact same quote of 159.08 USD), one with Hertz with my AAA discounted rate, and another one with Europcar through Orbitz. So, landed in Cancun with 4 different rental car reservations!!

    Ace rent a car operates through MEX at Cancun airport. It was easy to hop on to the shuttle to get to MEX. Had to wait for 10/15 mins. in line before I could speak to an agent. She spoke good English, so no communication issues. Now the first surprise. Although Expedia and Ace Rent a car reservations included all taxes and fees, she mentioned that Ace sent a different number to them. It was the base rate, plus 16% VAT and 10% airport fee, pushing the total up to 174.99 USD. The taxes seemed simple and reasonable, so I didn’t contest it and went ahead to use the Expedia reservation, although I wonder why they didn’t quote the right price to begin with. On the second surprise now… they wanted to charge in Pesos, but how do you arrive at the amount to be charged? Of course, using the conversion rate! This is where they make a killing! They used an outlandish exchange rate of 21.50 of converting 174.99 USD into 3,762.28 MXN and charged that to my card. My card obviously used the prevailing conversion rate as on that day (18.66) and converted the charge back to 201.62 USD! So, what was quoted to me as 159.08 USD charge, turned out to be 201.62 USD actual expense (27% extra)! Because of similar conversion rate fiasco, the 2,500 USD hold they put on my card, actually turned out to be 2,859.79 USD (so you would need additional buffer in your credit limit to accommodate this).

    Other than these two surprises, everything else went off smoothly, although the whole process of getting the car took almost two hours. They didn’t press for taking additional insurance, once I firmly mentioned to them that I wouldn’t like to buy any additional insurance from them. They just put the hold on the card and that was it! They tried to sell some tour packages, which we politely declined and they didn’t pursue it further. Although I had reserved a standard sized car (Class D), they initially offered me a mid-sized car (Class C, Toyota Yaris), but I could persuade them to get me a VW Vento. As expected, the car had several dings / dents / scratches, but we noted them all, took tons of pictures to avoid any issues while returning. Overall, the car and its condition was pretty good. It has around 15,000 KM on the odometer. I added another 1,0000 KM to that! The return process was unbelievably smooth! We just pulled in and one agent just took a look and in less than a minute, said that everything was alright! Of course, we drove very carefully and didn’t allow even a small blemish to be added to the existing ones! I talked to the rep about the outlandish conversion rate they had used and the guy just simply said that’s how the rental business runs here and btw Hertz next door is using 22 as the conversion rate! I didn’t pursue the matter any further… after all, I got 8 day rental at $200! Nonetheless, thought of taking the time to write this post such that everybody who reads this would be aware of this unfair business practice followed by the car rental companies at Cancun airport. Even though you are aware of this practice, I guess, there is hardly anything you can do about it. You may call a few companies to see what exchange rate they would be using, but I am almost certain that all the companies would be using at least 20% higher conversion rate. Since ACE / MEX service is otherwise good, I would recommend that factor this extra charge in your budget ahead of time and rent from them without any other worries! Driving is a must in the area if you want to understand the culture and do things at your own convenience! Have fun!

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. If you can and your card doesn’t charge international fees it can be better to pay in Pesos. Also, I would caution against taking too many rent reservations, if everyone does this the prices will definitely rise, more than one reservation is only a good idea when you need a large or custom vehicle, standard cars are not an issue generally. Thanks again!

  65. Thanks for your article which helped me with my last vacation. I just came back from a trip to Cancun in July 2018 where I rented a car with ACE rent a car (which is actually MEX rent a car). I rented the car using the ORBITZ website and called my credit card company to get a letter confirming that I was covered for incident in Mexico, so I was prepared. Once I got to the rental counter, the agent told me that I still needed insurance for liability. So I told them it was included in the car rental contract. The agent had to go see the supervisor and then the manager… well 25 minutes later, I showed them a copy of my rental contract that was actually proving that all their rental where already coming with an incidental coverage for 750,000 MX Pesos and that I didn’t need more. So they finally agreed and made me signed like 4 different document that I was responsible for all damages which I was fine with. One thing I didn’t notice is that they added a 10% airport fee that was included in the original contract and then they converted this amount to MX Pesos using an exchange rate of 21.5 instead of the 19.0 that was used by all banks. So using that higher exchange rate allowed them to overcharge my credit card. So my original rental of 168$ ended up being 210$ after all. I’m now disputing these extra charge and the little exchange rate scam they used to over charge me. But still, overall it came down to be cheaper than having paid for their insurance plan like I did in previous trip! So thanks for the advice and look out for the extra charges and also the exchange rate scam they are using to over charge you!

    • Glad it worked out for you, and hopefully you fix your little scam issue. We have never noticed the 10% airport fee, we will have to keep an eye out for that! All it takes it some patience when renting a car in Cancun, but once you have the car it is the best way to see the Yucatan!

  66. Adam, I am using Orbitz.com only. For 8 day rental (07/24 to 08/01), ACE is asking for 159.08 USD for up to Standard sized cars (this is the lowest rate from them) – doesn’t include anything extra. I guess, it’s the demand during the summer months. Thanks again for all the tips!

  67. I am seeing all the standard cars at $17 per day, totaling to $159 with taxes for 8 days (07/25 – 08/01), excluding any insurance other than 750,000 MXN liability insurance that’s included in the rental rate anyway. May be, I haven’t tried to book the car early enough. That must be the catch. Max. of $5 per day rate you got all the time sounds so unreal! Wish I could get that! Still, $159 for 8 days is a good deal, I guess! I am also seeing ACE rent a car is no longer operating in Cancun airport by ACE name, although we can make reservations in their name either in Orbitz or Expedia. They are operating through MEX. Was that the case when you visited Cancun earlier this year? I will share my experience once I come back from the trip.

    • Shamuck,

      We have never paid more than $5 a day at the Cancun airport or in Playa del Carmen. Please see the above screenshots. This amount is for the smaller cars and with no add-ons like insurance/GPS/etc. Trust us we have lived there and rented cars often, our last rental from the Cancun airport was February 2018. What website are you using?

  68. This is an awesome post, Adam. Very reassuring for the folks who are considering to rent a car in the Cancun area. We are going to be there next week for 8 days starting from 07/25. When I am checking on Orbitz.com, I am not seeing any rate cheaper than USD 159 from Ace. Am I missing a trick here or the rates are just higher than normal at this time of the year? Also, did you ever need any roadside assistance? If yes, how did you get that?

    • We have never paid more than $5 a day but that is for the standard size car (compact/economy/midsize). If you are picking a larger car the prices will be higher. The rate is also without the extra optional insurance, see the screenshots in the post. No we have never needed the roadside assistance. We always have cell phone service in Mexico so if we did we would just call. If you have Tmobile or Verizon coverage in Mexico is usually included in your plane (call to confirm).

  69. So I just called American Express… they offer $50K Rental Insurance Coverage in Mexico. I have the EveryDay Card. They will email me the coverage and also mail me a hard copy. They told me to be prepared to be hassled by the Rentar Car agents at Cancun Airport but if I show them my AE letter they should leave me alone.

    So I can confirm that sites do offer a car rental for $1 a day as the screencap shows. That seems unreal but it is true.

    Now with AE offering coverage I look forward to a $6 rental for 7 days in Tulum. NICE!

    • That’s amazing! Yes, you will have to be ready to be hassled by the car rental companies as they want you to make the sale on the insurance BUT if you have that letter your insurance company sent you showing coverage you should be fine. I know the price is crazy cheap! Have a great time in Tulum let us know if you have any Tulum questions or need suggestions. Safe travels.

  70. Hi so I rented a car through orbitz at Hertz. When I was renting through orbitz the price had a checkmarked Mexican liability insurance included. But when I look at my email with the reservation, it doesn’t say anything about the liability insurance included at the price. Am I going to get surprised with an added charge for liability when I go pick the car up in Cancun? Under damage protection it says you have not purchased any insurance or protection. I will be using my Chase sapphire reserve for the booking, is there anything else I can do to make sure i don’t get surprise charges upon picking up the vehicle? Also I will be walking the 7 or so minutes from my hotel to the hertz to pickup the car in cancun (in the zona hotelera) if for some reason i need to walk away from that reservation, are there other car rentals in the area? thanks!

    • Make sure to call Chase and have them email you the letter you can show Hertz showing you have collision protection. Deny their coverage but do know they will be a large hold on your credit card, which will be realized after you return it with no damages/fees. We have never rented for the hotel zone in Cancun, I would look at Google Maps and see if there are any other rental car companies nearby. Let us know if you have any other questions.

  71. WOW Adam this article was amazing and thank you so much for the hard work and though you put into it. I really appreciate all the information you provided. I have rented before in Cancun but now everything makes so much sense and only now and because of you I know that my credit card has rental insurance. (btw bribe in Mexico is easy and highly recommend everyone to now get intimidated by cops just get a $20 bill under your driver license and hand them together. You will be on your way in 2 sec ;).
    I had another question though. What would you recommend as far as purchases in Mexico, use cash or cards? I have cards that have no foreign transaction fees but never used them in my previous trips. Have you only used cash or cards as well? And when using cash what is your recommendation on where to exchange the money since I know that different places charge more especially at the airport.

    Thank you again for all the amazing insight.

    • Thanks! We try to use local cash while traveling, but a card with no international fees is great to have too. We get our Mexican Pesos from ATMs, we have the Charles Schwab debit card that refunds all ATM fees, so we just get cash at the current exchange rate. You can use US dollars around Cancun, but it will always cost you more.

  72. Hi. Thanks for this great article! Super helpful. I heard that most of the big rental companies will provide with a car that has a special “rent” plate, making you a target for the police and scums. While renting from a local companies you can avoid that. Is that so? Are there any local companies to rent from?

    • We have never seen this and all of our rental cars have had the same plates as our friends that live in the Yucatan. We always rent with Ace or Fox in either Playa del Carmen or at the Cancun airport car rental area. Safe travels!

  73. Thanks for all the awesome and useful info on renting in the Riviera!! Your info totally made our decision to rent, although I’m not looking forward to some possible hassles. The advanced warning is priceless tho. Question: what do you attribute the super low rental fees from your picture above? Every time I check it’s around $20-$40 per day…

    • Hopefully, everything goes well for you, once you have the car you’ll hopefully see how much fun it is to see the Riviera Maya this way. As for the prices I am not sure, we always get prices between $1-$10 usually, check to see if you have some filters checked or other options. It will also depend on car class. But you are right, currently the cars are a little bit higher than normal. The car rental market is quite competitive in Cancun and rates can vary seasonally and the summer sees a lot of domestic tourism, not sure why they are slightly more expensive right now, but for a week rental is still only around $130 usd, which is still cheaper than getting to and from the airport, not to mention tour costs. Hope you have a great trip, let us know how it works out.

  74. Hi. We are visiting Mexico and Belize for 3 weeks. Can you hire a car in Cancun and take it across the border to Belize? We want to then go to the islands off Belize, so will want to return the car in Belize. Then pick up again a week later to drive back up to Cancun.
    Any advice would be useful. Thanks

    • Driving the rental car across the border is going to be problematic at best. You would be best to check with a major rental company to see if this is possible first. You may be better off driving to Chetumal and finding a place to park the car while you are in Belize and taking a bus/ferry to the islands you want to visit. Then travel back to the car and drive it back to Cancun. – OR – possibly even better yet, returning the car in Chetumal, travel to Belize and then pick up a new car in Chetumal for the return drive, or take the bus back to Cancun. We haven’t done this personally so I can’t say how it is going to work, but these are some things to check out.

  75. Can you tell me which car rental agencies are located “in terminal” and I don’t have to take a long shuttle bus ride? I currently have two bookings and trying to decide which is best. I can cancel anytime. I have one with Payless and one with Thrifty. Both have bad reviews on yelp.
    Just looking to get through customs and get my car as quick as possible.

    • None, they all require a short shuttle to the rental lot. We haven’t used payless, but that doesn’t mean they are bad. As long as you have everything in order either company would be fine honestly.

  76. Thank you for your help! This was very useful. I am a wedding photographer and my husband and I will be staying at the Grand Palladium Riviera Maya as well at the end of June to photograph a wedding. We will be there for a week, so we are only planning on taking one day to explore Tulum and possibly one other day to explore Playa Del Carmen. Does the resort offer car rentals or shuttles? If they do offer these, which do you recommend? Thank you in advance!

    • We’ve actually stayed at the Grand Palladium down there. We don’t recall seeing a rental desk at the resort but I am sure they have it. I can also assure you it won’t be $1 or any price near that. You can catch a collectivo outside the resort right on the highway to get there otherwise you’ll have to take a taxi. Last time we were there in February of this year Uber still wasn’t in Playa del Carmen or Tulum yet.

  77. Hi Adam, great post, I am assuming you rented from Orbitz and select the $1 a day rental and then you declined the insurance offered by orbitz
    and then use your credit card car insurance cover only right? I will be in Cancun in July and definitely I will try to rent a car this way. Thanks for the advise. regards and good travels.

  78. This is extremely helpful, thanks!

    I was wondering about taking the car to cozumel. Is that too much of a hassle? I’ve seen people recomend a rental place on the island but it’s about 50 a day and that’s just too much.

    • There aren’t car ferries to Cozumel. Your only option is to rent a car in Cozumel for the day, this is what we’ve done in the past. On average it is $50 a day and they do sell out. Sorry there isn’t really a cheaper option.

      • There is a car ferry to Cozumel, but it’s a hike from Cancun. it’s in Calica, about five miles south of Playa del Carmen, right off 301. We’ve taken it a few times when we wanted to pop over to Cozumel for a few days of scuba diving. There aren’t many tourists on the car ferry; mostly locals, but there’s definitely a car ferry there. You can find out more information, including schedules, at ultramarcarga.com. The page even translates from Spanish to English with one click.

        Get there early, the line is quite long to get your car onto the ferry!

        • Thanks for the info! Next time we go over to Cozumel we’ll look into taking the car ferry but make sure to get there early since it seems to be popular.

  79. Hi – well- even after reading all your great advice, Ace in the Cancun airport did talk us into the full coverage insurance- even though our credit card has the coverage. It was pretty confusing. But my real question is about the license plate. They only put one on front and did not put one on the back. We notice all the cars have two. When we asked they said it was ok – but wondered about language barrier. Are there supposed to be two plates on the car ??? Thanks.

    • Beth, I personally think the agents are trained to confuse people – it is part of their tactics. They used language barrier and flat out lie sometimes to get people to take the add-ons. There is definitely supposed to be a license plate on the back and should be on both. While it’s unlikely to casue an issue driving, it would be an opportunity to be stopped in a police checkpoint.

  80. This is so helpful! Quick question- we rented from Advantage auto? It was a full size SUV(Said Mercedes Benz or comparable and we got excited). Have you heard of this company? Should we cancel that one and go with a more well known company?
    Please and thank you!

    • We personally haven’t rented a car from them, but that doesn’t mean they are any worse than one of the big American companies. If you really need an SUV instead of on canceling I might take a second rental with another company too just in case one company doesn’t have that SUV car class, which unfortunately in Cancun is fairly common. You don’t pay unless you pick up the car in Mexico (usually, but check your details).

  81. Hi I made a reservation for Cancun June 1 to 4 on Expedia I rent it with Ace and its final price is 2 dlls for all those days it said is included the 750,000 Mexican liability in my case I have citi card and American Express both offers com and coll for rental I know they are going to push me to get insurance is how they do money but you mention you actually only pay that price I would love to be as lucky as you any recommendations I was planing to call my card so they send me a covered letter and Expedia to see if they can send me another letter where it said I have liability in you case if was difficult to prove orbit give you the price w liability do you ask Ortiz for a letter ? In case they refuse to rent the car plan b is using the ado bus any recommendations please let me know

    • I would print the letter from the credit card company and print your booking documents. They might tell you that you need to buy insurance, but that is just a trick – you don’t have to and they know it. But if you don’t take it they will put a hold on your credit card, and in order to use your credit card benefits you must use that card for booking the rental car. Hope it all goes smooth – ACE is pretty good, they are our favorite local brand. Have fun in Cancun!

  82. This is extremely helpful. thank you!
    have you seen rental car companies that rent cars w/ regularly (not temporary) license plates? two different companies I’ve rented from at the Cancun airport (enterprise and I think budget) mainly had cars w/ temporary plates. I suspect that the temporary plates makes it very easy to identify tourists. I’d like to find a company that rents cars with regular plates and I’m wondering if you have any suggestions.

    • That is odd we have NEVER had a temp plate on our rental cars in Mexico but we have never rented from Enterprise or Budget so maybe that is something they do. We also use Fox or Ace and they have regular Mexico license plates.

  83. Hey Adam!

    Since I’ve been doing my research on car rental, I’ve only gotten more confused. Lol. There are so many conflicting reports/opinions from travelers and experts that my head has begun to spin. A few questions…

    1. Is it better to rent a car from the company website (Enterprise), instead of a 3rd party (Kayak/Orbitz)?
    2. Do not purchase any additional insurance at all when booking, because they will still insist you purchase another insurance at the counter. True or False?
    3. If I reserve insurance beforehand, can I just get away with Third Party Liability? Or do I need to ALSO reserve Collision Damage, Theft protection, blah blah blah?
    4. Boutique car rentals are allegedly better than American chains (Enterprise, Hertz). True or False? The Boutique places are more expensive!
    5. Have you had to go down to the police station to get your license? Or were they just bluffing?
    6. Do they put a hold on your card even if you purchase additional insurance? It sounds like they do…
    7. Any parking scams to be aware of?
    8. Will I get charged for an additional driver?

    I’m sure you feel as if you’ve answered some of these above, but I wasn’t entirely clear. Plus, literally EVERY single post online has conflicting recommendations. I appreciate your help! xo

    • Hi Christy – It’s common to have lots of questions, but really once you do it, you’ll see it isn’t too terrible of a process. Here are our answers to your questions.

      1. 3rd party searches like Orbitz pull in every company, so you get the best prices. I don’t see the advantage to booking directly.
      2. False – they will always try to up sell you, but as long as you book a car that comes with the legally required insurance you technically don’t need to buy additional.
      3. The level of insurance you need is a personal decision, we can’t advise.
      4. Better in what ways? For me a car at the lowest price is best, so – personally I would say no.
      5. I think this is the actual process, but have always paid (bribed) so we didn’t have to do this.
      6. If you buy the top tier insurance packages then there is typically no hold. The hold is based off the level of coverage.
      7. You will pay for parking near attractions, but then there is an attendant. We haven’t encountered a ‘scam’, but probably over paid occasionally or paid more than locals.
      8. Yes, definitely.

  84. Can you please tell me which company is the one that give you fair prises to make reservations before planning to stay for 5 days in Cancun and would like to get my rental in the airport since is my first time

    • We usually use Fox Rental Car, booked on Orbitz. You can book several companies on Orbitz and that’s how we normally find our cars in Cancun.

    • Is this insurance or a credit card, if it’s insurance you need to call to be sure you will be covered in Mexico. Either way, if your coverage works in Mexico you should print it and bring it with you to the rental counter and keep it in the car.

  85. Hi. We are heading to Cancun in a few days and want to rent a car at the airport but our credit card does not offer any coverage. Is the minimum insurance coverage enough? What would the next level of insurance coverage be that we should take? Do we need each of the TPL, CDW, TP and PAI?

    I see on the rental site easy way renta car the insurance costs:
    $224 for TPL, CDW, TP, PAI for a 1 week rental on a Jeep, making the total $454.72
    another option is:
    $161 for TPL, CDW, TP, PAI for a 1 week rental on a Dodge Attitude, making the total $300.44

    We are 4 people (one over 6’3″) with 3 bags. I have no idea how small the Dodge is, it says it seats 4 and holds 2 large and 3 small bags.

    I also haven’t seen a site that shows the insurance cost breakout except this one. What do you suggest if your credit card does not offer additional insurance coverage?


    • Hi Dana, it is going to be up to you if you think the minimum insurance is going to be enough for you, but legally the car should come with all the insurance needed by Mexican law. Depending on the level of coverage you purchase you will have to leave a hold on your credit card somewhere around $1000-$2500+, the less insurance the higher the hold.

      We have never used the company you listed “easy way renta car”, however, the prices seem higher than what we typically pay at least for the Dodge car, Jeeps usually always going to be around that much. As far as sizes on those cars I am 6′ 5″ and we usually get one of the smallest classes, but we are also just 2 people most times. Also, just because it says Dodge it might be a similar sized other brands.

      We still suggest to look at Orbitz because I just looked you can get a full or mid sized car for just $2-4 per day. We like Fox or any of the major US brands like Hertz or Alamo. Typically even with full coverage we normally pay $25-35 per day for the insurance. Hope that helps, let us know how it goes, have a great trip!

  86. We are planning a 2 week trip to Playa mid May with 7 travelers. Two questions…AAA offers car rental (Minivan) + insurance (liability and collision) for approximately $350, does that seem reasonable? Also if we get insurance or have proof of insurance through credit card or AAA at checkout desk, will they still put the 2,500 hold?


    • For a two week trip with a larger vehicle with insurance that seems about right for the price. The biggest thing with larger rental cars in Cancun is to make sure you are guaranteed that class of vehicle. May is not high season so it should be better, but most rental agencies are notorious for running out of big cars. If it’s a pay when you get there situation, then you might not be guaranteed the minivan, just as a heads up. As for the insurance, I would print off anything that AAA sends you and if they don’t send insurance info I would request it and then print it off and bring it to the rental counter. Do you know what company you are renting from? Since you have some level of insurance you will have a much lower hold and if it is full insurance you may not have to have any hold on a card. Hope that helps! Enjoy your trip to Playa del Carmen! Let us know how the rental process goes, or if you have more questions!

  87. Hey thanks for the great write up !! We are planning to rent a car from Cancun and drive to Akumal. One question I had was would you advise against driving at night time in the Akumal/Playa Del Carmen area (or in General). Thanks again

    • Renting a car in Cancun for your trip is one of the best things you can do. You’ll get to see some of the best places and things to do in the Yucatan this way. You can drive at night, just note the highway is more lite in areas than others. Keep your eye out for the speedbumps both in the city and on the highway. We typically never drove past 9pm, as we were either walking around our hotel or in for the night.

  88. Thanks for the great write up. Made making a decision much easier. Both Orbitz and Ace owe you thanks too. 🙂

  89. I would definitely recommend the freedom of renting a car in Yucatan, especially since it is so cheap. But for those who might not feel comfortable driving in Mexico, the bus service (ADO) in the Yucatan is reliable, inexpensive, and can get you to most major destinations.

  90. Oh wow, this post is awesome – so many things I would have never known or considered. Especially when it comes to insurance and the hold they put on your credit card. While I love driving I am not sure I will jump in a car in a hurry in Mexico after reading this but will definitely remember if I do go and feel like.a road trip 🙂

    • Driving is soooo easy in Cancun and this part of Mexico! You’d be missing out if you don’t drive it yourself. We don’t want to scare you with a big long post we just want to answer all the questions and problems you might run into while renting a car, but seriously it’s nothing to be scared of!

  91. Myself and another 2 women traveling by themselves, were told our insurance would be an extra $700 for 1 week. All 3 of us rented our cars online for a great price at $39.00-$69.00.. The rental agency employee laughed at all 3 of us because we didn’t know what to do. None of us expected to pay that much and that was the lowest amount. I’m sure we got ripped off. Can you explain this requirement…1-Did we get ripped off?
    2- What should we have done when told $700.00 for insurance?
    3-What to do in the future?

    Thank you- Christie

    • Hi Christie – Renting a car in Cancun can be hard to navigate. The rental agents play on you being unclear about the laws and details of a rental in Mexico. I will try to answer all of your questions, but some of it would depend on the details of your rental, but based on the price you paid it should have included all of the legally required insurance, it would be unlikely you would have been legally required to purchase any additional. The answer to #1 – I do think you overpaid especially for the insurance, we have not ever been quoted that high per day even for the full coverage plans. You do need insurance in some form, whether that is from the rental agent or a credit card, but it should not have been $100, typically we see full coverage being closer to $25-$30 per day. The answer to #2 – They will often tell you that you have to take insurance from them, but most times you do not. Tell them you want to decline it and then they will put a hold on your credit card instead. They can be very persistent that you must take it, but the insurance is where they make their money on the cheap rental cars so of course, they are going to try and sell it hard. The Answer to #3 is basically following this guide, but a quick recap – Book online through a site like Orbitz.com, make sure the rental includes the legally required insurance, make sure one of your credit cards has sufficient rental car coverage in Mexico, decline all additional insurances at the rental counter, know the rules and their games, and then you can get a really cheap rental car in Cancun! Hope that helps!


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