5 Most Common Cancun Car Rental Scams & How to Avoid Them

Cancun car rental scams are not just a myth, but there are ways to learn how to spot a scam vs hidden information. There is a fine line between the two and in this post, I will tell you all about it.

You will learn what to look for in a car rental contract and information and all the things you can do to prevent getting disappointed about car rental. Read on!

I rented a car in Cancun many times and unfortunately, I had my share of scamming. Luckily it was just that one time when I forgot to take pictures of the car when I picked it up. More about it later.

Unfortunately, if you search for information about renting a car in Cancun, you will quickly come across stories of Cancun car rental scams.

Hidden fees upsell, and difficult company employees to work with can make the rental process feel like a nightmare.

I hope you don’t let it stop you from renting your car and having the time of your life in Cancun. Knowing what common rental scams are will help you avoid them.

And although I cannot promise that if you read this post everything will go smoothly with your car rental, I am hopeful that it will reduce the chance to fall into the car rental traps, once you know what they are.

Sl without further ado, let’s start.

Happy Girl with car rental key in her hand - For sure she has avoided Cancun car rental scams. :)
Book your car rental on Discover Cars

Most common car rental scams in Cancun

Rental scams get a lot of attention. But also we should keep in mind that people are more likely to write, and read, about rental horror stories than positive reviews which makes me think about a whole lot of unwritten happy stories than bad ones.

Here below I am going to list the most common rental scams or “perceived scams” and how to avoid them.

1. Extra Insurance add-ons

Almost everyone who has ever rented a car has encountered this scam- you book the car for a good rate only to be convinced you need to purchase extra insurance. This causes your rental price to go way up, sometimes even double the initial booking rate.

In Mexico, you are required to have personal liability insurance. This covers you if you are in an accident and someone gets hurt. Without it, you could end up being taken to a Mexican prison, and no car rental agency will allow you to leave without it. 

Usually, it should be included in the rate but, sometimes, car renters who want to allure you with amazing rates, just promote the basic price without that insurance which is what is perceived as a scam. And I do believe it is in a way. Transparency is what makes you trust a company. Or at least it does to me.

Discover Cars is a great site to find rental cars and you can book their comprehensive insurance at the time of booking your car. Some credit card companies also offer insurance, but check with yours to see what exactly they cover and how filing claims works.

Discover Cars Screenshot
In the Discover Cars Platform, you will see upfront what is included or not – in this example the third-party liability is included, while in the below example, it’s not. © Discover Cars
Discover Car Screenshot
For this car rental (Economy) – listed on Discover Cars platform, the liability is not included, which means that it will be added once you are at the car rental office for the pick-up unless you can prove that your own insurance will cover it. For this reason, you should read the Rental Conditions (right-left corner) – © Discover Cars
Car Rental Condition
© Discover Cars Remember to always click on the drop-down menu to read the rental conditions of the car rental company – Discover Cars is only a third-party platform that makes it easy to compare different car rentals and their conditions.

2. Unanticipated hidden charges

Unexpected hidden fees are one of the most frustrating rental car scams. These fees add up quickly and can make a big difference in what you actually pay versus what you anticipated based on your quoted daily rate. Hidden fees often come in the form of administration or processing fees, VAT, and airport taxes, that are not included in your daily rental rate. 

As you can see in the above screenshot, in Discover Cars you can read whether this information re included.

3. Gas is never included in your car rental package

All rental companies have different gas policies. Some companies do a ‘full to full’ policy which means you will pick the rental car up with a full tank of gas, and need to return it with a full tank of gas too.

If you do not do this, the rental car company will fill the gas tank for you, and they usually charge you more than the gas station does.

Other rental agencies offer you to include the Gas fee in your rental cost, which is usually higher than filling up your tank yourself but it saves you the hassle to look for a gas station before dropping off the car. And it’s definitely cheaper to pay in advance, than paying the penalty fee if you forget to fill up the tank.

What I find more convenient, is just remember to fill the tank to the level of gas that I found when I collected the car. I always worked well.

Most of all learn about your rental agency’s gas policy before renting a car, just be aware that the tank of gas will never be included in your rental price in Cancun. 

Car key on table by the beach
Make sure you keep your car keys with you so that they don’t get stolen or lost!

4. Undisclosed information about taxes, penalties, and more 

Similar to hidden fees, undisclosed information about taxes and penalties is a scam that can add a big price tag to your rental car.

Often, rental car companies will not show you the amount you will end up paying in taxes, and may even try to tax you for additional services such as renting a car seat or insurance costs. 

Once I rented a car with American Car Rental, with full insurance, 0 deductible, and they didn’t warn me that the insurance only covers if I reported the damage immediately instead of waiting for dropping off the car.

Luckily I met an honest agent when I dropped off the car who helped me file the report before receiving the car so I was not charged. But it’s not always the case.

Make sure you ask all the most important questions before leaving the car rental in your car, such us, how does the insurance work? do I have to report the damage immediately? what is it that the insurance doesn’t cover?

Discover Cars offer full protection coverage, which basically fills the gap in car rental insurance.

Discover Car Coverage
Discover Cars Full Coverage

5. Omission of information 

When people are scammed by rental car companies, they usually walk away from a situation shaking their head after being charged for something they had no idea about. We believe that rental car companies scam people by omitting important information and then charging clients later on. 

However, sometimes the information is just hidden in the fine print. And let’s be honest, who reads the fine print? Well, I have started to read the one in my car rental contract. Just in case.

Or sometimes I ask the agent if there is something I should know about.

6. Cancellation fees

Many rental car agencies have strict cancellation policies with renters paying a fee if they cancel. Sometimes they do make exceptions, though. I remember one time I had to return the car earlier than planned and I received a refund for the unused days of rentals, which was nice.

It’s always a good idea to ask in advance about the car rental policy. Then, if they make an exception, it’s a pleasant surprise.

Avenida Kukulcan - Plaza Caracol Cancun
Avenida Kukulcan – Cancun

7. Full Coverage Scam

I already talked about the omission of information but the full coverage is the most popular one and needs a separate introduction.

Every time I rent a car, I always ask for full insurance with zero deductible. I know it’s significantly more expensive but it gives me peace of mind, which is priceless.

But after doing so for a while I realized that it was not a real full insurance even though it was indeed zero deductible, windscreen and tire are most of the time non included and you would have to pay extra to include them.

If they told me I would have paid, but they didn’t. Luckily nothing happened, but now I always ask the critical question: What IS NOT included in the full coverage? I found that if I ask what IS included I not always get the full answer for some reason. So remember the question that gives you the answers you need is What iS NOT included in the insurance.

Also, keep in mind that keys and fines are almost never included, so if you lose the key or get a fine you have to pay. And this is the reason why they always ask you for a deposit from your credit card.

The lower the deposit (not more than 100 USD), the more certain you can be that the full coverage is indeed full.

PRO TIP – A good tip for driving in Cancun is respecting the road code so that you avoid getting a ticket!

Tips to avoid Cancun car rental scams

It always feels bad to be scammed, especially when you are trying to enjoy your vacation. Knowing how people try to scam you is one of your best defenses. Thankfully, there are plenty of honest rental car agencies and agents and it is possible to have a great rental experience.

Here are a few things that you can do to help avoid being taken advantage of:

✅ Always ask for full coverage insurance

Having full coverage insurance protects you from many scams. Agents will not be able to overcharge you for any damages or issues that are covered by a comprehensive insurance plan. Also, purchasing an insurance plan will protect you from the constant insurance up-sell.

But also make sure you ask the question I mentioned before: What is NOT included in the insurance? and also how much is the deposit.

The answers to these questions will help you determine if the full coverage is indeed full.

✅ Check with your credit card company if they cover the insurance

Many credit card companies offer insurance for their clients. Make sure to check with your company before arriving to pick up your rental car. Tell them you will be renting a car in Cancun and find out what their insurance covers.

And make sure you have their answer in writing. It is possible that you will still need to purchase personal liability insurance, so make sure to get any questions you have answered directly with the credit card company.

You do not want to end up getting in an accident and not having the coverage you thought you did. Keep in mind though that, if you purchase the car rental insurance directly, they will take care of everything, in case something happens.

If you purchase the full coverage with your credit card or with Discover Cars, you will have to pay from your pocket and then file a claim. It is very important to know this difference. So make sure you have your credit in your card in case something happened.

Car insurance contract

✅ Diligently read your rental agreement 

It seems obvious, but unfortunately, many people do not do their job of reading their rental agreements. The rental agreement should cover all sorts of fine print information such as return policies- does the company have a strict return time or is there a few-hour grace period to return your rental car?

It should also give you information about the gas policy and if there are any mileage limits on your rental car. 

Set yourself up for a positive experience renting a car by doing your due diligence and reading the rental contract.

✅ Bring the necessary paperwork and refuse add-ons

Make sure you have all the necessary paperwork to pick up your rental car. This will include a passport and driver’s license for everyone who will be registered as a driver for the car.

Having a printed copy or screenshot of your reservation is also helpful. This will help you advocate for yourself- turn down any upsells to a more extensive or more expensive car and refuse all add-ons.

✅ Inspect the vehicle carefully

Take the time to inspect the inside and outside of the vehicle. You will receive a check-out form when you rent the car and need to mark any damage you see so that you will not be charged for it. It is a great idea to pull your phone out and take a short video or pictures to document any damage to the car before you drive away. 

Some car rental agents also remind you to do so in order to avoid any conflicts upon the return of the car.

✅ Check the reviews

Thankfully, with the internet today, work will get out about rental agencies that have poor customer service and try to scam their clients. Take the time to read recent guest reviews of the rental company before booking with them.

Keep in mind that it’s basically impossible to find a car rental with absolutely zero complaints. Things happen and we are not always happy with the resolution offered, or that specific car rental agent was not professional or committed a human error and that is where a bad comment comes from.

So take those comments with a grain of salt but if you see any red flags or recurring complaints, it is probably a good idea to try to book with a different company.

Sometimes, even if it costs a few more dollars, it is worth it to avoid companies that have too many documented unhappy customers.

Aerial view of Cancun Hotel Zone and Nichupte Lagoon.
Cancun aerial view

Cancun Car Rental Scams: Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to drive a rental car in Cancun?

Yes! Is driving in Cancun safe? The roads are in good condition and generally well-marked.

If you are used to driving in a city, you will find the Cancun traffic to be very manageable and people generally drive well (especially compared to some big cities in Latin America). 

Can you purchase rental car insurance using your credit card in Cancun?

You will need to check with your credit card companies and see what their insurance includes and have them send you proof of their coverage, which is what many car rental need in order to waive their liability insurance.

Often, credit card companies will offer insurance that covers damages to the car, but does not include personal liability insurance.

If this is the case you will need to purchase that before you can take your rental car.

What happens if your car is stolen in Cancun?

If you have comprehensive car insurance, you should be covered if your rental car is stolen. Many rental contracts do specify that insurance is void if the renter was somehow breaking the rental agreement or breaking the law when the car was stolen.

Thankfully, car theft is not common in Quintana Roo; however, if this happens you will need to call the police and then call the rental agency to fill out all the necessary paperwork. 

One thing for sure is that you need to have to be in possession of the car key.

Final Thoughts: Cancun car rental scams

Renting a car in Cancun is a great way to enjoy the area and explore all the magical places beyond the spectacular beach.

However, I understand how reading horror stories about rental scams can deter you from getting your own car rental. Don’t let it!

By learning what scams companies use to get you to spend more money, you can avoid falling into their traps.

Take the time to read your rental agreement, use Discover Cars to book your rental with a 48-hour free cancellation policy and no hidden fees, and know what kind of insurance you will need.

Doing this will keep you free from scams so you can enjoy your Cancun adventure. 

About the Author

Hey there! This is Isabella, the owner, and writer of this site. I have been living in Cancun for the past 12 years and although I have been roaming around Mexico, Cancun’s spectacular turquoise waters and pristine beach draw me back to this popular Mexican beach destination. That is why I decided to start this blog, to show you all the beauty you can find in Cancun and share helpful travel tips to help you plan a fabulous vacation in Cancun!

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