Whether renting a car in Cancun Mexico is in your plans, or you are not so sure, you have landed in the right place.
I live in Cancun and I know for a fact that renting a car makes your life in the city much easier. It’s also very easy and it can be cheap if you know where to look.
Before buying my own car I used to rent many times with different car rentals. This is why I felt like writing this post to help you go through the process in a smooth and flawless way.
So, in this post, I will share the best places where to rent a car in Cancun, but also many practical tips on how to avoid getting scammed and what is like to drive in this area of Mexico.
Renting a Car in Cancun: Is it worth it?
In my opinion, there is nothing that beats a road trip around the Yucatan Peninsula to discover the real Mexico, drive through small villages, bump into an unknown cenote, and visit the majestic archeological site when nobody else is there yet.
The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the safest places to drive in Mexico and if you are flying into Cancun International Airport, you should start your road trip from there.
In fact, Cancun is one of the few cities I know where renting a car from the airport or in town has the same rates for some reason. You don’t have any airport surcharge most of the time! But make sure you check.
Also, you will save the cost of the airport transfer which is pretty much equal to a day’s car rental if not more! See examples in the below pictures.
Anyway, let’s get into the details of renting a Car in Cancun!
RENTING A CAR IN CANCUN MEXICO
Renting a car in Cancun: the most important questions
Let’s get to the most frequently asked questions about renting a car in Cancun.
✅ Do I need a car in Cancun?
This is the first question that comes to your mind! And the most obvious answer is: it depends.
If are planning to stay most of the time in your fancy all-inclusive hotel, then you don’t need the car and you could use a taxi in case you want to check out a restaurant or a night bar.
Remember though, there is no Uber in Cancun or any other taxi app. (just so you know)!
You NEED a car in Cancun if:
✔ You love to explore independently and check out new places
✔ You love to make the most of your time in Cancun and see more places in one day in and outside Cancun
✔ You hate organized tours
✔ You love to travel at your own pace and decide your own schedule
✔ You love road trips and you think this is the best way to travel ( I do 😊 )
You DON’T NEED to rent a car in Cancun if:
✔ If you are planning to spend most of your time in one of the amazing all-inclusive hotels and you have no intention to move.
✔ You don’t feel comfortable driving in a foreign country- In fact, you can always explore joining some amazing tours from Cancun. (more later on this post)
✔ You are younger than 21 ys old (you would not be allowed)
✔ You just don’t want to be bothered with organizing your Cancun itinerary and prefer joining organized tours
✔ You are traveling alone and you prefer to join tours to meet other people
✅ Is it safe to rent a car in Cancun?
I understand the general concern about renting a car in a foreign country but as I mentioned before there is not much to worry about renting a car in Cancun. I read some other magazines advising against it, but I personally think it’s the best way to explore around.
If you follow some basic rules, which I talk about later in this post, and you are aware of your surroundings, and what to expect you should be fine. Then, bad things can happen in Mexico as much as in your home country. Let’s hope for the best, right?
That is why I always insist on purchasing full car insurance coverage with zero deductible, besides your travel insurance of course, for your peace of mind.
And although I cannot promise that nothing bad will happen to you, I wish I had that power, I am sure that following the advice that I am going to share in this post, will reduce the chance of getting scammed or doing something silly.
✅ What are the best rental car companies in Cancun
It is difficult to determine which is the absolute best car rental agency because it all depends on many factors. What time of the year, the length of your rental, their availability, and many other variables.
And this is why I always recommend using the Discover Cars website which is a quick and easy way to compare prices and choose the car rental that offers the best prices.
Their algorithm will always show you the cheapest available cars on top and you can keep scrolling to compare different prices, car rental companies, and vehicle models.
On Discover Cars you can also book full coverage insurance, just keep in mind that this insurance doesn’t pay for damages upfront. You need to pay anything yourself and get a refund after.
Any car rental company in Cancun has its own place at the airport or just outside, with shuttle service and whatever car rental you pick, the car rental company representative would wait for you at the airport to take you to their nearby offices to pick up your car.
Among the car rentals suggested America car rental and MEX rent a car are the ones that usually come up first because they have the best rates and conditions but always remember to look for the hidden costs. I will talk about it later on in this post.
↳You can read my Discover Cars Rental reviews post for further clarity.
Discover Cars is a great Car rental search platform to compare different car rental companies and choose the one that fits your needs. With more than 70000 Reviews and an average of 4.5/5 Score, Discover Cars help you find the best Car Rental company in Cancun.
✅ How much does renting a car in Cancun cost?
Cancun car rental prices vary depending on the season and the vehicle you rent, what anticipation you are making your reservation, the vehicle model, and also your age.
Yes because some car rentals charge an extra tax if you are below 25.
That said, prices can range from 10 USD to 70 USD but keep in mind that if you see a daily car rental rate that is as low as 10 USD there is a catch, always.
If you find a very cheap car rental, keep in mind that they may use their bare minimum price to attract more customers but then you will need to add the basic insurance, taxes, and other necessary costs.
So every time you see such a low rate, always look around in the web page and look for more detailed information. If there is no info I would move on to the next option.
I understand selling strategy but I believe there is a limit, right?
On the DiscoverCars website, for example, everything is very well displayed and you can see clearly what’s included or not so that you can choose which one is the best for you.
I would recommend taking a screenshot of what’s shown as included on the website when you make your reservation so that you can show it when you pick up the car in case they don’t respect the same conditions.
✅ Do I need a specific car model in Cancun?
You can choose the Car model that better fits your needs but you don’t actually need a specific car model in Cancun. Probably automatic cars are more comfortable.
A small car will have more competitive prices than a luxury car while, on the other hand, a bigger car will make you feel safer which will make it worth the higher rental cost.
Also keep in mind that if you want to find competitive prices you should avoid traveling in the high season or if you are planning to do so, make sure you book in advance.
RENTING A CAR IN CANCUN MEXICO
What do I need to rent a car in Cancun, Mexico?
Here is what you need to rent a car in Cancun, Mexico, but it applies to everywhere in Mexico.
1. You must be 21 ys old at least but…
Although in Mexico the minimum age to drive is 18 ys old, ranting a car in Cancun or in Mexico, regardless, you will need to have at least 21 yrs old.
On top of that, some car rental companies would charge an extra tax if the driver is younger than 25.
Please keep it in mind when you book your car rental in Cancun.
2. A Valid Driver’s License (or IDP)
You don’t need an international driving permit to rent a car in Cancun. You can use your own driving license from your home country, without a problem.
However, that is not applicable in case the alphabet used in the official language of your home country is not Latin, in which case you will need an International driving license indeed!
Also, your driving license must have a 1-year validity in order for you to drive in Mexico
Some car rentals may refuse to give you the car if you got your driving license less than 1 year before.
3. A Valid Credit Card
If you want to rent a car in Cancun or anywhere in Mexico, it is necessary to have a credit card. That is because car rental agencies will need to hold on to an amount as a deposit for any damages or fines.
You could charge the cost of the car rental on the debit card and use the credit card for the deposit, if you wish, though.
That will allow you to lower the amount taken from the card and it doesn’t exceed your card limit if this was an issue.
Although the higher your insurance coverage the lower the hold the Car rental company will apply on your card, each car rental company has its own policy.
Some of them still charge a lot even if you have full insurance but the same amount will be released immediately after you drop off your car and it will reappear on your account after a maximum of 15 days, usually way earlier.
Regardless, I always recommend getting full insurance with zero deductibles, but we will talk about it in a bit. Stay with me now!
Debit cards are sometimes possible, but not every company accepts them and in any case it’s not very convenient.
In fact in this case the rental company would need to make a real charge of the deposit which would be refunded at the end of your trip if everything goes well. But that will take longer.
So if you don’t have a credit card and want to rent a car in Cancun Mexico, make sure you get yourself one before leaving your country.
4. A car insurance
Driving in Mexico requires insurance. You must have Mexican Personal Liability Insurance at a minimum which many companies already include in the basic rates in order to avoid any misunderstandings or issues.
Different companies charge different prices for insurance coverage. Personal Liability Insurance is the minimum required by law and costs around $7-10 USD daily.
But this should always be included in the basic rental fees. Sometimes also the CDW (collision damage waiver) is included.
However, there is usually a deductible to pay, which would be waived if you purchase the full insurance, which I always recommend.
Tires, windows minor damages have all different insurance prices in most cases.
For example, if you happen to rent a car with America Car Rental you need to be careful and ask what is not included in the Full insurance that they offer.
Because if you don’t ask that they will leave tires and what they call minor damages out and they don’t tell you. I am not sure why!
So you need to be very clear and ask for completely full insurance. And when they tell you a price, you must ask, the magic words are “what is not included in the insurance?”
For example, you want the minor damages included because you never know what they can consider minor damages, right?
I found that Mex Car Rental has higher rates compared to American Cars, but they have everything included in one go and a lower guarantee deposit.
But I would still ask specifically to list all the situations in which the insurance doesn’t cover.
If it’s the full insurance, only the situations caused by the driver’s negligence or fines are not covered by insurance.
Additionally, some car rental companies won’t let you use their vehicles unless you buy your insurance. But I will talk about it in the next section.
5. What if I have my own insurance?
In the United States, many credit card companies offer car rental insurance.
However, you should make sure you check with them if the car rental insurance coverage includes Mexico, before leaving your country.
And some car rentals need proof of it. So ask them to send you some papers.
Some Car rentals may try to talk you into buying Mexican insurance anyway, and they scare you off.
But if you are sure that your credit card is covering you, you don’t have to worry.
Except for the Liability, which is supposed to be included in the price, every other extra insurance is optional and therefore you are free to use the one you have with your credit card if they confirm it’s valid in Mexico.
However, there is one thing that you should keep in mind though.
The insurance offered by the credit card is not going to pay the cost of the damages upfront if something happens.
So whatever you are covered for, you will need to anticipate the money and be refunded when you get home, after you follow your insurance company’s procedure.
For this very same reason, I always prefer to buy insurance with the car company directly. So I have less hassle.
RENTING A CAR IN CANCUN
Renting a Car in Cancun: Common Scams (or perceived as scams)
What people ( myself included ) normally consider scams, they are not other than hidden costs or information that is normally written between the lines of the fine print! but who reads that? Right?
So here below I will try to cover everything you should be aware of in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises when you rent a car in Cancun.
✔ Insurance add ons
Although it seems like scamming indeed when the car rental agent tries to sell you the extra insurance coverage, I do think it’s a lifesaver and it always makes me more comfortable when I rent a car. It just gives me peace of mind to know that whatever happens, I will be covered.
However, the best way to avoid hidden or unexpected insurance costs is to purchase the insurance in advance.
It happened to me that I forgot to do it and I was ready to purchase the extra full insurance at the counter while I was picking up the car and the price magically doubled!
So make sure you ask for the full insurance rate while making your booking.
And make sure it’s indeed full coverage, with zero deductible.
Always remember to ask what is not included in the insurance to double-check.
✔ Unanticipated Add-Ons
Many extra features that may make your driving more comfortable may attract extra charges and increase your final car rental costs. So it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it.
For example, this car rental company that I checked put full coverage first, but then they add extra coverage.
You would think if I already pay for full coverage, why should I pay for extra coverage? Those are the hidden costs that are considered scams because you will obviously feel like you are being ripped off.
Another added cost that you may want to consider is the additional insurance for the second driver (driver surcharge).
If there is more than one person who is planning to drive you to need to pay extra costs for the insurance to cover in case of issues.
Theft protection insurance is also a good one to have, just in case.
Also if you are planning to drive to Belize or Guatemala, you can do it but you need to let the company know and purchase a permit (or tax), in other words, pay for it.
As I mentioned before when a car company is promoting a rate, it is usually free of taxes. Make sure you keep it in mind.
And so are the different car parts with their own insurance, tires, windows, and minor damages, to name a few, as we have just seen.
✔ Gas is never included when you rent a car in Cancun or anywhere
When the car rental company is handing you over the car, they will inspect the car in your presence marking in the form any scratches or damages the car already has and the gas level.
You will sign the paper and they will hand you over a copy. Make sure you don’t lose it.
When you drop off the car they will ask you for that paper so they can make sure you returned the vehicle in the same condition and with the same level of gas.
So make sure you pass by a gas station just before returning the car. If the level of gas is lower than it was when you first had the car delivered, you will need to pay a huge amount of money that is not comparable with the missing gas.
So, that is something to keep in mind.
✔ Taxes, penalties, and more information that rental companies may not provide
The introductory rental rate may sound incredible, but now you know it’s not the real cost of the car. There are all sorts of add-ons that we talked about just now.
So, before making your reservation, inquire about these. It should be your first question; otherwise, you can receive an unpleasant surprise.
✔ Omission of information
American Car rental for example has a rule that if you don’t report any mishappening before dropping off the car, the insurance is not going to be applicable and you will have to pay for the damages even if the car insurance you bought would cover them.
That may sound insane but their rule.
So make sure you ask as much as you can and read the fine print if possible.
✔ Cancellation fees
Some car rental agencies have a full refund policy in case your flight is delayed or canceled or you cannot reach the destination as planned. Here are some case scenarios.
► Some car rental companies have zero cancellation fees, while others will detain a small percentage if you don’t show up.
► Also in case you have to interrupt your trip earlier than planned, some companies may refund your unused days in case you have a change of plans, while others don’t.
► Usually, when you rent a car, the daily fare is considered 24hrs, so you need to drop it off at the same time you collected it. Some car rentals offer a 1 hour grace period, while others don’t.
Some car companies would charge you for an entire extra day if you are 1 hour late, some others have a rate per each extra hour.
These are all questions you should ask in case they don’t mention it when you pick up the car.
How to avoid Cancun car rental scams
So, after all, that has been said, how can you avoid potential scams when you rent a car in Cancun?
Here are some practical tips:
🤕 Make sure your credit card or personal insurance will cover your car rental in Mexico
In doing so you will be preventing any hassle at the time of picking up the car, especially in case the car rental is giving you a hard time on the matter.
💰 Do not forget to ask about all hidden costs both when booking and during the car pick up
In addition to accessories and insurance, remember also to ask about any mileage restrictions, and roadside assistance, which used to be free but it’s actually covered if you purchased a certain type of insurance.
Also, ask for late drop-off surcharges,
Remember to fill the tank to the agreed level at the closest gas station before dropping off the car
💸 Check penalty costs
Before renting a car in Cancun, enquire with the car hire about any fees that may apply if your flight is canceled or if they can refund the money.
Or in case you need to end your trip earlier, ask if there is a refund for dropping the car off before due time.
✅ Check the car with the car rental agent
Go through all the car checks with the car rental agent but also take pictures and videos of the car inside and out.
This way if they want to accuse you of any damages that you didn’t cause, you can still prove it. I have learned it the hard way.
Do it even if you are supposed to have everything included in the insurance. You never know.
Driving in Cancun – things you need to know
Driving in Cancun is very easy if you know what to need to pay attention to. I will give you a brief summary of the thing you need to be aware of, but you can head over to the above-linked post about driving in Cancun for a more detailed guide.
▶ Toll roads
I prefer the normal roads because I love to explore villages and bump into an old church or a hidden cenote. However, if you are in a rush and want to get to your destination quicker you should use toll roads.
Just keep in mind that they only accept cash and Mexican pesos only!
▶ Gas stations
There are enough gas stations all over the Yucatan Peninsula but just to be on the safe side make sure you always keep your tank filled up.
Also, keep some cash with you in case a gas station doesn’t accept credit cards. It can happen.
In case you find yourself out of gas and you are in the middle of the Yucatan check out convenience stores, as they may be able to sell you gas.
▶ Road signs
🛑 Alto means stop
➩ You can turn right most of the time even if the traffic light is red
⦿ In roundabouts, the car in the roundabout has priority.
Also, beware of animal signs, which means that there may be wildlife crossing the roads so drive slowly so you have the time to stop and avoid running over an animal.
▶ Google Maps
Google Maps makes me feel safe when I drive because I know I won’t get lost even though sometimes it sends me to weird places.
Make sure you download the offline map before driving because in some areas there is no phone reception.
Also learning some Spanish is not a bad idea in case you need to ask for directions from locals.
▶ What to do if you get pulled over
First of all, just make sure you don’t commit any road infraction so you don’t give the police an excuse for pulling you over.
Use seat belts, respect speed limits ( those are in KM), and don’t talk on the phone while driving.
Having said that, Police could stop you for any reason, as they do random checks.
Do not panic, just smile, pull down the windscreen and answer their questions.
They may ask for your Driving Licence but you have the right to show it to them without handing it over, you can always say that it’s for safety reasons. But it’s always best to not engage in any discussion.
Just accept the ticket and go without complaining, especially if you don’t speak Spanish well. I have been discussing this with a police officer, but it’s not something I would recommend.
Usually, Mexican police don’t speak English so if you are in difficulty ask them if you want to call a friend to help with the translation.
▶ Encounters with the Police: is bribing the police a myth?
Unfortunately, asking for a bribe is a real thing in Mexico, especially in very touristy places like Cancun. I am afraid this is not only hearsay.
According to Mexican legislation, a law enforcement officer must NOT ask for or take money but it’s still happening, most of the time.
You won’t hear them directly asking for money but they will try to tell you that if you pay them there they can let you go easily or they can threaten to get your driving license until you go to the office and pay the fine.
Of course, a tourist wouldn’t want to go through that hassle and waste of time and tend to pay upfront. But that is illegal and you should not let them get away with it.
Sometimes they may ask ” Como lo arreglamos? (How are we going to fix this?) or they just make you wait for a long time until you say something.
It happened to me many times and I would normally say “either give me the ticket or let me go”, with a big innocent smile of course :). Sometimes I got away with it and I was let go without any fine. And I absolutely never ever bribe!
If they give you a fine remember that if you pay within the next 3 days you have a 30 to 50 % discount.
So please never support this kind of practice because otherwise, it will never end.
▶ Don’t park in the wrong area
Keep in mind that usually if you park where it’s prohibited they may not only give you a ticket but take the plate off.
They will give it back to you when you go and pay for the ticket, in the “Transito” offices. Even in this case if you pay within 3 days you get a discount. So the sooner you go the better.
What to do in case of emergency
Unexpected mishappening can occur to anyone at any time. If you get involved, whether it is an accident or you don’t feel well, or you don’t feel safe.
Here are some tips on how to face those in the best way.
✔ Have a working cell phone
If you are an unlocked phone you could use it in Mexico with a local sim card ( see below ) or you can ask your service provider whether it is in the US or anywhere else in the world to enable the Roaming Services.
However, you need to be prepared to pay very high fees for that. That is why I would go with the first option.
✔ Have a local Simcard
Getting a Mexican sim card is the best investment you could do, and s and one of these is to be able to communicate in case of any emergency
✔ Download the Google Maps app and download an offline map
Google map is almost always effective to avoid getting lost. And that is reason #1 why I recommend getting a sim card, to use Google Maps.
However, there are some areas that don’t have cell reception.
So the second thing I would recommend is to download the map of the area you are going to travel to, while you are still in your hotel with WIFI, so that you can use it even in case there is no coverage.
✔ Call 911 in case of any emergency
911 in Mexico works for any emergency. Tell your problem to the operator and they will direct you to the right department.
A little Spanish would help but they should understand you.
Renting a car in Cancun FAQ
How are the roads in Cancun, Mexico?
Cancun itself is a bit confusing to drive around. Trust me, I had more challenges with driving in Cancun than in Milan, but with Google Maps you will go anywhere.
And to be honest you don’t really need to drive around the city as the best part of Cancun is the Hotel Zone which is one straight road.
The other road that you will be using a lot is the so-called Careteral Federal ( federal highway that connects Cancun to Tulum and continues all the way to Chetumal.
Two-lane freeways also connect Tulum to Coba and then on to Valladolid and Chichen Itza.
Besides these main arteries of the Yucatan Peninsula, you will find a lot of regional roads that are fine to drive in, just some will have lots of potholes.
Other than that the entire Yucatan Peninsula is super safe to drive.
I would avoid driving at night, mainly because many areas are not lit and you may not be able to see people or animals walking on the street.
Is there Uber in Cancun
It’s a bit complicated. Uber is working in Cancun.
However, Taxi drivers haven’t accepted it yet, and never will, you can now call a taxi via Uber but not anywhere close to a taxi stand or even worse, in the Hotel Zone.
And this is one of the reasons why I’d even avoid taking Taxis in Cancun and rent a car instead. Getting an Uber is too complicated.
In case you have decided you don’t want a car in Cancun after reading this post, I would recommend booking your transfer to your hotel online, using this trustworthy company.
While once you are in your hotel ask them for a recommended taxi driver if you need one.
What’s the best place to rent a car in Cancun?
The best place where to rent a car is Discover Cars platform. Here you can find the best rates because the site basically compares rates from all the major car hire agencies and find the best prices.
Get a free quote using the below widget. Once you book your car, you will get the confirmation email and the contact details of the rental you selected whether it is Cancun International Airport or Cancun Downtown.
What side of the road do you drive on in Mexico?
Driving in Mexico is on the right side of the road.
Are rental cars in Cancun Mexico automatic or stick shift?
The majority of car hire agencies in Mexico are automatic. However, the stick shift is available in cheaper cars. Actually, if you request a stick shift car you may reduce the price of your car rental.
The easiest way to book a car rental in Cancun Mexico
Through Discover Cars, it is the easiest way to book a car rental in Cancun.
They have competitive rates because they search all major car hire agencies in Cancun and surrounding areas and find the best price.
Renting a Car in Cancun: Driving around
If you have concerns about driving in Mexico, I get it. Driving in a foreign country can be a little scary. But as one who always drives anywhere, I go, I’ve got you covered.
I have already linked to my post about driving in Cancun.
However, you can find a summary list here below for your convenience.
10 Cancun Driving Tips
✔ Beware of topes (speed bumps)
✔ Avoid driving at night in Mexico and wear a seat belt.
✔ Mexico’s speed limits are in kilometers per hour
✔ Don’t drive and call or text
✔ Seat belt is mandatory in Mexico
✔ Gas stations are not self-serve and the workers are very much underpaid – Please tip them 10 to 20 pesos would be fine.
✔ Window cleaners (and beggars) may approach you at stop lights just wave no or just hand them some coins.
✔ Some Spanish knowledge will help.
Things to do in Cancun with a car rental
Renting a car in Cancun will give you endless possibilities for exploration. Here are a few ideas
▶ Check out the amazing Cenotes near Cancun in the Ruta de Los Cenotes in Puerto Morelos, at only 30 minutes drive from Cancun
▶ Spend a day in Puerto Morelos, take a snorkeling tour from the beach, have a great lunch in one of the delicious beachfront restaurants, and visit the botanical garden.
▶ Drive all the way to Playa del Carmen and visit some amazing cenotes on the Riviera Maya and the best beaches.
▶ Get to Tulum and explore the archeological site and the spectacular beach.
▶Check out Coba ruins and the nearby cenotes in Coba for a great full-day experience.
▶ Take a short trip to Isla Blanca, the beautiful virgin stretch of beach north of Cancun, right after Playa Mujeres.
You can also check out my Cancun itineraries for more road trip ideas.
Other destinations where it is safe and recommended to rent a car in Mexico
The Yucatan peninsula is one of the safest places for renting a car and the easy way to reach archeological sites, cenotes, and all the natural wonders around.
Just keep in mind that for Holbox you can’t bring your car and in Isla Mujeres, you could but you don’t need it.
However, there are many other states in Mexico where driving around is the best option to enjoy the area. Those are:
✔ Huatulco and the Oaxaca Coast
Renting a car in Cancun: final thoughts
As you can see, renting a car in Cancun will allow you to reach the major attractions and if you have your own car you can travel at your own pace and choose the time of the day when it’s less busy.
Also, remember that Yucatan is considered one of the safest places in Mexico and the entire Peninsula.
Think about all the amazing hidden cenotes and archeological sites you can reach and many other places where local transportation won’t get you and taxis would charge a fortune.
I hope this guide to renting a car in Cancun has helped you decide how to plan your vacation and gives you enough tips about driving around this amazing region of Mexico.