Renting a Car in Mexico: Top Tips for a Smooth Journey

PUBLISHED ON Mar, 20 2024


Considering renting a car in Mexico for your trip? Ease your concerns with this no-nonsense guide that directly answers your most pressing questions. Discover how to avoid hidden costs, navigate the rental process, and drive confidently, ensuring a hassle-free experience. This article provides you with essential insights into each step.

Key Takeaways

  • Book your car rental online to compare prices easily, enjoy exclusive deals, and avoid hidden fees by using trusted platforms and checking customer reviews.
  • Ensure you’re 25 or older, carry a valid driver’s license and credit card for renting a car in Mexico. Don’t forget mandatory TPL insurance and consider additional coverage like CDW and PAI.
  • Learn local driving signs, remember to use toll roads for long distances for safety, inspect your rental car for damages before driving, and prepare for gas station and police encounters.

Choosing the Right Car Rental Company

Cancun Airport Car Rental

Cancun Airport Car Rental

Your journey in Mexico begins with selecting the cheapest car rental company that is also reputable. It helps you avoid hidden fees, scams, and ensures a positive Mexico rental car experience with reliable, well-maintained vehicles. Most car rental companies offer a wide array of choices, from global brands such as Hertz, National, Enterprise, and Avis, to local options like Mex Rent A Car. While some companies like America Car Rental and Mex Rent A Car might appear cheaper, caution is advised as potentially higher additional costs may arise.

Online booking platforms and customer reviews are excellent resources to secure a smooth ride and keep hassles at bay. This approach not only offers convenience but also provides insights into the service quality of various rental companies.

Online Booking Platforms

A hassle-free cheap car rental experience is within your grasp thanks to online booking platforms. These platforms facilitate rental cars by offering:

  • Comparison of prices
  • Secure reservation confirmation
  • Vast selection of cars, from economy to luxury vehicles
  • Specific features such as luggage space and fuel efficiency

All of these can be browsed and selected according to your preferences.



Plus, online bookings offer the following benefits:

  • Convenience of easy modifications and cancellations
  • Flexibility of choosing different vehicle pickup and drop-off locations
  • Exclusive online deals and discounts
  • Transparent upfront pricing
  • Immediate booking confirmations

With these advantages, you can save costs and build trust with online bookings.

Reading Reviews

Before proceeding with the ‘Book Now’ button, spare a moment to read through customer reviews. These reviews offer a wealth of information about the quality of service and vehicles offered by car rental agencies, playing a pivotal role in ensuring a positive rental experience. They can shed light on potential issues with car rentals such as hidden fees, poor vehicle conditions, or overbooking at a rental agency.

Reviews reflect the responsiveness of car rental companies to customer issues, indicating their trustworthiness and level of professionalism. Remember, gathering reviews from a variety of sources offers a more balanced view and can yield practical tips that might not be present on a single platform.

Essential Requirements for Renting a Car in Mexico

Hertz Cancun Airport

Hertz Cancun Airport

With the car rental company sorted, the next step is understanding the essential requirements for renting a car in Mexico. Here are the key requirements:

  • Age requirements – Drivers must be at least 25 years old, though some companies may rent to drivers aged 21 and over, sometimes with an additional charge.
  • You must present a valid driver’s license along with a passport or state-issued photo ID. Your license must have been held for at least one year prior to renting.
  • While in some cases you can rent a car without a credit card, a valid credit card is necessary for renting a car, as a hold will be placed for potential damages, often between $1,000 and $3,000 USD.

For your convenience, we have gathered useful information about the deposits of some major rental car companies:

One critical aspect that often gets overlooked is insurance coverage. In Mexico, Third Party Liability (TPL) insurance is a mandatory requirement for car rentals, and additional Mexican car insurance coverage is often required by rental companies. Let’s now decipher the details surrounding driver’s license requirements and insurance coverage.

Valid Driver’s License and International Driving Permit

Having a valid driver’s license is a non-negotiable requirement for renting a car in Mexico. If your license is in the Roman alphabet, you’re good to go. But if you’re from countries using a character alphabet, such as Japan and China, you’ll need an International Driving Permit to rent a car in Mexico.

It’s advisable to carry a photocopy of your passport or International Driving Permit while driving in Mexico to present if needed, rather than the actual documents. So, ensure you have these documents in order before you set off on your Mexican adventure!

International Driving Permit

International Driving Permit

Insurance Coverage

Navigating the world of car rental insurance can be tricky. But understanding your options can save you a lot of headaches (and money!). Basic Liability Insurance is included in the rental rate for every car in Mexico, as it’s a legal requirement. On top of this, Third Party Liability (TPL) coverage is mandatory and must be added to your car rental reservation, as it’s not included in standard rental costs. TPL meets the minimum legal requirements for car rentals in Mexico.

However, you might want to consider additional car insurance coverage for extra peace of mind. A Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) can provide coverage for some or all damage to the rental car, offering peace of mind for renters. Note that, the basic CDW does not typically cover certain types of damage, like windscreens, tyre punctures, or undercarriage damage. That’s where Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW) comes to reduce the excess. If you want more comprehensive coverage, Full Protection packages can offer savings by bundling Excess Waiver, Roadside Assistance, and zero deductible excess.

While SCDW may double your rental cost, CarInsuRent’s car rental insurance for Mexico stands out as a favorable choice for several reasons:

  1. Comprehensive Coverage: CarInsuRent offers extensive coverage for car hire excess, providing you peace of mind. This insurance covers expenses related to windscreen damage, theft, misfueling, breakdown, and towing, up to a generous limit of US$ 4,500.
  2. Cost Savings: By opting for CarInsuRent’s Car Hire Excess Insurance, you can avoid overpaying at car hire desks abroad. Booking this insurance online before traveling ensures competitive rates and helps save money in comparison to purchasing excess coverage directly from rental companies.
  3. Ease of Booking: The process of booking our Car Hire Excess Insurance is straightforward and can be conveniently completed online before embarking on the trip. This simplicity ensures a hassle-free experience for you, allowing you to focus on enjoying their journey.
  4. Positive Reviews: CarInsuRent’s Car Hire Excess Insurance has garnered positive reviews from satisfied customers, highlighting its reliability and effectiveness in providing coverage during car rentals abroad. Such testimonials from previous users attest to the quality and value of this insurance option.

Personal Accident Insurance (PAI) offers coverage for medical expenses resulting from an accident. The cost for these insurances varies, with Personal Liability Insurance costing approximately $15 USD per day, and full coverage insurance available at about $30 USD per day from car rental companies. Remember to factor these costs, as well as rental car rates, into your budget when planning your trip, and don’t forget to check if your credit card insurance already provides some of these benefits!

See How Much You Can Save on Your Rental Car Insurance for Mexico

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I had a fantastic experience with CarInsurent. Their service was exceptional, and they handled my claim swiftly and efficiently after an accident. Their team was responsive, professional, and caring throughout the process. I highly recommend CarInsurent for anyone in need of car rental insurance.

In summary, Our car rental insurance for Mexico is a preferred choice due to its comprehensive coverage, cost-effectiveness, ease of booking, and positive customer feedback. It offers you the necessary protection and financial security while renting a car in Mexico.

Navigating Mexican Roads and Driving Rules

With your rental car ready and all the necessary documentation in hand, you’re all set to hit the open road! But wait, do you know the road signs and driving rules in Mexico? Road signs in Mexico are generally in Spanish, so it’s important for non-Spanish speakers to learn their translations for safe navigation. You’ll encounter signs like:

  • ‘Zona Urbana’ signaling an Urban Zone where you need to reduce speed
  • ‘Camino Sinuoso’ indicating a winding road
  • ‘Topes’ are speed bumps that you should slow down for
  • ‘Curva Peligrosa’ signals a dangerous curve ahead

In addition to understanding road signs, you also need to adhere to driving rules. Some important rules to remember are:

  • Using seatbelts for all vehicle occupants is mandatory
  • Mobile device usage without a hands-free system is prohibited
  • Police may administer breathalyzer tests to drivers they suspect are under the influence, enforcing strict drinking and driving laws

A deeper understanding of the road conditions, speed limits, and traffic laws is necessary for a safer drive.

Family driving off-road car on tropical beach

Family driving off-road car on tropical beach, vacation concept

Road Conditions

Mexican roads can be quite different from what you’re used to back home. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • For longer drives between cities, it’s recommended to use Cuota roads (toll roads) due to their better maintenance and safety. Car tolls range from $25 to $150 MXN, which translates to $1.50 to $9 USD. It is recommended to have the exact change as no change will be provided.
  • While main roads in Mexico are generally well-maintained, secondary roads may have potholes and can be bumpy.
  • Roads in Mexico tend to be narrower compared to roads in the USA or Canada, which could affect maneuverability.

One unique feature of Mexican roads is ‘Topes’, or speed bumps. These are commonly found at the start and end of towns and can cause damage to vehicles if not navigated carefully. Often, these topes are not easily visible or marked, so you need to stay vigilant and watch for signs such as locals slowing down or using hazard lights.

Lastly, driving at night is ill-advised in Mexico because roads are often poorly lit, which increases the risk of accidents.

Speed Limits and Traffic Laws

Adhering to speed limits and traffic laws is not just a matter of avoiding fines – it’s about ensuring your safety and the safety of others on the road. In urban areas in Mexico, the typical speed limit is 40 km/h, while on open roads it’s 80 km/h, and on motorways and highways, the limits range from 100 to 110 km/h. Remember, speed limits in Mexico are posted in kilometers per hour, so match the speed limit sign number with the number on your car’s speedometer.

Also, pay attention to smaller, less visible stop signs, and be cautious of unmarked speed bumps. If an oncoming vehicle is flashing its headlights, it’s usually a warning of something ahead. When it comes to driving, a little caution can go a long way!

Tips for a Hassle-Free Car Rental Experience

Equipped with your rental car and a solid understanding of the driving rules, you’re ready for exploration! But before you set off, here are a few more tips to ensure a hassle-free car rental experience. First, book online in advance to secure better prices and availability, especially during peak times. Online platforms provide upfront pricing, eliminate hidden fees, and allow for easy reservation modifications or cancellations. They also save time and avoid long queues, especially in busy locations. Understanding car rental insurance options in Mexico is also crucial to ensure compliance and a smooth rental experience.

Before you drive off, here are some important things to keep in mind:

  1. Inspect your rental car thoroughly and document any pre-existing damage.
  2. Keep your rental agreements and insurance documents readily accessible throughout the rental period.
  3. Educate yourself on the terms and conditions of the rental agreement to avoid potential misunderstandings.
  4. Remain vigilant for unusual rental practices, such as attempted bill-swapping at gas stations.

It’s time to delve into the specifics of vehicle inspection, gas stations and refueling, along with managing police encounters.

Vehicle Inspection

Before you hit the road, take the time to inspect your rental car thoroughly. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Check both the interior and exterior of the car for any pre-existing damage.
  2. Take detailed videos or photos using your smartphone to document the current condition of the vehicle, providing a timestamped record.
  3. Ensure you sign an inventory form that officially confirms the car’s condition to protect yourself from any disputes upon return.
Pre-rental inspection

Pre-rental inspection

Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Gas Stations and Refueling

In Mexico, gas stations are predominantly full-service, with attendants available to pump gas into your vehicle. Carrying cash is essential when refueling, as gas attendants typically need to be paid directly and credit/debit card facilities may not be available, especially in rural areas.

Also, it’s customary to tip the attendant who fills your car with gas, with the recommended amount being 10 – 20 pesos ($0.50 – $1 USD). Keep these points in mind to ensure a smooth refueling experience.

Handling Police Encounters

Encountering police during your road trip is a possibility, given that travelers may get stopped by the police for random checks in Mexico. However, there’s no need to worry as long as you’re abiding by local traffic laws. This includes adherence to speed limits, avoiding phone use while driving, and following other driving regulations. If you’re stopped by police, politely ask for the officer’s badge number and make a show of writing it down before presenting any documents.

During a police interaction, it is important to:

  • Maintain a firm but non-aggressive stance
  • Express readiness to address the matter officially at the police station
  • If an officer explicitly requests extra money, never initiate a bribe
  • Offer to resolve any fines directly at the nearest police station
  • Legitimate fines should only be paid at the police station, not at an ATM or through immediate cash exchanges on site.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your interactions with the police remain professional and non-stressful.

Exploring Popular Destinations by Car



With your rental car ready and all the necessary knowledge at your disposal, it’s time to embark on the most exciting part – exploring Mexico’s popular destinations! Renting a car allows for flexible exploration, particularly in areas less frequented by tourists. It is considered the best way to discover hidden gems throughout Mexico, from vibrant cultural hubs to serene natural retreats.

Two such popular locations are the Yucatan Peninsula and Baja California, both boasting an array of unique attractions and experiences.

Yucatan Peninsula

The Yucatan Peninsula offers a rich tapestry of attractions, from sandy beaches and ancient ruins to vibrant towns and natural wonders. Renting a car in the Yucatan Peninsula allows for a convenient exploration of top destinations like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Merida, offering freedom to discover the region’s diverse attractions at one’s own pace. You can explore Mérida, the cultural capital of Yucatán, and Valladolid, known for its picturesque Zocalo and colorful streets.

Historical towns like the walled city of Campeche and Izamal, celebrated for its impressive yellow Franciscan monastery, offer fascinating insights into the region’s past. For nature lovers, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve in Tulum and a variety of magnificent cenotes are perfect for diving and swimming. Lastly, don’t miss a visit to Lake Bacalar, often referred to as the Lagoon of Seven Colors, for a refreshing swim in its multihued waters.

Yucatán peninsula

Yucatán peninsula

Baja California

If you’re a fan of coastal scenery, desert landscapes, and pristine islands, Baja California is the place for you. Renting a car in La Paz gives you the freedom to visit beautiful beaches about 45 minutes from town. In Cabo San Lucas, having a rented car allows easy access to surrounding attractions and beautiful beaches.

The East Cape region offers a variety of experiences, including:

  • Serene beaches, like Playa Palmilla and Playa Costa Azul, perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling
  • The Mission of Our Lady of Loreto in the town of Loreto, for a dose of history
  • The bohemian town of Todos Santos, with its art galleries, boutique hotels, and vibrant surf culture
  • Los Barriles, known for its fresh seafood and relaxed beach atmosphere, perfect for food lovers

These destinations enhance any culinary journey on the road.

Preparing for Your Mexico Road Trip

Having chosen your dream destinations, the next step is getting ready for your Mexico road trip! Packing the right items can make your journey more comfortable and hassle-free. Essential items for road trips in Mexico include a security door stopper with an alarm for hotel safety, noise-canceling earbuds or earplugs for festive areas, space saver packing cubes, and a windproof travel umbrella for protection at archaeological sites or during rain. For personal comfort, consider packing altitude sickness medication or an acupressure bracelet for high-altitude areas like Mexico City, and massaging shoe gel inserts if you’re planning extensive walking.

In addition to packing, it’s also wise to have access to offline maps for consistent navigation, especially in areas where cell service can be unreliable. Let’s examine what your packing list should include and how to effectively navigate with offline maps.

Packing List

When packing for your road trip, comfort, safety, and convenience should be your top priorities. Here are some essential items to pack:

  • Sneakers: for comfort during city walks or outdoor activities like hiking
  • High-quality water bottle, possibly with a filter: for staying hydrated sustainably
  • Extra long charging cable: for accommodations with power outlets that are not easily accessible
  • Rain jacket: for versatility, serving as protection against rain or an extra layer during cooler nights in the central regions.

Additionally, remember to pack a hands-free phone holder to facilitate the use of navigation apps while driving in Mexico. You should also carry Mexican pesos in cash for toll roads as U.S. dollars are not accepted and there may not be card facilities available. This brings us to our next point – the importance of offline maps and navigation.

Offline Maps and Navigation

When it comes to navigating Mexican roads, having offline maps is a lifesaver. Cell service can be unreliable in some parts of Mexico, making it essential to have access to offline maps for consistent navigation. To prepare for driving in rural areas, you can download offline maps from applications like Google Maps, ensuring you select and download the areas central to your trip and the surrounding geographical regions.

For real-time traffic updates, consider using a primary navigation app such as Waze, or Google Maps for robust offline features. With these tools at your disposal, you’re ready to navigate the roads like a pro!

Using GPS for navigation

Using GPS for navigation


And there you have it! With this comprehensive guide, you’re now ready to rent a car and explore Mexico at your own pace. From choosing a reputable car rental company and understanding Mexican driving rules, to preparing for your journey and discovering popular destinations, you have all the tools to embark on an unforgettable road trip. So, pack your bags, buckle up, and let the rhythm of mariachi guide your journey. Happy travels!

Frequently Asked Questions

How much is a car in Mexico?

A mid-sized car in Mexico City costs approximately 17,184 U.S. dollars, as of 2019.

Is it safe to rent a car in Mexico and drive around?

Yes, it is generally safe to rent a car and drive around in Mexico. While road trips are popular and most drivers have a problem-free experience, it’s important to remember that you’ll be driving in a country with unfamiliar laws and customs.

Can you rent a car in Mexico with a US driver’s license?

Yes, you can rent a car in Mexico with a US driver’s license, but you will also need proof of civil liability car insurance and a valid credit card, as debit cards are not accepted for rental car reservations.

What are some reputable car rental companies in Mexico?

Check out Hertz, National, Enterprise, Avis, Mex Rent A Car, and Discover Cars for reliable car rental options in Mexico. They are all reputable choices for your travel needs.

What is the minimum age requirement to rent a car in Mexico?

You need to be at least 25 years old to rent a car in Mexico, but some companies may allow drivers aged 21 and above with an extra fee.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I buy a plan for just one day?

Yes. Insurance for a single day is available.

Can I buy a plan for part of my rental only?

No. We provide a single journey plan. You are covered from the time you pick up the rental car up to the time you return it or on the last date written on your Certificate of Insurance, whichever comes first.

Can I buy a plan when I pick up my rental car?

No. You should purchase a policy before starting your travel.

Find the answers you’re looking for to the most frequently asked car hire insurance questions as well as other questions relating to our products and services.

Visit the FAQ page