Renting a car can be a great way to get around during a visit to Mexico. There are a few things you should be aware of if you're planning to rent a car during your stay, however. The vast majority of people who rent a car in Mexico find it to be an enjoyable experience that allows them to explore the area they're visiting on their own timeline without having to wait for buses or rely on others to get them where they need to go, There are a few precautions you can take to help ensure that your car rental and your experience of driving in Mexico is hassle-free.
Car Rental Companies
There is a wide selection of car rental companies in Mexico, some of them are part of international chains that you may be familiar with, such as Hertz or Thrifty. You may feel safer renting from one of these companies, but national car rental companies may offer more competitive rates, and the international companies are usually franchises in Mexico and may not actually offer better service than local agencies.
If you make your car rental reservation online, print out all the details and present your printed document at the rental company when you go to pick up your car to be sure they honor the original agreement, and don't try to charge you a higher rate. Be aware that prices quoted in dollars will be converted to pesos for payment, and most likely not at a favorable rate, so it's best to get your rate quoted in Mexican pesos.
Documents and Other Requirements
Drivers are usually required to be at least 25 years of age in order to rent a car in Mexico. Your current driver's license from your home country is accepted for driving in Mexico (make sure it's still valid before your trip). You will need a credit card to make a security deposit on the vehicle.
Insurance for Rental Cars
If you're checking prices online, the initial cost for a car rental will likely seem very low. The cost of the required insurance can easily double the cost of the rental, so be sure to add in the insurance in order to find out how much it will really cost you. You do need to have Mexican insurance because if your vehicle is involved in an accident, according to Mexican law, uninsured drivers may be arrested and held until any damage is paid for.
There are different types of insurance:
- Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI)
- Personal Accident Insurance (PAI)
- Loss damage waiver (LDW) or collision damage waiver (CDW). This insurance may be covered on your credit card, but double check with your credit card company in advance to be sure. In order for your credit card coverage for this insurance to be valid, you will have to pay the full price of the rental on your card and decline LDW/CDW from the rental company.
When you pick up the car, the rental agent will inspect it with you and mark on a form any damage that the car has already sustained. Check to make sure the headlights and windshield wipers work as well. The car should have a spare tire and jack in the trunk. If you return the car with any damage to it other than what is marked on this form, you will be charged for it, so take your time and check the car scrupulously. Unfortunately, some travelers have found they are charged for damage that the car already had on it, so be sure to inspect the car along with the agent.
It may also be a good idea to take photos with your digital camera as well in order to have proof of the condition of the car when you received it.
Gas and Your Rental Car
You will be expected to return your rental car with the same amount of gas with which you received it. Often you'll find that the car has an almost empty tank when you pick it up. In that case, your first stop after leaving the car rental agency should be the gas station. Here's what you need to know about buying gas in Mexico.
If you experience any car trouble on Mexico's federal highways, you can contact the Green Angels for roadside assistance.