Nate on a beach in El Cuyo after renting a car in Mexico

Renting a Car in Mexico (3 Best Sites + 1 Rental Mistake)

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👉 Jump to: Best Mexico Car Rental Sites | Common Mistake | Pros & Cons | Safety | Requirements | Cost | Insurance | Tips | FAQs

Renting a car in Mexico is a great way to see places other tourists miss. But, of the dozens of countries I’ve rented in, the Mexico car rental system has been the trickiest to navigate by far.

Why? Well, a common mistake most tourists don’t realize is that many Mexico car rental agencies do not include the mandatory local insurance in online quotes. As I’ll explain, this is why I personally use the “Supplier Rating” sorting feature of Discover Cars to find local agencies with the best reviews.

That’s just one important piece of info I’ll share in this guide — there’s much more to know! I’m a Mexico travel expert, having visited Mexico dozens of times. I’m here to explain exactly how to rent a car in Mexico without getting scammed.

Best Car Rental Sites in Mexico 

👉 Pro Tip: Rental car inventory in Mexico is limited, particularly in tourist hotspots like Cancun and Puerto Vallarta. Always reserve your rental car in Mexico as far in advance as possible.

Here are my 3 favorite Mexico car rental booking platforms for finding reputable local agencies: 

My #1 Pick
Discover Cars

I personally use and love Discover Cars. Usually it finds the cheapest fares for Mexico. I like that they allow you to easily compare agency reviews. Pro tip: go for a rental agency with an 8/10 or higher!

#2 Rental Site

Kayak is one of the biggest names in car rentals, and I like them as well. Just be cautious of any “too good to be true” prices, as it probably doesn’t include the mandatory insurance (see note below).

#3 Rental Site

Another very popular and well trusted car rental site. It's owned by (our favorite hotel site), and has one of the largest inventories of rentals on the planet.

Mexico Car Insurance Rules (A Common Mistake)

Mexico requires tourists to have Mexico-specific rental insurance. Your US auto insurance probably won’t work. But many Mexican car rental companies, especially in Cancun, do not clearly show these charges online in advance – even though they are often several times the actual rental cost.

Yeah, it’s a super sneaky move worthy of a cable company! But I don’t let it put me off from enjoying the freedom of a car rental in Mexico.

Here is how I deal with it personally:

First, I go to DiscoverCars and enter my details.

Second, I select the dropdown to sort by Supplier Rating.

A GIF showing a Mexico Car Rental Search on Discover Cars, sorting by supplier rating
Go to Discover Cars and sort by “Supplier Rating”

What this does is it sorts by the most reputable Mexico car rental agencies. I try to find car rental agencies with average reviews of 8 out of 10 or higher. Often those aren’t the “cheapest car rental company,” but in reality the price is often the same by the time you add in the hidden fees and insurance costs.

Third, I examine the individual agency reviews to make sure the supplier is actually a good one and that they are clearly displaying what is (and is not) included. Remember that even reputable suppliers are likely to not include the local insurance in the cost.

Lastly, to be safe, it’s always best to budget an additional $15-25 per day to pay the locally required insurance. The best car rental companies in Mexico will disclose this online, but you’ll still need to pay it at the car rental office.

Pros & Cons of Renting a Car in Mexico

First up, let’s answer a common question: Do you need a rental car in Mexico?

You do not need a rental car to travel to Mexico, although renting a car will afford you more freedom and the ability to explore beyond destinations serviced by Mexico’s public transportation, taxi, and tour network. 

In general, if you are only planning to visit one destination in Mexico (especially if it is a city), rental cars may not be required. If you are planning to explore multiple destinations or take a Mexico road trip, it is advisable to rent a car.

Pros of Renting a Car in Mexico

The author with a rental car in El Cuyo
Me with a rental car in El Cuyo, a hidden gem that is hard to visit without a rental car
  • ❤️ Freedom – Renting a car opens up the ability to explore destinations, beaches, and towns not otherwise easily accessible.
  • ✨ Convenience – Mexico has a robust road network that is surprisingly easy to drive on. 
  • 💲 Cost – For families or groups, renting a car can often save money compared to using taxis, tours, and buses to get around.
  • 😷 Covid Safety – For travelers concerned about covid-19 safety, or just minimizing their chances of catching a positive test before returning to the US, renting a car is a more private way of getting around versus public transportation or taxis.

Cons of Renting a Car in Mexico

  • ❗ Frustrating Insurance Rules – Mexico requires all renters to purchase local insurance (i.e., your American car insurance will not cover you in Mexico). 
  • ⚠️ Scams – Rental car companies in Mexico are notorious for scams, such as charging damage fees for scratches or cleaning fees for even a little bit of sand in the car. Read the tips below for advice on preventing rental car scams in Mexico.

Is it Safe to Drive in Mexico?

It is generally safe to drive in Mexico. Mexico has a robust road network that is relatively well maintained, and driving in Mexico is not significantly different than driving in the United States. As with all driving, it is important to take proper precautions such as driving defensively, respecting speed limits, wearing a seat belt, and not driving while distracted. 

If you are reasonably comfortable driving in unfamiliar conditions in the United States, Europe, or elsewhere, you will likely also be comfortable driving in Mexico. This is especially true in the tourist areas of Mexico. In areas like Cancun, Tulum, Cabo San Lucas, Playa del Carmen, and San Miguel de Allende, there are many foreign drivers on the road.

View of the author in the backroads of the Yucatan Peninsula while driving
Me driving along the backroads of the Yucatan peninsula (Clara took the photo – don’t worry!)

In larger highly populated Mexican cities such as Mexico City and Puebla, driving can be a bit chaotic at times. Less experienced foreign drivers may feel less comfortable driving in these environments. Fortunately, Uber and taxis are widely available in most cities (notably, however, Uber is not available in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum!).

It’s always best to be prepared. So be sure to read the tips section below to arm yourself with the knowledge you need to drive safely in Mexico.

👉 Read Next: Is Playa del Carmen Safe Right Now?

Rental Car Requirements for Mexico

The author with his partner taking a photo inside a rental car
My partner Clara and exploring the sites of Cozumel (where a rental car is really helpful!)

The following requirements generally apply when renting a car in Mexico: 

  • 🧑 A valid driver’s license – A United States driver’s license works just fine. Note that neither an International Driver’s License nor a Mexican driver’s license is usually required to drive in Mexico (the exception is that an International Driving Permit is required for licenses issued in non-Roman alphabet, such as Japanese licenses). 
  • 🎫 Mexican liability insurance – Mexico requires all drivers to carry third party liability insurance issued by a Mexican car insurance company. Your policy from your home country will not suffice for rental cars in Mexico.
  • 🔞 Driver is of age – The driving age in Mexico is 18. However, most Mexican car rental companies require drivers to be 25 years old, although some will rent to younger drivers for an additional charge.
  • 💳 A credit card in driver’s name – Expect the rental car company to collect this as an assurance, and to potentially place a (large) deposit on the card if you are not purchasing collision insurance directly from them (for example, if you are trying to use your credit card insurance for CDW protection). A debit card is usually not accepted.
  • ✈️ Passport – Most rental agencies will also photocopy your passport at the rental car counter. You may sometimes be asked to show it at police checkpoints on the road. 

Always be sure to carefully read the terms and conditions of the contract for your specific car rental agency, as additional requirements may apply. Remember that you are a guest in Mexico and are responsible for learning and complying with all local laws and regulations. 

How Much do Rental Cars Cost in Mexico?

The average daily rental cost for a compact car in Mexico is between $30 and $60 per day, based upon sample searches I performed across several popular Mexican destinations and three booking sites. This is consistent with my own personal experience renting a car in Mexico.

Of course, rental car prices in Mexico vary based on many factors. These include when you visit Mexico, the age of the driver, the type of car you are renting, what add-ons you are selecting (e.g., one-way drop off), etc.

👉 Compare Mexico rental car prices for your dates now by comparing these 3 booking sites: 

Be sure to double-check agency reviews when booking, as some car rental places advertise low prices but then tack on hidden fees later. Note that this is especially a problem at the Cancun Airport rental agencies.

Mexico Car Rental Insurance Information

The author with his partner taking a photo while on a road trip along the Gulf of Mexico
Clara and I on a recent rental car road trip along the Gulf of Mexico

Navigating insurance is one of the most challenging parts of renting a car in Mexico. In this section, I’ll break down the most important types of insurance that come into play for rental cars in Mexico.

But, first, an important disclaimer: Your mileage may vary. I am not a licensed insurance agent. None of this is insurance advice. This is purely informational content based on my personal experience. Do your own research, carefully read all terms and conditions, and consult with a licensed professional if necessary.

👉 Read Next: What to Pack for a Trip to Mexico

Local Third Party Liability Insurance is ALWAYS Mandatory in Mexico

You may be wondering about how to avoid paying car rental insurance in Mexico. Can you rent a car in Mexico without local insurance?

By law, all drivers in Mexico are required to carry third party liability insurance (TPL insurance, sometimes called personal liability insurance) issued by a Mexican auto insurance company. Your insurance from your home country will generally not work in Mexico. 

Honestly, this law is a little curious. I’ve rented cars in dozens of countries, but Mexico is the only one I’ve seen that flat out refuses to accept insurance from abroad. 

In my many years traveling Mexico, I’ve heard a few different explanations for Mexico’s car insurance law. The more cynical take is that it was written by the Mexican car rental companies for their own benefit.

Another possible explanation is that the Mexican court system has a tendency to summarily assign responsibility to foreigners in cases of accidents, so it helps ensure fast and swift payment of court judgments in those cases. 

Whatever the reasons, the bottom line is that you always need personal liability insurance coverage issued by a Mexican car insurance company. Unfortunately, this is often not well disclosed when booking a car rental online, so my best advice is to just to always expect to pay it at the counter (it typically runs between $15 and $25 per day). 

But remember that there are other kinds of car insurance that come into play too … 

👉 Read Next: 33 Best Things to Do in Mexico City

Collision Insurance (CDW / LDW) is Usually Required Too

Besides third-party insurance, there’s this separate car rental insurance called Collision Damage Waiver (“CDW”) insurance. It’s also sometimes called Loss Damage Waiver (“LDW”) insurance. 

CDW is additional insurance that is supposed to protect against theft or damage to the rental vehicle itself (while basic insurance only protects against liability to third parties). 

While not required by law, CDW protection generally is in fact required by most car companies to rent in Mexico.

You can usually get CDW insurance in several ways: 

  • 🚗 Directly from the car rental agency – this is usually the most expensive, but also most convenient option because it’s the only one that will not require a large deposit.
  • 💻 From a third party booking site – For example, Discover Cars sells a product called “Full Coverage” which they say protects against damage or theft to the car.
  • 💳 From your credit card company – Some credit card card companies offers CDW protection if you use their card to pay for the rental (just be sure to double check the specific terms, including whether coverage applies in Mexico, with your credit card company). However, it is unlikely your credit card company will almost certainly not provide Mexico requisite local liability insurance.
  • ✈️ From your travel insurance provider – depending on your Mexico travel insurance policy, you might have this coverage already (be sure to double-check your specific policy!).

Again, remember that the latter three options may be cheaper, but often result in the rental agency requiring a large deposit or hold on your credit card (perhaps as high as $1,500 USD).

Additional Insurance Coverage

Many car rental agencies will try to sell you on a variety of other protections and insurances in addition to liability and collision assurances.

These may include additional insurances that bring down your deductible in the event of a claim. Or they may include upsells like roadside assistance. 

Ultimately, when renting a car in Mexico, each traveler needs to carefully assess what protections are right for their individual circumstances. 

👉 Read Next: My Guide to Travel Insurance in Mexico

13 Tips & Things to Know Before Renting in Mexico

The author posing for a photo while on the rental car and a beach in Cozumel on his background

TIP #1 – Check Rental Agency Reviews Before Booking Cars

No matter whether you’re using Discover Cars,, or Kayak to book your rental car, it’s important to remember that these booking sites are just portals (like Expedia is for hotels or Skyscanner is for flights). These sites make it easy to find the cheapest rental price, but they are not who you are renting from.

Your actual rental contract will be with a rental car agency on the ground in Mexico, so it’s really important to check the customer reviews for the specific agency you are renting from. 

Be careful – there are a lot of less than honest agencies in Mexico (perhaps more than another other country I’ve seen)!

In particular, I personally stay away from Mex Rent a Car, as I’ve had a bad experience with them in the past when renting a car in Cancun. On the other hand, when renting a car in Tulum, I’ve had a good experience with America Car Rental.

For comparing agencies, I like Discover Cars because they make it easy to see customer reviews for each agency. Here’s an example: 

View of one of the rental car info on Discover Cars site

Personally, my advice is to never rent from a Mexico car agency that scores less than 8 out of 10 in average customer reviews.

TIP #2 – Carefully Read The Terms and Conditions

Renting a car in Mexico does carry some significant risks with it. In order to avoid scams or surprises down the line, you should always carefully read all terms and conditions before booking your car. 

Similarly, you should be sure to actually read the fine print on anything they make you sign at the car rental counter (any reputable agency will give you everything in English). 

TIP #3 – Check Your Vehicle for Damage & Take Photos

A photo while inspecting a rental car in Tulum
Me inspecting a recent Mexico car rental in Tulum

When you get your rental car, most car rental companies will give you the opportunity to point out any damage on the vehicle. Record it liberally so that they cannot hold it against you when you return the car. Be sure to point out every single scratch, dent, or issue you see! 

Additionally, it is a good idea to take photos of the vehicle in case there is a dispute down the line. 

Pro Tip: You should also carefully note the fuel levels, as agencies are known to charge ridiculous rates for fuel upon the return of the car rentals.

TIP #4 – Police Checkpoints are Common on Mexican Roads

View of a policeman on a checkpoint in Mexico
(photo: Wirestock Creators / Shutterstock)

In many parts of Mexico, police checkpoints are a common sign. I have found them to be particularly prevalent on the back roads connecting the various “pueblos magicos” in the Yucatan peninsula. At one point on a recent road trip from El Cuyo to Valladolid, Clara and I passed through 4 police checkpoints in just one hour!

Slow down when approaching a checkpoint and stop is requested. Sometimes an officer will check your passport to ensure your immigration status, and ask a few questions about where you are going. 

Although rare, it is possible an officer may try to extract a bribe. It has never happened to me (it probably helps that I speak Spanish), but I have heard stories from friends of Mexican police officers refusing to let tourists go until they pay a supposed “fine.” 

TIP #5 – You Do Not Pump Your Own Gas in Mexico

View of a gasoline station in Mexico before night time
(photo: LukeandKarla.Travel / Shutterstock)

If you’re from New Jersey, you’ll feel right at home at Mexican gas stations. Everyone else might be surprised to learn that all Mexican gas stations are full service. 

Just pull up, tell the attendant how many liters of gas you want (or say “llenado” for “full”), and then pay him directly. Expect that you may have to pay in cash, and add a few pesos as a tip.

TIP #6 – Have Cash Ready for Toll Roads

View of road signs on a highway in Mexico

Mexico has a number of toll roads, usually marked by the sign “CUOTA.” If taking a toll road, be prepared to have enough cash for the toll (which, in my experience, is often more than you might think). Alternatively, use Google Maps to route around toll roads in the country. 

👉 Read Next: 18 Best Hotels in Puerto Vallarta

TIP #7 – Mexico Drives on the Right

Mexico drives on the right side of the road (same as the United States).

TIP #8 – Speed Limits Change Quickly

Like most countries, speed limits in Mexico are denoted in kilometers per hour, so drivers coming from the US will need to adjust.

The other thing to note is that Mexico has a wide range of speed limits – typically between 40 and 110 km/hour. You can quickly find yourself moving between one speed limit zone to another without realizing it. So be sure to pay attention to road signs!

👉 Read Next: Cancun Airport Transportation Review

TIP #9 – Topes (Speedbumps) Are Everywhere in Mexico

View of a speedbump sign in Mexico
If you see one of these signs, slow down asap or risk ruining your rental’s undercarriage!

Mexico is fond of its speedbumps, usually marked by a sign reading “Tope.” 

Many speedbumps in Mexico can be hard to see from a distance, particularly on side streets and back roads. Many are also carry a surprisingly “kick” even when they seem small. So it is best to drive slowly and carefully when passing through any town or area where you might find topes. If you don’t, your car rental might get damaged.

TIP #10 – Animals Are Frequent on Roads

View of goats along a road in Mexico

In addition to speedbumps, you also have to keep an eye out for random animals on the road in Mexico. From dogs to cows to roosters to goats to iguanas, I’ve seen it all cross in front of me while driving around Mexico. Well, actually, I’ve yet to be lucky enough to see a jaguar – but they do exist!

TIP #11 – Get a Copy of Your Paperwork When Renting

On last tip to avoid hidden costs: when returning your car to the agency, be sure to ask for a full print out of your final contract. Check it to make sure there are no hidden costs or surprises that you’ll find on your credit card bill later!

📚 Related Reading: 22 Tips & Things to Know Before Going to Mexico

TIP #12 – It Helps to Know Spanish

Because issues are so common during the car rental process in Mexico, it is really is helpful (though not entirely necessary) to know a little Spanish. Here is a good list of common Spanish phrases associated with driving.

👉 Read Next: Renting a Car in Puerto Rico

TIP #13 – Learn Mexico’s Road Signs

Lastly, before you go, it’s helpful to spend a few minutes studying up on Mexico’s road signs. Remember, ignorance of the law is not going to be an accepted excuse if you find yourself talking to the Mexican police!

FAQ About the Mexico Car Rental Process

What is the best place to find Mexico car rentals?

The best site for Mexico car rentals is Discover Cars. We use it because it allows you to sort by supplier rating and avoid agencies that tend to hide fees and insurance charges. It is always advisable to read the individual agency reviews before renting in Mexico.

Can you rent a car in Mexico with a US license?

A US license is accepted for renting a car in Mexico. Note that the driving age in Mexico is 18, and all drivers are required to carry locally provided liability insurance.

Do I need an international drivers license to rent a car in Mexico?

An International Drivers Permit (IDP) is not required to rent a car in Mexico, unless your license is printed in a non-Roman alphabet (for example, Japanese).

Is driving in Mexico hard? 

Driving in Mexico is relatively easy for experienced drivers. Though there are some quirks to renting a car in Mexico that you should study, in general, the roads are in good condition and the rules of the road are similar to the United States.

Should I rent a car in Mexico?

A rental car is useful for Mexico if you are planning to stay outside of city centers, or if you are planning a road trip. A rental car is especially helpful beach destinations such as Tulum. It is generally not necessary to rent a car if only staying in the large cities, such as Mexico City.

How old do you have to be to rent a car in Mexico?

To rent a car in Mexico you must be 18 years or older, because that it is the legal driving age. However, many agencies restrict rentals for those under age 25. For drivers between 18 and 24 years old, you can enter your age and search for rentals on Discover Cars that allow it for an additional fee.


My #1 Pick
Discover Cars

I personally use and love Discover Cars. Usually it finds the cheapest fares for Mexico. I like that they allow you to easily compare agency reviews. Pro tip: go for a rental agency with an 8/10 or higher!

That’s it for this guide to renting a car in Mexico! I hope it’s answered all the questions you have about car rentals in Mexico. 

But before you go, be sure to bookmark all my free Mexico travel guides to help you plan your trip!

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  1. I wish I had read this BEFORE i got hammered with extra charges in the Baja a few years ago.
    as we are now headed back to Mexico I wanted a refresher course in TPL and CDW in mexico.
    I now feel up to speed.

  2. Just a comment about DiscoverCars.
    DiscoverCar charged me an $87 fee. I got to the MEX airport late (bus from Oaxaca). SIXT took me to their lot and didn’t have my car and tried to upsell me for $30 more a day. I didn’t take it. DiscoverCars refused to return my $87 because I didn’t get there within an hour of pickup time. (Note: it took me over an hour to find SIXT. DiscoverCars didn’t tell me at which entrance, only told me the terminal number. The terminal is 2 kilometers long, nobody seemed to know where it was and SIXT was the only one without a sign, so I walked past it 2 or 3 times looking up for the sign.)

  3. In Canada, we can buy rental car insurance through AMA Travel, and in my experience, means you can probably do the same with AAA Travel. (My AMA membership is always accepted for discounts anywhere AAA is)
    I also found out the hard way about the “mandatory” insurance. On two occasions I argued with the rental company and they lowered the cost. Strange thing for something mandatory.
    In Cozumel last year, the rental agent told me that I had to provide proof of insurance to not pay directly to the rental company. This year I will get insurance from AMA and see how it pans out.

  4. Update:
    I have a reservation for an intermediate SUV. This is from Avis Mexico:
    “Thank you for contacting me, in Mexico, we have two kinds of protections the LDW and PDW, Loss Damage Waiver (0% Deductible) and Partial Damage Waiver (With Deductible depending on the car) the LDW is not mandatory, the PDW is mandatory only in premium Cars, this booking has a regular car of the fleet, so, the LDW / PDW is not mandatory in this case.
    Regarding Third Party Insurance; the customer does not need to present any document; if the car is damaged Avis will charge the damage to the credit card directly, and we can provide all documentation to the customer, so he can contact their own insurance company.”
    Hope this helps.

  5. I’m trying to book through Discover but the different insurance coverages have me confused! I booked with MEX rent a car and I thought I only needed liability insurance but my discover voucher is telling me I may need CDW and theft protection too..?

    1. Hi Lola, as I mention in the article, I personally would not use MEX rent a car. If you check their reviews on Discover Cars you’ll see why I say that – there are many complaints about their service. Just my two cents. Regarding insurance coverage, Mexico requires third party liability (TPL) coverage. There are of course other types of coverage you might consider as well depending on your needs, including CDW and theft protection. Each type of coverage pertains to something different.

  6. Hi,
    OK, so I have been researching for a few days and would like to pass this by you to assure I have come to the correct decision. On Discover Cars I chose SIXT rent a car for San Jose Del Cabo as it has a 8.6/10 rating and great comments. I also am choosing the ‘full coverage’ through this site and will have to pay Mexican Insurance at the rental agency desk upon pickup? Or should I just pay the basic fee now and settle up for CDW, TPL and Mexican insurance upon pickup? This is a fairly confusing issue but your article has cleared up a lot of issues I had.

    1. Hi Diane – I can’t help pick individual insurance, but I can say that Mexican rental insurance is not the same as the coverage offered by Discover Cars. Yes, it’s a terribly confusing system – I think the Mexican rental agencies like it that way. I hope everything goes smoothly and you have a great trip to Cabo!

  7. So sorry to be a bother but what I intended to clarify is this: even though I have Mexican Insurance coverage, I am not covered for CDW and TPL unless I supply it myself through a third party. Correct? And if I do go ahead and secure a rental through a site such as Discover Cars, can I purchase the ‘full coverage’ at time of pickup? Again, I apologize for my tediousness but I like to have all my bases covered.
    Muchas Gracias Nate

  8. The Mexican National Car Rental online website includes “Limited Third Party Damage Protection (LTPL),” in price quotes. I assume this is the coverage required by Mexican law. When proceeding further by clicking continue the site says:

    “Remember that hiring an assistance service protects you against any unforeseen event that may arise during your trip. According to the Mexican Laws, third party liability protection (TPL) is required in all rentals without exception , so you will be asked to purchase it or a printed proof of this coverage if you have contracted it with any other institution. Save with our online protection packages!”

    Is LTPL enough to satisfy Mexican law for third-party liability? I cannot find anything that talks about these differences and I feel the website is playing a bait-and-switch game with the legally required coverage.

    1. Hi Walter, that does indeed sound confusing and is unfortunately representative of the games Mexican car rental companies tend to play. I would suggest calling or emailing the agency directly and asking if there are additional coverages required beyond what they include.

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