Deciding when it’s right for you?
Absolutely do not rent a car if you plan on drinking. You will end up in a jail that is quite opposite of your beautiful resort.
Should you rent a car to…
Drive around Cancun? NO. Traffic is terrible and parking is difficult.
Option: Cancun has an excellent bus service and thousands of taxis.
Explore the Riviera Maya? YES. This is the most convenient way to get around.
Option: We use a combination of buses, colectivo vans, and taxis (instructions in our Puerto Morelos and Northern Riviera Maya map & Tulum and Southern Riviera Maya map), but it’s not as convenient.
Drive around Isla Mujeres? NO. The island is too small to drive around. Option: Rent a golf cart, take taxis or the bus instead.
Drive around Cozumel island? YES. Hiring a taxi for the day is expensive, and there is no bus service around the island.
Option: We rent a scooter when exploring the island. (Only do this if you are an experienced driver)
Explore the Mayan ruins located inland? YES.
Option: You can do this using a combination of buses and taxis, but it is not as convenient.
Drive around Playa del Carmen? NO. Almost everything in Playa’s tourist area is within walking distance or a short taxi ride. Parking is difficult.
Option: Walking or taxis.
Staying in Akumal? Depends upon hotel location. Many properties are located a long distance from restaurants and attractions. Taxis are expensive.
Option: Rent a bicycle or golf cart.
Staying in Tulum? NO. If you are staying along the beachfront, parking can be a hassle, and you probably won’t be leaving the hotel enough to justify the expense of a car. If you are staying in downtown Tulum, restaurants are within walking distance of nearly every hotel.
Option: Use taxis to travel between the beachfront and downtown.
Note: Although it’s not as convenient, we prefer to use a combination of bus, colectivo, and taxis to get around the coastline. The only time we may rent a car in Tulum is to visit cenotes, Coba or Chichen Itza.
Hidden rental car costs
You’ll find bargain rentals for $20 to $30us per day available in many areas, but many of these deals are sponsored by a timeshare company—you’ll have to take a tour to get the bargain price.
Most companies offer a mid-size car for $40 to $50us per day, but these offers may not include all the insurance that we recommend. This can often add another $40us to the total price (DO NOT rent a car without purchasing full-coverage insurance—more information).
Example price: We checked Aviscar rental for February 15, 2015.The fee for a mid-size Nissan car was $43us (including a $4us paperwork fee and $6us in taxes); full-coverage insurance for this vehicle was $49us, bringing the total daily price (without gas—about $20us per tank) to $98us. For $120us per day you can hire a taxi and driver to take you anywhere you’d like.
Notes: Rental from the airport will also incur an airport surcharge. You can find cheaper rental companies, but make sure that you get full-coverage insurance (see the section on rental car scams).
In Mexico, if you are involved in a personal injury accident, you will probably go to jail until things can be sorted out (even if it wasn’t your fault). As a tourist (with money) the police will often side with a local driver unless the accident was overwhelmingly their fault.
If you do rent a car, absolutely get as much insurance as possible and do not count on insurance provided through your credit card. It may reimburse you later, but traffic police won’t be impressed while you are sitting in the back of their car. More information on insurance here.
Your rental car insurance provides you with a lawyer here in case something happens. I would not like to be waiting in jail for Chase to hire a lawyer to make sure you don’t wait in jail until the other party agrees with the compensation if you are at fault. I would suggest you get the Mexican insurance and rent from a reputable company, I’ve helped translate for people that thought they were saving some money and ended up having to spend time in the detention center for an accident with minor injuries.
Claudia Hurtado Valenzuela
We prefer a taxi. If the driver has an accident, flag down a different one and continue your trip.
Parking your rental car
Parking in Cancun is nearly impossible; Playa del Carmen and Isla Mujeres is not much better. If you park illegal in Mexico, the police will not give you a ticket, they will simply remove your front license plate. You probably won’t notice until you return the car and get a hefty charge for a missing plate that the company will have to track down.
Follow these links to learn more about renting cars