Renting a Car in Mexico: What to Know in 2022

Fun Car in Cozumel, Mexico

Thinking about booking a rental car in Mexico? Here’s everything you need to know about renting a car in Mexico in 2022.

I’ve traveled and periodically lived in Mexico my entire life and have plenty of experience with Mexico car rentals.

There are certain things you need to know when renting a car in Mexico, including the rules for renting a car in Mexico (FYI Mexican insurance is mandatory) and how to avoid the infamous Mexico car rental scam.

Renting a car in Mexico is one of the best ways to explore the country at your own pace, immerse yourself in the culture, and get off the beaten path.

We’ll cover what you need to know for renting a car in Mexico, plus helpful advice for driving in Mexico and a crucial tip for avoid getting charged for pre-existing damages on the rental car.

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Best Car Rental in Mexico

You’ll find the best car rental in Mexico with DiscoverCars. They have over 2,500 rental car offers in 68 cities across Mexico, with their most popular car rental locations in Cancun, Guadalajara, and Mexico City. >> Book Now

When you reserve a car through DiscoverCars, you get no hidden fees, 24/7 customer support, and free cancellations.

DiscoverCars also has a 24-hour price guarantee and offers full coverage protection (including coverage for windows, mirrors, and tires) for less than $8 USD a day.

Is It Safe to Rent a Car in Mexico?

Yes, it is considered safe to rent and drive a car in Mexico. Driving is one of our favorite ways to explore off the beaten path in Mexico and experience everything it has to offer.

We have plenty of experience driving in Mexico. I grew up on the US/Mexico border and have been driving in Mexico since I’ve had a driver’s license. My husband and co-founder of this blog, Michael, and I recently spent 6 months driving around and exploring the Baja California Peninsula in our camper van.

Check out these Mexico driving tips to help you feel more confident and stay safe when renting a car in Mexico.

Read Next: The Ultimate Guide to Palenque, Mexico

Of course, you don’t want to think about everything that can go wrong on your trip, but accidents do happen, and getting good travel insurance will help give you peace of mind during your vacation.

World Nomads Travel Insurance provides trip protection, coverage for 200+ adventure travel activities, emergency medical insurance and evacuation, and gear protection. >> Get A Quote

World Nomads’ Explorer Plan also covers reimbursement for collision, theft, or natural disaster damage to a rental car while in your possession (just make sure the rental company accepts third-party coverage).

Rules for Renting a Car in Mexico

Can you rent and drive a car in Mexico? Yes, foreigners can rent a car in Mexico with the following requirements:

  1. Passport and FMM
  2. Driver’s license
  3. Credit card
  4. Minimum age of 25-26
  5. Mexican insurance

Passport

You need a valid passport to rent a car in Mexico, along with an FMM Mexican tourist card or visa. The rental agency probably won’t ask for a tourist card, but proof of legal status in the country is needed in case of an accident and for insurance purposes.

Read our article on How to Get a Mexico FMM Tourist Card for for everything you need to know about the FMM (Forma Migratoria Multiple).

Driver’s License

A valid driver’s license is required to drive a car in Mexico. Your do not need a Mexican or international driver’s license to rent a car in Mexico. You can just use your regular driver’s license from the US, Canada, or any other country that uses the Roman alphabet.

The only exception are driver licenses printed using a non-Roman alphabet (Arabic, Japanese, Cyrillic, etc). Those licenses must be accompanied by an International Driving Permit.

Read Next: 9 Amazing Things to Do in Cozumel

Credit Card

To rent a car in Mexico, you need a credit card that’s under the main driver’s name. It used to be that using a credit card was the only way to rent a car, but some companies (like Avis, Dollar, and Hertz) now accept Mastercard or Visa debit cards too.

When you book a rental on DiscoverCars with a debit card, be sure to check the Payment Policy section of the Rental Conditions prior to booking to see if the company accepts debit cards.

Minimum Age Requirements

The minimum age required to rent a car in Mexico varies by company, but it’s usually 25-26 years old. Some rental companies do allow 18-25 year old renters, but there is usually an extra fee. To be sure, check the fine print before booking if you’re under 26.

Mexican Liability Insurance

Mexican liability insurance is necessary and required by law. You will not be allowed to rent a car in Mexico without it. Some car rental companies don’t include this cost in their total, so be prepared to pay an additional fee per day for car insurance in Mexico (more on this below).

How to Avoid the Mexico Car Rental Scam

Unfortunately, many tourists fall victim to deceptive advertising when renting a car in Mexico (and other countries). The Mexican car rental “scam” is not really a scam, but more of a misleading pricing practice that some rental companies use.

Here’s how it works: You book a Mexican rental car online for an insanely cheap rate of $5 USD a day. Once you go to pick up the car, you find out that rate does NOT include Mexican insurance and, since it’s required by law, you must pay an extra $10 to $20 USD per day for Mexican liability insurance in order to actually rent the car.

So how do you avoid the car rental “scam” in Mexico?

Be sure to read the fine print and check what’s included in your price quote for the car rental in Mexico. If Mexican liability insurance (also called Third Party Liability) is not included in the total cost, calculate an extra $10-20 USD per day.

Read Next: 20+ Amazing Things to Do in Valladolid, Yucatan

Mandatory Mexico Car Insurance

What insurance is required when renting a car in Mexico? Mexican liability insurance is mandatory and required by law in Mexico.

Even if you have coverage back home, you will need additional Mexican insurance (also called third party liability) when renting a car in Mexico. There’s no way to avoid paying for Mexican car insurance without breaking the law.

Mandatory Mexican liability insurance covers bodily injuries and property damages to others in case of an accident. It does not cover injuries to yourself or damage to or theft of your rental car, but it is the bare minimum required by law.

To be completely safe and get the best Mexican car insurance, we recommend paying for maximum coverage with no deductible. Including additional insurance coverage for natural disasters, minor damages, theft, and personal injury.

DiscoverCars offers a Full Coverage option (including coverage for windows, mirrors, and tires) for less than $8 USD a day.

Credit card car rental insurance offered as a benefit by popular travel credit cards, like American Express and Chase Sapphire, may provide Secondary Coverage (meaning you’ll pay out of pocket and eventually get a reimbursement).

We’ve heard Amex provides Primary Coverage for an extra fee, but you need to check with your card for details and make sure the rental company accepts this coverage before booking (some don’t).

It’s not mandatory, but you really should get medical coverage in case of an accident. World Nomads travel insurance covers emergency medical care and evacuation to your home country. >> Get a Quote Now

Cost of Renting a Car in Mexico

So how much does it cost to rent a car in Mexico? Prices have gone up recently and the cost varies by location and time of the year.

Here are the average car rental fees for the most popular locations on DiscoverCars in 2022:

These prices may not include Mexican insurance. Calculate an extra $10-20 USD per day for the additional cost of mandatory insurance in Mexico. Always read the fine print to see if you will have to pay extra fees for things like insurance or taxes.

Add-on options like extra drivers, GPS navigation, and baby seats are usually available for an additional fee.

Read Next: How to Use Money in Mexico

Renting a Car in Mexico: Step-by-Step

Renting a car in Mexico is easy and similar to renting a car in the US. The difference is that you will need a passport and Mexican liability insurance.

If you’ve never rented a car before, here’s a helpful step-by-step guide to renting a car in Mexico through DiscoverCars.

Booking a Mexico Car Rental

  • Go to DiscoverCars.com and enter your destination, dates, country of residence, and age in the search form
  • Compare the car rental offers and use the filters to find one that fits your needs and budget
  • Look for the “Excellent Car Rental Service” badge given to companies with high customer ratings
  • Click on “Rental Conditions” to see the driver requirements, deposit amount, payment methods, and included insurance
  • Choose “Full Coverage” to cover your deductible/excess, towing expenses, repair costs (including mirrors, windows, and tires), and more
  • Confirm the total, enter the driver details (including flight number), and click “Book Now” to pay
  • Print a copy of the car rental voucher to bring with

Read Next: 14 Amazing Things To Do in Loreto, Mexico

Picking Up the Rental Car

  • In order to pick up the car, the following documents are required: passport, driver’s license, credit card, car rental voucher. You might also want to download a translation app, just in case.
  • The card is used for the car’s security deposit, which can range from $0 (if fully insured) to $3,000+ USD. If using a credit card, an amount of credit equal to the deposit is blocked off and held until you return the car. If using a debit card, the deposit amount is withdrawn from your account and refunded.
  • When picking up the vehicle, all drivers must be present and must provide valid documentation
  • Be sure to get the company’s 24/7 emergency number
  • Take photos of the car during the pick up inspection and make sure all existing damage is noted on the contract
  • Take note of the amount of fuel in the tank
  • Ask any questions you may have about driving and operating the vehicle, like how to turn off the alarm

Dropping Off the Rental Car

  • Fill the gas tank with the same amount it had when you picked it up to avoid additional fees
  • Throw out any trash, dust off sand, and leave the car reasonably clean to avoid a cleaning fee
  • Inspect the car along with the car rental agent and, if needed, be sure to show your photo proof to avoid charges for any pre-existing damage

Things to Know About Renting a Car in Mexico

We’ve gone over essential info, but there are still a few more things you should know about renting a car in Mexico.

Here are some frequently asked questions about Mexico car rentals:

Do I Need an International Driver’s License for Mexico?

US citizens renting a car in Mexico can rent a car with only a US license. US and Canadian driver’s licenses are fine to use in Mexico. In fact, most foreign citizens renting a car in Mexico can use their country’s valid driver’s license to drive.

You do not need a Mexican or international driver’s license to rent a car in Mexico. The only exception are driver licenses printed using a non-Roman alphabet (Arabic, Japanese, Cyrillic, etc). Those must be accompanied by an International Driving Permit.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Rent a Car in Mexico?

Another frequent question when renting a car in Mexico is regarding the minimum age for renters. The legal driving age in Mexico is 18, but most Mexican car rental companies require drivers to be a minimum of 25 or 26 years old and a maximum of 70-80.

A few Mexican car rental companies allow drivers 18 and up, but might charge an additional Young Driver Fee for renters under the age of 25-26. Age requirements vary by company, so read the fine print before booking.

If you book a rental on DiscoverCars, you can enter your age before searching and they’ll include this fee in the total.

What is the Cheapest Car Rental in Mexico?

DiscoverCars has hundreds of low-priced car rentals in Mexico. They search and compare offers from car rental companies in Mexico (including world-wide car rental companies like Hertz and Enterprise) to help you find the best deal.

The cheapest car rental company in Mexico is usually Mex Rent a Car. >>Book now on DiscoverCars

DiscoverCars offers full coverage protection for less than $8 USD a day – about half the price of other car rental sites. Full coverage includes all exterior parts of the vehicle (windows, mirrors, and wheels), which others often exclude.

You can also search for cheap rental cars on RentalCars and Kayak Cars to compare costs across booking sites.

How Do I Save Money When Renting a Car in Mexico?

  • Search DiscoverCars for the best deals
  • Rent the car outside of the airport to avoid an Airport Pick Up fee
  • Book your rental car ahead of time
  • Return the car clean and with sufficient fuel to avoid paying extra fines
  • Visit during off-season when prices are lower
  • Pick up and drop off the rental at the same location to avoid costly one-way fees

What Do I Do in Case of an Accident?

If there’s an accident, call the local emergency services number or 911 for assistance. The car rental company gives you an emergency hotline number to call and report any issues. Be sure to save this number in your phone’s contacts and call them as soon as possible if something happens.

Does My Credit Card Cover Rentals Cars in Mexico?

Some credit cards with travel benefits may provide coverage while renting a car in Mexico, but you still need to pay for Mexican liability insurance per the local law. Always check with both your credit card and the car rental company before booking to make sure you’re covered.

Is it Hard to Drive in Mexico?

No, it’s not hard to drive in Mexico, especially in flat areas like the Yucatan Peninsula. Some roads are well-maintained, especially the toll (cuota) roads, while others have many potholes. Just be vigilant so you don’t fall into a pothole and pop a tire.

Read our essential Mexico driving tips for more essential info.

Can You Drive an American Car in Mexico?

Yes, you can drive an American car in Mexico. We take our American cars to Mexico often, including several months driving around Baja California to places like Todos Santos and Loreto.

You must have Mexican car insurance to drive an American or Canadian car in Mexico. Check out how to get Mexican car insurance for more details.

You do not need a special permit for driving your car in the Baja Peninsula or the free zone of Sonora, but you do need a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for anywhere else Mexico.

Renting a Car in Cancun

Renting a car in Cancun, Mexico is the best way to explore the Yucatan Peninsula. You can also use Mexico’s ADO bus system to get to some of the destinations in the Riviera Maya, but driving allows you to really get out there and off the beaten path!

Rental cars are conveniently available for pickup at the Cancun airport. You can rent a car in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. Renting a car is honestly the best choice here since there’s are no Ubers and taxis in the area are known for overcharging.

I used to live in Playa del Carmen and Cozumel and I’ve driven around this area many times. It’s perfectly safe, the roads are easy to drive, and a Yucatan peninsula road trip to visit ancient ruins, cute colonial towns, and refreshing cenotes is always so much fun. Pack along this Yucatan Peninsula road map and hit the road!

Read Next: 50+ Things To Do in Merida: Big City Life on the Yucatan Peninsula

Renting a Car in Mexico City

While renting a car in Mexico City is an option, it’s not recommended for exploring the city itself. Mexico City is known for its terrible traffic and parking is hard to find. 

For getting around Mexico City, try EcoBici public bicycles, Uber, the Mexico City Metro, or other local transport instead.

Booking a Mexico City rental car is worth it for heading straight out of the city for a Mexico road trip or to the must-see archeological ruins nearby, but you can also book this award-winning tour to Teotihuacán and skip the headache of driving through traffic.

Renting a Car in Los Cabos

Renting a car in Los Cabos is an excellent option for exploring the southern end of the Baja Peninsula.

There are many popular destinations and hidden gems to explore within a 1 to 3 hour drive from Los Cabos, including Todos Santos, La Paz, Sierra de la Laguna, Cabo Pulmo, and La Ventana.

Check out our Classic Baja California Road Trip Itinerary for more ideas.

8 Must-Read Mexico Driving Tips

Driving in Mexico is not difficult and it’s safe as long as you are a responsible driver and follow the rules of the road.

These are our best tips for driving in Mexico:

Avoid Driving at Night

There are several reasons why driving at night in Mexico is not a good idea. There are countless animals (especially cows) wandering on the road, unexpected speed bumps and potholes, and unmarked dangerous curves.

Watch Out for Topes and Baches

There are many speed bumps in Mexico because they are used to reduce speeding, especially when entering towns.Topes (speed bumps) and baches (pot holes) are notorious throughout Mexico for popping out of nowhere and can cause serious damage to cars. Some speed bumps have road signs next to them, but many don’t. Keep an eye out for them and be ready to slow down at any point.

Download Offline Maps

Download Google Maps or Maps.me offline before driving outside of cities because cell service can be spotty to non-existent in some parts of Mexico.

We carry this road map of Mexico by National Geographic when driving. It’s waterproof and has hundreds of points of interest (including ruins and national parks), a detailed road network, and topographic features. National Geographic also sells this map of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Take the Toll Roads

Tolls roads (carreteras de cuota) are well-maintained and have less stops than free (libre) roads, allowing you to get to your destination quickly and smoothly. Mexican tolls roads do not take cards or US dollars. Bring plenty of cash and coins in Mexican pesos for the toll fees.

Get Free Road Side Assistance

The Angeles Verdes (Green Angels) is a free road side assistance program in Mexico. They roam around roads frequented by tourists and help stranded vehicles. They provide extra fuel, mechanical repairs (you must pay for car parts), and towing for free. Dial 078 for assistance from the Angeles Verdes.

Pay Attention to Speed Limits and Road Signs

There are speed limits in Mexico and they are clearly marked by speed limit sign with a large number circled in red. The number is the speed limit in kilometers per hour (Km/h). If you’re used to miles per hour, there’s no need to do any conversions, as the speedometer on your Mexican rental car will also be in kilometers per hour.

Gas Stations are Full-Service

Unlike self-serve gas stations in the US, Mexican gas stations have attendants at the pump that will fill up the gas tank for you and accept payment. It is illegal to fill your own gas in Mexico (probably for safety reasons), so don’t try it.

Attendants can also wash your windows and check the fluid levels if asked. You should tip the gas attendants in Mexico about $10-30 pesos for their services.

Not all gas stations take cards, so make sure to carry enough Mexican pesos in cash or ask Aceptan tarjeta? (Do you take cards?) before filling up.

Be Cautious With Mexican Police

What should you do if you get pulled over by the police in Mexico? If you have done something illegal, follow them to the station to pay the fine. They usually will not give out tickets to foreigners since they might leave the country without paying the fine.

The sad reality is that most Mexican police are very poorly paid and some have been known to pull over innocent drivers, make up an infraction, and ask for a bribe to supplement their income. Bribing a police officer is illegal and their behavior shouldn’t be reinforced, but many scared drivers end up paying just to get out of this sketchy situation.

If you are 100% sure you have not done anything wrong, explain this to them, remain calm, and firmly refuse any “direct payment”. They will say that you can follow them to the station pay a steep fine (a bluff) or just pay them directly for less. It’s a matter of time and persistence. If you are respectful, but confident that you have not broken any laws, they will eventually give up and let you go.

Final Thoughts on Renting a Car in Mexico

Renting a car in Mexico is safe and the ideal way to get to know the country in a way most tourists don’t and travel at your own pace. Doing a road trip in the Yucatan Peninsula or Baja California is an epic adventure you won’t soon forget!

For the best deals on Mexico car rentals we recommend DiscoverCars. Don’t forget to opt for full insurance coverage to stay safe and avoid paying for accidental damages to the car.

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