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Renting a Car in Mexico in 2024: Everything You Need to Know

Renting a car gives you the freedom to explore Mexico on your own time. When you have your own transportation, you can visit places other tourists miss. Renting a car gives you freedom and flexibility. Public transport doesn’t go everywhere. You also don’t have to wait around for a bus or rely on taxis. Of course, there are some challenges to renting a car in Mexico. Scams and hidden costs can be an issue. Insurance can also be confusing. Driving in a foreign country is somewhat intimidating.

This guide explains everything you need to know about renting a car in Mexico. We’ll cover rental car costs, where to book, Mexican auto insurance, common rental car scams, hidden fees to look out for, and more. We’ll also outline some of the best car rental companies and share some tips for finding deals on rental cars in Mexico. I’ll also share a few helpful tips about driving in Mexico. The rules of the road are a bit different than you may be used to.

At this point, I’ve been living in Mexico for about 3 years. During that time, I have rented cars throughout the country. I’ve rented cars in Tijuana, Cancun, Mexico City, and more. In this guide, I’ll walk you through the rental process and share my experience.

A highway in Mexico City
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for details.

Key Takeaways

-To rent a car in Mexico, you will need a valid driver’s license, a credit card, and Mexican auto insurance. You don’t need an international driving permit.

-Foreign auto insurance isn not valid in Mexico. You need Mexican auto insurance. You can buy insurance from the rental company. Consider buying full coverage. Basic coverage may not be enough.

-Thoroughly inspect the rental car for existing damage and ensure all defects are documented before you drive off. Some companies will try to charge you for damage you didn’t cause.

-Be cautious of rental car scams. Some agencies advertise prices that don’t include insurance, taxes, and other fees. Read the fine print and ask for the total price before signing the rental contract.

On average, it costs $30-$50 per day to rent a car in Mexico.

Table of Contents

Teotihuacan, Mexico

How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Car in Mexico?

On average, it costs between $30 and $50 per day to rent an economy car in Mexico. This price includes full coverage insurance.

Prices vary depending on where you’re renting the car, the season, the age of the driver, the type of insurance you buy, and the type of car you’re renting.

In popular tourist destinations, such as Cancun or Cabos San Lucas, rental car prices are higher than in less touristy cities. During the busy season and during holidays, prices are also higher due to increased demand. In Mexico, June-August and Christmas/New Year are the busiest times of the year. Automatics are more expensive than manuals.

A highway outside of Monterrey, Mexico
Mexico offers beautiful landscapes

What are the Best Car Rental Companies in Mexico?

There isn’t really a best rental car company. All of the international rental car companies have locations in Mexico including Avis, Hertz, Enterprize, Budget, Thrifty, Alamo, Sixt, America Car Rental, etc. If you regularly rent from one of these car rental companies, consider using their services in Mexico. You’ll already be familiar with their service.

There are also several Mexican car rental companies including Mex Rent a Car and Mexico Car Rental. Sometimes these companies offer good deals. You’ll also find smaller independent companies.

When deciding which car rental company to use, you’ll want to consider:

  • Price- Prices can vary greatly between car rental companies.
  • Loyalty rewards program- Large chains offer loyalty points for renting a car. You may be able to take advantage of a loyalty program if you regularly rent cars. You can use points for upgrades or discounts.
  • The type of vehicle you need- Most of the available cars are economy models with manual transmissions. If you need a larger vehicle or an automatic, you may need to shop around.
  • Location of the car rental office- Most car rental companies have offices at the airport. There are also locations in the city. One car rental office may be more convenient for you to rent from.
  • Reviews-Always read some reviews of different car rental companies before renting a car in Mexico. If the car rental company gets less than 4/5 stars, consider booking somewhere else. Keep an eye out for review mentioning scams.

The best way to find the lowest rate is to search a 3rd party booking sight such as Kayak, DiscoverCars, or On these sites you can compare the cost across multiple rental companies.

In my experience Mex Rent a Car and America Car Rental tend to offer the lowest rates for rental cars in Mexico. These are both reputable companies.

Oaxaca City, Mexico
Oaxaca City, Mexico

Rental Car Scams and Hidden Fees

There is one common scam that many Mexican rental car agencies run. Some agencies advertise an extremely low daily rental rate for their cars. You may see rates as low as $5-$10 per day. Uninformed tourists book these cheap rental cars thinking they’re getting a great deal.

When you arrive at the rental office, you will be surprised with a range of taxes, service fees, and insurance charges. After factoring in all of the additional charges, a rental that you thought was going to cost $5 per day actually ends up costing $40 per day.

The biggest expense is insurance. Most agencies require that you buy their insurance, which costs $15-$20 per day. This is not included in the online quote.

This isn’t really a scam. It’s dishonest marketing. The information about the additional taxes and insurance charges is all available in the fine print but who reads that? If it seems too good to be true, it is.

Before signing the rental contract, you should also ask to see the final total price for the rental so you know what you’ll be paying. If you’re not happy with the price, you can leave.

When booking a car with an extremely low daily rate, you can triple the price to get a rough idea of the actual daily rate. For example, if a car is advertised at $10 per day, you can assume it will cost around $30 per day with insurance and tax.

Another common scam to look out for is when an agency tries to charge you for damage you didn’t cause. For example, maybe there is a small dent on the vehicle. When you return it, the rental agency claims you caused the dent and they charge you for it. This is a true scam.

You can avoid this by documenting any damage to the vehicle before you sign the rental contract. Take photos with your phone as evidence.

You could be charged an expensive cleaning fee if you track a bit of sand or mud into the car. If you’re worried about this, try to clean out the inside of the car before returning it.

What Documents Do I Need to Rent a Car in Mexico?

To rent a car in Mexico, you will need the following documents:

  • Valid driver’s license
  • Credit card
  • Mexican Insurance
  • Passport

In the following sections, I’ll outline the document requirements for renting a car in Mexico.

Driver’s License

You need a valid driver’s license to rent a car in Mexico. You can use your regular driver’s license. Licenses from most countries, including the U.S. Canada, U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and most European countries are accepted. You don’t need a Mexican driver’s license or an international driver’s license.

There is one exception. Your license must be printed in a language that uses the roman alphabet (the alphabet you’re currently reading). If your driver’s license is printed in a language that uses another type of script, such as Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, or Cyrillic, you’ll need to get an international driving permit.

Credit Card

To rent a car in Mexico, you need a credit card. The card must be in the driver’s name. The rental company will place a hold or authorization on the card in case you damage the car. This hold acts as a deposit.

The amount of the deposit depends on the company you rent from and which insurance policy you buy. With basic liability insurance, most car rental companies put a $700-$1500 hold on your card.

You can usually get around the hold by purchasing full coverage insurance from the car rental agency. The company will still want to have your card on file to charge for the car rental.

Some car rental companies accept debit cards and but most do not. When you return the car, you can pay however you want. You can use the credit card, another card, or pay in cash.

It’s better to use a credit card, even if debit cards are accepted. When you use a debit card, the company charges your card and the deposit comes out of your account. It may take a few days to get your money back. When you use a credit card, the money is just on hold. In addition, using a credit card also gives you more protection. If the rental agency tries to overcharge you or charge you for damage you didn’t do, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company. You can’t easily dispute charges if you pay with a debit card.

Mexican Auto Insurance

To rent a car in Mexico, you need auto insurance. The insurance must be issued by a Mexican auto insurance company. Foreign insurance isn’t accepted in Mexico. You can buy insurance from the rental car company. It is also possible to buy insurance form a third-party booking company or use credit card insurance in some situations

The minimum legal coverage is called personal liability insurance. Additional coverage is also available. I’ll cover Mexican car insurance in-depth in the next section.

Do I Need a Passport to Rent a Car in Mexico?

Many car rental companies ask for a copy of your passport when you rent a car in Mexico. You may also need to show your passport if you get pulled over by the police and when you drive through military checkpoints. Your passport and immigration document prove that you’re in Mexico legally.

For more info, check out my guide: Do I Need a Passport to Go To Mexico?

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

Most Mexican rental car companies only rent to people who are 25 and older. Some agencies rent to people who are 21-24. For younger drivers, there is usually a young driver surcharge. This adds $10-$20 per day to the cost of the car rental. In addition, younger drivers may also be required to purchase full coverage insurance to rent the car.

A handful of agencies rent to drivers as young as 18 years old. These are rare but they do exist. The minimum legal age to drive in Mexico is 18. Those who are younger than 18 can’t rent a car or drive in Mexico.

If you’re younger than 25, you should call and ask about their underage driver policy. Ask about fees and surcharges.

Rental Car Insurance

You need insurance to rent a car in Mexico. Some rental car agencies won’t rent you a car unless you purchase insurance from them. Third-party insurance that you buy online or get through your credit card is valid but some companies don’t accept it. For this reason, it’s best to just buy insurance from the rental company.

Some car rental companies will still rent you a car but will charge a large deposit if you decline to buy their insurance. For example, they may put a hold on your credit card for $2500 or more.

If you don’t want to worry about insurance, simply buy the full coverage policy from the rental company. This is the easiest and most convenient option.

How Much is Does Mexican Car Insurance Cost?

The price of car rental insurance depends on the company and which policy you buy. In general, a personal liability insurance policy costs $10-$15 per day. For more protection, you can buy a full coverage policy for around $20-$25 per day.

If you buy the minimum liability policy, the deductible is usually around $2000. If you buy full coverage insurance, there is usually zero deductible.

What Kind of Insurance do You Need to Rent a Car in Mexico?

To rent a car in Mexico, you need third-party personal liability insurance (sometimes called TPL). This is the minimum legal coverage.

Rental car companies offer a range of insurance options. Insurance can be complicated. It’s important to know what’s covered and what’s not. If you’re not properly insured and you get in an accident, you could end up in jail. In this section, I’ll outline a few common rental car insurance options.

Personal Liability Insurance

Personal liability insurance covers you financially if you damage another person’s property or injure another person with your vehicle. For example, if you cause an accident, third-party liability insurance will pay for repairs for the other car or medical care for the driver and passengers if they are injured. Third-party insurance can also cover you if you’re sued by the other driver.

Your liability insurance policy must be issued by a Mexican insurance company. This means you can’t use your regular auto insurance from back home. It’s not valid in Mexico. This law is kind of unique to Mexico. In most other countries, any valid insurance policy is accepted. This is not the case in Mexico.

Collision Insurance (CDW or LDW)

Collision insurance covers damage to the rental vehicle if you’re involved in an accident. This insurance is also known as collision damage waiver (CDW).

If you’re involved in an accident and you have CDW insurance, you won’t have to pay for the damage out of pocket. This will cover you if you’re hit by an uninsured driver or if you cause an accident.

CDW only covers damage to the rental car. It does not cover damage to other vehicles. Sometimes this insurance also covers the loss of the vehicle caused by theft. This is called a loss damage waiver (LDW).

You can buy collision insurance from the rental agency. Some travel credit cards include CDW insurance for rental cars. Sometimes travel insurance includes it. You can also buy it from a third-party booking site.

It’s important to note that if you choose to use your credit card for CDW insurance, you will usually have to pay the rental agency out of pocket for any damage you cause to the car. You will then have to file a claim with your credit card company to get reimbursed.

Full Coverage Insurance

Most car rental companies also full coverage insurance. This policy gives you maximum protection. It includes liability insurance, collision, and comprehensive coverage.

Having full coverage insurance brings peace of mind. If you cause an accident, get hit by an uninsured driver, lose the vehicle to theft, or if the vehicle gets vandalized, you won’t have a major out-of-pocket expense.

It’s important to note that some damage may not be covered by full coverage insurance. Some policies exclude certain parts of the car, such as the glass or tires. Sometimes lost keys aren’t covered. Minor damage such as knicks and scratches to the paint may also be excluded. If a rock cracks your window or if you drive over a sharp object and destroy a tire, you may have to pay for repairs out of pocket, even if you have full coverage insurance.

Sometimes all damage is covered with full coverage insurance. It’s important to read your policy so you know exactly what is covered and what’s not.

Another benefit of full coverage is that you usually don’t have to pay a deposit with your credit card.

Personally, I usually opt for the full coverage policy when I rent a car in Mexico just to be safe. Being fully insured brings me peace of mind.

Oaxaca City, Mexico
Oaxaca City

Where and How to Book A Rental Car in Mexico

The easiest way to reserve a rental car in Mexico is to book online in advance. You can book either through a third-party car rental website or directly with the rental car company. It’s also possible book in person.

The main advantage of booking online through a third-party site is that you can easily compare prices from multiple companies. Some booking sites you can use include Discover Cars, Kayak, and These sites allow you to search for car rentals from both international and Mexican rental companies.

The drawback to booking through a third-party company is that most agencies give priority to their direct bookings. If another customer doesn’t return the car on time, and there are no cars left, you may be out of luck. It’s also more expensive to book through a third-party company. Sometimes you can save some money by calling the agency and booking directly or booking through their website.

You can also simply walk into a car rental office and rent a car without making a reservation in advance. If you’re lucky, you can score a great deal this way. You may even be able to negotiate a discount or an upgrade if you’re traveling during the off-season when business is slow.

The drawback is that you won’t get a car if all of the vehicles are booked. You won’t want to rely on a walk-in car rental during the busy season or holidays or if you really need a car.

If you’re traveling during peak season, it’s important to book in advance. The peak tourist season in most of Mexico runs from October through late April. The holidays can also get busy. If you’re traveling during these times, try to book at least a month or so in advance. Sometimes cars sell out. Prices are also higher.

Inspect Your Rental for Damage & Take Photos Before Signing the Contract

Before signing the rental agreement, do a walkaround with the rental agent and look for any damage. Be sure to document all damage to the vehicle. Look carefully for scratches, dents, dings, paint chips, cracks in windows, stains in upholstery, tears in upholstery, tire damage, and any other minor damage you can spot. Look inside the car and out.

The rental agent will have a piece of paper where they will mark the damage. You should receive a copy of this. Use your phone to take photos and videos of any damage as well. You can use this as evidence if the rental company tries to charge you for damage you didn’t cause. It’s also a good idea to take some photos and videos when you return the car so they can’t try to charge you for damage caused by the next renter.

Rental scams in Mexico aren’t particularly common but they exist, just like everywhere else in the world.

Queretaro Aquaduct

FAQ about Renting a Car in Mexico

Are One-way Car Rentals Available in Mexico?

One-way rentals are available but they are usually expensive. Sometimes you can score a deal if a company needs to reposition cars.

Oftentimes you can rent a car at the airport and drop it off in town for no additional fee. Renting a car at the airport is sometimes more expensive than renting from an office that’s located in the city.

Can You Rent a Car in Mexico and Drive to the United States?

Usually not. Most Mexican rental car companies only allow you to drive the car in Mexico. There are some rare exceptions.

If you attempt to drive a Mexican rental car into the U.S. the border agents may not allow you to enter.

Can You Rent a Car in the United States and Drive to Mexico?

It’s possible but there are some restrictions. It’s not straightforward. Most U.S. rental car companies only allow you to drive the car in the U.S. and Canada. You can’t simply book a rental online and drive it to Mexico.

If you want to drive the car to Mexico, you’ll have to arrange it in advance with the agency. Some large international rental agencies allow you to rent a car to drive to Mexico. You’ll have to call ahead and arrange this with the agency before booking the car.

There will be some additional requirements. You’ll have to pay an additional fee. You may have to pay a larger deposit. There will also be extra insurance requirements. You’ll have to buy Mexican insurance for the car. You will also need to fill out some extra paperwork before you can drive the rental to Mexico. For example, you may need a letter of permission from the rental agency.

If you’re starting your trip in the U.S. and you want to cross the border into Mexico, it’s easier to rent a separate car on both sides of the border. Drop your U.S. rental car off, walk across the border on foot, and then rent a different car in Mexico.

Are the Rental Cars in Mexico Automatic or Manual?

These days, almost all rental cars in Mexico come with an automatic transmission. You don’t need to know how to drive a stick shift to rent a car in Mexico.

There are some exceptions. Some agencies offer economy cars in stick shift. If you don’t know how to drive a manual, you should reserve a car with an automatic.

Can I Buy Mexican Auto Insurance at the Border?

No. You can’t buy Mexican auto insurance at the border. You can buy Mexican auto insurance near the border before you cross into Mexico. In most border towns, you’ll find kiosks where you can buy a temporary insurance policy in just a few minutes. For a full coverage policy, temporary Mexican auto insurance costs around $20-$25 per day.

You can also buy temporary insurance online. I use Baja Bound Mexican Insurance. They offer affordable prices. You can get a free quote in just a couple of minutes.

Keep in mind that some rental car agencies won’t accept third-party insurance. You’ll want to check before you book.

Do You Need to Rent a Car in Mexico?

Whether or not you actually need to rent a car depends on the type of vacation you’re taking, where you’re going in Mexico, your travel style, and how comfortable you are with driving in a foreign country.

Some visitors assume that they need a rental car. This is not always the case. It’s pretty easy to get around Mexico without a car.

Most Mexican cities have decent public transportation. For example, Mexico City’s metro is affordable and extensive. Uber and taxis are also available in every city. Many cities are also walkable. Major tourist attractions are all accessible by public transport. Mexico also has an excellent long-distance bus network for trips between cities. There are also several budget airlines. Airport transport is easily available. You really don’t need a car if you don’t want to drive. Of course, if you’re just planning to stay in your resort and hang out on the beach, you’ll have no use for a car.

If you want to have the freedom to explore on your own, renting a car is a great option. There are some hidden gems that are not easily accessed by public transportation. For example, with a car, you can drive to Chichen Itza before the tourist buses arrive in the morning and have some time to explore on your own. Mexico’s wine region, Valle de Guadalupe is also much easier to explore with a car. Of course, driving is also more comfortable than taking the bus or riding public transport.

Of course, you don’t have to rent a car for the whole trip. You could rent a car for a few days to explore the areas that are harder to access with public transport then return the car and explore the city. This is what I often do.

Is it Safe to Drive a Rental Car in Mexico?

Yes. It is safe to rent a car and drive in Mexico. The country has a well-developed road network. Most drivers follow the law. The rules of the road are familiar. Driving in Mexico isn’t much different from driving in the United States or Canada.

That said, driving in a foreign country can be an intimidating. Driving can be a bit more aggressive in Mexico. Sometimes people drive close together. They may use their horn ore often than you’re used to. Signage can be poor. It’s easy to get lost in some places. It’s important stay alert and drive defensively to stay safe.

Before your trip, familiarize yourself with local traffic laws and road signs. Remember, the signs are in Spanish and the speed limits are in kilometers per hour. Wear your seatbelt, respect speed limits, and don’t use your phone while driving.

Road conditions can vary. In Baja and Yucatan Peninsula and in large cities and touristy areas, the roads are generally good. In poorer parts of Mexico, such as Oaxaca and Chiapas, the road conditions can be poor. You will experience potholes and speed bumps.

Major crimes like carjacking and kidnapping aren’t common. In some regions, there are military checkpoints you’ll have to pass through. In Chiapas, locals sometimes set up roadblocks and demand payment to pass. This is mostly just an annoyance.

Before driving, you should research your destination and route. Consider reading the Mexico travel advisory. There are some roads in Mexico that aren’t safe to drive. For example, there are roads that are controlled by the cartels. Stick to major highways while traveling between cities. Avoid driving at night.

For more general info on safety, check out my guide: Is Mexico Safe? Avoiding Crime and Scams.

A police car in Mexico

Police Corruption in Mexico

Corruption is a major problem in police forces across Mexico. It’s not uncommon for an officer to stop a tourist and solicit a bribe or ‘mordida’ in Spanish.

After stopping you, the officer will accuse you of a crime. When you’re stopped, the officer will ask to see your driver’s license, registration, proof of insurance, and your passport and FMM.

The officer may imply that you can settle the problem right there and then by paying a fine in cash. They are asking for a bribe.

To learn how to deal with, heck out my guide to police corruption in Mexico.

The best way to avoid getting pulled over is to obey all traffic laws.

A City-by-City Guide to Renting a Car in Mexico

You can rent a car in pretty much any decent-sized city in Mexico. In this section, I’ll outline the process of renting a car in some of Mexico’s most popular destinations.

Renting A Car in Mexico City

Downtown, Mexico City

The most convenient place to rent a car in Mexico City is at the airport. All of the major rental agencies have offices there. There are also rental offices located throughout the city.

For most visitors, renting a car in Mexico City is not worth it. The traffic is congested and parking can be difficult to find. People drive fast and close together. It’s a stressful place to drive. Most people avoid driving in Mexico City.

In addition, the public transportation system in Mexico City is reliable and affordable. To get around Mexico City without a car, you can take the metro, ride the bus, take taxis and Ubers, or use the city’s EcoBici (shared bicycles) program. The Mexico City Metro is particularly cheap and efficient. A ticket costs just 5 pesos (around $0.25).

There are plenty of agencies that offer car rentals, but the rates can be high in the city. This is one of the most expensive places in Mexico to rent a car.

Unless you have a specific reason for renting a car in Mexico City, it is probably not worth the hassle. One exception is if you’re planning to take day trips outside of Mexico City. In this case, renting a car may be worth considering. There are plenty of towns near Mexico City that are worth visiting including Taxco and Cuernavaca.

Renting a Car in Cancun

A beach in Cancun

It can be worthwhile to rent a car in Cancun if you’re planning on exploring the region and not just spending your vacation at a resort. A rental car allows you to explore the surrounding area. There are some fascinating Mayan ruins and beautiful cenotes located near Cancun. You can also drive to the famous archeological site, Chichen Itza.

The most convenient place to rent a car in Cancun is at the airport. All of the rental agencies have offices there. From there, you can easily drive to your hotel. Cancun airport is located about 13 miles or 21 km from the city. Of course, there are also rental offices in the city.

The rental rate is usually the same whether you rent at the airport or in the city. Most rental car companies allow you to drop the car off either at the airport or in the city without charging an extra fee.

You don’t need to rent a car to get around Cancun. Public transportation can take you wherever you need to go in the city. It’s convenient and affordable. If you’re staying in an all-inclusive resort or sticking to the beach, you won’t need to drive.

That said, public transportation in Cancun can be slow. It’s also important to note that Uber doesn’t operate in Cancun. Taxis are expensive here.

Renting a Car in Cabo San Lucas

Renting a car in Los Cabos gives you the freedom to explore the area on your own. There are many beautiful beaches located outside of Cabo that are difficult to visit without a vehicle.

There are many rental car agencies located in Cabo San Lucas. For most visitors, the airport is the most convenient place to rent a car. All of the rental agencies have offices there. From the airport in San Jose del Cabo, it’s a 45 minute drive to Cabo San Lucas.

You don’t need a rental car to enjoy Cabo. Public transport is available. You can get around pretty easily without a car. There are plenty of things to do in the city.

Renting a Car in Playa del Carmen or Tulum

It can be worthwhile to rent a car in Playa del CarmenPlaya del Carmen or Tulum. These cities are within easy reach of some great attractions, including Chichen Itza, the eco-park Xcaret, and a number of cenotes. Having a rental car gives you freedom to explore at your own pace.

The most convenient place to rent a car is at Cancun airport. From there, it’s an easy drive south to Playa del Carmen or Tulum. The drive to Playa del Carmen takes around 1 hour. Alternatively, you could rent a car in the city of Playa del Carmen. There are several rental offices in the city center. The cost is usually a bit higher than at Cancun airport.

Tijuana, Mexico
Tijuana, Baja California

11. Tips for Driving in Mexico

Driving in Mexico is pretty straightforward. That said, there are a few things to keep in mind. In this section, I’ll share 10 tips to help you stay safe while driving in Mexico. For even more info, check out my guide to driving in Mexico.

1. Avoid Driving at Night in Mexico

There are a number of reasons for this. Some stretches of road are not well-lit. Pedestrians and animals can walk on the road. It’s hard to see them at night. Signage also isn’t very good in many cities. If you make a wrong turn, you could end up in a bad neighborhood or on a dangerous back road. Crime is also higher at night. Carjackings aren’t common but they still happen in Mexico.

If you must drive at night, stick to major roads. Use the toll roads and main thoroughfares in cities. Major roads are safer because police presence is higher.

2. Keep an Eye Out for Topes (Speed Bumps)

There are a lot of speed bumps in Mexico. It’s pretty annoying. These speed bumps, or topes in Spanish, can cause damage to your rental car if you’re not careful and you hit them too hard. They can be difficult to see. Usually they are marked with a sign but sometimes they aren’t. It’s important to be on the lookout. When approaching a speed bump, slow way down. Some of these bumps are so high that the bottom of the car will scrape.

3. Pay Attention to Speed Limits

In Mexico, speed limits are marked in kilometers per hour. If you’re used to driving in the U.S, this can take some getting used to. The speedometer in your rental car will also be marked with kilometers per hour.

Speed limits also change quickly in Mexico. The speed limit on the highway might be 100 kilometers per hour. It will quickly drop to 50 when you enter a town or village. Then it might go back up to 100. Pay attention to the signs so you don’t get caught speeding. There are speed traps in Mexico.

4. Police Checkpoints are Common on Mexican Roads

Police checkpoints are common in Mexico. If you’re going to be driving long distances, you will pass through several checkpoints.

When the police stop you, they will ask to see your passport and driver’s license. They could also briefly search the vehicle. Sometimes, they’ll just wave you through.

As long as you have your documents in order, there’s no need to worry. The officers working these checkpoints are usually friendly. Usually, it only takes a couple of minutes to pass through. Sometimes there may be a small line of cars that you have to wait for.

It is possible that a corrupt police officer tries to solicit a bribe at a checkpoint. I have never encountered this but I have heard stories of it happening.

5. Use the Toll Roads (Cuota) When Available

When driving between major cities, there are free roads (via libre) and toll roads (cuota). The toll roads are safer, faster, and more comfortable. They are well-maintained. There are no potholes or speed bumps. Toll roads are typically wider and there is less traffic.

When using a toll road, you’ll need to pay with cash in pesos. Cards and dollars aren’t accepted. Be sure to bring enough cash with you. A 2-3 hour drive might cost $5-$7, on average. The price of the toll includes some additional insurance that covers you while you’re driving on the toll road.

There are benefits to taking the free road instead. Usually, the free road passes through small pueblos and rural areas that you otherwise wouldn’t get to see. You’ll also save a bit of money.

6. Keep an Eye Out for People and Animals on the Roads

While driving through agricultural regions in Mexico, it’s common to see animals on the roads. You may see cows, roosters, goats, dogs, etc. It’s important to keep an eye out so you don’t hit anything.

In urban areas, it’s common to see people walking on the sides of the roads. You may even see people walking on the sides of highways.

7. You Do Not Pump Your Own Gas in Mexico

In Mexico, you do not pump your own gas. Full-service gas stations are the norm. An attendant will pump gas for you. All you have to do is let them know how many liters you want or how much money you want to spend and which grade of fuel you want.

When you’re finished, it is expected that you give the attendant a small tip of 10-20 pesos ($0.50-$1). Many of the attendants live off of tips.

It’s important to note that some gas stations in Mexico don’t accept credit cards. This is common in small towns. When driving in Mexico, be sure to carry some cash in pesos.

There are a couple of gas station scams to be aware of. Most commonly, an attendant will tell you that you handed them a smaller note than you actually did. For example, maybe you hand the attendant a 500 peso note but they tell you that you only gave them a 200 peso note. They keep the difference. Make sure you’re getting what you paid for.

Before the attendant begins pumping gas, you should also check the meter to make sure that it’s zeroed out. Sometimes, an attendant will begin pumping with the meter already reading a couple of liters. In this case, you get less gas than you paid for.

8. Download an Offline Map of Your Route

Before your trip, it’s a good idea to download an offline map so you can still use GPS when you don’t have an internet connection. Google Maps and Maps.Me both offer this feature.

It’s also a good idea to buy a Mexican SIM card with some data so you can make emergency calls or check the map during your journey.

9. Don’t Use Your Phone While Driving

In Mexico, it is illegal to use your phone while driving. You can be ticketed for simply holding your phone while driving.

If you must use your phone, use a hands-free device.

10. Window Cleaners will Approach While You’re Stopped at Stoplights

These guys can get pretty annoying. They walk up to your car while you’re waiting at a stoplight and start washing your windshield with a dirty rag without asking. If you wave them away, they’ll usually just leave. If you want, you can pay them 5-10 pesos ($0.25-$0.50) to wash your windshield.

11. Carry Cash and Coins While Driving

Mexico is still a cash based economy. You usually have to pay for tolls and for parking in cash. It’s also nice to have cash to tip gas station attendant. Always carry some small bills and coins.

Guanajuato, Mexico
Guanajuato, Mexico

Pros of Renting a Car in Mexico

  • Freedom- When you rent a car, you can go wherever you want. You can visit small towns, beaches, and tourist attractions that are difficult or impossible to visit with public transport. Renting a car is the best way to get off the beaten track.
  • Convenience- With a rental car, you can explore Mexico at your own pace. You never have to wait around for a bus or flag down a cab.
  • Cost- For a family of 4, renting a car and driving yourself can be cheaper than buying multiple bus or plane tickets.
  • Comfort- When renting a car you don’t have to deal with crowded and uncomfortable public transportation systems. You never have to sit next to strangers on a bus. You can use the heat or AC to keep the climate at your preferred temperature.
  • Renting a car can save you time- If you’re trying to visit multiple sites in one day, renting a car and driving can be much faster than waiting for buses and Ubers. It’s also faster to fly to your destination and rent a car rather than driving all the way to your destination.

Cons of Renting a Car in Mexico

  • Driving in a foreign country- The rules of the road are slightly different. Some people just don’t feel comfortable driving in a foreign country.
  • Complicated insurance guidelines for car rentals- Mexico requires that you purchase Mexican car insurance when renting a car. Your insurance from back home isn’t accepted. There are a number of different policies and types of insurance to choose from. This can make renting a car in Mexico kind of confusing. To make it easy, just buy insurance from the rental company. Then you don’t have to worry about it.
  • Scams- Rental car companies may try to charge you for damage that you didn’t cause. You may encounter hidden fees when renting a car. Sometimes gas stations try to rip you off. A police officer could pull you over and solicit a bribe. You may fall victim to a scam when renting a car in Mexico.
  • Renting a car in Mexico can be expensive- If you’re traveling solo or as a couple, it’s usually cheaper to take public transport rather than renting a car. If you’re on a budget, you’ll probably want to avoid renting a car in Mexico.
  • Renting a car in Mexico can be dangerous- People can drive aggressively. The road conditions may not be up to the standard that you’re used to. Some roads are narrow. There are potholes and random speed bumps. On some roads, crime is an issue.

Final Thoughts

Renting a car is a great way to explore Mexico. With a car, you don’t have to rely on a bus or taxi. It’s safe to rent a car and drive in Mexico. The roads are generally well-maintained and most drivers follow the rules of the road. Traffic can get hectic in large cities but it’s manageable if you’re a decent driver.

If you follow the tips outlined in this guide and take some basic precautions, you shouldn’t have any issues. Be sure to purchase quality insurance so you’re covered if you’re involved in an accident.

Whether or not you end up renting a car in Mexico, I hope this guide has helped you in making your decision.

Have you rented a car in Mexico? Share your experience in the comments below!

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