Are you planning a trip to Mexico and are asking the question, “Should I rent a car in Cancun?”
This is a great question! I want to share with you some of my travel tips for Cancun in regards to renting a car. Hopefully, my experience will help you decide if renting a car in Cancun is the right choice for you.
Let’s dive into the details so you can be prepared and know if you should rent a car in Cancun.
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How to Rent a Car in Mexico
There are a few ways to rent a car in Mexico. You can book online ahead of time or while you are on vacation.
I always like to book my rental cars ahead of time. It usually saves money the earlier you book. I usually use Priceline. I have had a lot of luck using Priceline because they offer a free cancelation policy. I also like to compare prices with the different companies. Normally, I only book with well known companies.
Renting a Car at the Airport
As you enter the airport there will be lots of sales people wanting to set you up with a car rental. I tend to avoid these interactions. It is hard to know if they are legit or they just want money for helping you get to the right spot.
Renting a Car at Your Hotel
Another option is renting a car once you get to your hotel. Your concierge can provide a a car rental company or shuttle transportation for you. No worries!
Should I Rent a Car in Cancun?
Should you rent a car in Cancun? Okay, I am not going to beat around the bush. No. Well, probably not, as in a qualified no.
We really wanted to rent a car so that we could have the freedom to explore the Yucatan and go to Chichen Izta, Merida, and the city of Izamal.
We rented from a national brand. We expected more and because of our experience we would not do it again.
In the image above, you can see how many parts of the car were damaged when we received the car.
Benefits of Renting a Car in Cancun
You probably know all the benefits of having a car:
One major benefit of having a car is that you can create your own schedule. No waiting for a bus; no waking up early for a scheduled departure; your car is waiting for you whenever you want it. Freedom to choose when and where you want to go.
A car should be more comfortable than a taxi, bus, or other means of public transportation. You won’t rip yourself off. You hopefully like the people that are in the car with you. And you will have more space.
Choose Your Destination
You can call the shots. If you see a shop at the side of the highway you want to check out you have the freedom to do so.
It is difficult if you are trying to communicate with your bus driver “para.” If the driver does stop, it will be to drop you off. You will be waving down another bus, hoping it will stop to pick you up.
Taxis can help, but it’s going to cost you more if you add a stop and they need to wait. Besides, in a car you can take detours kilometers off the beaten path.
These are just some of the reason’s why we usually rent cars when we travel. We like the ability to explore and freedom to go when we want.
Why is Renting a Car in Cancun Different?
Renting a car in Cancun, whether it be by the Cancun airport or elsewhere, is a whole different ball game from your U.S. rental car experience. I am going to give you a few examples and experiences that we had so that you can be prepared.
So What Makes Renting a Car in Cancun, Mexico So Different?
- Language Barrier
- Lack of GPS signal
Let’s explore each of these topics in more detail.
Cost of a Rental Car in Cancun
Renting at the Airport
It’s going to cost you more than you think. Yes, you may see a jaw-dropping deal online, but that’s before insurance.
Nope, you can’t skip it gringo. As a foreign national, your credit card and U.S. insurance means nothing. You are going to have to pay up to get your auto. So be prepared to pay up.
How Much is the Extra Insurance?
It is an insane amount of money. Over $200 and that was the bare minimum. We purchased insurance through Priceline which was an extra $13 dollars a day. It meant nothing. The car rental company would not accept it fully. They did say we didn’t have to pay a certain portion of their insurance but for the most part it was worthless.
They also made us sign a form that said we were in a wreck and were responsible for the damages. We thought that was corrupt since we clearly hadn’t drove the car yet. They said they disregard the form when you return the car in the same condition as you received it.
Renting at Your Hotel
If you rent a car in Cancun specifically at your hotel it maybe a different experience. I can’t be 100% sure because we did not use this method but you might avoid the insurance issue renting from your hotel. Let us know your experience in the comments.
Quality of the Rental Car in Cancun
As we walked out to our car we were shocked. The cars were old and beat up. I mean half of them looked like they had been in serious wrecks.
One thing to consider before renting a car in Cancun is that the car may break down on you. I understand that when I choose an economy car and I am not upgraded, I get a pretty basic car in the U.S. But it has always been relatively new with low miles. That wasn’t my experience in Mexico.
Our Volkswagen had something like 70,000 miles (it had 115,000 kilometers or so), but it looked like it had 200,000 miles.
It was pretty beat up, and when we drove it on the tollway to and from Chitchen Itza, one of the wheels sounded like it was going to fall off at any minute.
I know as an American, I am spoiled. Believe me I lived in Germany and was shocked when I realized that my apartment did not have air-conditioning.
Germany doesn’t get too hot, but Cancun is in the Caribbean. It is hot! Our car blew air that maybe was somewhat cooler than the outside air but not much. We had a long road trip without a decent air-conditioner. I am not going to lie, it was tough.
This definitely made me ask the question, “Should I ever rent a car in Cancun again.”
Be Alert at the Gas Station
If you do decide to rent a car in Mexico filling it up with gas is stressful. There are attendants at every pump that fill the car up for you. These attendant’s typically only speak Spanish.
Don’t Get Robbed!
You could get robbed when you try to get gas. You won’t get jumped, but at one place they took our credit card and very quickly skimmed it. Within about 30 seconds of them having my card, I got a text from Chase Bank alerting me of possible fraud for over $400 (U.S. dollars, not pesos hombre).
On top of that, we are pretty sure they charged us separately way too much for gas (about $35 U.S. dollars for maybe half a tank). We had read about one of these tactics, but others have blogged and indicated it wasn’t a problem. The hotel staff had told us not to worry.
Well, we had to learn one of life’s lessons on our own. Let’s just say we paid with pesos from then on and carefully watched the pump to make sure the number started at zero and went up to what we asked for.
You may get lost. Google Maps failed us. First off, your international roaming plan may make Google Maps expensive to use. We didn’t use it much, but when we did, it did not work so great.
When leaving from Chichen Itza, we decided to go back to Cancun’s hotel zone using the older (non-toll) highway, and to also visit Valladoid.
When going straight out of Chitchen Itza and about the point you turn right to get to the tollway, I think you need to turn left to go the way we wanted. Google Maps lost connection and we kept going straight.
We figured we were going west and not east based on the signs to Merida and Izamal and the direction of the sun, but thought at first maybe the road needed to curve. Nope. We decided to just keep going and visit Izamal.
It was fine, but made for a long day, and a late night of eating room service at 12:30 a.m., trying to fill our bellies before collapsing for the night.
It wasn’t just a connectivity issue. Google Maps was supposed to take us to the ferry close to Playa Del Carman that takes cars to Cozumel. Google took us to a residential area. This isn’t all Google’s fault, as addresses are hard to find for some places, but the fact remains that for whatever the reason, it’s a bit hard to navigate by GPS.
The signs are in Spanish. Okay, so you’re on the same side of the road as the US. And yes, you will understand city names and other names. But you will need to be careful of the topas (speed bumps). Look for the yellow signs. But if you drive to Cancun itself or other places, those speed bumps may sneak up on you. Also, watch out to your left or right. You may think there is only one lane, but there may very well be more.
Driving in Cancun and the Yucatan Area
I actually thought the roads in Cancun were pretty good. Some areas do have faded lines. And this is not just off the beaten path. We noticed this on the main highway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. But overall, they were not that bad.
If you want to go from Cancun to Chichen Itaza the recommend way to go is on the the Toll-Way. Be prepared because it is an expensive road to drive on. $30 in tolls each way!
It appears that they try hard to update and keep the road nice.
Should You Rent A Car In Cancun?
I love freedom so I typically always lean towards renting a car. Cancun was a different experience that has me questioning if I would ever do that again. I would say I would not rent from the airport. Next time I will try and have the hotel arrange something for me and maybe it will turn out better.
Being the planner that I am it is hard to wait until the last minute. I love booking things ahead of time. Leave a comment, let me know your thoughts and experiences and if you think someone should rent a car in Cancun.
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