Should I rent a car in Cancun

Should I Rent a Car in Cancun, Mexico?

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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rent a car in Cancun Mexico

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How to Rent a Car in MexicoBooking a car rental in Cancun

There are a few ways to rent a car in Cancun Mexico.  You can book online ahead of time or while you are on vacation.

Book Online

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 in Cancun at the Airport

As you enter the airport there will be lots of sales people wanting to set you up with a car rental.  Here is a car rental tip – 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 car rental company or shuttle transportation for you. No worries! 

Should I Rent a Car in Cancun?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.  

As we planned our 7-day Cancun itinerary, we really wanted to rent a car so that we could have the freedom to explore the Yucatan and go on a few Cancun day trips to Chichen Itza, Xcaret, Merida, and the city of Izamal. 

National Brand?

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 CancunRenting a car in Cancun

You probably know all the benefits of having a car:

No Waiting

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. 

Comfort

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 reasons why we usually rent cars when we travel.  We like the ability to explore and the freedom to go when we want.  These were just some of the reasons we wanted to rent a car in Mexico Cancun area. 

Why is Renting a Car in Cancun Different?

Travel Tips for renting a car in Cancun - Renting a Car

Renting a car in Mexico 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?

  • Cost
  • Quality
  • Language Barrier
  • Lack of GPS signal

Let’s explore each of these topics in more detail.

Cost of a Rental Car in CancunTravel Tips for Cancun -Cost of a rental car

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 driven 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 may be 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 CancunRent a 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.

High Miles

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 Chichen Itza, one of the wheels sounded like it was going to fall off at any minute.  

Air Conditioning

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 to air-condition.  

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?”

Cancun Rental Car Tips – Be Alert at the Gas StationGas Station in Cancun

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 attendants 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. 

GPS FailureRenting a car in Cancun Mexico

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. 

Connectivity Issues

When leaving Chichen Itza, we decided to go back to Cancun’s hotel zone using the older (non-toll) highway and to also visit Valladolid.

When going straight out of Chichen 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.

GPS Fail

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. 

Cancun Rental Car Tips – Language BarrierSpanish street sign

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 AreaRoads in the Yucatian

I actually thought the roads in Cancun were pretty good. It made driving in Cancun easy.  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. 

Toll Way

If you want to go from Cancun to Chichen Itza the recommended way to go is on the Toll-Way.  Be prepared because it is an expensive road to drive on. $30 in tolls each way! This does add to your cost of renting a car in Cancun.

It appears that they try hard to update and keep the road nice.  I did not think driving in Cancun was a bad experience. 

Should You Rent A Car In Cancun?Driving 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.  As you plan and pack for Cancun, hopefully, this helps you know if you should rent a car in Cancun. 

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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67 Comments

  1. Pingback: Travel Tips for Cancun, Mexico – Planning Away
  2. Great advice! If I was planning a trip to Cancun, I’m sure I’d be trying to figure out if I should rent a car or not. This is super helpful.

  3. Woah! So good to know. I looked at a quick trip to Cancun, I was so excited about the cheap car prices. Glad to know it’s a trick! Lol. I’ll keep this mind if we decide to go. Fortunately the language barrier isn’t as bad for me, I know a good amount of Spanish.

  4. Honestly, you are a brave soul for renting a car in Cancun! We have driven in many European countries, and were ok with that. Driving somewhere like Mexico, is not something I would ever attempt. The crime rate is too high, and I have heard waaay too many horror stories.

  5. Wow, there’s a lot to take in here. I’m especially clueless. We just reserved a rental car for the second time, and that’s in the U.S., not Cancun. It’s stressful enough here! It’s good advice to reserve and watch the gas pump. I’ll keep that in mind for if we ever go to Mexico.

  6. I agree! Don’t rent a car in Cancun! Too many headaches and hassles. I much prefer handing the wheel over to someone else there. Hope you enjoyed the rest of your stay!

      1. That’s too bad about your experience renting a car in Cancun, Mexico. But sounds like you still had a great time and were able to explore many areas.

  7. Not sure I’d rent a car in Cancun. I would much rather stay at the resort and enjoy all it has to offer.

  8. Yikes that sounds a bit shady. I’d not be too happy to sign a form that said I damaged the car in a wreck before I even drove it!

  9. This was a really interesting read. So far, I’ve got away with never having to rent a car on vacation, and it doesn’t sound like I’d want to start with Cancun!

  10. We’ve rented a jeep in Cozumel two different times. Both times we received a broken down, stripped down, afraid it’s going to breakdown piece of junk! We laughed. It was an adventure….until it wouldn’t start, but we borrowed jumper cables and it started. It was $99 for the day. What a joke! We wanted to drive the loop around the island and snorkel as we went, so….we rented it. Probably won’t do that again. I agree with you!

  11. Great tips and advice! I never even thought about renting a vehicle in Mexico, this definitely gave me some great insight! Thank you!

  12. I’ve never rented a car in a foreign country. I’ve rented scooters and taken water and land taxies, but never rented a car.

  13. Wow pretty sure I’d say no thank you to renting a car in Cancun after hearing your experience! Thanks for all the advice!

  14. Yikes! I’ve always wondered if I should rent a car in Cancun! I’ve only been to Mexico, Tulum, once and all of our transportation was arranged my the resort. Looks like I will be doing the same next time. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  15. Sounds like renting a car in Mexico would be adventures with getting lost and hot 🥵. No thank you:)
    Thank you for sharing no I know what to expect:)

  16. My sister-in-law and her husband rented a car in Cancun at their resort and when they returned it, the rental company accused them of stealing the spare tire! The police were called, it was a big mess and definitely not worth it.

    1. Why would you steal a spare tire on vacation? Yes, please I am going to take that tire on the plane with me….grrr…

  17. We were too nervous to rent a car in Cancun when we went in 2002. I think I would still go the route of public transportation today.

  18. This is terrible! I was actually getting angry on your behalf as I read through your ordeal. Some shady stuff happening, that’s for sure!

  19. This sounds like, don’t rent a car in Cancun! Though I think that the hotel may be a different experience, maybe next time you can ask the hotel to reserve your car in advance; that way the planner isn’t so stressed out!? PS planning in advance is how I roll too!

  20. Yikes! I definitely think I will steer clear of renting a car in Cancun, Mexico. Sounds like more stress than I would welcome.

  21. The bus system is great in Cancun so we used that. I have to say we did rent a car at our hotel in Cancun and had a great experience. We only wanted it for 1 day and that was fine.

  22. We used to live in southern California and had many friends who were from Mexico. We mentioned once that we wanted to drive down to Cancun and our friends sternly told us no, that it was too dangerous for us. Their stories were about gas station scams and police corruption, but after hearing them I made a mental note to never drive in Mexico. 🙁

  23. OMG! What a nightmore. Thanks for the warning although I would never rent a car in Mexico anyway since I get nervous driving out of my immediate area.

  24. I’ve been to Mexico many times and never rented a car–for some of the reasons that you mentioned. 🙂

  25. Yikes! I have rented cars in Ireland, England and Germany and never had such as this! More reasons to stick with an all inclusive resort!

  26. Pretty sure I should not ever rent a car in Cancun. That’s way too much hassle for a vacation.

  27. Sounds pretty iffy! Pro tip: download offline Google maps in the future, so connectivity isn’t an issue.

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