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16 Things to Know BEFORE Renting a Car in Argentina

16 Things to Know BEFORE Renting a Car in Argentina

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Renting a car is one of the best ways to explore Argentina. One thing we love about this country is its variety, and renting a car will allow you to explore both its huge, sprawling cities and its incredible natural wonders – especially the remote Patagonia region

We usually rent cars when we travel unless we’re in, say, a super walkable city with great public transport. It gives you so much freedom and flexibility, as well as the ability to get off the beaten path and discover some true hidden gems. 

Still, it’s always important to know what to expect when renting a car in a foreign country – especially in South America. It’s important to be clued in on the rental process as well as all of the road rules (both written and unwritten) before getting behind the wheel. This will save you time, money, and headaches.

Ultimately, we want you to hit the road with confidence and have an awesome time! That’s why we’re going to share 16 important things to know before you rent a car in Argentina. So keep reading for all the details.

Table Of Contents
  1. 1. Is renting a car in Argentina a good idea?
  2. 2. Requirements to rent a car in Argentina
  3. 3. Is it safe to drive in Argentina?
  4. 4. What's the best insurance when renting a car in Argentina? 
  5. 5. What is the best company to rent a car in Argentina? 
  6. 6. How much does renting a car in Argentina cost?
  7. 7. Can I use my credit card insurance when renting a car in Argentina?
  8. 8. What side of the road do you drive on in Argentina?
  9. 9. Can I cross the border with my rental car?
  10. 10. Tips to save money on a rental car in Argentina
  11. 11. Driving tips for renting a car in Argentina
  12. 12. Can you trust online car rental websites when booking? 
  13. 13. Tips to follow when renting a car in Argentina
  14. 14. What should you do if you get in an accident in Argentina?
  15. 15. Is it easy to fill your car with gas in Argentina? 
  16. 16. Is renting a car in Argentina worth it?
  17. Thanks for reading!
  18. Don't get Caught without Travel Insurance!

1. Is renting a car in Argentina a good idea?

Driving on a highway in Argentina in our rental car
It’s the best way to explore!

Yes! Renting a car in Argentina gives you a ton of freedom to explore!

To be fair, if you’re going to be spending most of your time in Buenos Aires, I wouldn’t say it’s necessary because the city is walkable, Uber is cheap, and there’s a good subway system. But once you’re outside of the capital, having a car becomes a major advantage.

We spent 3 weeks driving around Argentine Patagonia, which was an absolutely amazing experience. We definitely couldn’t have done this without our own wheels. Plus, driving ourselves meant we could pull over whenever we wanted to observe wildlife and take detours to explore hidden gems that we happened upon. 

Meanwhile, renting a car at Iguazu Falls can also be a good idea. Here, taxis are pretty expensive compared to Buenos Aires and not very reliable when it comes to timing (as I found out the hard way). 

Having your own car also gives you a ton of freedom when it comes to exploring wine regions like Mendoza and Salta. Although obviously, it does mean someone in your group will need to go easy on the booze unless you opt for a wine tour while you’re here. 

2. Requirements to rent a car in Argentina

Daniel stops on the side of the road in Patagonia to take a photo of wildlife in Argentina
Exploring Patagonia!
Driving along a highway into El Chalten Argentina
The highways here are remote and vast!

Valid driver’s license

Good news: you don’t need an international driving permit to rent a car in Argentina! As long as you have a valid driver’s license, you’re good to go. 

One small caveat we should mention is that your driver’s license must be written in the Latin alphabet (aka the alphabet we use in English), not in a character alphabet (such as Japanese or Korean). If this is the case, then you will need to organize an international permit. 

Credit or debit card in the driver’s name

You’ll need a credit or debit card in the driver’s name to rent a car in Argentina. You can sometimes pay for rentals in cash. However, we prefer to arrange our rentals online through Discover Cars to make sure we get the best price (and we recommend you do the same!). You can’t pay the deposit in cash, though, and the rental company will need to keep a card on file in case anything goes wrong.

We think it’s best to use a credit card for this because the rental company just holds the amount and then cancels it when you return the car. With a debit card, they will actually take the money out of your account and then refund it later on. But either one will work!

Over 18 but ideally 25

18 is the minimum legal age to rent a car in Argentina, but many rental companies have higher requirements. Most companies don’t like renting to under 21s, but some will for an additional fee. 

If you’re aged between 21 and 25, you won’t struggle to find a car rental, but you will pay extra. This can mean a higher deposit or a higher rental rate – and often both. 

Some companies will only charge extra if you’re under 21, while others will charge more if you’re under 25. 

Basically, if you’re under 25, it’s definitely worth shopping around and comparing different rental companies on Discover Cars to ensure that you’re getting the best deal.

Insurance (more on that below)

Third-party car insurance is required by law in Argentina, which basically means that you need to be covered if someone else damages your car. 

You don’t need to get full coverage insurance, but we definitely recommend it because Argentinian drivers in cities are ahem… passionate… and more rural areas are full of potholes and wildlife that can do significant damage to your vehicle. Plus, it’s just good for peace of mind.

Passport

Rental companies will need to see your passport and keep a copy on file just in case. They just want to make sure that you’re in Argentina legally because they could get into trouble otherwise. But since you can’t get into the country without a passport, this shouldn’t prove too much of a problem.

Related Read: Renting a car makes it super easy to visit Perito Moreno Glacier, an incredible natural wonder. We highly recommend it and you can read our guide to visiting Perito Moreno Glacier here!

3. Is it safe to drive in Argentina?

Ruta 40 in Argentina
Ruta 40 in Argentina

Overall, yes, it’s safe.

You do always need to take extra care when driving in a foreign country because the rules and road conditions are different all over the world. You’ll need to pay a little extra attention, especially at first. But if you’re a competent driver, there’s really no reason to be scared!

To get an idea of how safe it is, I like to compare the road safety statistics to other countries. Argentina has a road fatality rate of 14 per 100,000 people, while the USA has a rate of 12.4, so overall driving in Argentina is marginally more dangerous, but not much. 

However, it also depends on where you are in the country. Driving in Buenos Aires can be very chaotic, and many drivers can be pretty aggressive. Fortunately, you don’t really need to drive in the city.

Meanwhile, in Patagonia – where you do actually need a car to get around – there’s no traffic, and you have the roads to yourself, which means it’s very safe to drive! 

Related Read: Like many, safety is one of our top concerns while traveling. Read our guide to staying safe in South America.

4. What’s the best insurance when renting a car in Argentina? 

Bailey with our Argentina rental car
Every time we visit Patagonia, we rent a car!

Basic third-party insurance will be included with your rental car since it’s a legal requirement in Argentina. However, it’s best to opt for full coverage.

When you book through Discover Cars, you can easily add full coverage insurance by just ticking a box. This is way faster and easier than trying to sort it out separately. Besides, it’s only about $7 USD per day, and it could save you thousands of dollars. It’s definitely worth doing.

To browse car rental companies and the insurance plans they offer, visit Discover Cars online.

5. What is the best company to rent a car in Argentina? 

Daniel with our rental car in El Chalten, Argentina
Stop as you please and enjoy the country!

Definitely Discover Cars

So, Discover Cars isn’t actually a rental company per se. It’s a website that you go through to find rental cars – kind of like Booking.com but for cars. 

We like it because it allows you to compare lots of different car rentals with just a few clicks, so you can easily find the most reputable rental companies and the best prices. Plus, they have really good rates for full coverage insurance, and it’s easy to organize.

Basically, using Discover Cars saves a ton of time. You don’t have to open a million different tabs and rake through prices and reviews for hours to find a good deal. 

It’s also really good if you’re nervous about renting a car because Discover Cars only partners with legitimate businesses. You won’t turn up and find that the rental office doesn’t even exist (which does happen, believe me!).

You can also check out supplier ratings and reviews to make sure you’re renting from a reliable place. We only pick suppliers with ratings of at least 8/10, or 9 if possible!

If you’re considering renting a car in Argentina, you can check prices and reviews on Discover Cars here.

6. How much does renting a car in Argentina cost?

Daniel sits in his rental car in Argentina
It’s gone up a lot recently, but prices should come down again soon!

Between $40 to $60 USD per day, although it does depend on a few things. 

For example, if you’re renting a car in Buenos Aires, it depends on where you pick it up. You’ll pay around $55 to $60 USD if you pick it up from the airport, but you can find rentals for $45 USD per day if you collect it in the city. 

The same is true in the town of Bariloche, which is a popular starting point for a Patagonia road trip. However, you do get more choices if you pick your car up from the airport. If you’re solely planning to drive through Patagonia, you can also read our guide to renting a car in Patagonia.

You might hear people saying that you can rent a car for $20 to $30 USD in Argentina. While this was true once upon a time, you won’t be able to pay this little with a reputable company – and renting from a dodgy supplier will cost you way more than the difference in the long run.

You can compare ratings and prices and make sure it’s a reputable company through the Discover Cars website.

Exchange rates in Argentina

First off, inflation in Argentina is crazy. While there are several exchange rates, only a few will apply to you as a tourist.

The official rate is the rate you get when exchanging USD to Argentine pesos at a bank and tends to be about half the blue rate. The blue rate (aka the best tourist rate) is the rate you get for exchanging USD to Argentine pesos through a money changer or Western Union. Credit and debit card companies charge something close to the blue rate but not quite.

Let’s break it down with an example. At the time of writing this article, the official rate is 270 ARS to $1 USD while the blue rate is 515 ARS to $1 USD. Meanwhile, credit or debit cards have been getting a rate of roughly 460 ARS to $1 USD.

Inflation goes up quickly here! But you can check the current rates online at Dolar Hoy.

7. Can I use my credit card insurance when renting a car in Argentina?

A fox near our rental car in Argentina
Watch out for the foxes!

Yes, you can. However, you should definitely phone your credit card company before you travel and double-check with them. Don’t let the fine print trip you up! 

Overall, though, you’re much better off just getting the full coverage insurance with Discover Cars. If something does go wrong, the process to sort it out will be way simpler. 

Full coverage insurance is only $5 to $10 USD per day, and often the rental company will take a much smaller deposit if you do this. 

8. What side of the road do you drive on in Argentina?

A person drives along a road on Ruta 40 in Argentina
The right side!

The right side. 

Don’t worry if you hail from a country that drives on the left. Dan is from Australia and within 2 days, driving on the right felt totally natural to him! It really doesn’t take very long to get used to it. Plus, somewhere like Patagonia, where there’s hardly any traffic, is a great place to practice! 

Related Read: For rugged landscapes and breathtaking hikes, visit El Chalten, Argentina.

9. Can I cross the border with my rental car?

Crossing the border with Chile and Argentina in Patagonia
We crossed the border a lot with Chile!
Ruta 40 sign in Patagonia, Argentina
Ruta 40 sign in Patagonia, Argentina

Yes, you can – but you need a special permit, which your rental company will arrange for you. Make sure you organize this in advance. We didn’t know about this rule and trying to arrange it last minute was very stressful!

If you’re driving in Patagonia, you can cross the border into Chile. Meanwhile, in Iguazu, you can cross the border into Brazil to see the other side of the falls. 

Either way, you will need to email the rental company and outline your travel plans so that they can arrange this for you. Do this at least a few weeks in advance; in fact, send that email as soon as you book your rental car!

Naturally, you’ll have to pay for the permit, and the cost tends to depend on the rental company. We paid around $105 USD to take our car from Chile to Argentina for 20 days, but we’ve heard of others paying up to $200 USD – another reason why it’s important to rent from an honest and highly-rated company!

If you’re visiting Iguazu Falls, then you can just cross over to Brazil for a day (or perhaps an overnight stay), so this price should be a lot cheaper.

Also, remember that you can’t leave your rental car in another country. If you pick up your car in Argentina, you have to drop it off in Argentina!

Related Read: If you’re traveling near the Chilean border, you should definitely check out Torres del Paine National Park! You can also plan an epic camping trip here too.  

10. Tips to save money on a rental car in Argentina

Our rental car in Argentina
We loved the quiet roads in Patagonia!

Visit in the low season

You can definitely shave some pesos off of the price of your rental car if you visit during the low season, which is between April and October. Argentina can have some really nice weather in the autumn and spring, too, although it does get pretty cold in Patagonia! However, the weather is consistent pretty much year-round in the north of the country.

Avoid renting a 4WD

Lots of people seem to think that you need a 4WD for an Argentinian road trip – especially if you’re going to Patagonia – but this isn’t the case!

We rented a Hyundai Accent when we drove around Patagonia, which is a 2WD, and we had no problems at all. There were a few gravel roads we had to drive slowly on, but that was it. 

It’s really easy to drive in Patagonia and you definitely don’t need a big 4×4. Most of the roads were perfectly fine for buses and even motorhomes, so there’s no need to waste money on a Land Rover! 

Rent from major locations

You can save money on car rentals by renting from major locations rather than tiny, obscure places. It’s just the law of supply and demand!

If you rent your car from a city or a popular starting destination for a road trip – like Buenos Aires or Bariloche – you’ll pay a lot less. 

Pick up and drop off in the same location

This is a common rule all over the world. It’s always cheaper to pick up and leave your car in the same place because otherwise, the rental company has to transport it back to the original location. 

Obviously, this won’t always fit with your travel plans. But if you can make it work, it can definitely save you some money. 

11. Driving tips for renting a car in Argentina

Driving on the roads south of Buenos Aires, Argentina
The closer you get to the cities, the more traffic you see!

Speed limits are in kilometers not miles

The speed limits are in kilometers per hour, not miles per hour, so don’t get confused and end up driving way too fast! 

This is actually the case in most countries in the world, except for the USA and the UK, so for a lot of people this won’t prove too confusing. But it is something to bear in mind! 

Drive slowly over speed bumps (they are not as smooth as the ones back home!)

You’ll encounter lots of speed bumps in Argentina, and we strongly recommend you drive over them slowly. Some are small and easy to handle. However, there doesn’t seem to be a ton of consistency in terms of their size and shape, so you could end up damaging your car. Fortunately, they’re not as bad as the ones in Mexico, but it’s still worth being careful. 

Watch for wildlife (especially in Patagonia)

When you’re in a rural area, you should definitely keep an eye out for wildlife. To be fair, we didn’t see that many creatures on the road in Puerto Iguazu, but we encountered a ton of wildlife in Patagonia

Don’t worry, we didn’t hit anything! But sadly, we did see quite a few guanacos that had been run over by cars. Obviously, it always feels terrible to hit an animal when you’re driving, and guanacos are also pretty big, so colliding with one can also do some serious damage to your vehicle.

Busses have the right of way (even if they don’t)

The sooner you accept that buses rule the road, the happier you’ll be when driving in Argentina.

Is it annoying to be cut off and honked at by buses? Yes.

Is there anything you can do about it? No.

Just stay out of their way, let them pass, and curse at them a little bit if you have to, but don’t try and get into a race or a road rage incident with a bus. 

Try to avoid driving late at night

As a general rule, it’s best to avoid driving late at night in Argentina. 

Even in the cities, the roads aren’t particularly well-lit. But in rural areas, there’s often no lighting at all! When you’re somewhere like Patagonia where there’s a ton of wildlife on the road, this can be a recipe for disaster. Only drive at night if you have to, and if you do, make sure to take it slow and be cautious.

Always carry rental documents and registration in the vehicle

Again, this is a good rule to follow when renting a car anywhere in the world. If you get stopped by the police or get into an accident, having your rental documents and registration can save you a ton of time and stress. It’s always best to be safe! 

Child seats ARE required

Since 2018, using a child seat has been a legal requirement for kids under 10. They also have to travel in the back seat of the car. If you’re caught breaking these rules, there are fines and penalties involved. Luckily, you can add a baby or child seat for about $20 USD per day through Discover Cars.

Carry cash for road tolls

Argentina is a very cash-based society, and you’ll need to pay road tolls in cash, so make sure to have some handy. Due to the insane inflation rate, tolls change all the time, but it’s definitely worth having at least a few thousand pesos with you (plus some smaller bills as you don’t always get change). But you’ll probably be carrying cash anyway!

Download maps offline

It’s always a good idea to download maps offline when you’re driving in Argentina because the cell reception can be patchy. In fact, I had a Claro SIM card, which is generally considered to be the most reliable, and sometimes I struggled to get decent reception in the middle of Buenos Aires. So definitely make sure to download offline maps in advance when you’re going to be traveling somewhere remote!

Related Read: If you’re flying into the city, we recommend spending at least 3 days exploring Buenos Aires! And a sightseeing tour of Buenos Aires is a great way to see loads in a short amount of time.

12. Can you trust online car rental websites when booking? 

A rental car on the side of the road in Argentina
Get off the beaten path!

Yes – in fact, we prefer to use websites than to arrange rentals in person. When you go through Discover Cars, you get really great prices, and you can see the supplier ratings or read reviews. As long as you choose a top-rated supplier (we recommend 8 and above) everything will be fine! 

13. Tips to follow when renting a car in Argentina

a fox in patagonia near our rental car
A fox in Patagonia near our rental car
Daniel looks out the window of his rental car in Argentina
Daniel looks out the window of his rental car in Argentina

Sort by supplier rating (not price) on Discover Cars

For us, the most important thing is always to rent from a trustworthy supplier! Sketchy suppliers can scam you out of a lot of money. As such, we always sort by supplier rating instead of price when we’re searching for a vehicle on Discover Cars.

To be honest, a lot of the time the top-rated suppliers still have really good prices – sometimes even better than poorly rated ones. We just think it’s more important to get a good supplier than a cheap price. It will definitely save you money in the long run! 

To view your options, head to the Discover Cars website, and make sure to sort by supplier rating over price!

Get full coverage

Full coverage insurance isn’t expensive when you arrange it through Discover Cars. And spending an additional $5 to $10 USD per day can save you a ton of money if anything happens later on. 

Plus, full coverage covers you for things like taxis if your car breaks down, locking your keys in the car, and admin fees. These are things that lots of us don’t think about when renting a car… until they actually happen, that is! 

Take your own photos when doing the inspection

When you rent a car, it’s always best to take your own photos when you do the inspection. This way, if there’s any existing damage to the car, you can prove it wasn’t you – even if the rental company tries to pull a fast one and claim that it was. Remember to be thorough when taking pictures, too.

Read the terms and conditions

Reading the Ts and Cs is no one’s favorite task, but it’s important when you rent a car in Argentina. You need to know exactly what to expect, what your insurance covers, and what to do in case things go wrong. It’s boring, but if something does go wrong with your rental, you’ll be really glad you took the time to go through them. 

14. What should you do if you get in an accident in Argentina?

Mountain backdrop on the highway in El Chalten, Argentina
What a stunning place!

It’s a good idea to make a note of the emergency numbers in case you get into a car accident in Argentina. 

Call 101 for the police, 100 for the fire department, and 107 for an ambulance. However, the operator on the other end of the line may not speak English. If this is the case, you can also call 0800-999-5000 or 0800-999-2838 for English-speaking emergency services.

You should also call the insurance company as soon as you can to report the accident. If you need medical assistance, you can call your travel insurance company. However, there is a good standard of free healthcare in Argentina, and tourists are entitled to this service.

If the accident involves another driver, swap contact and insurance details, and make a note of their number plate. Take photos of the scene and damage to your and their vehicle as well, as you may need to provide proof of this later on. 

15. Is it easy to fill your car with gas in Argentina? 

Our Rental car in Patagonia at a small fuel station
One of the remote gas stations in Patagonia!

Yes, and there are gas station attendants who will fill it up for you. You shouldn’t get out of the car and do it yourself (like in the States). It’s best to pay in cash, partly because this is the general rule of thumb in Argentina – but also because you’re more likely to get scammed when paying with a card. 

If you do need to pay with a card, don’t let the attendant walk away with it. Either go inside the kiosk to pay or ask them to bring the card machine to you. Your card shouldn’t leave your sight.

In Patagonia, the gas stations can be small and spread out so it’s best to fuel up whenever you can! Oh and in those remote towns, cash is the only way to pay!

16. Is renting a car in Argentina worth it?

A motorcycle drives along a road into El Chalten with a mountain backdrop in Argentina
Where else can you get views like this?

100% yes! This is a huge country and there are so many incredible places in Argentina to explore. Having a rental car gives you so much freedom to visit remote areas like Patagonia, which really is an amazing experience. We would do it again in a heartbeat!

Related Read: To explore even more of Argentina’s wilderness, read our guide to the Mount Fitz Roy (Laguna del los Tres) hike!

Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!

We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!

SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.

They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.  

We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!

Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie inside their rental car in Argentina
Thanks for reading!

Renting a car is one of the best ways to see Argentina, particularly in more remote areas like Patagonia. You’ll see stunning landscapes, visit quaint towns, and really get a feel for the overall country. Plus, you’ll be able to do it at your own pace – which we love!

We definitely recommend renting a car in Argentina, and we hope our guide has helped you feel more comfortable with the process. If you found it useful, you also might enjoy our other blogs about Argentina or the rest of South America. Thanks for reading!

Is The Argentine Experience in Buenos Aires Worth it?

15 BEST Tours of Ushuaia, Argentina

BEST Areas to Stay in Buenos Aires (for Tourist Attractions and Safety!)

Dewi

Monday 7th of August 2023

Hi, love the post. I’m travelling in Argentina at the moment and haven’t been able to find any rental companies that accept debit cards. Are there any that you know of? Thanks

destinationlesstravel

Monday 7th of August 2023

Hey Dewi,

Unfortunately all rental car companies want credit cards these days.

Thanks Daniel