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​​22 Things to Know BEFORE Renting a Car in Mexico

​​22 Things to Know BEFORE Renting a Car in Mexico

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Mexico is an incredible country with so much to explore, from beautiful beaches and idyllic islands to ancient Mayan ruins and incredible party towns. It’s really no wonder that it’s one of the most visited countries in the world!

If you’re planning a trip to Mexico, then you might be thinking about renting a car so that you can travel the country on your own terms. We usually try to rent a car when traveling because of the convenience and freedom that comes with it.

But before you head off to Mexico, there are some key things that you need to know first, like how to avoid being scammed, choosing a reliable and reputable rental agency, and the de facto rules of the road.

We’ve put together this complete guide containing absolutely everything you need to know about renting a car in Mexico so that you can get behind the wheel with confidence once you arrive.

Don’t have time to read the full article? When you’re traveling around a new country, it can get frustrating waiting for ride sharing vehicles that you are completely reliant on. If you prefer to explore the sights at your own pace, do what we do and book a rental car with Discover Cars – they have outstanding customer service and can offer a large selection of options to fit your budget.

Table Of Contents
  1. 1. Is renting a car in Mexico a good idea?
  2. 2. Requirements to rent a car in Mexico
  3. 3. Is it safe to drive in Mexico?
  4. 4. Mexico Car Rental Insurance breakdown
  5. 5. What is the best company to rent a car from in Mexico?
  6. 6. How much does renting a car in Mexico cost?
  7. 7. Can I use my credit card insurance when renting a car in Mexico?
  8. 8. What side of the road do you drive on in Mexico?
  9. 9. The best places to rent a car in Mexico
  10. 10. The worst places to rent a car in Mexico
  11. 11. Tips to save money on a rental car in Mexico
  12. 12. Driving tips for renting a car in Mexico
  13. 13. Can you trust online car rental websites when booking?
  14. 14. What extras are available when renting a car in Mexico?
  15. 15. Tips to follow when renting a car in Mexico
  16. 16. Can you leave Mexico with your rental car?
  17. 17. What are the road conditions like in Mexico?
  18. 18. What should you do if you get in an accident in Mexico?
  19. 19. Should you leave baggage and valuables in your car?
  20. 20. What are the major hazards on the roads in Mexico?
  21. 21. Is it easy to fill your car with gas in Mexico?
  22. 22. Is renting a car in Mexico worth it?
  23. Thanks for reading!

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

Daniel pays for parking in our rental car in Mexico at Akumal Beach
Having a car makes visiting attractions easy!
Mexico rental car parked on the street
We always opt for a small car too!

Yes! But you do need to know what to expect.

Having your own wheels allows you to create your own itinerary and tailor it to your interests, as well as explore parts of the country that are off the beaten path. It can also be much faster than taking tours or public transport, and we find that nothing beats the sense of freedom of being able to drive yourself around.

Plus, renting a car can also prove much more cost-effective than using taxis or taking tours, and it can also help you get a more authentic, local experience. You can set your own itinerary and schedule, so if you want to linger on the beach longer to enjoy the sunset or head to a viewpoint for sunrise, you can!

As long as you rent from a reputable company (we use Discover Cars for this), understand the requirements before you go, know which scams to look out for, and research the roads you’ll be driving on, renting a car in Mexico is a great way to explore the country at your own pace.

2. Requirements to rent a car in Mexico

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie driving in their rental car in Mexico
You also need an adventurous spirit!

Valid driver’s license

You need a valid driver’s license in order to rent a car in Mexico, but there’s no need to organize an International Driving Permit (IDP). As long as your license is valid and written in the Roman alphabet (the one that we use for English), then it will be sufficient to rent a vehicle. However, if your license is from a country that uses a character alphabet, such as China, Korea, or Japan, then you’ll need an IDP.

Credit or debit card in the driver’s name

You’ll also need a credit or debit card in the driver’s name to pay a deposit for your rental car. Rental companies keep this on file in case you damage the car, and the deposit amount is usually between $1,000 – $1,500 USD. 

We recommend using a credit card over a debit card if you can. When you use a credit card, the money is just kept on hold by the rental company, whereas with a debit card the money is actually taken out of your account and then refunded after you return the car. You can always pay for the actual rental with a debit card and just use your credit card for the deposit, but in general we think it’s smart to use a credit card when you travel because you get greater payment protection.

Over 18 but ideally 25

Technically, you can rent a car in Mexico if you’re between 18-24 years old, but most companies will only rent to people aged 25 and over. A few companies will rent to under 25s, but this will be more expensive. You’ll usually pay an extra $10-20 USD per day to rent a car if you’re under 25, so it might not prove as cost-effective.

Insurance (more on that below)

You’ll need auto insurance to rent a car in Mexico, and this isn’t usually included in the price you’re initially quoted, so bear that in mind. Thankfully, it’s not too expensive. There are several different types of insurance to choose from, and we’ve got a whole section on that below as it’s a pretty hefty topic. But basically, you will need insurance before you hit the road.

Passport

You need a valid passport to rent a car in Mexico (which shouldn’t be too much of a problem, since you’ll need it to get into the country in the first place). The rental agency won’t keep your passport but they will need to see it to make sure that you’re here legally. You might need to present your FMM card, which is the tearaway part of the immigration form that you fill in to enter the country, so don’t lose it!

3. Is it safe to drive in Mexico?

A dog crosses the road whil driving a rental car in Mexico
Oh and dogs have right of way!

Overall, yes, driving in Mexico is safe. However, you will need to be more careful here than when driving back home. Driving in certain parts of the country, like Mexico City, can be chaotic and there’s a lack of obvious rules. Meanwhile, drivers in the Yucatan Peninsula tend to be more considerate and law-abiding.

No matter where you’re driving in the country, you’ll need to pay extra attention to your fellow drivers here, as things aren’t always as orderly as they are in other countries, and always keep an eye out for potholes!

In the USA, the average road traffic fatality rate per 100,000 people is 12.4 per year. In Mexico, it’s ever so slightly lower at 12.3 per 100,000. So no, it’s not significantly more dangerous to drive here, but you need to bear in mind that you’re driving in a foreign country where road conditions and driving habits may be different from what you’re used to.

Related Read: Before you board the plane, check out our other safety tips on traveling to Mexico!

4. Mexico Car Rental Insurance breakdown

Bailey signs the final paperwork after dropping a rental car off in Mexico
Bailey signs the final paperwork for a rental car in Mexico
Bailey dropping our rental car off in Cancun airport

We know that car insurance probably isn’t the part of your Mexico vacation that you’re most excited for, but it is really important to understand the different types of insurance and what they entail. You can’t rent a car without insurance in Mexico (not that it would be a good idea even if you could), but there are different levels of coverage available.

Local Third-Party Liability Insurance

This is the minimum requirement for car rental in Mexico. It covers you for damages to third-party property, but not for any damage to your own vehicle. If another driver crashes into you, then make sure that you get their details so that their third-party coverage will pay for the damage to your car.

There’s usually a $2,000 USD deductible if you only get third-party insurance and not full coverage. So if you cause $3,000 USD worth of damage to another vehicle, then you’ll have to pay $2,000 USD yourself, and then the extra $1,000 USD will be covered by your insurance policy. This basic coverage costs around $10-$12 USD per day and it’s mandatory, even if you have Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance through your credit card.

Rental car inclusions
Look for all these inclusions in the red box. This means your Discover Cars full coverage will work. Cheaper options won’t!

Collision Insurance (CDW/LDW)

Collision Damage Waiver covers damage to the car, as well as theft. Lots of credit card companies offer this kind of insurance, but bear in mind that this might not be valid in Mexico, so make sure you read through the fine print. Even if it is valid, you can’t rent a car with CDW coverage alone – you’ll still need the personal liability insurance that we talked about above.

Other Insurance

Discover Cars full coverage inclusions
Discover Cars full coverage inclusions

If you want to make sure that you’re covered for all eventualities, it’s best to opt for full coverage insurance. This costs between $7-10 USD extra per day, on top of the mandatory third-party insurance, and often there are no deductibles. 

When you book through Discover Cars, this type of insurance means that you’re covered for up to $3,200 USD worth of damage, so this should give you peace of mind for your trip. This means that if you damage your rental car, the insurance company will probably keep your deposit, but Discover Cars will refund you.

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

Daniel drives along the highway in a rental car in Mexico

Without a doubt, Discover Cars is the best company to go through when renting a car in Mexico. We’ve used them all over the world, and have only had good experiences! Plus, honestly, trawling through lots of different rental sites can be so time-consuming and stressful, but Discover Cars makes it really easy to compare prices and reviews.

They compare both local and international rental agencies by price and user rating, so you can get the best deal and rest easy in the knowledge that you’re renting from a reputable company. Plus, they offer full coverage insurance for a really competitive price, so you can be sure that you’ll be covered in the event of any accidents, damage to the car, or even if you just lose the keys!

Warning against Mex Rent A Car

Mex Rent A Car office in Cancun
Mex Rent A Car office in Cancun
Mex Rent A Car insurance guide in Cancun before siging rental agreement
Without paying the LDW, they would not use my card.

We would like to take this opportunity to warn you against booking with Mex Rent A Car. We booked a rental car through them one year and had such a horrible experience. Despite booking through Discover Cars like we always do, they tried to scam us by making us pay for their insurance. They wanted almost 5,000 MXN for this. When we refused, they said our cards would not work.

In the end, they made us cancel our booking with Discover Cars and book directly through them and then our cards started working again. It’s a scam to get a booking, and they get rid of the third-party booking system that advertised for them.

This is rare, and Discover Cars was good about it, which was very helpful. We got a full refund from them.

Instead, it’s best to go with large suppliers such as Thrifty, Hertz, and Budget Car Rentals. Remember, you’ll still get a cheaper deal booking with Discover Cars.

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

Driving our Mexico rental car at sunset in Mexico
Having a rental car means freedom!

Nowadays, it usually costs between $40 to $60 USD per day to rent a car with full coverage insurance (which we definitely recommend getting). It used to be possible to get one for $20 to $30 USD per day, but prices have gone up a lot recently and you would be very lucky to find such a cheap rental from a reputable company.

If you shop around on Discover Cars, though, you can sometimes find a small car from a reputable agency for $35 USD per day with full insurance.

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

Bailey takes a photo of Daniel while he sits in our Mexico Rental car

Yes, you can use your credit card’s Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance when renting a car in Mexico, but you’re still required by law to purchase the Third Party Liability insurance. Some car rental places might even let you take a car under your credit card insurance, but this is illegal, so be wary of these companies.

However, you can get the Third Party Liability insurance and then have your credit card insurance on top of that. To be honest, though, you’re much better off just purchasing the full coverage option through Discover Cars. This covers you for absolutely everything, and it only costs $5 to $10 USD per day, with no hidden fees on top of that. Plus, there are no deductibles.

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

Driving along a small street in Mexico in a rental car
Be aware of all the one-way streets though!

In Mexico, they drive on the right side of the road, which is the same as the USA, Canada, and most of Europe. So if you’re from a country that drives on the left, like the UK, Australia, or New Zealand, this may take a little bit of getting used to! But don’t worry, we alternate between Canada and New Zealand quite frequently and it really doesn’t take that long to adjust.

9. The best places to rent a car in Mexico

Photo on the highway out the front windscreen of a rental car in Mexico
Driving out of Cancun!

Cancun

There’s so much to explore in Cancun, both in the city and the Hotel Zone, as well as natural and historic attractions nearby for day trips from Cancun. The roads here are usually straight, flat, and well-maintained, so they’re easy to drive on. Plus, Cancun is just an hour’s drive from Playa del Carmen, and two hours to Tulum (and the amazing Tulum Ruins!), so you can explore the Yucatan Peninsula by car from here.

There’s also not many Ubers in Cancun and taxis can be really expensive, so renting a car in Cancun will also save you money. It’s also one of the easiest ways to get from the Cancun Airport to the Hotel Zone if you’re staying there for a bit.

Related Read: Having a car also means you can explore Cancun’s best beaches – including some hidden gems!

Playa del Carmen

The center of Playa del Carmen is very walkable, but there are a ton of amazing day trips that you can take from this city. Renting a car in Playa del Carmen gives you so much freedom to enjoy the nearby cenotes, Mayan ruins, or the Xplor Adventure Park which is one of the best places to go ATVing in Playa del Carmen! Plus, there are several other vibrant cities on the Yucatan Peninsula within easy reach of Playa del Carmen, so you can visit them independently and spend as long as you want exploring. 

Tulum

Tulum is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico. It’s a small, laid-back town with boho-chic vibes throughout. We recommend renting a car here because there are so many beautiful natural spots close by, like Xel-Ha aquatic park, some stunning cenotes near Tulum to swim in, as well as ancient Mayan sites like the Coba Ruins. Also, Tulum isn’t right on the waterfront like Playa del Carmen and Cancun are, so having a car comes in handy for driving to the beach.

There’s no Uber in Tulum, and car rentals are pretty in demand here, so it’s best to reserve your vehicle via Discovery Cars well in advance.

Merida

Merida is less touristy than the above cities, and it’s a really cool place to get a dose of authentic Mexican culture! Public transport here tends to be pretty unreliable, so renting a car is much easier, and it also gives you access to some of the cool cultural sites outside of the city. It’s a 45-minute drive to the nearest beach, and it’s also just an hour to the Celestun Biosphere Reserve.

Cabo San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas is a glamorous town that’s a favorite with honeymooners and Hollywood stars. Hotel prices here can be steep, so renting a car allows you to save money by staying a little further out. Plus, the roads are generally in good condition and if you get tired of the party beaches in town, you can drive out to Chileno Beach, which we think is absolutely beautiful and a lot more relaxed than the main hotspots. If you can, try to fit in a scuba diving tour in Cabo, a Cabo whale shark tour, or even a cruise as the waters around here are famous for what you can see!

Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is a vibrant resort town on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, and it’s definitely worth renting a car in Puerto Vallarta because it allows you to take lots of fun day trips. The roads are well maintained here, and having your own wheels allows you to get away from the crowds to visit the laid-back towns of Sayulita, San Pancho, or Lo de Marco. In our opinion, there’s way too much to explore close to Puerto Vallarta to just stay in town!

Related Read: While staying in Puerto Vallarta, don’t miss out on the best tours and excursions! There’s everything from whale watching to ATV rides and the fabulous Rhythms of the Night Show.

10. The worst places to rent a car in Mexico

View of Mexico City from the Mirador Torre Latino
Mexico City is a daunting place – especially to drive in!

Mexico City

Mexico City is notoriously busy, so you might find yourself sitting in traffic for a very long time if you rent a car here. Not only that, but the drivers here can be very chaotic and there are basically no road rules. It also tends to be a lot more expensive to rent a car here than in other cities in Mexico.

It’s really easy to use Uber here and the city has a great public transport system, so why put yourself through the stress of driving when it’s not necessary?

Oaxaca (the city)

The roads inside the city of Oaxaca are also super busy, and there’s a serious lack of street parking, so chances are you’ll spend more time trying to find a spot than enjoying some sightseeing. The public transport here does leave a lot to be desired, but you can use the DiDi Rider app, which is basically a local version of Uber, to hail a taxi instead.

Meanwhile, the roads outside of the city are bumpy mountain roads with lots of twists and turns, so it can be pretty dangerous to drive here if you’re not used to this kind of terrain. If you are looking to add in some experiences while you’re here, I recommend joining some tours in Oaxaca City that include transportation!

Related Read: If you’re planning a late October/early November visit, the celebrations for the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca are some of the best in the entire country!

11. Tips to save money on a rental car in Mexico

Photo out the windscreen in Mexico while diving a rental car

Visit in the low season

Prices for virtually everything are almost always cheaper in the low season, so visiting at this time of year can save you some cash on a rental car. The roads in popular tourist areas will also be less busy during the low season, which makes driving around that much easier.

The low season in Mexico is from May until November, so you can try and bag a better deal at this time of year!

Avoid renting a 4WD

As you would expect, 4WD vehicles are more expensive to rent, and it’s not really necessary in Mexico. This is especially true if you’re spending most of your time in the Yucatan Peninsula, where the roads tend to be very flat. In our experience, a 2WD will be more than sufficient to get you everywhere you need to go!

Rent from major locations

Renting your car from major tourist destinations can save you a lot of money as opposed to renting in more remote locations. Rental companies generally have better deals when you rent from larger cities and airports. In some parts of the world, it is more expensive to rent a car straight from the airport, but that doesn’t seem to apply in Mexico. It all comes down to supply and demand at the end of the day!

Pick up and drop off in the same location

It’s pretty much always cheaper to pick up and drop off your car in the same location. Rental companies will have to return the car to the original place you picked it up in, so they’ll charge an extra fee for the journey. If you do need a one-way rental, just bear in mind that the further away your drop-off location is from the pickup spot, the more expensive it will be.

12. Driving tips for renting a car in Mexico

Daniel drives through traffic in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Daniel poses for a photo with our rental car at a cenote in tulum, Mexico

Speed limits are in kilometers not miles

When driving in Mexico, remember that the speed limits displayed are in kilometers, not miles per hour! The speedometer in your car should also be in kilometers per hour, so just make sure that the two numbers match up and you shouldn’t have a problem. Saying that, people often tend to drive pretty fast in Mexico, so it’s easier than you might think to get confused!

Drive slowly over speed bumps (topes)

Topes are, quite frankly, the worst thing about driving in Mexico. They’re unpainted speed bumps, which makes them super difficult to spot. You could be driving along a road at 50 km/h and suddenly hit a massive tope that you didn’t even know was there!

To make matters worse, topes tend to be much more severe than regular speed bumps, as there’s no real regulation about how big they should be. You’ll have to slow down quite a bit when approaching them, otherwise you could do some serious damage to your car.

Some roads have yellow signs to alert you when a tope is coming up, but this isn’t always the case. And, as we say, they’re pretty difficult to spot, especially in low light, so keep your eyes peeled and pay attention to what other drivers are doing. Locals tend to know which roads have topes, so if you see someone driving really slowly with their hazard lights on then it’s a strong indicator that one is coming up.

Watch for wildlife

Another factor to contend with when driving in Mexico. You might find deer, raccoons, and stray dogs running across the road, among other animals. There are often wildlife signs to alert you to this, so if you see one remember to take extra care. It’s always a good idea to keep your eyes peeled and pay close attention, because the last thing you want to do is hit an animal!

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

Buses are bigger than cars. In Mexico, that means that they always have the right of way, even if they don’t actually have the right of way. Buses aren’t going to move out of the way for you, so be mindful of them, keep your distance, and let go of all principles and just give way. The same goes for trucks, too. 

Don’t drive at night

When driving abroad, it’s often best to do as the locals do, and lots of locals in Mexico avoid driving at night wherever possible. This is partly because assaults are more common at night, but also largely because it’s much harder to see wildlife, potholes, and topes in the dark. If you do need to drive at night in Mexico, stick to main roads and toll roads, because these tend to be better maintained and well-lit.

It’s better to use the Cuota Roads (toll roads)

If you’re driving between cities, use the Cuota roads wherever you can. You’ll need to pay a toll to drive on these roads, but they are much better maintained with fewer potholes, less traffic, and, crucially, no topes! Tolls vary between $25-$150 MXN ($1.50-$9 USD) for cars, and you’ll need to bring the exact money because you won’t be getting any change!

Paying a toll booth in our rental car in Mexico
Paying a toll booth in our rental car in Mexico

Always carry rental documents and registration in the vehicle

Make sure you bring your rental documents, third-party insurance policy, registration, and driver’s license with you when driving around in Mexico. Unfortunately, police corruption is a real thing here and they’ll use any excuse to try and get bribes out of foreigners, so back yourself up with paperwork. It’s also useful in the case of an accident so that you can prove that you’re legally on the road and able to get your insurance company to cover any damage as quickly as possible.

Police checks are frequent

Yup, police pullovers are very common in Mexico. Police will use any excuse to stop you, but they usually will need some sort of excuse, so driving carefully, sticking to the speed limit, and following all of the rules of the road can help you keep this to a minimum. And as we said above, make sure that you have all of your documents with you so that you can prove without a doubt that you’re not breaking any rules by being on the road.

If you do get pulled over for an indiscretion, the police will usually tell you that they’ll waive your ticket in exchange for a cash payment (aka a bribe) of around $100 USD. Bear in mind that if you do pay the bribe, you’re basically just encouraging this behavior, so remember that you can just take the official fine instead.

Child seats are not required but should always be used

Child seats aren’t required by law in Mexico, but you should always use them just as you would back home. Most car rental companies will provide child seats for an additional fee, and it’s really not worth risking a child’s safety by not using one. The car seats in Mexico are the same ones that you’ll find in the USA, so they should be up to standard.

Drive carefully and defensively

When driving in Mexico, it pays to stay alert and drive defensively. Drivers here are much more aggressive than you’re probably used to, so don’t just trust that someone is going to give way to you or brake for you.

Stay alert at all times and keep scanning the roads, not only for other drivers but also for wildlife, potholes, and topes. Watch out when the car in front of you puts their hazard lights on because this could mean that they’re either about to turn or slow down for a tope, wildlife, or a police pullover. 

Always stick to the speed limit, even though this will probably mean that you get overtaken a lot, but just let it happen and don’t get sucked into a race. And when someone cuts you off, try not to get engaged and just remember that people drive differently here (we know that this is easier said than done, but still!).

Carry cash for road tolls

You’ll need cash for the toll roads, or Cuotas, because you can’t pay by credit card. They only accept local currency, not USD, and try to bring the exact money. If you pay with a large bill, you won’t be getting anything back!

Download maps offline

Cell reception can be spotty when driving in rural areas. In fact, you might not get anything at all for a very long stretch of road when driving across the country. Always download maps for offline use before hitting the road, as this can save you from getting completely stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Don’t use your phone while driving

Obviously, this rule applies all over the world, but it’s especially important when driving in Mexico. You need to be super alert and have your eyes on the road at all times here. Looking away for just a few seconds could mean the difference between a smooth ride and disaster. Plus, if the police see you using your phone then they WILL pull you over, so don’t give them any excuse.

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

Daniel smiles at the camera while he drives in Mexico
Yes you can!

Yes, absolutely – if you’re using Discover Cars, that is. They give the best prices and it’s often cheaper to go through them than to book directly. Sometimes, the prices may seem cheaper at first on the actual company site, but remember that the initial price you see doesn’t include insurance. Discover Cars also offers the most competitive full coverage insurance rates that we’ve found anywhere, so you’ll definitely get the best deal by booking through them.

Remember that Discover Cars also shows supplier ratings out of 10, so make sure to check this before you book. If you choose a top-rated supplier, then everything will be fine!

14. What extras are available when renting a car in Mexico?

Discover Cars full coverage inclusions
Discover Cars full coverage inclusions

Additional Driver

If you want to share the driving, you always have the option to add an additional driver when you book your vehicle. This can help to break up long journeys if you’re traveling across the country, and it might even prove safer as switching it up can help you to stay alert.

The price depends on the type of the car that you’re renting. Generally speaking, it costs between $8 to $12 USD per day to add another driver. Prices do vary according to the size of car you want, and the rental agency you choose, but it’s easy to compare this through Discover Cars. And if you want to add two extra drivers, then you’ll need to double that amount.

Baby seat

If you’ve got a little one on board, then you’ll definitely need a child car seat. It costs around $12 USD per day to rent one, and you can do this through Discover Cars, too. They offer both baby seats for infants weighing up to 13 kilograms (28 lbs) and child seats for kids that weigh between 9 and 18 kilograms (20 – 40 lbs). The prices are the same for both types of seats.

Full coverage

Full coverage insurance covers you in the event of loss, damage, theft, and even scratches and scrapes. You can ensure that you won’t be held liable for any of these costs up to $3,200 USD, so for an extra $7 USD per day, we think it’s most definitely worth it – especially with all of the topes and potholes around!

15. Tips to follow when renting a car in Mexico

A small rental car is parked on the side of the road in Mexico
Take your own photos of damage!

Sort by supplier rating, not price, on Discover Cars

There are certain times in life when it’s okay to cut corners on price. Renting a car is not one of those times. When booking on Discover Cars, you’re much better off choosing a highly-rated supplier, even if it costs more. That way you know that the car will be reliable and well-maintained, and you’re renting from an honest supplier, so it could even save you money in the long run. 

Plus, sometimes reputable companies actually offer better prices, so it doesn’t always mean that you’ll pay more per day for your vehicle.

At the top of the list of available options, you can choose to sort by rating. We also always go to the sidebar menu and check the “Excellent 8+” box under the “supplier rating” heading so that only the top-rated companies will appear.

Get full coverage

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: you definitely want full coverage insurance. This covers you for up to $3,200 USD if anything happens to the car, as long as you’re complying with the terms of your rental agreement. It only costs $7 USD per day on Discover Cars, and there are no deductibles, it’s 100% worth it for the peace of mind that you get.

It doesn’t cover third-party damage but don’t worry because you’ll already be covered for that under the mandatory personal liability insurance, which is already included in the price of your rental on Discover Cars.

Take your own photos when doing the inspection

It’s always best to take photos of the car from every angle when you’re inspecting it during pickup. This way, you’re covered in case the rental company tries to pull a fast one and claim that you caused some damage that was already there. You don’t want to be held accountable for someone else’s mistakes!

You can’t cross the border with your rental car

You are absolutely not, under any circumstances, allowed to cross the border into the USA (or Guatemala and Belize, for that matter) in your Mexican rental car. The rental companies strictly forbid it, and even if you do try, the agents at the land borders won’t let you through anyway. So basically, no international road trips in your rental car!

Read the terms and conditions

Always read the terms and conditions of your rental agreement thoroughly and make sure that you understand them properly. It’s important to understand what you’re responsible for, what is and isn’t covered by insurance, and any other relevant information. If you’re breaking the rules set out by the rental company and damage the car, then your insurance won’t cover it, so you need to know what’s expected of you before you hit the road. You can check out Discover Cars’ terms and conditions here.

16. Can you leave Mexico with your rental car?

Nope, absolutely not. You can’t cross the border into the USA or any other neighboring countries with your Mexican rental car, even if you possess all of the necessary documentation. The agents at land borders won’t let you through. And even if they did, you would be in violation of your rental agreement, so your insurance wouldn’t cover any damage and you would have to foot the entire bill yourself.

17. What are the road conditions like in Mexico?

Driving in Tulum, Mexico
Driving in Tulum, Mexico

Main roads and toll roads tend to be fairly well-maintained, but secondary roads can be bumpy and potholed. If you’re venturing off the beaten track or driving out to a beach or cenote, you’ll probably encounter your fair share of potholes, so it’s important to try and avoid these because they can really damage your car! Go slowly and always keep your eyes peeled.

And as we mentioned earlier, lots of roads going through towns and villages are filled with the dreaded topes. The size of topes isn’t standardized, they’re almost never painted, and there aren’t always signs to alert you of their presence, so it’s really important to stay alert and slow down when you’re driving through these areas.

Keep an eye on what other drivers are doing, and if you see them slowing down or swerving, then there’s a good chance that they’ve spotted a tope or a pothole ahead.

Related Read: Take a road trip in your rental car to the city of Tequila – it has some of the best tequila in the world, no surprise!

18. What should you do if you get in an accident in Mexico?

driving in Mexico

If you get into an accident while driving in Mexico, you should call 911 and make sure that an accident investigator (perito) is sent to you. They will investigate and make an accident report, which you will need to file an insurance claim.

You should also call your insurance company to report the accident to make sure that everything is documented. Make sure you’ve got your rental and insurance policies with you, as well as your driver’s license so that you can prove that you’re covered and legally on the road.

If another driver is involved, make sure to swap contact and insurance information with them, and note down their license plate. You should also take photos of the scene and any damage to your car that has occurred as proof.

911 is also the number you need to call an ambulance, so if you’re injured, make sure that you get the medical attention you need. Make sure that you have travel insurance that covers you for medical expenses abroad and, if possible, you should contact the insurance company before receiving medical treatment. However, this requirement is often waived in emergency circumstances. The best thing to do is read your policy thoroughly before traveling so that you know exactly what’s expected of you, and what you’re covered for.

19. Should you leave baggage and valuables in your car?

Daniel poses for a photo with our rental car at the Tulum Ruins parking lot in Tulum, Mexico
If you do have valuables, make sure you’re parked in a secure parking lot!

No, this is definitely not a good idea! Car break-ins and auto theft are unfortunately pretty common in Mexico, so don’t take any chances. Always take your valuables with you when you leave the car, even if you’re just running into a store for a minute.

When stealing luggage from cars, thieves tend to take the entire bag so that they can sift through it later on without getting caught, so don’t leave your suitcases in the trunk, either.

Bear in mind that your car insurance doesn’t cover the cost of your possessions (not that you’d want them to be stolen in any case), so it’s always worth taking out travel insurance when visiting Mexico just in case something does happen.

20. What are the major hazards on the roads in Mexico?

A photo out the windscreen while driving a rental car in Mexico
Most of the roads are well-maintained!

Potholes

A lot of the roads in Mexico are full of potholes, which can be incredibly damaging to your car if you don’t take care. Pay attention to the road ahead and slow down when necessary – there’s no point endangering your car just to save a few minutes!

Topes

Topes are speed bumps, but not just any old speed bumps. They can be pretty big and they’re basically never painted, so they’re also hard to spot. Essentially, they’re a menace to your rental car!

Topes are often located at the start and end of towns, so be careful when heading in and out of a residential area. Sometimes, there will be a sign to alert you, but not always. Keep your eyes peeled! Locals seem to instinctively know where the topes are, so if you see them slowing down or putting their hazards on, then there’s a good chance that one of these concrete monsters is coming up. 

Trucks and buses

Trucks and buses tend to drive aggressively in Mexico, with no regard for other drivers on the roads. Be extra careful when driving around them, because they won’t give you a second thought, and they’ll just charge ahead even if it’s your right of way. They often don’t even signal before changing lanes or turning, so watch them carefully, keep your distance, and try to stay out of their way as much as possible.

People

There are no sidewalks along many of the roads in Mexico, so people often walk on the sides or in the middle of the road. Be extra vigilant when you’re driving and keep an eye out for pedestrians!

Your fellow car drivers also present a risk, because they often drive erratically. In some parts of the country, turn signals are more of a suggestion than a standard practice, so take extra care when making turns and merging into traffic. Some drivers will also use a signal to the right but then turn left, or put their hazard lights on to indicate a turn instead.

If the driver in front of you puts their hazard lights on, it can also mean that they’re about to slow down because they’re approaching a tope or a police checkpoint. Leave plenty of space between yourself and the next car, and if you see their hazard lights, slow down.

Narrow lanes (compared to the USA/Canada)

Roads in Mexico tend to be pretty narrow compared to the USA or Canada, so be aware that you may not have as much room to maneuver. You’ll also need to be mindful of traffic coming in the opposite direction. If a truck is coming in the opposite direction, for example, you might need to pull over and let them pass – especially as these guys rule the road and will take up as much room as they want to!

21. Is it easy to fill your car with gas in Mexico?

Fueling up our rental car in Mexico
Fueling up our rental car in Mexico
Gas pump in Mexico
Gas pump in Mexico

Yes, there are actually attendants who will fill your car up for you, so it’s super easy! Just tell them how many liters you want, or if you want a full tank, say “llenado.” (Pronunciation tip: remember that two Ls in Spanish make a hard “Y” sound!).

It’s usually best to pay in cash, especially in more rural areas where gas stations may not have card machines – or not ones that work, anyway. Plus, gas stations are one of the most common places for card skimming, which is when a device is added to the machine that copies your details for criminals to use.

If you do need to pay with a card, try to use a credit card instead of a debit card, because it’s usually easier to get your money refunded from the card company this way. And if you do think that something dodgy has occurred, you can now freeze most credit and debit cards via your online banking app while you’re not using them.

Also, don’t let the petrol attendant take your card and walk away, because this is also how scams happen! Ask them to bring a card machine over to you, or walk inside with them to pay. Keep hold of your card at all times.

You will also be expected to tip the attendant around 10 – 20 pesos ($0.50 – $1 USD) in cash for filling your car. If you request extra services like cleaning your windshield, checking your tires, or changing the oil, then you should add an extra 20 – 60 pesos ($1 – $3.30 USD).

22. Is renting a car in Mexico worth it?

Driving on a cute street in Mexico in a rental car
We love the freedom!

100% yes. It gives you so much freedom to explore all the amazing things to do in Mexico and it’s the best way to discover hidden gems! We’ve done it several times while visiting Mexico – always with Discover Cars – and never regretted it, because it has always given us so much independence and led to some amazing experiences.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie while driving around Mexico
Thanks for reading!

There you have it – a full guide on renting a car in Mexico! I hope these tips were helpful as you get ready for your getaway to Mexico. A little bit of preplanning before you leave will ensure you can just show up to get your rental car and then go enjoy the sunshine!

If you’re planning a trip here, make sure to check out our other blogs about Mexico. We have lots of tips and ideas to help you plan the best Mexican vacation!

11 BEST Cancun Resorts (An Unbiased Guide from Cheap to Luxury!)

22 Things to KNOW Before Visiting Chichén Itzá

12 Things you NEED to Know about the Day of the Dead in Mexico

10 BEST Tours in Mexico City + 5 Things to Know!

GABRIEL NAJERA

Sunday 3rd of March 2024

WOW! I'm impressed, you've done a very good job with all the tips you've given. English is not my first language, but how you explain things, were like you were here with me using wording that's easy to understand. Everything was so clear and easy to process. You've help me a lot, to be honest I've been nervous and worried all these past few days. Because, I need to rent a car for a whole month but I didn't know wich company to trust. I really needed some kind of advice and I didnt had nobody to ask. Reading a lot of reviews about how a lot of car rental companies scam people, was giving me some anxiety. But you, have cleared all my doubts and pointed me to the right direction. I like to thank you for taking the time and sharing your knowledge with us. Thank you, thank you, seriously, I thank you but very very much! You are awsome!

Blessings my friend!

Sincererly; Gabriel

Howard

Friday 2nd of February 2024

Can't see my comments anymore. Wondering what you thought of my last reply? best howard

Destinationless Travel

Sunday 4th of February 2024

Hey Howard,

I have emailed Discover Cars on your behalf to get to the bottom of this. For now though, I have not had complaints from any other travelers. For that reason, I removed the comment but pending the investigation, this article may change to reflect the issue and warn against using Discover Cars.

Thanks Daniel