Vehicle Rentals in Mexico
Think a car rental or moped isn’t feasible during your travels through mexico? Think again, you might be surprised.
In small towns or isolated areas like small islands (for example Isla Mujeres or Cozumel) a scooter/moped might be a great option, arguable even better than a car rental. If you reserve one online (we rented in person from HTL in Cozumel and it was quite smooth from beginning to end) and you’re prepared not to have any insurance at all you can get a moped for as little as 300p/day, but be warned that if anything happens, you’re fully responsible and they’ll have your credit card info which they can easily charge for the value of the damage incurred. If you want to get partially insured which should be enough for most people who have experience riding mopeds, then you can get away with 350 pesos for 24 hours. That’s just under $30 CDN/ $25 USD. And if you want to go all out and cover every eventuality save for a $500 USD deductible be ready to spend 500 pesos. As far as I know no credit cards will cover foolish things like mopeds so don’t expect to rely on that for coverage. In the end we went with the $500 deductible option just because it had been a while since I’d driven one and we were riding double so the margins are smaller for errors. But we rode around onto the east coast of Cozumel for the day, and loved every second of it. While it wasn’t the greatest day for swimming, due to seaweed choking the beaches, we still managed to soak some sun in, have a couple drinks, and explore a bit. It wasn’t the cheapest option (due to the insurance package we chose), but it gave us complete freedom, and some memorable moments.
Car Rental Mexico
Car rentals can present some challenges of its own. We checked out a few agencies online then went to check them out in person as well. Turns out, you should always call just to get more information and this seems to be a theme for almost anything in Mexico, but in the end, to make the reservation, it’s easiest and best to do it online. Show up with the reservation made and you cut down on a lot of talk time with the agent. S/he’ll generally skip the shpiels and try to get the booking handled and out off his/her hair as quick as possible. Renting a car in Yucatan and possibly the rest of Mexico (though at the time of writing this I haven’t done the research for elsewhere in Mexico) is dirt cheap. It’s quite ridiculous. $30 USD /week (yes WEEK) is quite possible. Now, that’s for unlimited kilometers and all but the insurance again comes into the picture. If you can use a credit card that covers you fully in conjunction with your health insurance, then deny all the coverage from the agency and you have yourself a car for $30/week (AMAZING!). But be careful, call your credit card company to get the low down on the insurance situation. Last thing you want is to find yourself a few thousand dollars in debt just to save a few dozen (apparently few American credit cards cover Mexico car rentals, but we were lucky that our Canadian card did). But if you do your due diligence, you can have complete transportation freedom for a couple weeks, which will come in handy in the Yucatan if you want to visit multiple cenotes, ruins, beaches and other sites. And in the end it’s much cheaper than taxis and buses, though arguably not as affordable as colectivos. We didn’t quite do the math on that comparison but from a quick mental calculation the difference was negligible if the plan is to do multiple trips per day from place to place.
We got our rental from Dollar for a week and it cost us 671 pesos, plus gas of course. That’s $55 CDN/$45 USD (not including gas) for a car rental for a full week. You can’t do better than that, particularly if you’re more than 1 renting the car. At 2 it’s a great deal, at 3 it’s insane and 4, well the term “inconthievable” comes to mind. You won’t regret it I’m sure.
We used our little VW golf to drive from Playa to Merida, check out cenotes, visit the ruins in the Merida general area, the North coast of the Yucatan, and really just to explore. While I am a big fan of traveling by bus and other collective means, and most of my travels are indeed done in that manner, having a car from time to time is a great option.
Things to watch out for:
1. Gas stations. When filling up, if you have the option of self-service, take it. It’ll save you some money and potential hassle. If not, and you get served, make sure you don’t overpay. To do this, look at the fuel pump and make sure that the amount is at $0 before any fuel is pumped, seems obvious, but it’s easy to get distracted or forget to look. The problem is, what some attendants will do if you’re not looking, is NOT reset the pump after the last customer. So, for example if the last customer put 150 pesos worth of gas in their car, the attendant might not reset it. This means that if you’re not looking, he’ll just continue from the $150. So, he basically charges you 150 more than you would have paid normally and pockets the excess. Or, let’s say you notice before he starts, he’ll reset it, then put say 100 pesos of gas in and stop. And then he’ll say, “oh did you say ciento (100) or lleno (full)?” Of course he knows, but this is where he can get you again. If you say lleno, then he says, “ah, ok” then pretends to hit something on the register, the idea being that you think he’s resetting it because he misunderstood. So you go on and get back to your conversation with the passenger and at the end he says, ok it’s 700. You look at the register and it only says 600. You ask him and he says, “yes, but remember the 100 i put in before? So it’s 600 +100”. Given you weren’t paying attention, you might be inclined to just say ok, but then you’re paying 100 more. So, those are the 2 tricks we’ve seen tried on us. Whether there are others we don’t know, but at least being aware of these might help you prevent being taken advantage of.
2. Make sure your credit card covers EVERYTHING. Again, 99% of the time you’re fine, but an accident in a foreign country can soon turn into a nightmare.
3. Make sure to avoid toll roads.You’d think that like most things in Mexico, toll roads are cheap. Not so. We paid close to $25 CDN one way on a toll road accidentally. We had no idea it would or could possibly be that much. This was from the Playa/Cancun area across to Merida. It was ridiculous. Sure it saved a bit of time, but it’s not worth it. Skip it. Google Maps clearly has the toll roads marked and you can use GPS without having data enabled, so I highly recommend having Maps open during your travels to help avoid issues.
4. Google Maps. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an invaluable tool and if you do get a car rental, you likely can’t go without this one, but be careful. The roads aren’t mapped quite as well as the US or Canada and you might find yourself in the middle of nowhere. If you have options in terms of which roads to take and you’re in unfamiliar territory, try to choose the more obvious (bigger avenues) ones rather than the smaller, out of the way options, unless you’re looking for adventure of course.