5 Things to Know About Renting a Car and Driving in Mexico
Whether you’re headed to Mexico for business or pleasure, renting a car can definitely seem like a great way to see the sights on your own terms. But with different regulations and conditions, renting a car in Mexico becomes complicated. Before hitting the highways of Mexico, review our top five things to know for a smooth ride from Guadalupe to Guadalajara.
1. International agencies vs. local agencies.
Mexico boasts the same rental car companies as found internationally: Hertz, Avis, and Alamo all offer their services alongside local car rental agencies. Prices vary between these international and local agencies, so be aware of each company’s costs. Local car rental agencies, such as Cactus and MTM, will cost between 5 to 7 USD per day for a compact, manual car. International agencies, however, will charge higher (8 to 10 USD) for a similar vehicle.
2. Mandatory insurance.
These seemingly cheaper rental costs come with, well, quite a high price tag. The culprit kicking up the costs? Insurance. Mandatory insurance can often double or triple prices and, by law, is something each driver must have. To ensure you don’t pay more than needed, request the 3 following insurances for your rental:
- Basic Personal Liability (covers injury or damage done to another driver)
- Supplemental Liability Insurance (not required, but recommended; at 13 USD per day you can be covered for basic fender benders)
- Personal Accident Insurance (at 4-7 USD per day, it covers you or your passengers in case of collision, but be sure to check with your health insurance to make sure they don’t already provide it)
3. Driving up to speed.
You’ve chosen your rental company and you know what insurance policies to add. Sounds like you’re ready to hit the streets! Before doing so, make yourself familiar with Mexico’s roads. Driving culture in Mexico differs drastically from most of the Western world, particularly when it comes to the difference in speed. Private vehicles, semis, and busses alike travel at neck-breaking velocities and, unlike in other highly-populated nations, police cars aren’t equipped with radars to control the limit. Also, it’s important to know that Mexico is one of the world leaders in speeding and drunk driving-related accidents –90% of which occur in the middle and low-income areas. Keep your own radar up while driving and pull over to the shoulder should you feel the need.
4. Getting pulled over.
Although your likelihood of getting pulled over by a cop is slim, there’s always a chance. At times, an officer may pull a foreigner over for no reason other than to threaten with a ticket – in hopes of receiving a bribe. Should it happen, know your options. Police officers are underpaid in Mexico and, for this reason, look for other ways to make up for their low salary. Always be sure to have some bills on hand – 20 – 30 USD should more than suffice.
5. Avoid the “newly discovered damage” scam.
Some rental companies may attempt to scam you for money. In some incidences, companies will charge renters for damages that the vehicle already had—be it a scratch on the bumper or a cigarette burn on a seat—just to charge the customer more. The best way to avoid these scams is to rent from a verified agency and, should you notice damage upon arrival, take pictures of the car’s interior and exterior (with a time stamp on each photo) to have on record just in case the rental agency decides to pull a fast one.
Renting a car in Mexico can be tricky business, but arrive prepared and you’ll have no problem getting your hands on a decent vehicle during your stay. Understanding and speaking Spanish will allow you to easily analyze insurance contracts and review rental terms and conditions. Learn key phrases for your trip to communicate not only with rental companies, but also with police officers and locals as you travel through Mexico’s scenic routes.