We recommend renting a car in Cozumel. Especially if you want to explore the island, discover its
secluded beautiful breathtaking beaches, and have the freedom to do whatever, whenever.
Here are some tips to help you get the best deal and avoid some gotchas. You will not find any of this information anywhere else so read entire section carefully and print this
section to take with you.
Renting a vehicle on the island is a bit different than in the US or Europe. For one thing, you're are in no way guaranteed a spiffy under-one-year-old vehicle with that new car smell.
We suggest you book ahead of time on the internet. No credit card is required for reserving the car, so your card cannot be charged if you don't show up. Print out your reservation form and take it with you to
guarantee the price you were offered on-line or chances are you will be in line for a bait and switch game.
Arriving at the Cozumel International Airport
The first question is; Which car rental company actually have a desk at the Cozumel International
The answer is there are Five (5): Avis and Hertz have offices inside the airport building, Thrifty, Dollar, and Executive are outside the airport building and require a 2 minute
walk with your luggage to their offices. The walk is worth the difference in price. $12-25/day for a mid size car. We recommend Thrifty.
Jeeps do not have air, and cost 2 to 3 times an air conditioned midsize car.
Book with two rental companies on-line, and
when you get there see for yourself which has the better car and the best deal. Ask them to show you the car before signing any papers.
(No one requires a credit card to book, and your card can't and will not be charged if you don't show up). Thrifty, Dollar are in the same office, so don't bother booking with both. Thrifty is less expensive. We found
that memberships with Avis and others do not really get you a much better deal.
Other rental companies may advertise desks at the airport, but will require taking a shuttle (which you have to pay for) to their offices downtown. Too much hassle especially when it
comes to returning the car. It will end up costing you more.
Arriving in Cancun via the Ferry at the Dock - Executive (ACE), Thrifty, Avis, Dollar, Budget, and Alamo
have offices one to two blocks from the ferry Dock. You'll have to take your luggage a couple of blocks, for a $3 tip you can have one of the luggage carriers guide you to the car rental agencies.
Car Liability Insurance - One insurance expense you must take is personal liability. If you have the misfortune to injure someone locally, you will be taken to the police
station to settle up the bills. No foreign insurance card will be accepted. No credit cards will be accepted. You would have to settle up everything in cash. Take the liability insurance your car company offers; most of the
time it is mandatory -- it's generally $11/day. This is a necessary expense. Some car rental companies bundle this in their price. Others don't. Be sure to ask when shopping for price.
Car Collision Insurance - The second insurance expense, which is optional, is the collision to pay for damages to the car you are renting. This is a big money-maker for local
companies who seem to uniformly charge $10/day for $800 deductible and $20/day for no deductible. This can easily triple your car rental. if you use your credit card car rental insurance, you would have to settle up
everything in cash, and turn in a claim when you arrive in the US. Get all the receipts with you.
Our suggestion is to get travel insurance to cover the entire trip including car rentals, and many other travel issues, for less that you pay for collision insurance alone.
We met a couple on a plane, where the husband had a clogged artery in his leg while on a cruise, they had to forfeit the rest of their cruise, pay for emergency water taxi to get them off the ship, plus the hospital bill in
cash before leaving, and pay for additional first class airplane tickets back home; because there were no coach seats available - Total bill $20,000 in cash. Even if you have insurance you still will not get out of
Mexico (or perhaps out of jail) until the bill is paid in Mexico. You can then claim with US insurance company back home
Option 1 - Travel Insurance - Covers the car collision, villa rental, plus much more including health and weather related vacation interruptions, such as hurricane evacuation,
and emergencies, like a seriously ill family member back home, and the like type of vacation interruptions. Travel insurance covers your entire vacation for the less than the price of car collision insurance they sell
you at the car rental agencies.
or search for "vacation insurance" on the internet.
Option2 - Your Credit Card covers the collision part of your car insurance.
Visa and Master Card car collision coverage is free. as long as you charge the rental on your credit card. Call the 800 number on the back of your credit card and verify car collision coverage
in Mexico. If you carry American Express, you must sign up for their Premium Rental Protection for $19.95 per rental. Don't assume you have it, call you credit card company and check. As mentioned
earlier, you must settle all collision and liability claims before you leave the island (or perhaps out of jail) until the bill is paid in Mexico. You can then claim with US insurance company back home
No matter where or what you rent, be sure to check out the car VERY CAREFULLY before you accept it. This includes things like rolling down all the windows and then rolling them back up, checking to see all the doors and the
trunk locks work, etc. We don't recommend renting a Jeep except for couples (No air, not much room for a family of 4).
You will be asked to give a credit card to secure the car rental, and the security deposit ($500-3,000 US Dollars). That's okay, just be sure you get both credit card original
slips back, especially if you pay in cash at the end.
When you're comparing prices of cars, be sure to find out what is included in the base price. If you have insurance coverage for collision damage via your credit card or travel
insurance company, you may be able to waive the collision insurance from the Cozumel rental company. This is a big money-maker for local companies who seem to uniformly charge $10/day for $800 deductible and $20 for no
Here again, as with all the companies listed here, be sure to find out the total price -- including insurance -- before making a decision based on price alone.
Turn signals- Many people do not use their turn signals, so stay alert and drive defensively. If they do use turn signals it can mean different things than what one might
Turning left - Some times a left turn signal from the car in frot o you can mean some one is turning left, but it can also mean that they are signaling to you to let you know
that it is safe to pass them on the left side. This has caused accidents in the past so just be cautious. Beware when turning left from the highway! It is absolutely critical to look BEHIND you to make sure
there is no traffic. Most Mexicans, when making a left turn from the highway where a dedicated lane is NOT provided pull off the road to the right, they put the left blinker or emergency flashers on and wait for all
traffic to clear in both directions before making the left turn. Americans normally put their left turn signal on and wait for oncoming traffic to clear and then turn left. Just be aware, and don't be surprised if
you hear tire squeals behind you, or when in Rome you may do like the Romans do.
Passing - When traveling on the highway be alert and vigilant for aggressive drivers.
Drivers in the on-coming lane may choose to pass and cross the centerline of the highway at unexpected times. Be ready to move right. Watch for vehicles driving or stopped on the road shoulder. Let tailgaters pass.
Money Switch at the gas pumps: PEMEX is the only Mexican Gas Company. They only take cash.
much as we love Mexico and its friendly and honest people, many of the gas attendants have developed the bad habit of using the money switch scam. You hand them a $20 bill and they quickly switch it with a $2 bill and
say you gave them a two.
They do this with any bill amount Pesos or dollars. Some are bold to
switch a $10 for $1 and a common practice to switch the 500 and 200 pesos for 50 and 20 pesos respectively.
Here are some suggestions to guard against this scam:
1. Get your last fill up the day before you have to return the car, or allow yourself plenty of time before you go the the airport. Sometimes gas stations run out of gas and then you have to
find another station. Know where at least two gas stations are.
2. Get out of the car at the gas station and make sure the pump is ZEROED out before you give them the key to open the gas tank door.
2. Don't ask them to fill up.
3. Have the exact change ($20 US dollars) for a half tank, or $40 US dollars for a full tank. Show it to them before filling up.
4. Count the money twice in your hands in front of them. Before you give it to them. And immediately get them to say "correct".
5. Don't let the window washer (s), sometimes two of them, clean your windows, this is a sign of trouble and a reason for more distractions. Say NO once and be firm. Besides you don't need your windows cleaned when you
are on your way to return the car and in a hurry to get to the airport. Better yet, complete you last fill up the day before you go to the airport. Don't worry the gas needle won't move much.
6. Although the exchange rate is 10 pesos to $1 Dollar. They sometimes want an extra $1 US dollar for the exchange rate. Consider it a tip. Keep it simple and don't let them confuse you.
Car Rental Credit Card Charge
It is always better to pay for your car rental in US Dollars. They don't take Travelers Checks.
Here is why? ...
The rental companies convert the US Dollars they quoted you to Pesos at a horrible rate costing you 15 to 20% more to charge the Pesos on your credit card. And then, the Credit Card company converts the Pesos back to US
Dollars at a more reasonable exchange rate plus the international 3% conversion charge costing you another 5-10%. You end up with 20-30% more on your credit card bill. Pay in US Dollars cash. We do not see
any reason to convert money to Pesos, most other places take travelers checks.
Scooters: We strongly advise against renting scooters on Cozumel. We have seen more
accidents than we can count due to pot holed roads and inexperienced drivers who don't know their way around.
If you want to keep your expenses low, rent a VW convertible instead. Much, Much safer. You'll have more room, more shade, less wind.
Jeeps do not have air and cost 2 to 3 times an air conditioned midsize car.