The Budget Savvy Travelers

5 Tips for Renting a Car in Cancun in 2021 – Don’t Get Scammed

Renting a car in Cancun, Mexico can be extremely fun, but it can also lead to confusion and heartache if you don’t take the proper precautions. You may even get scammed! There’s little doubt that the best way to enjoy the Yucatan Peninsula is by having a rental car.

Renting a car will give you the freedom to sightsee and explore at your own pace. You’ll also be able to avoid the crowds and get off the beaten tourist path, which for us is the best way to travel.

The beaches of Cancun are beautiful!

When renting a car in Cancun a few helpful suggestions or tips can go a long way. We’ve personally rented vehicles dozens of times on six continents and have never incurred one problem. Although, we’ve encountered many difficult situations, which will be addressed below.

Keep in mind that these are suggestions based on how we travel and they may not relate to all travelers in all situations. At this point, don’t be scared—it’s all about being an informed traveler.

To avoid being scammed, it’s important to know your options so that you can make the best life choices. It’s also important to not only get the best rates possible but also to book with a trustworthy company, which is why we always use Discover Cars.

Things to Know Before Renting a Car in Cancun

We generally use AutoEurope to find the cheapest car rental prices. | 5 Tips for Renting a Car in Cancun So You Don’t Get Scammed

The Yucatan Peninsula is fairly vast so plan on bringing your car or renting a car in Cancun when arriving at the airport. We’ve recently been using Discover Cars. We’ve had excellent experiences in the past when using them, we always choose the cheapest option! Do a quick search below to see their current rates.

There are so many unbelievable things to see and do on the Yucatan Peninsula that you’re going to want to rent a car.

Having a vehicle will make the trip much more convenient and enjoyable for you. There are tons of things to see and do around the Yucatan Peninsula when renting a car in Cancun.

When making the reservation make sure to pay the entire balance. Later on, when you arrive at the rental agency the representative won’t be able to deny you your reservation with excuses like they “can’t find” your reservation or that they don’t have a car for you.

Accommodations in Cancun

One of the most important things you can do to protect your rental vehicle is to make sure your accommodation has a safe place to park it. The accommodations below are great places to stay and are ideal for parking a rental car.

Budget: Casa Wilo (pool!) or The Yellow Capsule Experience  (unique)
Mid-Range: Casa Kin33 (amazing breakfast!)
Luxury: Hotel Secreto (contemporary & on the beach!)

1. Never Purchase Additional Insurance

When booking a car make sure you’re using a credit card that provides travel accident insurance. This will provide you with automatic insurance for a covered loss at no extra charge. Keep in mind, you’ll need to make sure the entire purchase is made with a credit card. You’ll also need to decline any insurance provided by the car rental agency.

Enjoy your vacation and don’t stress about the car rental by following our helpful tips and suggestions. | 5 Tips for Renting a Car in Cancun So You Don’t Get Scammed

This means that you are covered for any damages incurred to your car, regardless of whether or not you carry other personal insurance. Just make a note, that if an accident does happen your credit card will get charged by the car rental agency and your credit card company will issue a refund.

What to Expect If You’re in an Accident

You’ll usually have about 60 days from the date of the incident to file the claim. Get the ball rolling by calling the number on the back of your card. Here are some of the documents you’ll want to make sure you have in case you’re involved in a car accident:

  • A copy of the accident or incident report from the rental agency.
  • A copy of the Demand Letter. This is a document from the Rental Agency that outlines their claim reference number, payment mailing address, and all damages and/or expenses for which they are requesting reimbursement.
  • The Final Rental Agreement confirming that the vehicle was returned and total rental charges.
  • A copy of your monthly billing statement showing the cost of the damage to the rental vehicle.
  • Photography and/or video of the damage to the rental vehicle (before and after).
  • A copy of the Final Repair Bill or Itemized Statement of Repair(s) from the rental car agency for repairs made to the vehicle.
  • A copy of the travel package invoice, prepaid voucher, and/or total travel package booked.
Legally Required Liability Insurance Coverage

Don’t forget that your car rental will automatically come with the legally required liability insurance coverage. You may feel pressured to purchase additional insurance but you’re not legally required, no matter what the representative tells you. In conclusion, don’t throw any paperwork until you’ve 100% confirmed that the vehicle is returned and the rental agency is not seeking damages.

2. Bring Proper Documentation and Decline Add-Ons

It’s always good to have a screenshot or printed reservation of your rental when arriving at the car rental agency. Also, make sure to bring valid identification, credit card, and passport. To avoid confusion, make sure the reservation clearly shows the total cost of the rental. As long as the vehicle is returned without any problems this is the exact amount you should be charged, nothing more.

As you make your way through the process of retrieving the vehicle the car rental agency representative will pressure you for add-ons. Typical add-ons will include additional vehicle insurance, extra driver, GPS, car seats, tank fill-ups, tolls, etc. While you may need a car seat or extra driver, you won’t need any of the other add-ons. Never add supplementary insurance because it will void out the insurance provided on your credit card. After the representative has concluded their scare tactics or spiel simply say, “No thank you.”

Our Bad Experience

We had one bad experience in Croatia where the car rental agency was trying to put a temporary authorization on our credit card for the MSRP of the vehicle. They said if my credit card couldn’t cover the $20,000 authorization that I would be forced to purchase the travel insurance.

I declined and went online really quickly while at the airport and made a new reservation with a different company. This was one of the few times I didn’t pay for the reservation ahead of time. Situations like this are rare, but just remember you have options. Adding vehicle insurance can easily double the cost of the rental.

Deposit For Declining Additional Coverage

Most of the time you’ll need to have a $1,000 to $2,000 deposit put on your credit card for declining the additional insurance coverage from the agency. This is standard protocol and should not alarm you. This will put a temporary authorization hold on your credit card and will impact the available balance, so plan accordingly.

When you return the vehicle the temporary authorization will be removed. Many times, the representative will use this large temporary authorization as a way to scam/scare you into purchasing additional insurance. Don’t do it.

In terms of signing documents, there’s no rush. The representatives know that you’re most likely tired from spending the day traveling and you’re in a hurry to get to your accommodation. Simply make sure that you’re not paying for any additional add-ons that you haven’t agreed to.

This is why it’s important to pay for the reservation in full before picking up the car. The agency is not necessarily allowed to charge your credit card. Next, you should be escorted to the rental vehicle.

3. Carefully Inspect the Vehicle

I know you’re probably tired but spend the extra time inspecting the car before driving off in it. | 5 Tips for Renting a Car in Cancun So You Don’t Get Scammed

At this point, you’re probably tired and just want to get on the road. However, this is probably the most important part of the car rental process. Take an extra five minutes to properly inspect the vehicle. You’ll most likely be given a piece of paper (or it might be on a tablet) that you’ll need to identify any current damage to the vehicle.

Dings, Dent, and Scratches

Car rental agencies make a ton of money off dings, dents, and scratches. They’re hoping you bring back the vehicle with damage. They’re also hoping you don’t notice any current damage in the chance that they may be able to charge you for it.

Car rental agencies love it when you bring back cars with scratches, they’re making so much money when this happens!

Keep in mind, most agencies will have a specific size limit to what is defined as damage. This is a good moment to ask for documentation or a description of their specific definition.

I will usually record walking around the entire vehicle, notifying the representative of any damage. While this is going on make sure everyone in your party helps out. You should all point out every little scratch, dent, or ding.

Pay special attention to the wheels (rims), front-end, rear-end, and the glass (it may be chipped). Your goal should be to get as much damage noted on every facet of the vehicle as possible. Finally, don’t forget to check the interior for rips, stains, or damage.

4. Follow These Driving Guidelines

It’s a good idea to always have your driver’s license and a copy of your passport with you when driving in Mexico in case you get stopped by the police. Driving around the Yucatan Peninsula is fairly easy when compared to other major cities in Mexico.

Typical intersection while driving around Cancun. | 5 Tips for Renting a Car in Cancun So You Don’t Get Scammed

One thing to note, when filling up the tank make sure that the meter marks zero before the attendant starts to pump. Also, when paying make sure to hand over each note one at a time. For example, let’s say the bill is 200 pesos and you pay with two 100 pesos bills. It’s not uncommon for attendants to try and scam you by quickly swapping out the bills you gave them with two 50 pesos bills and saying you shortchanged them.

Furthermore, the three biggest things to remember when driving around Mexico are:

  • Go slow or at least don’t drive fast
  • Stay patient, you’re on vacation
  • Keep it cool and try not to get frustrated

Driving around the Yucatan Peninsula is just as safe as generally anywhere else. Unless you’re engaging in illegal activities or are going out of your way to look for trouble, your experience should be uncomplicated.

Just like anywhere else, in heavy or congested traffic stay alert. We also recommend taking a quick look at traffic signs (they’ll be in Spanish) before departing on your trip. However, a smart driving app will do all of the dirty work for you.

Additional Car Rental Driving Tips

You probably don’t want to do this in your rental car. Make good life choices! | Renting a Car in Cancun | 7 Ways to Make Sure You Don’t Get Scammed
  • Watch where you park so you don’t get towed, stay away from yellow painted curbs.
  • Try to avoid parking next to other vehicles. We don’t mind walking a few extra feet in the hope that another car won’t park next to us and ding our vehicle with their door.
  • Avoid hitting the curb with your rims. This is easily the most common way to damage a rental car.
  • In case of emergency, first, call your rental car agency. If they don’t help you should then dial the number on the back of the credit card or the Green Angels at 01-800-987-8224 (which is equivalent to AAA and free of charge).
  • Never hand over your passport to anyone, even government officials unless necessary.
  • Try to get the smallest car rental possible. Smaller cars are easier to drive, easier to park, and are cheaper! The roads are paved fairly well so you won’t need an SUV or 4×4 to get to most of the areas of the peninsula.

5. Interact with Mexican Police Respectfully

Make sure you treat the local police with respect.

Treat Mexican police with the same level of respect that you would back home. Most people will get pulled over for speeding, talking on their cell phones, or not wearing a seat belt. If you can avoid doing one of these three things then you most likely won’t have any interactions with the police. However, when dealing with police in the Yucatan Peninsula make sure to respectful and businesslike.

If the police officer is looking for a 500 pesos bribe (which isn’t that much money) just pay it and move on with your vacation. You’ll know they’re looking for a bribe if they take your license and don’t go back to their vehicle to write a ticket. Have you visited the Yucatan Peninsula or rented a car in Cancun? Share your experience in the comments below.

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