Is It a Good Idea to Rent a Car in Cancun (and is It Safe)?

If you’re an adventurous traveler who plans to leave your resort and explore the city, then yes, it is a good idea to rent a car in Cancun. That said, although renting a car in Cancun is safe, it is not cheap because of the high costs of insurance.
Is It a Good Idea to Rent a Car in Cancun
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If you plan to use your car rental daily, as opposed to leaving it parked in your hotel parking lot for the duration of your Cancun vacation, then it may be worthwhile. However, if you plan to only go on a few excursions or are just looking for a way to get from Cancun Airport to your hotel, there are cheaper and easier options than renting a car.

Read on for the ultimate guide to renting a car in Cancun.

Do You Need a Car in Cancun?

This will depend on your travel style and vacation plans. Generally speaking, you do not need a car as Cancun has an excellent bus system that is cheap and reliable. Buses pick passengers up everywhere along the main strip on a regular basis, linking the Hotel Zone with Downtown Cancun and other zones. There are also regional buses that can take you to Tulum and Playa del Carmen.

That said, if you are an adventurous traveler interested in exploring the history and culture of Cancun, you may want to rent a car and drive yourself to major attractions like Chichen Itza, Tulum and Coba. This way you can explore the sites at your own pace without having to be on the tour operator’s schedule. You can also avoid the crowds during peak hours.

Of course, travelers who prefer the ease, comfort and organization of a professional tour operator can also visit Cancun’s key sites on an organized tour, thereby doing away with the need for a car.

How Much Does It Cost to Rent a Car in Cancun?

The average cost of car rentals in Cancun starts at US $ 10 per day. Of course, the actual fee will depend on the duration of your rental, level of insurance and vehicle model, among other factors.

Is it Cheap or Expensive to Rent a Car in Cancun?

Renting a car in Cancun can be expensive because of the high costs of insurance.

Base rates for rentals can be as low as a couple of dollars when you book. However, when you pick up the car, rental agencies in Cancun often insist that drivers purchase their insurance, which can add up to several hundred dollars. In addition to this compulsory insurance, there may be other fees that could double or even triple the quoted price.

Keep in mind that while it is not recommended to drive without insurance, it is not required to purchase theirs. You can save money by purchasing from a third-party in advance or booking with a credit card that includes complimentary rental insurance. However, if you do this, the car rental company may put a temporary hold on your credit card for up to a few thousand dollars.

How Much Does It Cost to Rent a Car in Cancun Airport?

The average cost of renting a car at Cancun Airport is US $ 10 per day. To save money, be sure to book your car rental at Cancun Airport at least one week in advance of your trip.

What Car Rental Companies Are at Cancun Airport?

At Cancun Airport, most major car rental companies are situated within the Car Rental Center, past customs just across from the baggage claim area in the arrivals terminal. The on-site car rental companies situated at Cancun Airport are:

  • Alamo
  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Dollar
  • EuropCar
  • Hertz
  • National
  • Thrifty

There are also off-site car rental companies that serve Cancun Airport, providing shuttles to collect travelers from the passenger pickup area. These include:

  • AdoCar
  • Ace
  • Aco Rent-A-Car
  • America Car Rental
  • Blueway
  • City Car Rental
  • Economy
  • Enterprise
  • E-Z Rent-A-Car
  • Firefly
  • Goldcar
  • Green Motion
  • Infinity
  • Keddy
  • Mex Rent-A-Car
  • NU Car
  • PayLess
  • Pop
  • Priceless
  • Rhodium
  • Right Cars
  • Sixt
  • Sunny Cars
  • U-Save
  • Unlimited

Is It Better to Rent a Car in Cancun or in the Airport?

It is better to rent a car in the Airport than in Cancun. This is because Cancun Airport is the city’s largest car rental hub, hosting all the major international franchises, as well as local agencies. Therefore, drivers can enjoy a wider choice of rental cars and options from on-site agencies. Moreover, renting a car in the airport is convenient as it saves time, enabling you to get on the road sooner.

That said, on-site rental companies tend to cost more as their prices typically include an airport kiosk fee. To save money, look for an off-site rental company instead. There are several car rental agencies with lots along the highway outside the airport that provide pick up via shuttle. Just keep in mind that it will take a bit longer to pick up and drop off the car (roughly 15-20 minutes each way).

It is however not recommended to rent a car from your hotel or resort in Cancun due to the exorbitant rental prices. There are many other car rental companies located all along the strip that offer good prices for vehicle rentals. In any case, the best deals are usually found online, so be sure to book in advance to enjoy the many offers, discounts and promotions on car rentals.

Is It Safe to Rent a Car in Cancun?

Yes, it is generally safe to rent a car in Cancun. Nevertheless, it is important to drive cautiously and beware of the traffic regulations which may be different from your home country. Fortunately, in Cancun the speed limits are clearly indicated and road signage is easy to follow. Should you get stopped by the police, just be respectful, answer their questions and present your documents upon request.

Here are some tips for renting a car in Cancun:

  • Carefully inspect the car rental before you sign the rental agreement. Some unscrupulous rental companies will rent out old vehicles without seat belts, that don’t run well, and look or sound as if they are going to fall apart if you get over 20mph.
  • Before driving the vehicle off the lot, take photos of it from every angle to document every nick, dent or scratch. Make sure that the rental company signs for these defects. This will help avoid getting over-charged for damages when you return the car.
  • Book and pay for your car rental at least a week in advance of your trip to get the best deals and save money.
  • Beware that some rental companies charge for extra drivers.
  • Check to confirm that the gas tank is full. If not, ensure that the rental agency takes note of its level.
  • When renting a car in Cancun, you will need your current driver’s license, credit card, and passport.
  • If you plan to venture beyond Cancun, rent your vehicle from an car rental agency with branches in the Riviera Maya as well. This way you will get quicker assistance in case of an emergency.
  • It is recommended that you purchase Mexican liability insurance from the car rental agency. This is because if you get into an accident, they can get to the scene as quickly as possible. Also make sure that your liability insurance includes coverage for bail in case you are detained.
  • It is also recommended to purchase Mexican collision and comprehensive insurance. This is because if you injure someone in an accident, the police may arrest you and impound the vehicle until a fault is determined.
  • Rental companies at Cancun Airport are generally more expensive than renting from an off-site agency, as they tend to charge higher fees.
  • If you rent a car through an online booking agent but opt to pay when you pick up the car, they will not guarantee the car class you get. For a guarantee of car and vehicle type, you will need to pay in advance when making your reservation.

Is Driving in the Yucatan Safe?

It is generally safe to drive in the Yucatan during the day. However, visitors should avoid driving in the Yucatan alone, especially at night. It is also recommended that drivers in the Yucatan exercise caution while driving on highways, use toll roads whenever possible and fully cooperate with police at official checkpoints.

Is It Easy to Drive in Cancun?

Yes, it is easy to drive in Cancun. In fact, driving in Cancun and the Yucatan as a whole is a luxury in comparison to other places in Mexico. Thanks to tourism, new highways have sprung up all over the Yucatan. Double-lane pot-holed roads have been replaced with beautiful newly paved highways. Even many secondary roads are in good condition.

Speed limits in Cancun are frequently indicated, and although road signs are all in Spanish, they are pretty easy to figure out. That said, it is recommended to use GPS or Google Maps if you have cell phone service, or download them off-line using Wi-Fi.

Parking in Cancun is also easy and cheap. There is lots of free parking available near the beaches and other attractions, while parking in a private lot or garage costs only a few dollars. Driving in Cancun at night is also easy as the streets are well-lit and well-marked.

Although traffic can be a bit busy in Cancun, you will find that Mexicans are generally courteous drivers who do not speed a lot or commit other traffic offences. Therefore you shouldn’t have any problem driving in Cancun.

Here are some tips for driving in Cancun:

  • Rule of the Road: Under Mexican law, driving in Cancun is on the right hand side of the road.
  • Driving After Dark: Visitors should avoid driving at night whenever possible, as some roads are poorly lit.
  • Parking: Avoid parking on poorly lit streets. Use designated parking spaces close to hotels, business and other public areas to avoid getting blocked in. Also do not leave your valuables visible inside a parked car.
  • Seat Belts: Seat belts are mandatory for both the driver and the front seat passenger. Children under the age of 12 are required to sit in the back seat.
  • Speed Limits: Do not exceed the speed limits.
  • Speed Bumps: Watch out for Mexico’s infamous speed bumps that are seemingly everywhere, often appear out of nowhere and are invisible until you’re too close to slow down. Because the bumps are often unmarked, it’s important to drive with caution, especially after dark.
  • Drinking and Driving: Do not drink and drive. This is against the law and will invalidate your insurance should you get into an accident. The legal blood alcohol limit in Mexico is 0.40. That said, it’s not illegal for passengers to drink inside a moving vehicle.
  • Cell Phones: Do not use your cell phone while driving.
  • Documentation: Always have your car insurance, rental car agreement and identification on hand in case of a police stop or an accident.
  • Toll Roads: Although toll roads in Mexico are expensive, they are in much better condition than free roads, and include additional insurance coverage in case of an accident. Toll booths accept Mexican currency only, therefore be sure to have enough pesos on hand. Also keep your toll receipts to use as a voucher for insurance purposes.
  • Road Conditions: Be attentive at all times when driving in Cancun, as other drivers may not be. Because the Yucatan’s terrain is mainly flat, the roads are typically very straight. As such, many drivers tend to feel safe going very fast and can easily get distracted.
  • Potholes: When driving off the main roads (especially in Cancun’s rainy season), you may encounter large potholes. It is therefore important for drivers to always be alert to avoid landing in a pothole.

What is the Speed Limit in Cancun?

Speed limits in Mexico are indicated in kilometers per hour. Therefore, ensure that while driving you are not following miles per hour on your speedometer. Moreover, speed limits may change often along the highway, therefore be alert and ready to adjust accordingly.

Under Mexican law, the speed limit in Cancun is as follows:

  • Urban Roads: 19 – 25mph
  • Open Roads & Highways: 62 – 68mph
  • Rural Roads: 43mph

Do I Need GPS when Driving in Cancun?

When driving in Cancun, it is recommended that you get a GPS system. Most car rental companies in Cancun offer GPS at an additional cost, which helps to ensure that you’re going the right way.

Moreover, many hotels in Cancun will provide you with a local map that may come in handy in case your phone dies. You can also download a map of Cancun to use offline once you’re on the road.

Should I Bring a Car Seat to Cancun?

No, you don’t have to bring a car seat to Cancun. This is because it is possible to rent both baby seats and child booster seats in Cancun for a couple of dollars per day, to keep your kids safe while you drive.

Renting a car seat in Cancun will save you the hassle of having to bring one from home.

What Should I Do if I Have a Road Accident in Cancun?

If you get into an accident or any other emergency while driving in Cancun, simply dial 911 from your cell phone.

If you are on a toll road or a major highway, call Angeles Verdes, a free roadside assistance group similar to AAA in the US.

Do I Need an International Driver’s License in Cancun?

No, you do not require an international driver’s license in Cancun. If your driver’s permit from your home country is in English or Spanish, it will do.

As such, driver’s permits from the U.S., U.K., Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand are all accepted in Mexico.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Rent a Car in Cancun?

Under Mexican law, you must be at least 21 years old to rent a car. Moreover, you must have held your license for a minimum of 2 years.

That said, restrictions may vary depending on the vehicle category and car rental agency. Persons under the age of 25 may be charged a young driver’s surcharge, while some car rental agencies have a maximum age limit of 75 for select vehicles.

How Much is Gas in Cancun?

The price of 1 liter (1/4 gallon) of gas in Cancun is roughly 20 Mexican pesos.

Here are some tips for buying gas in Cancun:

  • If you will be traveling a long distance, be sure to fill up your tank at major towns along the way. This is because there may be long stretches of highway without gas stations.
  • Gas stations in Mexico are full service, which means that there is a fuel attendant available to pump your gas.
  • Although most gas stations only accept payment in Mexican pesos, some also accept debit and credit cards.
  • It is customary to tip gas station attendants in Cancun if they perform additional services such as washing your windshield or checking your oil and tires. A tip of 5-20 pesos is reasonable, depending on the service.
  • Beware of the “Non-Reset” Scam: Always check that the fuel meter is reading zero before the attendant begins pumping gas into your tank. Some fuel attendants don’t reset gas meters, thereby making you pay for more gas than what you’re getting.
  • Beware of the “Less Cash” Scam: Always be alert when paying the fuel attendant for filling your tank. Some unscrupulous attendants will quickly change out the larger bill you give to them, and then claim that you had given them less money.

Should I Drive in Cancun?

If you plan on leaving your resort to explore Cancun and beyond, then yes, you should drive in Cancun. Driving in Cancun can make for a fantastic trip, filled with great experiences. Moreover, driving yourself will be worth it if you want to immerse yourself in the culture of Cancun, as you can travel anywhere at your own pace.

Cancun is so much more than a nice resort and beautiful beach – there’s a lot to see and do when you have your own wheels, and you will have the chance to discover its hidden gems. Moreover, there are many places in Cancun that you cannot access without a car, and during peak hours you can avoid the tourist crowds.

On the other hand, if you don’t plan to venture outside of the Cancun Hotel Zone, but just need to go back and forth from the airport, then no, you shouldn’t drive in Cancun. This is because private transfers are the best option for getting to and from Cancun Airport. Moreover, the bus system in Cancun is cheap and convenient for getting around the city.