Mexican Car Rental Travel Hack
This past week I visited the Riviera Maya in Mexico. We stayed four nights at the Ocean Riviera Paradise just north of Playa Del Carmen which presented a challenge. Since we were flying into Cancun International Airport, we needed transport for the roughly 40 minute trip between the two.
A shuttle for the trip costs $100-$120 USD roundtrip. Given that cost I decided to look into car rentals since I wanted to visit the Mayan ruins at Tulum as well. We had previously visited Chichen Itza and the amazing pyramid at Coba, so Tulum was the last major ruins site in the area we had to see.
Finding a Car
Car rentals in Mexico can be tough. A look at any review site will show dozens and dozens of complaints about overcharging, scams and just about any other tactic you can think of to separate you from your money. Mexico also requires mandatory liability insurance, which can add to the cost.
After doing some research, I found a deal that seemed too good to be true. Rentalcars.com had a midsize automatic car at Hertz for $30.53 USD total! The kicker was that this rental also included Mexican Liability Insurance. I knew there had to be a catch and indeed it came in the confirmation email. It said:
A guarantee deposit of US$ 2,000.00 is required.
LDW is mandatory, and any customer using their credit card’s LDW coverage must:
- Leave a deposit, using the same credit card used to book the car with Rentalcars.com
- Present a letter from their bank that proves the credit card provides cover in the country or countries where the car will be travelling.
This particular rate requires you to purchase the Loss Damage Waiver coverage at $30 USD per day! Shame on the website for not disclosing this up front! Thankfully they didn’t know who they were dealing with! 🙂
I had planned to use my Sapphire Reserve for the car rental, which gives primary loss damage protection. All I needed was a letter confirming my coverage and Chase (or the company they work with) was more than happy to provide it! A simple phone call resulted in a letter being emailed to me within 5 minutes. I was ready.
Getting to Hertz
We arrived in Cancun, quickly found the Hertz counter and took a shuttle to the main office just outside of Terminal 2. The Hertz office in Cancun is very modern and nice. It almost looks like a car dealership. Not a good sign in my book.
After a five minute wait we were called to the counter of an older gentleman. He asked for my passport, license and credit card. He typed away at the computer for five minutes, then called someone on the radio to confirm which car we would get. After about 20 minutes (their process is ridiculous and slow), he starts to talk insurance.
“What type of insurance coverage would you like to purchase today?” he said. I then told him I already had Mexican liability insurance included with the car rental booking. He then tried to tell me how I needed more just to be safe. I declined. The conversation then turned towards Loss Damage.
“Well, you also need insurance to cover you in case of damage to the car.” he said. I replied, “No, my credit card covers it. Here is a letter explaining it.” As he read the letter on my phone, he was getting visually upset. Then in one last shot at saving the “sale” he said, “But this only covers you partially. You need more insurance.” I said, $75,000 worth of coverage was enough.
From this point on he was adversarial and I just wanted to get out of there. I had succeeded in getting this amazing rate. I felt like a winner. Then, he prints out the car rental contract and lays it in front of me. There is a ~$35 charge for prepaid fuel. I tell him I don’t want prepaid fuel. He says just bring it back and they will take it off if I fill up the tank. Yeah right! 🙂
What happened next was a bit shocking. I told him to take the prepaid fuel off and then he slammed his hand down on the counter and walked away. After a brief discussion with his boss, he came back with a clean contract and in a nasty tone told me to sign. I had prepaid my car online, so the charge was $0. I had won. I saved money and was going to Tulum!
Receiving & Returning the Car
Since Mexican car rental agencies are much stricter than in other places (they will often charge for even the smallest of scratches), I made sure to take a video of the car upon receiving it. Thankfully the car I received was fairly new and there wasn’t much damage to document. After a quick 5 minute video making session we were on our way.
Upon return I did the same thing. I dropped off the car and made a video as the attendant checked it in. There were no issues and I received my final bill with a balance of $0! They did actually charge my card $.01, but I think I’ll let that go.
I think my experience proves that you can be successful in getting a good deal if you come prepared and know what you are required to have and what they are trying to sell you on. In the end I saved quite a lot of money on transport costs and had some freedom with this car rental, but the stress of navigating the rental minefield was a bit more than I like.
It is shameful that companies like Hertz work with local franchisees who engage in these practices. With that said, I beat their booby trapped rate! Woohoo!