Hacking My Mexican Car Rental: “Then he slammed his hand down on the counter and walked away.”

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Mexican Car Rental Travel Hack

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.

Mexican Car Rental Travel Hack

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.

Mexican Car Rental Travel Hack

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 take. 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. 

Conclusion

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!


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29 COMMENTS

  1. That’s really depending on car agencies , last time when we were in Cancun for car rental, we went for Sixt, its not located with car rental with bunch other franchise. but shuttle takes you to their trailer office close to the airport. I had initially booked online also from rentalcars.com came about 50 somethign a day …upon arrival at their office, declined all insurances no hassles but they did charge like 2k usd deposit upfront for damage liability , but it got refunded all back to the card.

  2. It’s possible you really didn’t have as much liability insurance as you probably should. My memory is that if liability insurance is included in Mexico, it is generally the lowest legal amount, which is quite low. So I’m glad you got away with it, but if you’re ever in an accident you really want to have purchased as much liability insurance as possible. Especially in Mexico.

    • I had $15,000 which felt like enough to me, but your point is a good one. People should definitely look at limits and carry whatever amounts of insurance they are comfortable with.

  3. We had the same experience at Thrifty in Cancun over Thanksgiving break. They did accept the insurance from the Saphire Preferred without a letter, but they were sooooo slow. Of course, we were also sent to the helpful directions desk while they slowly filled up our gas tank-our helper turned out to be a timeshare salesperson. Oh well, the rest of the trip was fabuloso!

  4. I tried the same thing with Hertz in Puerto Vallarta and they tried to charge me a $10k security deposit to use my CSR. I eventually just paid the daily insurance. Then upon returning the car, they said there was damage to the windshield (there was a minuscule chip that I think was already there but unfortunately I didn’t have photo evidence) and charged me $400. What started as a $30/day deal ended up costing me $700 so from now on it’s buses and taxis for me in Mexico! And that makes me even more impressed you pulled this off!

  5. Somewhat related, how was the resort? We have two rooms booked there in May in the Eden section. Is the place mostly up and running yet or still lots of construction? Anything to be aware of? Thanks!

  6. Congratulations on beating the system. What with all of the shakedowns, hassles, and Mexican driving, my wife and I prefer to take the bus from Cancun. It’s clean, comfortable, and cheap.

  7. I’ve done Hertz there and had no problems. The second trip I did Sixt. Again, no problems but I did lose a hubcap. It ending up costing me $35.

    Note to self, if rental has pop off type hubcaps take them off and put in trunk before driving away.

    Also, be careful of the topes (speed bumps) on the highway.

    Also, be mindful of your speed. There are speed cameras and they get you at the checkpoint. A bribe cost me $40USD. Otherwise there would have been a trip to the police station. Thank god I had cash.

    Having a car and the ability to go to super Mercado, the ruins, etc. was worth it.

  8. Thanks for sharing that information that how local companies fraud with traveler and made them pay more than requirement and that is amazing how you avoid their trap and save money your experience is really help other traveler.

  9. I was given that same line about taking off the prepaid fuel amount if I brought the car back full at a car rental agency at the Denver airport. I wasn’t smart enough to decline the option on the spot. I read through the rental agreement after we took the car and couldn’t find anything about a refund on the fuel, so I made it my goal to try bringing the car back with a teaspoon of fuel left in the tank. I was a little nervous that I was going to run out of fuel, but there was a gauge that had a distance to empty feature on the vehicle.

  10. Horrible experience with cancun Hertz last year. I was able to omit collision insurance, but opted to add liability when I reserved the car.

    I was overcharged on all of the taxes upon return. Some by as much as triple. The rental came to almost double the total. I spent months fighting it and Hertz was horrible about remaining out of it and requiring me to deal directly with the Mexico office, who of course lied like a dog and claimed the extra was for insurance, which was not at all what happened. They rarely responded to my email, never returned a call….. it was very much a scam. I finally went way up the Hertz ladder and got resolution many months later.

    This same trip we were pulled over by the “police” before we even left airport property (traffic police are like taxi drivers who rent out the cars and make their money on bribes). Second police instance in three years in Cancun. And filling up the gas tank got me the “declined card” scam of being charged five times for the one tank of gas I ended up paying for with cash. And of course the ATM scam of failed withdraw that didn’t give me cash, but registered with my bank that it did.

    These scams all make visiting Mexico so much less desirable. I’m actually in Campeche now and opted to fly into Merida and take the super nice ADO bus system. Less freedom to get around, but much less hassle.

  11. I went to Cancun and had the worst experience ever with Hertz. They tried to bait and switch me.
    Before we went down to Cancun I took 13 pages of notes and most of which were how to drive and keep from getting ripped from the car rental companies or the cops (bribes.)
    Next time rent from EASY WAY! They are legit. I rented from Dollar and they were solid too.

  12. I agree with Christian… We’re traveling to Tulum this summer and plan on just taking the bus, and either taking cabs or tours to see the different sites. Just too many landmines to renting a vehicle in Mexico for my liking.

    All that said, kudos to you on the success!

    • I don’t disagree or fault you. The ADO buses are very nice and not too expensive. We once backpacked for about a month throughout Mexico and relied solely on those buses.

  13. One little trick is to book through AARP. You will need a membership (not needed for booking) but just in case they (rental place) ask for proof, and for $14 bucks a year, why not.

    https://advantages.aarp.org/en/travel/car-rentals.html

    What’s great about this is the required min insurance is already included.

    For example, this is in the TS from a reservation I made with Budget:
    “Property damage/public liability is included in accordance with insurance laws of the country and covers up to MEP 750,000.00 in basic third party liability protection. The maximum hold placed on a customer’s credit card rental is 2,500.00 USD.”

    I would print a copy of the reservation details to bring with you that states this language in it and if you have a CC with primary insurance, I would be a letter like you did as well just in case.

  14. You are lucky. You can find my Hertz review at Yelp. Unfortunately all the Cancun car rental agencies are scammers. Best thing to do is stick to your guns and prepare to waste an hour at pickup. Or just skip rental entirely if you are staying on the hotel strip.

  15. I reserved through Thrifty, but while filling out the agreement they also wanted me to sign a blank accident report “in case something happens” which I refused to do. I walked out and took buses and taxis.

  16. Sad that getting a Mexican car rental company to abide by its own terms and conditions is difficult to the point of being considered a travel hack, but the truth of this situation is well-documented.

    I myself had a successful “hack” not too far away at the Fox rent a car at the CZM airport. I too came in loaded for bear, with written email correspondence from Fox corporate affirming that I did not have to buy additional insurance, full print-outs of the Fox T&C’s and rental agreement (highlighted to boot). Fortunately I did not have to resort to any of those documents, as they accepted my declination of coverage without any fight, much to my surprise. Like Juan stated above, they did make me sign a blank accident report at the time of rental, which I certainly detested. I dealt with this by writing my own addendum next to the signature line, stating the date of signature and stating that I do not agree to any damage alleged to have occurred after my having taken possession of the car. At the end of it all, I had a 5 day rental for just shy of $20 all-in, and no shenanigans beyond the aforementioned. Pretty good, if I do say so myself.

    • thanks a bunch to you guys both the original article and all the comments, I am going from Aug 15 to sep 5 and planning to rent a car.
      from 15th to 25th I booked thru AMERICAN CAR RENTAL COMPANY. they are only honest of bunch of fradulant ones in Cancun however they are not on airport. but 10$ uber will take care of reaching there and with not having to deal with stupid wait times more than makes up for lost travel time. They include ALL INSURANCES in their rates but their rates are close to what average US rental rates are unlike $1-$10 per day from scamming companies. My rate came out to be $240 per week which was EXCELLENT. Reason I booked thru them for first part is because they have ADDITIONAL DRIVER FREE, ALL INSURANCE INCLUDED AND THEY ALLOW TO CROSS BORDER TO AND FROM BELIZE AND GUATEMALA FOR FREE. Then I am upto the task of hacking the scammers. On 25th I have booked from airport at $1 a day from 10 different car rental companies. Have their T&C printed. Honestly some have clearly written that they wouldn’t accept credit insurance in T&C so anyone who blames them the mistake was in your own lack of due diligence while booking. However I found 3 companies that have clearly written in T&C that I have right to decline LDW. I have them printed and highlighted in case they try to play around. Also have my Chase letter printed and ready to go.
      Will update you guys on how everything goes when I will be back from my trip.

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