Ready for the comprehensive guide to renting a car in Cancun?
With a car, you can travel where and when you want to avoid the busiest crowds or the hottest times of the day. Plus, you can spend as much time as you like in once-in-a-lifetime locations rather than be reliant on restricted tour itineraries.
More importantly, a car rental in Cancun allows you the opportunity to get off the beaten tourist track and discover some lesser-known and quieter hidden gems in the Yucatan.
🚗Find the cheapest deal on renting a car in Cancun and book your vehicle safely with no hidden cost & generous cancellation policy through ➡️ DiscoverCars.
However, car rental in Cancun Mexico should not be undertaken lightly, and many visitors may be anxious about the practicalities and legal implications of renting a car – and that’s before you set off on Mexico’s infamous road network.
This ultimate guide covers where and how to rent a car in Cancun, what things you should look out for (and what to avoid), plus essential driving tips to ensure you enjoy the trip of a lifetime.
Disclaimer – Whilst every effort has been made to ensure accuracy at the time of publication, we hold no responsibility for any misinformation given within this article. It is essential to check the most up-to-date information with your government, rental car company and credit card company before you travel.
Renting A Car In Cancun: Safety
If you want to use car rentals in Cancun, it is important to think about your own personal safety as well as road safety.
Too often, holidaymakers assume that their holiday bubble will protect them, but driving a car on holiday (including driving in Cancun Mexico) carries much more risk than driving a car at home.
It is worth remembering that according to the CDC (U.S Center for Disease Control and Prevention), road traffic accidents are the leading cause of non-natural deaths for U.S. citizens travelling abroad.
Is it recommended to rent a car in Cancun?
Choosing to use rental cars in Cancun is the best option if you want to get out and explore rather than sunbathe in the same spot and never leave your hotel.
A car provides convenience as you can go where you want when you want to. It can carry heavy groceries if you are self-catering or baby and child paraphernalia if you are travelling with kids.
Your holiday itinerary can be flexible, choosing your activities to match your mood or to achieve the best weather. You can eat in any restaurant you like or spend as long as you like in as many locations as you like.
Plus, if you are travelling as a family, a group of friends or on a multi-generational trip, a rental car in Cancun can save money when compared to taxis or multiple buses or tour tickets.
Renting a car in Cancun Mexico will enable you to leave Cancun and explore unforgettable locations such as the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá, Tulum or Coba, all of which are over two hours away by car.
Alternatively, drive the 23-mile Ruta de los Cenotes to find off-the-beaten-track idyllic swimming spots or explore the splendid city of Valladolid.
So if you are wondering, ‘should I rent a car in Cancun’ the answer is a resounding yes.
Book your rental car here before it sells out:
Who is renting a car not ideal for?
Car hire Cancun is not suitable for newly qualified drivers, anyone who is not a confident driver or who isn’t confident driving in new and unfamiliar places.
Plus, if you only plan on doing one or two-day trips and wish to spend most of your vacation on the beach, car hire isn’t the best option for you. Instead, it will be cheaper and less stressful to join a guided tour to visit the places you wish to see.
Tours are also a better option for travellers who like to have everything taken care of and who enjoy stress-free travel.
Cancun rental cars may also not be suitable for solo travellers. Apart from the cost of renting a car as a solo person, it will be challenging to navigate and drive new roads and routes on your own.
If you are under 21, the cost to rent a car in Cancun is higher, so you may find that your money would be better spent on joining tours or hiring your own driver.
Is it safe to drive in Cancun, Mexico?
Is renting a car in Cancun safe? Yes, it is – as long as you take the usual precautions plus a few extra precautions pertinent to Mexico.
It is generally considered safe to drive in the Yucatan between the tourist hotspots of Merida, Cancun, Tulum and Valladolid. Roads are in good condition with good signage.
You can check travel advisories from your government before travelling to Mexico, as they will have up-to-date information about areas in Mexico to avoid.
It is essential to take the usual driving precautions such as don’t drink alcohol and drive, don’t drive at night, lock your doors when driving and park in a well-lit, busy area.
Extra precautions for driving in Mexico include always remembering to drive on the right (use a post-it note on your steering wheel if it helps), be wary of driving in busy inner cities, know what Mexican traffic signs and signals mean and know how and where to use petrol stations.
Make sure you only rent road-worthy cars from reputable companies with numerous good reviews. A great tool for finding the best rental companies in Cancun is the DiscoverCars car comparison website.
Book your rental car at the cheapest rate here:
For more safety tips, see my essential Mexico driving tips below.
Renting A Car In Cancun: Logistics
There are lots of questions to think about when looking for the best car rental company in Cancun or for the best place to rent a car in Cancun.
The following FAQ will answer your questions.
What is the best way to rent a car in Cancun airport?
If you are planning to rent a car in Cancun Mexico airport, it is essential to book in advance as Cancun airport is one of the most popular car rental locations.
Book your rental car in Cancun Mexico airport in advance through DiscoverCars. We like and use Discover Cars as booking in advance is not only cheaper than booking on arrival, but it also ensures there is a car reserved for us when we need it.
Discover Cars allows you to browse a wide range of car types (with detailed specifications), compare prices with no hidden fees, and if you change your mind, they also offer free cancellations.
Plus, we can check up-to-date reviews online, and booking in advance protects us from scams involving rental cars at Cancun airport.
Best deals sell out fast, book your car in advance here:
How much does it cost to rent a car in Cancun?
Cancun international airport car rental fees and rental fees from downtown Cancun can vary widely as external factors affect the price.
Peak periods such as Christmas always result in higher prices for all types of vehicles, but the prices for different types of cars can also vary at different times of the year.
For example, an influx of families around summer school holidays will push up the price of SUVs or larger vehicles, whereas smaller cars may be more expensive around Spring Break. If you want the best cheap car rental Cancun has to offer, rent a small car in an off-peak period.
The price you pay for Cancun car rental will also vary according to the age of the driver, the driver’s country of origin and, of course, the rental period – the longer it is, the more discount per day you get.
For example, a U.S. driver over the age of 21 renting a small car for one week in the off-season can expect to pay from as little as $144 / £120. The same driver renting the same car over Christmas in peak season can expect to pay from around $297 / £247.
Extra charges to be aware of
In addition to car hire, insurance and any additional charges for the driver, there are other extra charges to be aware of.
You will pay more for a one-way drop-off (if you return the car to a different location from where you picked it up). You may face a significant fee if you are planning to do a Mexico road trip and depart from a different airport.
There is also a charge for an empty tank or for returning the car with less petrol than when you rented the car. You will be charged for the extra petrol required plus a penalty charge.
You can also expect charges for any additional drivers (though if you are doing a lot of driving, this will be worth it) and if you choose to extend your rental period.
What kind of car should I rent in Cancun?
Essentially, the type of car you choose to rent is whatever car you feel comfortable driving in.
It can be tempting to go big, ensuring adequate luggage space and comfort for your trip, but if you are not used to driving a big car, now is not the time to start. On the other hand, don’t go for the cheapest small car you can hire and then overload it with passengers or luggage.
Similarly, do not be tempted by a cheaper automatic or manual car if you have never driven one.
It is worth renting a car with air conditioning (especially if you are visiting in peak season), and always make sure you have enough seatbelts for each traveller. If you are travelling with kids, make sure your car seat can be used with the belts that are in the car (no lap belts).
Consider the itinerary for your trip. If you are only road driving, you will not need a 4×4.
If you wish to travel on poor-quality roads, such as the roads in the UNESCO-listed Sian Ka’an reserve, consider renting a 4×4.
What are the top car rental companies in Mexico?
Most of the usual big-brand car rental companies have outlets in Mexico. If you use DiscoverCars, you can easily find the best car and the best price for your trip.
Plus, you can compare prices whilst checking the star rating and customer reviews at the same time.
Book your rental car at the cheapest rate here:
What is the easiest way to book a rental car in Cancun?
We recommend using DiscoverCars. The booking process is easy, their website is quick and easy to navigate, and if trip plans change, there is free cancellation.
Discover Cars clever algorithm prioritises car rental companies with the best reviews so you can be assured you are hiring from a reputable firm. For reassurance, check out the reviews on the listings.
It is recommended to book at least one month in advance to ensure availability, particularly in peak season.
How do you get around Cancun without a car?
If you decide that the rental cars Cancun offers are not for you, there are other transportation options available. However, each option has its downsides.
Uber is available in most places in and around Cancun, but Uber is not permitted at the airport, so you will have to find another way to travel to and from downtown Cancun.
Plus, it is not guaranteed that your Uber will have air conditioning or appropriate car seat restraints for kids.
Taxis are available everywhere in Cancun, but unfortunately, taxi scams are common, so they are best avoided if possible.
You can catch a public ADO bus from the airport to downtown Cancun. The buses reliably depart every 30 – 45 minutes and have a journey time between 50 – 60 minutes.
However, the buses will drop you off at the central bus station in Cancun. From there, you will have to make your own way to your accommodation.
Arranging a private transfer from Cancun airport is an ideal option if you are arriving late at night, have a lot of luggage or are travelling with kids. But as you pay per seat, a private transfer can work out more expensive than rental cars in Cancun airport.
Renting A Car In Cancun: Requirements
Before renting a car in Cancun, there are a few things you need to consider and documents that you will need to gather.
Can I rent a car in Cancun with a US licence?
Yes, you can rent a car in Cancun with a U.S. licence. For European visitors, you will need an International Driving Licence.
What do I need to rent a car in Cancun?
To rent a car in Cancun, you will need to show an original U.S. driver’s licence or an International Driver’s Licence (not a copy of your licence), proof of your age (your passport will suffice) and a valid credit card.
Paying by debit card is not advisable as the rental car company will take a ‘blocking deposit.’
This deposit protects the company against damage or theft to the car when it is in your possession, and if you need to pay any fees or penalties upon returning the car, it will be taken from your blocking deposit. This blocking deposit is taken whether you take out full insurance or not.
If you use a credit card, the money is not actually taken from your account, but if you use a debit card, the money is taken from your account. If you have a monthly spending limit on your debit card, this deposit will count towards it, so you could be left with very little access to cash for the duration of your trip.
Using a debit card, the blocking deposit will be returned to you when you return the car in good condition, but the process will take a few days.
In some cases, a rental company may require a credit card as a prerequisite to give you a car. They will need it for their system, and in case you want to extend your car rental period later on.
On the DiscoverCars website, you will be able to see if a credit card is a requirement or an option.
Do I need my own car insurance if I rent a car in Cancun?
No, you do not need to have your own car insurance to be able to rent a car in Cancun.
However, you will need to insure the car you are renting, either through your credit card or with a comprehensive, stress-free full insurance such as the policy offered by Discover Cars.
*We always go for full insurance cover when renting a car through DiscoverCars. This protects us from all claims against us, and we can enjoy exploring the country worry-free. We strongly advise you to do the same, unless you have another insurance.
Does my credit card insurance cover the rental car in Cancun?
That depends on your individual credit card. Some credit cards cover rental insurance, some don’t.
Several U.S. credit cards provide a level of car hire insurance, but you will need to provide evidence of this when you hire the car. However, some rental car companies in Cancun have recently refused collision damage waivers from credit cards, even with letters from the credit card company.
Know the fine details of your credit card cover. Some cards may cover you against theft, but not damage, whilst others may cover you for damage to the bodywork of the car but not the windscreen, and there may be country-specific exclusions for your insurance. If in doubt, check with your credit card company before leaving for Mexico.
However, you will still need to purchase public liability insurance (PLI) or Third Party Liability (TPL), which is required under Mexican law.
For peace of mind, we feel it is better to opt in for the full insurance offered by DiscoverCars. It includes damage waiver, theft protection, and third-party liability (TPL).
Book your rental car here before it sells out:
Best Places To Visit in Mexico From Cancun (Without A Car)
If you have been wondering do you need a car in Cancun and have decided that renting a car is not for you, you can still visit key locations without a car.
You can travel to several destinations by public bus, but a much easier – and enjoyable option – is to join a small group tour with other like-minded tourists.
Chichén Itzá is THE must-see site in the Yucatan. A visit to Mexico is not complete without a visit to a Mayan site, and Chichén Itzá is one of the best in the country.
This 12-hour tour starts with a guided visit to the world-famous ruins, where you can explore sites such as the imposing Kukulkan Pyramid, the impressive Great Ball Court and the Skull Platform. You will learn more about Mayan symbolism, history and culture than you would on an independent visit.
The tour continues with a trip to the cenote of Saamal. Visitors can descend 80 steps down into the idyllic cenote to spend time swimming, sunbathing or diving.
After a buffet lunch (which is included in the tour price), you will then travel to Valladolid to spend two hours exploring the oldest city in the Yucatan.
Valladolid is a charming city packed with colourful colonial architecture. In the time allotted on the tour, you can wander its attractive streets or enjoy a visit to the National Sculpture Museum and the ornate 16th-century Church of St Paul.
The tour includes small bus transfers, hotel pick up and drop-offs, a buffet lunch and entrance fees to Saamal cenote.
Discover more about this tour and book your place before it sells out:
Spend a relaxing morning or afternoon sailing on a luxury catamaran to the idyllic island of Isla Mujeres.
This 5 – 6 hour tour starts by cruising to the island with several stops along the way at prime snorkelling locations, followed by a gourmet lunch on board the boat.
You will then have free time to explore the small island of Isla Mujeres, which offers some of the best beaches in Mexico, scenic landscapes, plus excellent shopping opportunities for artisan crafts.
After your sightseeing, sit back and enjoy an open bar on the cruise back to Cancun.
The tour includes hotel pick-up and drops offs, plus all your food, drink and snorkelling equipment.
Book your place at this fantastic luxury sailing adventure:
A must for families or adrenaline junkies, Xavage Park, is an adventure wonderland.
This half-day tour includes basic admission to the park, kayaking and a four-level high ropes course, plus a buffet lunch and unlimited soft drinks.
You can also upgrade to an All-Inclusive Admission, which includes the above activities plus white water rafting, jet boating, a 20-metre-high zip line and off-roading in a Monster Truck.
For a fun and memorable day out, book your ticket here:
A 2.5-hour drive from Cancun is the stunning coastal Mayan ruins of Tulum.
The site sits on 12-metre-high cliffs and was one of the last settlements built by the Mayans before being abandoned in the 16th century. The site includes several temples and the impressive El Castillo pyramid.
Book your place on this highly-rated Tulum tour here:
Like Chichén Itzá, the best way to visit Tulum is with a guide, as you will learn so much more about what you are seeing. However, it is also possible to visit Tulum from Cancun by bus.
Catch a public ADO bus from downtown Cancun or Cancun airport to Tulum bus station. From here, you can walk or take a taxi to the ruins approximately three kilometres away. Some buses stop directly outside Tulum ruins, so check before buying your ticket at the Cancun bus station.
Allow at least 2.5 hours each way for the journey.
If you would like to visit the attractive city of Valladolid, you can catch an ADO coach from Cancun, which runs approximately every hour during daylight hours.
The journey takes around two hours and costs from $9 per person, so this is a cost-effective day trip if you are a solo traveller or a couple.
In addition to the Valladolid attractions already mentioned, spending a full day in the city will enable you to take a walking tour, to visit the free Palacio de Santa Cruz or the church of Santa María la Antigua. Enjoy a picnic in Campo Grande park and grab a coffee in Pasaje Gutiérrez gallery before catching your bus back to Cancun.
Check the latest timetables and prices here.
Important Mexico Driving Tips
After renting a car in Cancun, it is essential to familiarise yourself with Mexico driving rules and regulations before embarking on your sightseeing trips.
The following Mexico driving and renting a car in Cancun tips will help you get started.
✔️ Always opt in for a full insurance cover
For peace of mind and to avoid the possibility of extortionate bills and legal repercussions, always opt for full insurance coverage.
It may feel like an unnecessary expense, but it will be worth every penny if you are unlucky enough to have an accident during your trip.
Full insurance cover can also be called premium, deluxe or extended coverage. It will give you a greater depth of coverage than standard car insurance or your personal travel insurance.
The extended or full cover provides cover for injuries to yourself or your passengers, damage to your car or another car, plus the driver and passengers of another car or any third-party property. This last feature is called liability insurance, which you are required to have under Mexican law.
Make sure you read the policy carefully, especially the small print. Some insurance policies have strict rules about where you can and can’t park at night, what you can put in the trunk etc., so don’t get caught out on a technicality. If you are unsure of any details or terminology, ask before leaving the rental depot.
It is also important to check the wording of your own travel insurance. If you do not have a valid licence in your own country for the vehicle you are driving in a foreign country, your travel insurance will be null and void.
✔️ Record the condition of the car
Record the condition of the car before you leave the rental depot. This is essential to avoid any problems when you return the car.
First, check the current state of the car in the paperwork. If any dents or windscreen cracks are noted on the paperwork, check those first to see if the paperwork has accurately recorded the location and condition of the damage. If you think it is wrong, get one of the employees to assess the damage and change the details.
Secondly, record the condition of the car yourself. Take photos or videos of the outside and inside of the car, focusing on any potential problem areas such as the windscreen or rear lights and bumper/fender. If you notice any damage, make sure it is verified and annotated by an employee of the rental car company.
Make a copy of the photos and video in case you lose your camera or phone.
✔️ Learn how to use the car before you leave the depot
It is always a good idea to familiarise yourself with the car before leaving the rental depot.
For example, adjust your mirrors, know where the windscreen wipers are and how they work, and where the indicators, hazard lights and horn are before you need them.
✔️ Watch out for the speed bumps
Look out for speed bumps in Mexico; they can be brutal. On average, Mexican speed bumps are 2 to 3 times higher than in the U.S.
Most speed bumps are black and yellow, so you will see them coming, but others are grey concrete or metal and blend in with the road. Hitting a speed bump at speed (particularly a high Mexican speed bump) could seriously – and expensively – damage the suspension on your car.
Look out for speed bump road signs. The signs will either read ‘topes’ or ‘reductor de velocidad’ and are sometimes accompanied by an image of two rounded humps. However, many topes (pronounced toe pace) have no warning signs before you reach them.
✔️ Learn how to read Mexican traffic signals
Traffic lights in Mexico have an extra step.
The lights go green, amber, flashing amber and then red.
✔️ Have your documents always with you
Always carry your rental and insurance documents with you in the car and keep them in a readily accessible location, such as the driver’s door or glove compartment.
You will need to carry your International Drivers Licence, your rental contract plus your passports, FMM or tourist card and a printed copy of your insurance cover certificate.
It is also a good idea to carry a list of emergency numbers to call plus a list of useful numbers such as the rental company and the Green Angels (Angeles Verde) breakdown assistance.
If you can, scan or take photos of all of these documents and send them to a safe but accessible backup location.
✔️ Download offline maps
We rely so much on our phones to navigate that it is easy to forget to prepare for no phone signal or WiFi connection.
Prepare for the unexpected by downloading offline maps and map apps (such as Maps.Me) and driving directions. Backup paper copies are even better!
✔️ You may want to buy a local SIM
Whilst most U.S. sim cards and some European sims will work in Mexico, it is much better to buy a local sim for your phone.
The low-cost sim will be more reliable and can avoid considerable roaming charges, and you will have much better signal coverage.
✔️ Pay cash at the petrol station
Unfortunately, petrol stations (or gas stations) in Mexico are notorious scam locations. Self-service pumps are non-existent in Mexico, so you must directly pay an employee for your petrol.
It is best to use cash to avoid the risk of your card being cloned or skimmed.
Also, take your time when paying in cash and don’t allow yourself to get distracted. Be aware of which notes you are handing over as high and low denomination Mexican notes are very similar (particularly the 500 and 50), and the unscrupulous scam artists will take the opportunity to make you believe you handed over a 50 when you actually handed over a 500 note. They may try switching the note in their hand to show you ‘proof.’
Another key petrol station tip is to get out of the car to watch your tank being filled.
Make sure that the pump you have pulled up to is the pump that is being used (and not the opposite side) and that the pump has been reset to zero before use.
✔️ Be aware of tolls
There are toll roads in nearly every state in Mexico, so you will undoubtedly come across a toll road during your sightseeing trips. Always carry Mexican pesos in case you need to pay a toll.
Toll roads are worth using as they are usually in better condition and quieter, and faster to drive on than non-toll roads.
Toll roads are called ‘Cuota’ whilst free roads, or non-toll roads, are called ‘libre’.
The Carretera Federal 180 is a long, straight toll road connecting Merida to Cancun and is the most expensive toll road in Mexico.
At the time of writing, the toll road costs an eye-watering $608 MXP or $33 USD for a journey of around 190 miles / 305 kilometres. Tolls must be paid in cash in Mexican pesos – U.S. dollars or credit cards are not accepted.
You can avoid the tolls and drive the libre road from Merida to Cancun – just be prepared for the 80+ speed bumps!
✔️ Stay within the speed limit
Keep an eye on your speed and avoid the temptation to go over the limit, even if other drivers around you are doing so.
Generally speaking, there is a speed limit of 10 kph in residential areas, 20 kph near schools and hospitals, 40 kph in towns and cities and 70 kph on major roads and 90 -110 kph on highways.
Always double-check Mexican speed limits before embarking on a road trip, and if in doubt, ask the rental company.
✔️ Avoid driving at night
It is never a good idea to drive at night in an unfamiliar country.
Reading unfamiliar road signs, navigating in the dark, using unfamiliar road layouts and dealing with other road users (including nocturnal animals) adds substantial risk to your journey.
✔️ Watch out for left-side highway exits
You will sometimes need to exit on the left-hand side of the highway when driving in Cancun.
Don’t rush to make your turn, and don’t panic if you miss it. Just keep driving until you find a ‘retorno’ where you can do a legal U-turn.
✔️ Exercise limited trust
It is illegal to use a mobile phone whilst driving in Mexico – but it happens. Stay alert when driving, as others may not be.
Plus, like many other countries, it is illegal to drink and drive or to drive under the influence of drugs, and there are harsh penalties for anyone who does. Wearing a seatbelt is also mandatory by law.
✔️ Don’t give cash to the Police
It is important to know the correct procedure should you get stopped by the police.
The normal procedure is that you would be stopped and then asked to show your driver’s licence, vehicle registration or rental contract and proof of insurance. You will also be told why you have been stopped.
If you are issued with a ticket, accept the ticket for your misdemeanour (whether you agree with it or not) and surrender your driving licence.
You then follow the police car to the nearest police station to pay your fine by credit card and retrieve your licence. This is the time to argue your case if you want to; however, you will get 50% off your ticket if you pay within 24 – 48 hours.
You may be asked by the officers who stop you to pay there and then in cash. This is not the correct procedure and is a scam. Accept the ticket and ask to pay by card.
✔️ Lock your car door
Get into the habit of locking all your doors (day or night) before you set off in case you get stuck in a traffic jam or at a traffic light.
✔️ Don’t leave your valuables on display
Never leave your valuables on display in your car, as it is an open invitation to thieves.
Always put a wallet, phone, iPad or laptop into the boot or trunk of your car. If you do not have a parcel shelf, cover the items with a jacket or blanket.
Try not to leave anything on display in the car. Your bag of groceries or swimwear may not seem valuable to you, but it might prove tempting to a burglar who would be interested to see what else was in the bag.
✔️ Make sure your hotel or Airbnb comes with parking
Always try to book a hotel or Airbnb with on-site parking, ideally secure gated parking. This is a safety feature as well as a time-saving feature.
It is not fun trying to find a parking spot when you have just arrived at a new destination or having to drag your luggage around unfamiliar streets to reach your accommodation.
Plus, when you arrive back from a long day of sightseeing, parking on site in the dark is safer than parking in the dark away from your accommodation.
Most hotel car parks are busy places, and many have security guards, both of which are deterrents to thieves or muggers.
The Wrap-Up: Renting A Car in Cancun
Renting a car in Cancun may seem like a daunting prospect, particularly for first-time visitors to the Yucatan.
However, you may be pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to rent a car in Cancun once you have gathered your paperwork. Car rental companies and the Yucatan regional authorities try to make it as easy as possible for tourists to rent vehicles as they want you to get out of the city, explore the local area and spread the tourist dollar.
If you are considering renting a car in Cancun, be realistic about how comfortable you feel driving in Cancun, how confident you are driving in a foreign country and how much you will actually use the car.
But if you want to explore all the locations that this fascinating part of Mexico has to offer, a rental car is your best option. Just ensure that you do your homework before you leave home, read the small print, ask questions if you need to and adhere to the rules of driving in Mexico.
If you do all this, an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime vacation exploring Cancun and the Yucatan awaits you.
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