Cheap Car Rental in Guadalajara – How to Choose the Best One and Practical Tips

Are you looking for information on the best cheap car rental in Guadalajara? First off, congratulations! I applaud your spirit of adventure. Mexico has so much to offer over and beyond organized tours, bus schedules, and standard tourist destinations.

If you love having the freedom to explore hidden gems (especially off-the-beaten-track), go wherever you want when you want, meander, make stops, enjoy the view, try restaurants as you come across them, and so much more, you should absolutely rent a car.

There are also many great day trips from Guadalajara that you might miss if you don’t have a rental car.

May take some time to get used to Driving in Mexico, but don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with great tips to help you feel comfortable on the road, all based on my experience living in Mexico for over a decade.

This post will cover all your questions on how and why to rent a car, what documents you need, what scams to watch out for, and how to find the best cheap car rental Guadalajara has to offer.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about renting a car in Guadalajara.

Renting a Car in Guadalajara: Your Questions Answered

First, let’s cover the most important questions you have about renting a car in Guadalajara.

✅ Do I need a car in Guadalajara?

Do you need a car in Guadalajara? Well, that depends! If all you plan to do is visit attractions in the city proper, going by taxi, uber, or didi, may be easier.

Parking can be a little complicated in the city. Plus, there are lots of traffic circles and unmarked roads.

There are also many organized tours available to explore the surroundings. However, if you are anything like me, you will love having the freedom of movement that only a car can give you.

Having a car will give you the freedom to explore destinations outside of the city itself. It’s a fabulous way to experience Mexico like a local, visit less touristy places, and meander at your favorite pace.

In the end, it all comes down to personal preference. What’s your traveling style? Do you like independence and getting off the beaten path? If so, a Guadalajara car rental could be a perfect choice!

Guadalajara - Japanese Garden
Guadalajara Japanese garden

✅ Is it safe to rent a car in Guadalajara?

Yes! For the most part, renting a car in Mexico and Guadalajara is safe. Not only that, it is a convenient way to travel. 

Of course, there are some things you should know before you rent a car. I’ll cover that in the sections about what documents you need to rent a car in Guadalajara and how to avoid car rental scams.

I’ll also give you some great tips on how to drive safely in Mexico. Pretty soon, you’ll be motoring along the roads like a pro! Not to mention garnering lots of points for being an intrepid Mexican traveler, woot woot.

✅ What are the best rental car companies in Guadalajara

My favorite company for booking a car rental is Discover Cars. It’s a hugely reliable car rental platform. Not only do they offer over 2,500 car rentals across 68 different Mexican cities, but Guadalajara happens to be one of their most popular locations.

Discover Cars puts everything on the table from the get-go, making it super easy to book (with no ugly surprises), the best prices for the most top-notch service, and a 24-hour price guarantee.

The best part? They offer full coverage insurance for about 8 USD per day. This insurance covers tires, windows, mirrors, and more.

You can read all the great reviews on the Discover Cars site and browse around to find the best car rental in Guadalajara or anywhere else in Mexico.

You can read my Discover Cars Rental reviews for further clarity.

Car rental

Discover Cars Mexico Review

Browse through international and local car rentals and find the best deal.

I’ve always had great service from Discover Cars. They always respond quickly if there’s a problem of any kind…I would never use any other car rental company as my many experiences with have been 100% positive.


✅ How much does rent a car in Guadalajara cost?

When you search for a cheap car rental in Guadalajara, you may see crazy low prices, even as low as 5 USD a day. I am sure you know already that this is not the real price!

I’ll talk more about how to avoid car rental scams in a later section.

Expect to pay 30 to 60 USD for a car rental in Guadalajara.

For example, if you’re looking at Guadalajara airport car rentals, you should be able to get a brand-new car with an automatic transmission, air conditioning, and full coverage insurance with no deductible for $50 a day.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to pay additional fees for things like adding an extra driver, getting a baby seat, or getting GPS navigation.

Tip: If you see a super cheap rate, it probably doesn’t include Mexico’s mandatory insurance, which costs about $20 per day. Don’t worry, I go into hidden fees in a different section below.

What do I need to rent a car in Guadalajara, Mexico?

a woman holding the car keys

Renting a car in Guadalajara Jalisco Mexico is pretty straightforward, all you need are a few standard documents, which I’ll cover here.

✔️ You must be 21 years old but…

Different car rental companies have different age requirements. Most companies require their drivers to be 21 years old or older. However, some companies allow drivers who are in the 18 to 20-year-old range.

If you are under 21, keep in mind that you will have to pay an extra fee for your rental car.

✔️ A Valid Driver’s License (or IDP)

Did you know you can drive in Mexico on your US or Canadian driver’s license? Yup! No extra paperwork is necessary! In general, you can use your driver’s license from another country if it is written in the European alphabet. However, if it is in a non-European script, you’ll need an International Driver’s Permit. 

✔️A Valid Credit Card

Another thing you’ll need to get for a Guadalajara car rental is a valid credit card. Make sure it is in your name and not expired.

✔️ Car insurance

Mexican law requires that everyone have liability insurance when driving in the country. Some car rentals include this fee in the costs, and others add it later. Either way, you won’t be allowed to rent unless you get third-party liability insurance in Mexico.

I’ll talk more about this below.

✔️ What if I have my own insurance?

Even if you have insurance, you will still need to get third-party liability insurance when you’re driving in Mexico. It is required by law, so there’s no way to avoid it.

This third-party liability insurance only covers damages to other people and their cars, not to yourself or the car you are driving.

Personally, I think it is worth it to get full coverage. I ALWAYS purchase it for my peace of mind. The best options is Discover Cars full coverage, which usually only costs $8 a day.

Another great option is to purchase a full insurance directly with the car company which is usually more expensive but it should me fully comprehensive and you don’t have to pay upfront in case of an accident or any issue.

However, if you go for this option, make sure you check the conditions to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Guadalajara City Center
Guadalajra city Center – Photo from Canva

✔️ Is my credit card insurance valid in Mexico?

It could be valid or not. You will need to check with your credit card company to see if you get a car rental insurance benefit.

Some cards, such as Chase Sapphire and American Express offer Secondary Coverage for car rental insurance. You must pay upfront, and then submit a claim to get reimbursed.

Keep in mind that some rental companies don’t accept credit card company insurance. Check ahead to avoid nasty surprises!


💡Mind that travel insurance is separate from car insurance! here below some tips!💡

Do I need travel insurance in Mexico? Yes, you do! I can never stress enough what a lifesaver it can be in unexpected situations. Although I hope I never need it, it gives me peace of mind to know that whatever happens, I am covered. I have been using  Safety Wing, and I find it quite fair, covering a lot for its pricing level. Depending on your needs or you can compare different insurance companies on this useful site, TRAVEL INSURANCE MASTER. Make sure you read carefully what’s included before making the purchase. If you are undecided yet, you can read my post on the best travel insurance for Mexico for more clarity.

Renting a Car in Guadalajara: Common Scams (or perceived scams)

There can be many hidden fees when it comes to getting a cheap car rental in Guadalajara that may make you think it’s a scamm, and it can be in a way.

If important conditions are written in fine print for example, let’s be realistic, who reads the fine print? right? and the Car rental company knows it.

So theoretically the most important information should be written in capital letters and clear for you to understand, but it’s not always the case, almost never.

So let’s keep the following things in mind when you are searching for the best rental deal.

driving in mexico

❗️Insurance add-ons❗️

Tell me if you’ve been in a situation like this before: You reserve a tour (or a rental car), but when you get there, the customer service agent tries to sell you a ton of extra things. It’s frustrating and annoying. And it feels like you’re getting a bit ripped off.

My top tip is to get full insurance in advance. Ask for the full insurance rate DURING the booking process. Otherwise, when you ask at the counter, the price will probably double, and it’ll feel like a punch to the gut.

Personally, I think it is 100% worth it to get full coverage. That way I don’t have to worry about anything.

Make sure that what you are booking is actually full coverage with zero deductible.

To double-check what you’re really getting when it comes to car rental insurance, ask them to tell you what isn’t included.

❗️❗️ Unanticipated Add-Ons

There are a few things that you will have to pay extra for. Avoid unexpected costs by learning what usually is considered an add-on.

Taxes | Most rates do not include taxes, so keep that in mind when you go to book.

Additional Driver | There is a driver surcharge for adding a second driver

Theft Protection | This costs extra, but I recommend it

Additional Country | Want to visit Belize or Guatemala with your Guadalajara car rental? You’ll need a special permit that, you guessed it, costs extra

Insurance: Unless you get full coverage, the insurance won’t necessarily cover all parts of a car. Different insurance covers minor damages, window damage, tire damage, etc. I recommend getting full coverage insurance with a zero deductible.

Baby Seat: If you need a baby seat, expect to pay additional fees.

⛽️ Gas is never included

You must return the rental car with the same amount of gas in the tank as it had when you left the rental company.

Tip: Stop by a gas station right before you return the car to level up. If you don’t, and the gas level is lower than when they rented it to you, the company will hit you up with a huge fee which is always much more than the missing gas.

Not sure what the level was? Just check the form the agent gave you after the pre-trip inspection.

What’s that? A pre-trip inspection?

Yup, when you rent a car in Mexico, you and the agent should inspect the car and mark down existing damages before you head out. The agent also notes how much gas is in the tank. The form will list the gas level as well as pre-existing scratches and other damages. Keep it in a safe place and don’t miss it.

✔ Taxes, penalties, and more information that rental companies may not provide

If you see an ad for a cheap car rental in Guadalajara that only costs 4 USD, you need to know that this is not what you’ll actually pay. Once you are finished adding on the taxes, insurance, and other add-ons, the cost will be much higher.

I always recommend asking about all of the additional fees before you make your reservation.

✔ Omission of information

Read the fine print! Some car rental companies (such as American Car) require you to report any damages BEFORE dropping the car off. If you don’t report any damages ahead of time, the car insurance is void and you have to pay for all the damages yourself.

Yes, that feels extremely scammy. Unfortunately, if it is in the contract and you sign it, you are bound to it. Read through your obligations ahead of time so you can avoid an uncomfortable situation like this.

✔ Cancellation fees & Drop off times

Different car rental companies have different cancellation fees and drop-off policies. Check the company policy before booking so you know what you’re in for.

If your flight is delayed or canceled, car rental companies may:

► Offer a full refund with no cancellation fees

► Retain a percentage of the cost as a cancellation fee

If your trip is interrupted and you have to leave early, car rental companies may:

► Refund your unused days

► Offer no refund for unused days

Most car rentals offer a 24-hour rate. You must return the car exactly when you collected it, or earlier.

Depending on the company:

► You may be given a one-hour grace period. But if you are late, you might have to pay for an entire extra day.

► Some car companies will give you a one-hour grace period and then charge per hour if you are late.

How to avoid Guadalajara car rental scams

You are searching for “cheap car rental Guadalajara” and you see an unbelievable deal. You can rent a car for only 4 USD a day.

What? Amazing! You book the car and fly to Mexico. Then when you go to pay, you realize that you have to pay taxes, third-party liability insurance (required by Mexican law), and a bunch of add-ons.

The $4 rental turns into a $30 rental in five minutes flat, and you leave feeling cheated and angry.

Here’s what you need to know, there are NO too-good-to-be-true car rental deals. If the price sounds dirt cheap, there are hidden costs. Do yourself a favor and find out what they are before you book.

Follow these tips to save yourself from feeling scammed.

🤕 Check with your credit card insurance and personal insurance companies to see if they will cover your rental car in Guadalajara. Also, check with the car rental company to see if they will accept it.

💰 Ask about all hidden costs when you are booking and when you pick up the car.

⛽ Top up the gas before you return the car to avoid fees.

💸 Learn about cancellation fees, insurance coverage requirements, late penalties, etc.

✅ Check over the car with the car rental agent to make sure all pre-existing damages are listed.

Driving in Guadalajara or Mexico in general – Top Tips

a woman renting a car in mexico

▶ Traffic Circles

Guadalajara has a ton of traffic circles. These can be confusing at first, especially since some street names aren’t marked. It’s worth using a good GPS!

▶ Pedestrian Traffic

Expect lots of people, carts, bikes, etc on the road. Just drive more slowly when you need to and you’ll be fine.

▶ Drive Defensively

It is common for drivers in Mexico to run red lights, make illegal left and right turns (from non-turning lanes), and other things like that. If you are turning, try to make turns into the closest lane. Feel free to use the horn!

▶ Toll roads

Although you might be tempted to avoid toll roads, they are usually well worth the cost. They are usually in great shape and have fewer traffic stops.

In order to pay the toll, you’ll need Mexican pesos as they don’t accept credit cards or US$ Bring lots of coins and bills so you can pay.

▶ Gas stations

In Mexico, it’s illegal to pump your own gas. All gas stations are full service so the attendant will fill up your tank and take the payment. You can tell the attendant how much you want to put in, or ask him or her to fill the tank.

Take some cash with you in case their Credit Card POS is not working.

Remember to leave a tip to the attendant.

▶ Road signs

Speed limit signs are white circles with a red border. The speed limit number is in the center.

The speed limit in Mexico is measured in kilometers per hour, but don’t worry, your car rental speedometer will also be in kilometers.

▶ Google Maps

I highly recommend downloading Google Maps or Maps me so that you can use it offline. 

Pre-load your route while you still have signal (or wifi). Some places in Mexico have little to no cell service.

▶ What to do if you get pulled over

What to do if you get pulled over in Mexico depends on why you’ve gotten pulled over.

Did you commit a traffic infraction? If so, you will probably have to follow the police to the station and pay the fine immediately. (They avoid giving tickets to foreigners because they can leave the country without paying).

If they give you a ticket, try to pay it within 3 days so you can get a 30-50% discount but avoid paying the bribe. (see below)

▶ What do I do if the police ask for a bribe?

Unfortunately, it is pretty common for police to ask for bribes in Mexico. Asking for a bribe and paying a bribe is against Mexican law, but many people still do it.

You’ll know a policeman is asking for a bribe if they suggest you make an “arreglo” or a fix. They may make you wait a long time to try to get you to pay a bribe.

Please do not support this practice! If it seems like an officer is asking for a bribe, ask them to either give you a ticket or let you go.

If you are given a ticket, you can get a 30-50% discount by paying the fine in the next three days.

▶ Avoid “no parking zones”

Don’t park in “no parking zones.” If you do, you will not only get a ticket but the license plate will be confiscated as well. You’ll get it back once you pay for the ticket.

Extra Tips on Driving in Mexico

cheap car rentals in Puerto Vallarta

✔ You’ll probably encounter lots of speed bumps or “topes”. Drive slowly as some can be quite high and steep. If the car has low suspension, you can sometimes avoid scraping the bottom by going over the speed bump diagonally (and very slowly).

✔ For safety reasons, wear a seatbelt and avoid driving after dark

✔ If a window cleaner comes up to your car, you can either wave them off or give them a few coins.

What to do in case of emergency

It’s always a good idea to have an idea of what to do if you have an emergency. Hopefully, you won’t have anything happen, but if it does, it’ll be good to be prepared.

✔ Have a working cell phone.

If your phone is unlocked, get a local sim card or e-sim card, or enable roaming services (a more expensive option). It’s important to be able to make calls if you have a problem.

✔ Make sure you already have a downloaded offline map so you won’t get lost when you enter an area without cell phone reception.

✔ Call 911.

If you have an emergency, you can call 911 to ask for help. The operator will assist you.

Guadalajara Car Rental FAQs

car rental in mexico

🟩 What side of the road do people drive in Mexico?

In Mexico, you will drive on the right side of the road, just as you would in the United States or Canada.

🟩 Can a foreigner rent a car in Mexico?

Yes! Most foreigners can rent a car in Mexico. If your driver’s license is in the Roman alphabet, you can use it alone. However, if your license is in a non-Roman alphabet, you will need an International Driving Permit as well.

🟩 How much does it cost to rent a car in Jalisco?

Car rentals in Jalisco generally cost 30-60 USD a day, depending on the car, your age, the insurance you decide on, and any add-ons.

If you are under 21, it will cost much more to rent a car.

🟩 How old do you have to be to rent a car in Mexico?

Many Mexico car rental companies only allow drivers who are 21 or older, however, some companies allow younger drivers. For example, Mex and Europcar allow 18-year-old drivers. Just expect to pay premium rates.

Tip: Add your age to the Discover Cars search criteria to find your perfect rental. 

Things to do in Guadalajara with a car rental

guadalajara cathedral

Now that you have found the best cheap car rental Guadalajara has to offer, it’s time to have some fun!

▻ Shop in Tonalá

Visit Tonalá for shopping. There is some really cool pottery there with incredible artwork. Don’t miss visiting Ken Edwards Stoneware, a really cool shop founded by an American potter. At his shop, Mexican artists paint their traditional designs on high-fire stoneware pottery. 

▻ Eat & Explore in Tlaquepaque

colorful umbrellas in tlaquepaque

Another fabulous day trip from Guadalajara is to visit the small quaint city of Tlaquepaque. This cute town is a perfect place to explore. Enjoy the musicians and artists, the beautiful mosaics, a lovely garden (El Jardín HIdalgo), and some tasty food.

▻ Learn about Tequila

Another destination, about 1 hour and 40 minutes northwest of Guadalajara is the town of Tequila. Learn about how blue agave is harvested and turned into Tequila. Fun!

▻ Visit a Pueblo Mágico

If you’re up for a longer trip, you could visit the magical town of Mascota. This fun pueblo is on the way to Puerto Vallarta, about four hours from Guadalajara. The colorful architecture and history make this town extra special.

▻ Enjoy Mexico’s Switzerland

Another fun spot to visit is the little-known town of no division Mazamitla. This little town features wooden buildings and scenic plazas. It’s also surrounded by sweet-smelling pine trees, mountains, and forests. Lovely!

Puerto Vallarta Overview
Puerto Vallarta

▻ Visit Puerto Vallarta

If you rent a car in Puerto Vallarta why not explore the Mexican Pacific coast all the way to the vibrant and colorful Puerto Vallarta. I would suggest planing a couple of days and explore the pacific coast from Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita and further north up to San Blas.

Renting a car in Guadalajara: final thoughts

I hope this post was helpful and you are now ready to rent a car in Guadalajara and explore the surroundings.

You know what documents you need to rent a car in Mexico, how to avoid scams and important Mexican driving tips.

I also suggest you to download IOverland app to find out about the best roads to use or which ones are not recommendable. There are also some facebook groups such as Mexico on the road where you can ask for tips on road viability as well.