How to find Cheap Car Rentals in Puerto Vallarta

Are you looking for the best cheap car rentals in Puerto Vallarta has to offer? If so, this post covers everything you need to know to avoid scams, find the best deals, and have a blast exploring on four wheels.

Puerto Vallarta is perfectly situated near incredible beaches, magical pueblos, and cool cultural destinations.

With your own Puerto Vallarta rental car, you’ll have the freedom to explore at your own pace without having to get spend on tour bookings or limit your plans to touristy activities.

Find hidden gems, make as many stops as you wish, and enjoy the adventure of driving in another country.

Read on to learn my top tips for finding the best deals, avoiding scams, and driving safely in Puerto Vallarta Mexico.

Puerto Vallarta Overview
Puerto Vallarta photo from Canva

Renting a car in Puerto Vallarta: Your Questions Answered

✅ Should I rent a car in Puerto Vallarta?

Whether or not you should rent a car in Puerto Vallarta depends on a few different factors. The first question you should ask yourself is where you want to explore. 

Do you plan to spend most of your time in Puerto Vallarta itself? 

If so, you should know the city is fairly walkable and has an extensive bus system. If you feel comfortable wandering on foot, using public transportation, or paying for taxis or Ubers, you may not need a Puerto Vallarta rental car.

Do you plan to explore further afield and like your independence?

If so, renting a car in Puerto Vallarta could be a perfect choice. There are many wonderful destinations outside of the city limits that are best accessed by rental car.

Travel inland without the constraints (or the price tag) of guided tours, and visit cool beaches and fun historic towns all at your own pace.

Don’t misunderstand me please, I do love tours on some occasions. However, I rent a car when possible, because it gives me the freedom to explore at my own pace.

✅ Is it safe to rent a car in Puerto Vallarta?

It is generally considered safe to rent a car in Puerto Vallarta. Although you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the different rules of the road, this is definitely doable.

I have been living in Mexico for over a decade and love the freedom of using a rental car. If you are concerned about driving in Mexico, check out my post on Mexican Driving tips. I am sure the article will answer many doubts.

✅ What are the best rental car companies in Puerto Vallarta?

I believe the best way to find the best cheap car rentals Puerto Vallarta has to offer is by booking through Discover Cars.

The platform finds the best rates and offers full coverage insurance for $8-15 per day. This is the prime way to avoid the top Mexico car rental scams.

I love using Discover Cars because there aren’t hidden fees, I know the companies are reputable and vetted, and the full coverage insurance is 100% the way to go.

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 renting a car in Puerto Vallarta cost?

When you’re searching for a Puerto Vallarta car rental, you may find incredible rates, such as $10 a day or less.

This price is the base price and does not include Mexican Personal Liability Insurance (which is required by law). 

You’ll also pay additional taxes and fees so expect to pay double or triple the amount listed.

On average, a Puerto Vallarta rental car costs between 30 and 70 USD.

If you are under 25 years old, you may have to pay an additional “young driver” fee. There are also extra costs for child seats, GPS navigation systems, and an additional driver.

The make and model of the vehicle will also affect the final price.


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

Cheap Car Rentals in Puerto Vallarta

Renting a car in Puerto Vallarta is pretty straightforward, all you need is a passport, driver’s license, credit or debit card, and car insurance.

Read on to learn more.

1. You must be 25 ys old at least but…

Most car rental companies require you to be 25 years old or older. You can often still rent a car if you are younger, but you’ll have to pay a “young driver fee.”

For example, in a simple search on Discover Cars, the price for an eight-day rental comes to 162 USD for a 25-year-old driver, 214 USD for a 21-year-old driver, and 402 USD for an 18-year-old driver.

As you can see, rental cars are much more accessible if you are over 25 years old. 

2. A Valid Driver’s License (or IDP)

Another thing you’ll need to get a Puerto Vallarta car rental is a valid driver’s license. 

As long as your license is written in the roman alphabet, that is all you’ll need. However, if your license is in Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Russian, or other logographic characters, you’ll probably also need an International Driving Permit (IDP).

An IDP gives you the freedom to drive in over 150 different countries.

3. A Valid Credit Card

Another thing you’ll need to rent a car in Puerto Vallarta is a valid credit card. Although it is possible to use a debit card instead, it is easier and more seamless to use a credit card.

Before you rent your car, you’ll need to swipe your card so the company has your information. That way they can charge you if any damages occur.

In general, most companies will also put a certain quantity on hold as a security deposit (usually $400 to $1000 US dollars). However, if you get full coverage insurance (recommended!) you may only have to put down 100 USD or less.

If you DON’T have insurance, they may require an exorbitant security deposit of 10,000 to 20,000 dollars. Youch!

Note: If you use a debit card, the money will be removed from your account and then refunded later, minus any international transaction fees. On a credit card, the charge doesn’t go through unless something happens, so the whole process is more straightforward.

searching for car rental

4. Car insurance

Another thing you’ll need for your cheap car rental in Puerto Vallarta is car insurance.

In Mexico, you are required by law to have Third Party Limited Liability Insurance. This means that if you crash, the insurance will cover damages only to the other person and vehicle involved in the accident.

I highly recommend you get full coverage insurance with a zero-dollar deductible. That way you are completely covered if something happens.

Fortunately, full coverage insurance is perfectly affordable through Discover Cars.

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.


5. Can I use Credit Card Insurance?

Some credit cards include primary or secondary insurance for car rentals. Unfortunately, Mexican car rental companies are free to accept or decline credit card insurance at their discretion.

If they decline your credit card insurance, they may hit you up with an outrageous insurance rate, or ask you to leave a security deposit.

That security deposit can sometimes amount to an outrageous amount of money, but that depends on the car rental company.

Before anything, you should make sure your card insurance covers in Mexico, though. In most cases they do but they will evaluate your case once you go back to the US and submit your paperwork and refund request.

So you would need to pay everything upfront and hope for a refund. And that is the main reason why car rental companies require a big deposit, to cover themselves in case anything happens.


Renting a Car in Puerto Vallarta: Mistakes to Avoid

When you’re renting a car, it’s important to read through the rental agreement to make sure you’re aware of all the taxes, fees, penalties, and add-ons.

Avoid nasty surprises by taking the following things into account:

✔ Insurance add ons

When you rent a car in Mexico you are required by law to get Mexican Third Party Liability Insurance. Most of the time, this insurance is not listed in the base rate.

Expect to pay additional fees for different kinds of insurance, such as theft insurance, damage insurance, and liability insurance.

Check to see what is included in your rental car, or better yet, go all the way and get full coverage insurance with a zero deductible.

My favorite way to do this is to rent through Discover Cars. Their full coverage insurance is super affordable and works like a charm every time.

Here are some reviews from previous customers.

discover cars reviews page
Photo courtesy of Discover Cars

If you don’t have insurance already added when you go to rent the car, the company will hit you up with extremely high rental rates, or require you to leave massive security deposits.

driving in Puerto Vallarta

✔ Unanticipated Add-Ons

Again, it is very important to notice what is and is not included in your rental agreement. You will have to pay extra fees for things like:

  • a second driver
  • Baby seats, booster seats, or child seats
  • GPS navigation

✔ Gas is never included

You have two options when it comes to a rental car, “full to full” or “same to same.” Basically, this means that you need to return the car with the same level of gas as when you picked it up.

If you return the car with less gas in it than when you left, you’ll be hit with a large fine. If it’s more they will offer a pat on your shoulder and a thank you! 😜

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

Before renting, ask about taxes (including sales tax and local taxes), airport fees, licensing costs, insurance costs, and more. That way you’ll know what you actually have to pay.

It’s also important to ask about penalties. For example, late drop-off rates, grace periods, what to do if something on the car is damaged (and how to report damages), and what to do in case of an accident.

✔ Omission of information

Some rental car companies have sneaky insurance policies that could ruin your trip. For example, American Cars requires you to report any damages BEFORE dropping off the car. If you don’t, the insurance is void and you have to pay for everything yourself.

✔ Cancellation fees

Another question you should ask when renting a car in Puerto Vallarta is about the cancellation fees. What will happen if you have to cancel your rental due to illness, a missed or canceled flight, or changed plans? What will happen if you have to cut your trip short?

Some companies allow for free cancellations, others charge cancelation fees, and others will charge you the full price no matter what. This is something it is good to be aware of!

rent a car puerto vallarta mexico


How to avoid Puerto Vallarta car rental scams

🤕 Pre-book with Full Coverage Insurance

The best Mexican car insurance is full coverage with a zero deductible. I highly recommend booking your rental car through Discover Cars, and opting for their full coverage insurance.

However, if you book directly with your favorite rental company, which you can, make sure you ask about the cost of the full insurance before confirming the rental. That is to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Although full coverage isn’t required by law, it will give you the greatest peace of mind. Pre-booking will ensure you don’t get hit with exorbitant rates at the rental car counter.

Note: Whatever you do, you MUST have Mexican Personal Liability Insurance.

💰 Learn about all the Hidden Costs & Penalties

Ask about insurance, taxes, fees, add-ons, cancellations and interrupted trips, drop-off penalties, gas penalties, and more.

In other words, read the fine print and ask lots of questions.

⛽ Gas

Be sure to fill your gas tank back to the level it was when you picked up the car to avoid hefty fees.

✅ Check the car with the car rental agent

Before driving off in your rental car, check the car over with the rental agent. Make sure the agent notes down any existing damages and the level of gas in the car. That way, they can’t blame you for damages that already occurred previously.

Keep your copy of the pre-existing-damages form in a safe place.

Puerto Vallarta Mexico aerial view
Puerto Vallarta city and Banderas Bay view

Driving in Puerto Vallarta – Top Things to Know

Driving in another country always means an adjustment. Here are some important things to know so you can explore Puerto Vallarta like a pro.

▶ Toll roads vs Free Roads

In Mexico, there are two different kinds of roads, free roads “libre” and toll roads “cuota.”

Toll Roads

For long trips, I like to take toll roads. Although it means paying a bit more money, they are usually in great shape. They are straighter, more direct, and designed for speed. They have better infrastructure so they are safer as well.

Top Tip: Toll roads only accept Mexican Pesos in Cash, they don’t accept cards or foreign money. The good news is that google is now showing the cost of the toll road when you check the itinerary on the map. In any case, always travel with some Mexican pesos in your pockets.

Free Roads

If you’re making a day trip and want to explore at a more leisurely pace, you may prefer to drive on the “libre” or free roads. That way you can find more hidden gems. That is my favorite way of traveling.

These “libres” are often only two-lane roads. They can be very windy with hairpin turns and can have holes and TOPES (speedbumps) which are not always indicated.

As a result, you’ll have to drive more slowly. However, you’ll get a greater sense of the Mexican culture and landscape because you’ll drive through many small towns.

The views from these free roads can be spectacular as well.

▶ Distracted Driving

In Mexico, it is illegal to be on your cell phone, put on makeup, shave, or be otherwise distracted while on the road.

Set up your navigation system before you start driving and pull over if you have a problem or need to make a phone call.

▶ Gas stations

In Mexico, you aren’t allowed to pump your own gas. An attendant will pump the gas for you and accept payment.

When at a gas station, make sure the counter is at zero before the attendant starts pumping.

When you pay, be sure to notice exactly how much you are giving the attendant. Some attendants will try to switch the bill and then say you didn’t pay them enough.

For example, you might give them a 500 peso bill, but they’ll quickly switch it to a 50 and then say you didn’t give them enough.

Also, the new 20 pesos notes are very similar to the new 100 pesos notes. So pay attention to that too.

▶ Road signs & Traffic Lights

Most of the road signs in Mexico aren’t too hard to figure out.

Speed limit signs are white circles with a red border. The speed is in kilometers, but so is the speedometer in your Puerto Vallarta car rental.

They look very similar to the “maximum weight” signs, which have a number inside with a small “t” underneath.

“Alto” means stop.

“Ceda El Paso” means yield.

“E” means you can park

“No Estacionarse” or an E that is crossed out means no parking.

“Topes” means speed bump

“Curva Peligrosa” means a dangerous curve is ahead.

“No Hay Paso” means the road is closed ahead

A note on speed bumps: Speed bumps can be pretty high in Mexico, so go slowly. If the car scrapes, try going over at a diagonal.

Traffic lights in Mexico go from green (go) to yellow to flashing yellow to red.

If a light is always flashing red, it is the same as a stop sign. If it is always flashing yellow, it means you have the right of way, but should proceed with caution.

Puerto Vallarta city street
Puerto Vallarta’s colorful streets – photos from Canva

▶ Google Maps

It’s a good idea to get offline maps and preload your route. That way you won’t have to worry if the cell signal drops.

I also recommend looking at the route yourself ahead of time so you have an idea of where you are going and the names of some of the places you’ll pass.

▶ Avoid Driving at Night

It is best to limit your driving time to daylight hours. Visibility is much better during the day, especially since you never know what you’ll encounter on the road.

It is easier to see obstacles during the day, and there is more traffic, so it is safer.

▶ Police Checkpoints

Be prepared to stop at checkpoints. Be polite and respectful, but please don’t pay bribes. This is only encouraging corruption.

If it seems like a policeman is asking for a bribe, ask him to either give you a ticket or let you go. If you haven’t done anything wrong, it is likely the policeman will simply let you go, though it may take a while.

If you commit a traffic infraction, the police will either issue a ticket or ask you to follow them back to the police station to pay.

They don’t always issue tickets to foreigners because it would be easy to leave the country without paying.

If you are issued a ticket, you can get a 30-50% discount if you pay it within three days.

Puerto Vallarta skyline Mexico
Panoramic Aerial View of Puerto Vallarta

How to prepare for an emergency

✔ Know the Rental Company Policy

One of the best ways to prepare for something going wrong is to be familiar with your Puerto Vallarta car rental policy. 

For example, if your car experiences a mechanical failure, don’t fix the car yourself. First, call the rental car company so they can advise you on what to do. Otherwise, you may end up paying for a repair and not getting reimbursed.

If you are in an accident, you should also get in touch with your rental company as soon as possible.

Check their policies before renting. And they must give you a 24/7 emergency number where to call in case of emergency.

✔ Have a working cell phone

It’s very important to be able to make calls if you need to, whether that means getting in touch with your rental company, calling them for roadside assistance, being able to translate something, or having working maps.

✔ Have a local Sim Card

Following up on the previous point, roaming can be a big expense, so I suggest you get a Mexican sim card.

✔ Download the Google maps app and download an offline map

Since cellular signals can be spotty or non-existent in some areas, it is always a good idea to download maps. Pre-load your route while you have a signal (or wifi).

Better yet, have a paper map to use as a backup.

✔ Carry Cash

It’s always a good idea to have the cash to use in case of a problem.

✔ Call 911 in case of any emergency

If you have a true emergency, you can call 911. Basic Spanish will help with this!

driving trough Puerto Vallarta
Street leading to the Pacific Ocean

Renting a car in Puerto Vallarta FAQ

Where is the easiest place to rent a car in Puerto Vallarta?

The most convenient place to rent a car in Puerto Vallarta is from the airport, at least if you’re planning on picking up your rental right away.

If you’d like to explore the city for a while before renting, you can also pick up your car rental at a different Puerto Vallarta location.

For example, with Discover Cars, you can choose the pickup point between the airport, downtown, the Marriott Hotel, the Hotel Zone, or the Hilton.

Is driving in Puerto Vallarta safe?

Yes, driving in Puerto Vallarta is generally considered safe. Drive with extra caution while you are getting used to the rules of the road. Pay attention to the speed limit, warning signs, and speed bumps.

If you head out of the city, keep in mind you may end up traversing mountain roads. These roads can be narrow and curvy.

In the rainy season, you may encounter falling rocks. Pay attention, and don’t drive more quickly than you feel safe and comfortable.

Is there Uber in Puerto Vallarta?

Yes, there is Uber in Puerto Vallarta. You can use Uber or taxis to get around for reasonable rates. Buses are also a good option if you prefer not to rent a car.

What’s the best place to rent a car in Puerto Vallarta?

Depending on your plans, it may be most convenient to rent a car at the Puerto Vallarta airport. However, rentals are also available at the concierge desk of major hotel brands such as Marriot, Hilton, downtown, and in the hotel zone.

Check rates on Discover Cars to figure out what is the best rental car location for you depending on your plans.

What side of the road do you drive on in Mexico?

In Mexico, you drive on the right side of the road, the same as in the USA or Canada.

Are rental cars in Puerto Vallarta Mexico automatic or stick shift?

Most rental cars in Puerto Vallarta Mexico have automatic transmissions. You can sometimes get a rental car with a manual transmission but may pay a bit more for it depending on the make and model.

The easiest way to book a car rental in Puerto Vallarta Mexico

The easiest way to book a car rental in Puerto Vallarta Mexico is through Discover Cars..

Discover Cars has no hidden fees, offers great support, and is the best option for cheap full coverage insurance.

👉 Check Puerto Vallarta car rental rates on Discover Cars.


Things to do in Puerto Vallarta with a car rental

There are many great places to visit with your Puerto Vallarta car rental. Pick your favorite destinations, load up on snacks, drinks, and tunes, and hit the road for an awesome Mexico adventure.

I will list a few here below but you could also check out my post on the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta for more ideas.

Puerto Vallarta beaches

Check out the Best Puerto Vallarta Beaches

Playa Conchas Chinas

Get away from the crowds at this lovely secluded beach in Puerto Vallarta. It is only 30-minutes from downtown and boasts gorgeous blue water, rocks, and tidal pools.

Tip: take your own food and drinks as there are fewer vendors at this beach. Umbrella rentals are sometimes available.

Playa Colomitas & Playa Las Ánimas

Another cool day trip is to drive 1 hour down to Boca Tomatlan, then hike the three-mile trail from beach to beach along the Colomitos Cove trail. Along the way, enjoy swimming or resting at Playa Colomitos, Playa Hacamiya, Playa Caballo, and Playa las Ánimas.

Once you get to Las Ánimas, you can enjoy a swim, cold drinks, and fresh seafood from some of the nearby restaurants. This beach is known for parties.

Wear good shoes as the trail can be uneven.

Puerto Vallarta beaches
Puerto Vallarta beach and scenic ocean views

Playa la Lancha

Another fun location, especially if you like surfing (or want to learn) is Playa la Lancha. Park at Wild Mex Surf Shop, rent a surfboard and a rash guard (or book a surfing class), then hike through the estuary to the beach.

This beach doesn’t have any amenities, so take everything you need with you.

Note: It is best to go to this beach in the dry season to avoid crocodiles.

Visit Sayulita

Sayulita is Mexico’s “most eclectic resort town” with a refreshingly laid-back atmosphere. It’s the perfect spot to spend a day (or a few) and is only 1 hour from Puerto Vallarta.

👉 Check out my post on the 25 best things to do in Sayulita

Renting a car in Puerto Vallarta: Final thoughts

As you can see, renting a car is a great option if you’d like to explore Puerto Vallarta and its surroundings. Have fun finding hidden gems, being in charge of your own schedule, and traveling without the time constraints or limitations of a tour.

Head to Discover Cars and find the best cheap car rentals Puerto Vallarta has to offer!