If you want to rent a car in Playa del Carmen, look no further. In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know to navigate car rentals in this bohemian resort city.
I have lived in the area and I used to rent cars all the time before I bought my own I have been doing it since I sold it.
Every time I go back now I love to rent a car either in Playa del Carmen or in Cancun and have the freedom to explore around on my terms without waiting for a taxi (there is no Uber in Cancun or Playa del Carmen) or other people on a tour.
And in this post, I want to help you do it too.
I hope that after this post you will know whether renting a car is for you, what and how to rent a car, and how to avoid scams.
I’ll also share some great driving tips to keep you safe while driving in Playa del Carmen and Mexico in general.
Let’s get to it!
Want to rent a car in Playa del Carmen? Read here first!
Before you rent a car in Playa del Carmen, you should ask yourself the following questions.
✅ Do you need a car in Playa del Carmen?
There is no simple answer. It depends on your plans.
A car rental isn’t for everyone, but if you are reading this, it’s probably the best option for you.
If you are anything like me and you just want to be free to move around at your own pace, then renting a car in Playa del Carmen is definitely for you.
Do you know why? Because there are a TON of incredible places to visit near Playa del Carmen.
Cenotes are water-filled sinkholes surrounded by jungle and filled with clear turquoise water. Many of the best sinkholes are hard to get to on public transportation, so having a rental will open up an entirely new world of possibilities. Nothing beats visiting these natural wonders.
On the other hand, if your plans include staying in your hotel to enjoy the beautiful beach in Playa del Carmen you going to stick to doing activities in the city?
If so, it’s probably not worth renting a car. Simply book a shuttle to get from the airport in Cancun, and navigate the city by taxi, bicycle, or moped.
✅ Is it safe to rent a car in Playa del Carmen?
Playa del Carmen is quite a safe spot in Mexico for tourists. The roads are also in pretty good shape, so you shouldn’t have to worry much about that.
In general, the Yucatan Peninsula where Playa del Carmen is located is one of the safest regions in Mexico and the most suitable for renting a car. In other words, if there is a place where I would recommend renting a car in Mexico is the Yucatan Peninsula.
Of course, there are always risks, just like everywhere in the world.
There are also lots of scammy dealings in the car rental world (and not just in Mexico). That’s why this post is all about preparing you to navigate the tricky world of Mexico car rentals.
Armed and ready with information, you’ll be good to go!
Just remember to always choose a trusted highly-rated company when you are looking to rent a car in Playa del Carmen.
✅ What are the best rental car companies in Playa del Carmen?
There’s not really any best company when it comes to car rental companies in Playa del Carmen. Some people may have vastly different experiences with the same company, which makes it hard to evaluate.
Fortunately, there is a way to get around the confusion! It’s called Discover Cars.
Discover Cars is an international car rental website. They have consistently high reviews for their industry and help remove a lot of the pitfalls of renting a car.
I’ve used Discover Cars myself because I can compare prices and ratings across a bunch of different rental companies. That way you can find the sweet spot between price and customer service.
Another thing I like about Discover Cars is that they make it easier to know exactly what you will have to pay. They eliminate a lot of the hidden fees and ambiguity about deposits, insurance, and more.
Don’t get me wrong, you still need to be informed and know how to use the tools Discover Cars provides.
↳You can read my Discover Cars Rental reviews for further clarity.
✅ How much does renting a car in Playa del Carmen cost?
When you look for a rental car in Playa del Carmen, you may come across crazy cheap rates. But you will need to look further, if it’s too good to be true, it’s probably not.
This is one of the most common scams in Mexico. The too-good-to-be-true rate IS too good to be true. It doesn’t include taxes, mandatory insurance, and other add-ons.
Usually, a car in Playa del Carmen will cost $45 or more for a compact car with full-coverage insurance. Expect to pay more for SUVs and premium vehicles.
Obviously, rates with vary with the season and time of the year.
Insurance and hidden fees are very important to keep in mind, so keep reading to learn more.
✅ Where are the car rental location in Playa del Carmen?
In Playa del Carmen you can find car rental locations in the town center, on Avenida 10 between the Costituyente and Calle 20 approximately. The majority of the car rentals in Playa del Carmen are close to each other around that area.
✅ What do I need to rent a car in Playa del Carmen, Mexico?
The documents you need to rent a car in Mexico include your passport, a valid driver’s license, a valid credit card, and car insurance.
Let’s get into a few more details.
1. Your Passport
This is pretty straightforward. You will need to show your passport when you rent a car in Playa del Carmen.
2. A Valid Driver’s License (or IDP)
If you have a driver’s license that is written in the Roman alphabet, you’re in luck! You don’t need an International Driving Permit.
If you have a license from the US or Canada, you can use it without worry throughout Mexico and in Playa del Carmen.
However, if your license is in a non-Roman alphabet or character-based language (such as Japanese, Chinese, or Cyrillic), you will need an International Driving Permit.
3. A Valid Credit Card
Another thing you’ll need to rent a car in Playa del Carmen is a valid credit card. This is an important part of the rental process. Why? Because the rental company will put the deposit on your credit card.
That means you MUST have sufficient credit on your card to cover the deposit all the more incentive to know exactly how much that deposit is ahead of time.
Fortunately, when you rent through Discover Cars, you’ll get that information as you book. Discover Cars will give you a rental voucher that lists all the fees and deposit amounts.
You shouldn’t have to pay ANY unexpected amounts when you go to pick up the car. (Though many companies will still try to upsell you).
4. Car insurance
Car insurance is the number one and most confusing thing about renting a car in Mexico. This is where most of the scammy dealings and upselling take place.
Let me try to clear up some of the confusion.
➡ Liability Insurance is Required by Law
When you rent a car in Mexico you have to have liability insurance. This covers damages to third parties and is required by law.
If you are in an accident, liability insurance will only cover damages to the other car and its occupants. It does not cover any damages to yourself or your car.
➡ Collision Damage Waivers Explained
Another type of insurance is called a Collision Damage Waiver, or CDW. A CDW covers the car against damages that could occur while you’re driving it.
Basically, when you sign the waiver, it means that the car rental company will not hold you responsible for damages to the car. But pay attention to the fine print, as not all parts of the car may be covered.
➡ Theft Protection
Then there are additional categories of insurance, such as theft protection.
Rental Car Insurance Considerations
What insurance you choose, and whether or not you decide to decline the CDW, impacts the amount you may have to pay for the security deposit.
Some car rental companies will charge a huge deposit if you don’t opt for their in-house insurance.
All of this gets confusing, which is why I always choose Discover Cars full-coverage insurance.
The other good one is MexCar Rentals, a local company whose policy is quite clear and if you get their full coverage you only pay 75 USD as a security deposit which will be given back to you once you drop off the car without a fine.
Important things to note about Full-Coverage Insurance
As a representative from Discover Cars Customer Service explains:
“…our Full Coverage does not reduce the deposit amount. Thus, at the rental desk, the car rental provider may offer you additional optional insurance in order to reduce the deposit amount. However, if you have no problem with blocking a deposit as per the rental conditions, you are free to refuse this. The rental provider may also offer you additional optional insurance in order to decrease your liability. However, it is not necessary because our Full Coverage compensates you for the amount of the excess (up to 3000 EUR) deducted by the vehicle provider in the event of damage or theft.”
– Taken from a reply to a review by Matthew on Trustpilot
I like getting full-coverage insurance. Not only is it super reasonable, but it also gives me peace of mind.
5. What if I have my own insurance?
Some US credit cards include Collision Damage Waivers for their cardholders. Some Mexican car rental companies will accept this, but others will not. You will still need liability insurance (as covered above).
6. You must be 25 years old at least but…
Some Mexican car rental companies restrict the age of their clients. As long as you are over 25, you should have no problem finding a car rental.
If you are aged 21-24, you can still find a car rental with certain companies, but you might have to pay a young driver surcharge. This depends on the company’s policies.
If you are 18-20 years old, it will be harder to find a car rental company in Playa del Carmen, but there are still a couple of options, especially if you search on Discover Cars. Unfortunately, you will have to pay a large young driver surcharge.
Car Rental Price comparison by age:
Age 18: $375 for a 7-day rental in Playa del Carmen
Age 21, 25, and 30: $196 for a 7-day rental in Playa del Carmen
Renting a Car in Playa del Carmen: Common Scams (or perceived scams)
There are a few scammy things to watch out for when you are renting a car in Playa del Carmen Mexico.
✔ Insurance add ons
I’ve already talked extensively about insurance in the section above. This is the main thing you want to be aware of when you are going to book. Make sure you have all your bases covered and are prepared with good information.
Personally, I love renting through Discover Cars and choosing their full-coverage insurance. That takes the headache and wondering away.
As I explained above, getting Discover Cars full-coverage insurance doesn’t change the deposit amount. Car rental companies will still try to sell you their own insurance in order to change the price of the deposit or to lower your liability.
As long as you are okay with the company putting the full deposit on your credit card, there’s no reason to opt for additional insurance.
And there’s not much point lowering your liability either, since Discover Cars compensates you up to $3000.
✔ Unanticipated Add-Ons
Other things you may have to pay additional amounts for include:
- Taxes: Check your rental agreement to see the taxes you will be charged
- Additional Driver: If you want a second driver, you’ll probably have to pay extra
- Theft Protection: This is a type of insurance that can cost extra.
- Additional Country: Do you plan to cross a border with your rental car? If so, you’ll need to let the company know ahead of time and may have to pay extra for a special permit.
- Insurance: I recommend getting full-coverage insurance, but keep in mind that the rental company will try to sell you their own insurance in order to reduce your liability and/or reduce the deposit amount. Sometimes, you’ll have to pay extra to get different parts of the car insured, such as windows, tires, mirrors, roof, etc. That’s why I recommend getting Discover Cars full coverage insurance with a zero deductible.
- Baby Seat: If you need a baby or child seat for your rental car, you’ll have to pay an additional fee.
- GPS System: Another add-on is a navigation system, but you can get around needing this by using offline maps and getting a local sim card.
✔ Gas is never included
When you choose your rental car, you can often choose “same to same” or “full to full.”
Basically, this means you need to return your Playa del Carmen rental car with the same level of fuel as when you picked it up.
If you return the rental with less fuel, you’ll have to pay a large fine. It’s not worth it! Plan to stop at a gas station right before dropping off the car.
Note: If your rental is “same to same” you can check what the fuel level was on the form the company gives you after checking the condition of the car during pick up.
✔ Penalties & Cancellation Fees
Other things to be aware of include cancellation policies and drop-off policies.
With Discover Cars, you can cancel your rental at any time up to 48 hours before pickup for free.
However, it is important to note the policies about cancellations, flight delays, interrupted trips, and more to ensure you know what you’re in for if something goes wrong.
Another thing to be aware of is the drop-off time. Is there a grace period? What happens if you are late? Will you be charged by the hour, or for an entire extra day?
✔ Sneaky Policies
Some car rental companies also have sneaky things in the fine print. For example, I rented a car from American Cars and the rental agreement stated that the insurance would be void if I didn’t report any damages BEFORE dropping off the car. Yikes!
As annoying as it is to read the fine print, it pays to do your homework. Avoid potential nasty surprises!
How to avoid Playa del Carmen car rental scams
Rent Through Discover Cars
I always recommend you rent through Discover Cars. Check over all of their policies as you book, so you know exactly what you’ll need to pay for.
Check the reviews of the company before you book so you can see what to expect. It is best to choose a company with an “excellent” rating of 8/10.
Document the Car’s Condition at Pickup and Drop off
Take pictures and videos of any damages you can see on the rental car before you drive off.
This includes dents, scratches, marks, and dings on the exterior, and any rips, stains, or other damage on the inside. Check over the car with the company agent and make sure they write everything down.
Do the same thing when you drop the car off. This will protect you if the rental company tries to charge you for damages that weren’t your fault.
Have your Files & Insurance in Order
Keep a virtual file with your booking info, rental agreement, etc.
Double-check that you have the insurance you need.
Have enough Credit
Make sure you have enough credit on your credit card to cover the deposit.
Double-check about fees, penalties, and policies
Ask about all hidden costs, penalties, grace periods, and cancellation policies before and during the booking and pickup process.
Fill up the Tank Before Drop off
Remember to fill the gas back up before dropping off the car.
Driving in Playa del Carmen Mexico – things you need to know
Although driving in Playa del Carmen isn’t super difficult, there are a few things you should be aware of before hopping behind the wheel.
▶ Be Aware of One-Way Streets
When you’re driving in downtown Playa del Carmen, you should know that many of the streets are one-way. Pay attention to the black-and-white arrow signs to see what direction a street is running.
▶ Respect the Right-of-Way
In general, avenues (avenidas) have right of way over streets (calles). That means if you are driving north or south, you probably have the right of way unless you see a stop sign or traffic light.
If you are driving on a calle (west or east), you usually do not have the right of way. That means you need to be super careful at intersections to avoid accidents.
Stop at each junction, make sure you look in the correct direction to see on-coming traffic (since they are usually one-way), and only proceed when the street is clear.
▶ Don’t Drive At Night
It is best not to drive at night. It’s hard to see obstacles in the dark. There can be drunk or drugged drivers at night, and some vehicles may not have proper lighting.
▶ Use the Toll Roads
The Riviera Maya has several toll roads, also known as “carreteras de cuota.” These roads are usually in excellent condition, have multiple lanes, and will take you on straight trajectories to your destination.
Toll roads are a great choice for road trips unless you’d like to see more out-of-the-way places.
Sometimes I take a toll road to my destination, then take free roads, or “carreteras libres” on the way back. That way I can get a better sense of the culture and find hidden gems.
▶ Keep Your Gas Tank Full
For the sake of safety, it’s a good idea to keep your gas tank topped up, or at least have an idea where you can fill up next. You wouldn’t want to run out of gas in some out-of-the-way location.
▶ Be Aware of Gas Station Protocol (and scams)
In Mexico, you aren’t allowed to pump your own gas. Instead, an attendant will fill the tank for you and accept payment.
Make sure that the gas meter is at zero when the attendant starts pumping.
Also, pay close attention to the bill you hand over for payment. Some attendants will swap out a large bill for a small bill, and then claim you didn’t pay them enough. For example, if you hand over a 500, they might quickly swap it for 50 and try to get you to pay again.
▶ Be Aware of Common Road signs
Some of the road signs in Mexico may look different than what you are used to. It’s a good idea to brush up on some basic Spanish, and know what road signs to look out for. Stop signs, yield signs, one-way signs, and no parking signs are all super important.
▶ Download Maps
Before you head out for the day, make sure you have an offline version of your preferred map. Pre-load your route as well. That way, you won’t end up stranded if you enter an area with spotty cellular signal.
▶ Drive Defensively
When you drive in Mexico, you’ll likely encounter a lot more people and animals on the road than you are used to. There can be enormous pot-holes, towering speed bumps (“topes”), and erratic drivers.
Many drivers may forget to signal or leave their signal on. Drive defensively so that no matter what they do, you’ll be okay. The same applies to crossing intersections. Just because you have the right of way doesn’t mean other drivers will respect it.
Feel free to use your horn to communicate.
▶ Know How to Interact With Police
If you are stopped by police, they may only want to check your papers and registration. Or, they may accuse you of committing a traffic infraction.
If you did commit a traffic infraction, the police may issue you a ticket. However, sometimes they will ask you to follow them to the police station to pay for the ticket there.
If you haven’t done anything wrong, the police might just be fishing for a bribe. Please do not bribe a police officer! If you do, you are only encouraging corruption.
If a policeman asks me for a bribe, I tell them to either give me a ticket or let me go. More often than not, they will let me go (though they may make me wait a while).
What to do in case of emergency
The best way to deal with an emergency is to be prepared. Follow these tips so you’ll know what to do if you encounter a problem.
✔ Have a working cell phone
It’s important to be able to navigate and make phone calls. If your car breaks down, or you are involved in a collision of some kind, you’ll need to get in touch with your rental company.
One way to have a working cell phone is to get a local sim card.
✔ Download an offline map
I already talked about this, but it’s worth saying again. Make sure you have a downloaded version of your map so you can access it no matter what.
✔ Call 911 in case of any emergency
If you need to, you can call 911 and ask the operator for help in an emergency.
Things to do with a car rental in Playa del Carmen
If having read this post you have decided to rent a car in Playa del Carmen, good for you! You made the best decision ever. Here below I will share my top places to visit near Playa del Carmen that you can reach by car.
➡️ Visit the spectacular Cenote Azul
Among all the amazing open cenotes on the Riviera Maya Cenote Azul is the one that most stands out. Its crystal clear water is an invitation to jump in either from the 2 mt platforms or from the stairs.
The cenote is surrounded by lush vegetation where to relax between swims and a snack bar where to get your comfort food for the day. You can spend the entire day there and relax. Read more about Cenote Azul
📍 View on Google Map
➡️ Check out Caleta Yalku
📍 View it on Google Map
➡️ Swim with the turtles in Playa Akumal
Right before getting to the Yalku Lagoon, you will find Playa Akumal where you can swim with the turtles from the shore.
You can also take long walks on the beach and check out one of the local beachfront restaurants for a great ceviche.
📍View it on Google Map
➡️ Relax in Playa Xpu-ha
Playa Xpu-ha is one of the top-rated beaches in the area, from an untouched beach a few decades ago it has now become very popular. Here you can find beach clubs and restaurants for all budgets.
If you want to stay more isolated and you love to walk you can also find more secluded spots far from the noise.
If you love luxury and don’t mind a little extra spending you can stay at the world-class Esencia hotel even just for the day.
📍View on Google Map
➡️ Visit Xcaret
Xcaret and the other theme parks of the group have become some of the most popular attractions in the Riviera Maya.
I have to be honest It’s not exactly my thing because, in my opinion, all these parks are too crowded and they took away the natural beauty from those spectacular places.
However many people find them a great place where to spend a full day on the beach but with all the facilities available and multiple restaurants to choose from, lockers and bathrooms, and tours.
↳ XCARET PRO TIP – Skip the line and book your Xcaret tickets in advance
The only thing I would advise you against is the dolphin encounter. I am against everything that keeps animals in captivity.
➡️ Drive all the way to Sian Kaan
There are many tours where you can see dolphins flipping freely in the sea which is where they belong. One of them is in Sian Kaan.
You can actually drive all the way to Punta Allen and then hire one of the fisherman boats to take you out on a tour where you can see dolphins.
Just check the weather beforehand because the road to Punta Allen gets very muddy when it rains. Otherwise, it will make a great day trip from Playa del Carmen.
📍View on Google Map
Renting a car in Playa del Carmen FAQ
Can you rent a car for a day in Playa del Carmen?
Yes, you can rent a car for a day in Playa del Carmen. In this case, your best bet is probably to go directly to a car rental company rather than booking online.
Can I rent a car for a month or longer in Playa del Carmen?
Absolutely! The longer you rent a car, the better the daily rates are. Head to Discover Cars to find the best rental car for the dates you want it.
How are the roads in Playa del Carmen, Mexico?
Most of the roads in Playa del Carmen are in pretty good shape, especially if you are sticking to high-trafficked areas.
However, if you’d like to head more off the beaten track and visit rural areas, you may want a Jeep, SUV, or at least a full-sized car.
Simply add that to your search criteria on Discover Cars, and you’ll be good to go.
Is there an Uber in Playa del Carmen?
No, there is no Uber in Playa del Carmen. In fact, there are no ride-shares at all. You can find some public transportation options and taxis.
Are there other ways to get around in Playa del Carmen?
If you’d rather not rent a car, but would like other options to help you explore the city, you’re in luck. You can rent bicycles, mopeds, or scooters in Playa del Carmen.
How fun is that? Explore the city on two wheels (just remember to follow my driving in Playa del Carmen tips above).
What’s the best place to rent a car in Playa del Carmen?
Are rental cars in Playa del Carmen Mexico automatic or stick shift?
Most of the cars you can rent in Playa del Carmen are automatic. If you book through Discover Cars, this information is prominently displayed in the middle of the banner for each car option.
Renting a car in Playa del Carmen: Final Thoughts
As you can see, renting a car in Playa del Carmen is a great choice if you’d like to explore further afield than the resort city. Visit the colonial city of Valladolid, take a day trip to Chichén Itza, or delve into the magical realm of Mexico’s cenotes.