In areas without reliable public transportation, or in places that we know we are going to need to take a multiple hour drive to reach an attraction, we love to rent a car and enjoy these sites at our own pace. No company shooing you along on their time, no stopping at 10 resorts to pick up people, and no crammed bus. We enjoy taking our time, visiting local restaurants instead of the tourist traps that these tours take you to and most of all, in Cancun and Cozumel, we enjoyed going to off the beaten path beaches that we could not have gone to without a vehicle. Just look at that beach!!
The main roads in Quintana Roo are in fantastic condition. In Cozumel, the road that rings around the island is a wonderful highway with breathtaking views on the eastern side. Just watch out for dune buggys on the days that cruises are in town!
There is a new toll road between Cancun and Merida is a beautiful straight shot and while hefty in price (up to US$25 if you were to drive the whole way), it is well worth it to take this road and get to Chichen Itza before the crowds! (Peter- It is also a VERY fun road to drive on because there is hardly any traffic and you can go VERY fast! Melissa…… we do not promote speeding, Peter! )
Our experience from Cancun in November 2018 and Cozumel in March 2018 is hopefully going to help anyone else who is considering renting a car on holiday in these areas. We got a DIRT CHEAP car in Cozumel- we have posted a picture of the proof of this, below- $4.34 was the TOTAL cost of our 3 day rental!
See these tips below for renting a car in Quintana Roo.
Hack to avoid the mandatory insurance
Oftentimes, the cheap cars come with a catch- once you go to pick up the car you are surprised by the mandatory insurance that is required and end up paying much more in insurance than you did on the vehicle.
When paying for our car rentals, we use our Chase Sapphire Reserve card that, not only earns 3X points on travel purchases, but also comes with built in primary auto collision damage waiver. While this is great, Mexico law mandates liability insurance coverage and this can be much more expensive than the rental fee paid. Your cheap car for the week all of a sudden turns much more expensive when you have to purchase the insurance on the spot.
Be sure to look for a rental that includes the liability insurance. In both cases of our rentals in Cozumel and Cancun, when we got to counter we just pointed out to the reps that the liability insurance was included in the price of the rental and as a result, did not have to pay one more cent over and above what was already paid for!
Watch out for those topes
Topes are speed bumps along the roads. We did not encounter many of these in Cozumel in March 2018, but in Cancun they were widespread. They are littered across the roads to control speeds- and in all honesty are rather effective at what they do. However, if you are not aware of these, they could easily leave some damage to your vehicle that could leave you in some financial and physical pain!!
Carry cash to fill up
Most fuel stations that we filled up at in Mexico did not take credit cards. Be sure to carry cash for these fill ups. As a bonus, in both Cancun and Cozumel we encountered full service stations where you can have your windscreen washed, car filled up, and at most fuel stations they also offered to check out oil levels (we declined this though). See the note below of why you should NOT stay in your car.
Watch out for the fill up scam (aka don't be a dumb tourist!)
There are two frequent scams that we had read about in multiple forums, but had no issues with whatsoever in our time in Cancun or Cozumel.
a. You are waved up to an open bay and the pump is not zeroed out. Your car is filled up and all of a sudden you are faced with the bill for your fill up, and the bill for the person who was there before you. Get out of your car and make sure the pump is zeroed out! In Cozumel, there were signs with this warning.
b. The old switcheroo scam. After filling up your car with 500 peso, you are told you only gave the attendant a 50 peso bill. The bills are a similar colour and if you are not aware of this, you may pay a lot more than you expect! Learn some Spanish, greet your attendant, be attentive, be friendly, and say the amount you are paying to the attendant. Peter counted the amount he was handing over to the attendant and gave the exact amount- before handing it over, he confirmed that it was the correct amount.
We found driving in Quintana Roo very safe, very cheap, and very fun and would do it again! We were able to get to beaches that we would not have been able to get to without a car.
It is important to know about the above to help you and your budget while in the area!
Let us know if you have ANY questions about renting a car in Cancun or Cozumel.