Costa Rica Car Rental Review
Renting a car in CR isn’t straight forward. After our second trip, third car rental and some unpleasant experience we’re starting to get the hang of it. Do your homework and shop for the ‘best’ deal. This only works if you use a CR based company/website. Kayak, Expedia, Orbitz, etc. do not list all CR companies. The big names (Hertz/Avis, etc.) USA websites do not always inform you of the local rules and added costs. Their pricing may be significantly different from what you will ultimately pay. Use their CR websites. The big name companies in CR are usually a franchise and operate differently than their US counterparts. Print your confirmed reservation. Plan ahead (1-2 months) as during peak season your options may be limited. Most complaints appear to result from undisclosed costs and fees and fraudulent ‘damage’ charges.
This site lists 10 ‘best’ rental companies: slideshare.net/vamos4x4/rental-carcomparison… as of 2013. We just came from Mexico where we rented an economy car from Hertz USA for $16.00USD/day and waived all insurance with our American Express PREMIUM CAR RENTAL PROTECTION (CDW-collision damage waiver). Bring written proof of insurance. In Mexico liability insurance is included in the rate by law – not so in CR. You must buy SLI liability insurance (covers minimum damage to other vehicles, property, or people) in CR for about $10/20USD/day from INS, a government monopoly (Instituto Nacional de Seguros). You will also have to provide a deposit in the form of a ‘hold’ on your credit card for about $1,000/2,000USD. Since we haven’t had a claim I can’t address how this all works in the event of an accident. Some CC rental insurance programs may not apply in CR – contact your CC company. Some companies demanded that you buy their expensive CDW – walk away if you have CC coverage. Expect to pay $50/80USD/day total and more in CR. Check your CC statement to confirm all charges in the current billing cycle.
There will be other ‘extra’ charges such as 13% airport tax at SJO, license fee, eco/social fee (WTF?), and of course filling the tank when you return. You may also pay extra for a phone, second driver, driver 25 or under, child seat, racks, GPS, etc. Google maps works well in CR however, many roads are not marked so without a good navigator and maps we recommend a GPS ($8-12/day). We bought a map at Amazon from: http://costa-rica-guide.com/. As a rule we do not drive at night. Traffic in SJ can be a nightmare and the mountain roads are exciting to say the least. Did I mention that during holidays they reverse the toll roads to all one-way (RT 27)? In the wet season or based on your destination consider a 4X4. Be careful where you park and leave nothing in the car.
Before you leave the agency, video the car during your inspection and record all dents (mella), scratches (rasguño), radio, tires, tools, spare, floor mats, license plate, glass, etc. and get the attendant to acknowledge that you have done so. Chances are you can’t read the contract or inspection form in Spanish. Repeat this process when you return the vehicle. Be aware of scams and speed traps. See: …about.com/od/…costa-rica-car-rental.htm
CR is a beautiful country. ¡ Pura Vida !