A Good Alternative to Shuttle Hopping in Costa Rica

If you find yourself browsing shuttles and feel the options don’t quite align with your plans, or if you just crave a bit more freedom in your travel itinerary, renting a car might be the perfect solution. This ultimate guide will walk you through everything you need to know about renting a car in Costa Rica.

Why Rent a Car in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, from lush rainforests to stunning beaches. Renting a car can provide the flexibility to explore these natural wonders at your own pace, and sometimes at a price comparable to shuttles, particularly if you’re traveling with family or friends.

The Process of Renting a Car in Costa Rica

1. Choosing a Rental Company: Costa Rica hosts many international and local rental companies. Do some research and choose one that aligns with your budget and needs. We recommend using a company that does not attempt to hide the cost of the mandatory insurance in their quotes. Much more on this below.

2. Booking Online: You can often find the best deals online, but remember, the price quoted usually doesn’t include mandatory insurance (more on this later). If you’re in a hurry and can’t read the rest of this article we recommend Discover Car – Click Here to Book Now.

3. Selecting a Car: Consider the terrain you’ll be driving on. If exploring off the beaten track, an SUV might be suitable.

4. Gathering Documentation: You’ll need a valid driver’s license from your home country and a credit card. Some companies might require an International Driving Permit.

5. Pick-up and Drop-off: Plan where and when to pick up and drop off the car. Airport locations are often more convenient but may cost a bit more.

Costa Rica’s Mandatory Insurance Shock

The cost of renting a car in Costa Rica can sometimes include an unexpected surprise: mandatory insurance. This is often times not included in the online price, and it can add up to $25/day to your cost. It’s non-negotiable, as it’s required by Costa Rican law.

There are typically two types of mandatory insurance:

  1. Liability Insurance: Covers damages to third parties outside the vehicle.
  2. Collision Damage Waiver (CDW): Optional but highly recommended, covers damages to the rental car.

It’s worth consulting with your credit card company as some cards offer complimentary CDW insurance if you pay for the rental with that card.

**TIP TO AVOID A COMMON PITFALL** As stated above, many rental car companies DO NOT include the cost of mandatory liability insurance in their online price. This gives some companies an unfair advantage by making it look like they offer better rates than others when they are in fact just hiding costs. It can also feel like a huge SCAM to the renter when they show up and find the total rental fee is $25, $75 or even hundreds of dollars more than what they agreed to pay online, depending on the length of the rental. This can create a lot of confusion and frustration to the point where we have even seen people in tears on more than one occasion at rental car offices.

The easiest way to avoid such a situation is to make sure that the mandatory liability coverage is included in your online quote. One of the many reasons we personally use and and highly recommend Discover Cars is because they make this easy to check. To do so, simply look for the green checkmark ✅ next to either “Third Party Liability (TPL)” or “Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI)” while browsing cars from different companies. If one for these two items are shown to be included in the rental listing ✅ then you should be OK. One big perk about Discover Cars is that they offer free cancellations up to 48 hours before your scheduled pick-up in case you find out otherwise.

If you don’t find the ✅ but you still want to move forward with a particular rental then you’ll want to make sure to call the company to find out what the insurance will cost. It can vary depending on the company, type and size of car, etc. It would even be advised to have them send you an email with the full rental cost, including the mandatory liability, so that you have something for your records and in writing when you show up to get your car.

We went thought the full list of rental car agencies listed on Discover Cars in Costa Rica and found that out of the 15 companies there are 8 that DO INCLUDE this cost in the quote. They are:

  • ACE Rent a Car
  • Adobe Rent a Car
  • Dollar
  • EasyCar
  • Enterprise
  • Flexways
  • GreenMotion
  • SIXT

Tips for a Smooth Rental Experience in Costa Rica

  1. Inspect the Car: Before driving off, check the car for existing damage and make sure it’s noted in your contract.
  2. Know the Road Rules: Costa Rican roads can be challenging. Research the local driving laws and conditions.
  3. Keep Contacts Handy: Have the rental company’s contact and local emergency numbers accessible.
  4. Consider Extras: GPS, child seats, or prepaid fuel can make your journey more comfortable.

In a (Coco)Nut Shell:

Renting a car in Costa Rica can add a new dimension to your adventure, offering flexibility that shuttles might not provide. Being aware of the ins and outs, especially the mandatory insurance, can help you avoid surprises and enjoy a memorable trip.