Renting a Car in Oaxaca Mexico: What You Need to Know [2024]

woman renting a car in oaxaca mexico

Planning to get a rental car in Oaxaca, Mexico?

You’re in the right place, as I live in Mexico, and I’m going to walk you through the process of renting a car in Oaxaca Mexico.

I’ve rented cars in five cities in Mexico (Oaxaca included), so I’m going to demystify everything for you.

By the end of the article, you’re going to feel confident about renting a car in Oaxaca City or the beaches of Oaxaca — and have 10 Tips about driving a rental car in Mexico that will boost your confidence.

First and foremost, most travelers want to know about the best place to rent a car in Oaxaca City. When I rent a car in Mexico, I recommend and use Discover Cars, and you’ll see why in this article.


red car on the beach


When booking your Mexico car rental online, I recommend and use Discover Cars. They offer free cancellation and search all options so you get the best deal.

If you’ve been looking for tips on renting a car in Oaxaca City, you may have encountered conflicting information. There are official rules for how to rent a car in Mexico — and then there’s how things play out in the real world.

Don’t worry: We’re going to clear all that up in this article.

You’ll also learn about common Oaxaca car rental scams so you don’t fall victim to any hidden fees when getting your rental. There’s also info about Mexican car insurance, which is mandatory for all car rentals in Oaxaca City.

Ready to learn all about how to rent a car in Oaxaca City? Let’s get to it! After you read all the tips for renting a car in Oaxaca City, don’t miss the 10 Mexico Driving Tips at the end of the article.

Renting a Car in Oaxaca Mexico

Renting a Car in Oaxaca With Discover Cars

renting a car in mexico with discover cars

I have been living in Mexico since 2018, and travel frequently within the country. What I am going to explain is my personal experience renting a car about 10 times, in five cities throughout Mexico.

When I book a Mexico car rental online, I recommend and use Discover Cars.

I use them because they have always had the best deals when I’ve searched, and they offer FREE cancellations up to 48 hours before your reservation.

Here is the exact process I have followed to get my rental car:

1. Reserve Your Car Online with Discover Cars

Head to the Discover Cars website, and input your travel dates and preferred pick-up location. For more travelers, this will be the airport in the city you’re visiting, which is OAX Airport in Oaxaca City.

⭐️ Only rent from well-rated places

discover cars ratings

I advise you to filter by ratings because while everyone wants to get those sweet Mexico car rental deals, the cheapest place is rarely the best.

Personally, I don’t rent from locations with less than a 7 out of 10 Stars rating.

It’s like the saying goes: You get what you pay for; for me, it’s not worth sacrificing some money for terrible customer service on my vacation.

Renting a Car in Oaxaca Mexico

2. Opt for Full Coverage with Discover Cars

discover cars insurance

I always opt for their Full Coverage when I rent with Discover Cars — and I’m not alone!

According to the Discover Cars site, 85% of customers use their Full Coverage Policy to enjoy peace of mind when renting in Oaxaca Mexico.

For about $7-10 USD per day, Discover Cars covers up to $58,500 pesos (about $3,250 USD) of damage to the rental car.

This includes body repair work, dings, scratches, windows/glass, tires, towing, lost keys, and more.

Renting a Car in Oaxaca Mexico

What’s covered with Discover Cars? (And what’s not covered?)

discover cars insurance

🤔 Will car Rental companies accept this Policy?

Legally, they have to, and personally, any company I have used has accepted this third party policy through Discover Cars. This is just one reason I encourage you to rent from a well-rated company known for good customer service.

What has happened almost every time I’ve rented is that they will try to up-sell me to their insurance, which I decline. As mentioned, the Discover Cars policy does legally satisfy any Mexico car rental insurance requirements.

When you decline the car rental company’s insurance, they will hold about $50,000 pesos ($2,700 USD) on your credit card. When you bring the rental car back with no damage, they return your deposit in full.

If you bring the rental car back with damage, they will take it out of your deposit. From there, you’ll have to make a claim with Discover Cars, which is usually processed in 48 hours or less, according to their site.

As long as the damage is under $58,500 MXN pesos (about $3,250 USD) — which does cover a lot — Discover Cars will reimburse you under their Full Coverage Policy.

🤔 How do I make a Claim with Discover Cars?

discover cars reviews

If you need to file a claim with Discover Cars, the process is easy. You’ll find your login credentials in your booking confirmation email, which you can use to login via your laptop or the Discover Cars app (📲 Android; 🍎 Apple).

At just $7-10 USD per day, the Discover Cars Full Coverage Policy is far cheaper than any I’ve been offered through the car rental companies themselves. With direct policies, they usually charge about $30 USD per day.

If you would rather get full coverage Mexican insurance from the company directly, you can also do that and still rent with Discover Cars to take advantage of their great rates and NO FEE cancellation policy.

🚨 Disclaimer

This information is my first-hand experience of renting cars about 10 times in five Mexican cities.

Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing how your rental process will play out, but I hope this info was helpful for planning your Oaxaca trip.

If you need further clarification on Discover Cars, please contact the company directly. You can also read Discover Cars reviews on TrustPilot, where they have a 4.5 out of 5 Star rating, and more than 100,000 reviews.

Renting a Car in Oaxaca Mexico: FAQ

Is it safe to rent a car in Oaxaca Mexico?

Yes — For the vast majority of travelers, Oaxaca is one of the safest places in Mexico.

car rentals in oaxaca
Ready to book your Oaxaca car rental? Use this search box below to find the perfect car.

That’s not to say bad things don’t happen in Oaxaca; they do. However, if you’re prepared (you will be after reading this article), you’ll feel safe renting a car in Oaxaca City Mexico.

🚨 Always check reviews when renting a car in Oaxaca

One of the most important tips for renting a car in Mexico is this: Make sure you’re renting with a company that has good reviews.

Even if it’s a car rental company you know and love, some locations are better than others.

I recommend and use Discover Cars because they compare local and international companies so you get the best rates from any Oaxaca car rental services.

Also, you can read reviews before booking.

I’ll be reiterating this point throughout the article because, quite frankly, renting a car in Oaxaca City (or anywhere in the world) isn’t always the smoothest or most pleasant process.

I have personally been scammed by a low-rated car rental company (in Miami, not Mexico) — so now, I happily pay more to rent from a reputable company.

Renting a Car in Oaxaca Mexico

Is it safe to drive in Oaxaca Mexico?

For the majority of visitors, it’s perfectly safe to drive in Oaxaca, including the Oaxaca beaches and the cities in Oaxaca.

renting a car in oaxaca mexico
Ready to book your Oaxaca car rental? Book directly with Discover Cars, which searches all national and local companies to get you the best rates.

You’ll want to exercise more caution than usual, as Oaxaca roads aren’t always well-maintained. Also, avoid driving at night because many roads aren’t well lit, or lit at all, and there are potholes in many places.

Since you’ll be driving in another country, where you’re unfamiliar with local driving laws, make sure to check out the 10 Oaxaca Mexico Driving Tips below.

These will help you get comfortable with how to drive in Oaxaca state, and how to drive anywhere in Mexico.

Renting a Car in Oaxaca Mexico

Is it safe to drive from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido?

This is a beautiful drive, and a safe drive, but consider a midsize rental car or SUV. It is on super curvy mountain road full of switchback turns that’s not well maintained in all areas.

Playa Carrizalillo Beach Puerto Escondido Oaxaca Mexico
Playa Carrizalillo Beach in Puerto Escondido is one of the best beaches in Mexico.

▶︎ Head here for a complete guide on all your best Oaxaca City to Puerto Escondido transportation options.

The distance from Oaxaca City to Puerto Escondido is about 160 miles (258 km), but this drive takes 7-8 hours (incouding stops).

Carretera Oaxaca Puerto Escondido (AKA Oaxaca Route 131) is the windy road you’ll take from Oaxaca City to Puerto Escondido.

This drive is notorious for making people sick, so don’t forget non-drowsy Dramamine and anti-nausea wristbands if you’re prone to carsickness.

Renting a Car in Oaxaca Mexico

Is it safe to drive from Oaxaca to Huatulco?

The drive from Oaxaca City to Huatulco is safe, but consider a midsize rental car or SUV as you’ll be on a curvy mountain road with lots of switchback turns.

huatulco sign at playa santa cruz beach in oaxaca mexico
Playa Santa Cruz is one of the best beaches in Huatulco, Mexico. (Though Bahía Tangolunda Beach is a personal favorite!)

▶︎ Head here for a complete guide on all your best Oaxaca City to Huatulco transportation options.

This road is not well maintained in all areas. It’s better than the road from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido, but still not great.

🏝 Headed to the beaches near Huatulco Mexico, like Mazunte, San Agustinillo, Zipolite and Puerto Angel?

You’ll take the same road as you would for Huatulco no matter if you’re doing the Oaxaca Mazunte or Oaxaca Puerto Angel drive.

Renting a Car in Oaxaca Mexico

Should I rent a car in Oaxaca?

Renting a car in Oaxaca gives you freedom — both to venture off the beaten path and do some day trips from Oaxaca, and the freedom to explore at your own pace.

searching online to rent a car in oaxaca mexico
For the best car rental deals, I recommend and use Discover Cars. You’ll want to only rent from companies that have great ratings so you never sacrifice customer service for a cheap rental.

With many Oaxaca tours, you only have a limited amount of time to explore, but with your own rental, you set the schedule.

However, if you are only planning to stay in Oaxaca City itself, you probably won’t want a rental. The public transportation in Oaxaca isn’t great, but you can always use DiDi Taxi and taxis.

📲 Oaxaca Travel Tips: If you want to use the DiDi Rider app, make sure you have a Mexico SIM card with data.

renting a car in Oaxaca mexico

How much does renting a car in Oaxaca cost?

Wondering, How much does it actually cost to rent a car in Oaxaca? Oaxaca car rental rates vary, but plan for about $30 USD per day for an economy car with full coverage insurance.

When renting a car in Mexico, you may see rates as low as $5-10 USD per day 😲 If this seems too good to be true, it is.

This base cost doesn’t factor in fees, taxes and the legally-required Mexico car rental insurance, all of which you will have to pay for. Oaxaca rental rates vary, but assume about $30 USD per day for your rental car.

As you read through this article, you’ll discover why you can’t believe the first price you see quoted online, which shows much lower than $30 USD.

You’ll also discover your options for Mexican car insurance, which effects the rental price.

For cheap car rentals in Oaxaca Mexico, opt for getting the car at the airport.

Oaxaca Airport car rentals usually cost less because the airport has the largest selection, and with so many rental agencies trying to get customers, they keep prices competitive. Here are some suggestions:

  • Hertz Oaxaca Airport Car Rental
  • Alamo Car Rental Oaxaca Airport
  • Thrifty Car Rental Oaxaca Airport: The best cheap car rental Oaxaca agency there is!
  • Europcar Oaxaca Airport Car Rental
  • Only Rent A Car Oaxaca Airport
Renting A Car in Oaxaca Mexico

What’s the best company for cheap car rentals in Oaxaca?

For a cheap car rental in Oaxaca Airport, I recommend Thrifty Oaxaca Car Rentals — which you can book on Discover Cars.

contract for renting a car in oaxaca mexico
I’ve found the best car rentals with affordable prices from Discover Cars. (Photo: Canva, Car rental Oaxaca Airport)

If you prefer to use a Mexican company to support the local economy, opt for NuCar, which I have personally used, America Car Rental Oaxaca or Mex Rent A Car Oaxaca.

Discover Cars compares local, national and international companies so you always get the best Oaxaca City car rental rates — even in the high season from November to March, when cars cost the most.

I’ve personally got great service and found the cheapest Oaxaca car rentals from Hertz Oaxaca Rent A Car, Alamo Oaxaca Car Rentals and EuropeCar Oaxaca Car Rentals, which all have excellent reviews.

There’s also Thrifty Oaxaca, which always has cheap Oaxaca City car rentals in Mexico, but it isn’t as highly-rated as Hertz, Alamo and EuropeCar.

renting a car in Oaxaca mexico

What’s the best Oaxaca car rental location?

If you’re getting a car rental in Oaxaca City, the Oaxaca Airport (code: OAX) is the best place. The majority of the city’s car rental company offices are there, so you’ll have a large selection.

renting a car in oaxaca airport
The are locations in other parts of Oaxaca City, but the Oaxaca Airport is the most convenient place in terms of pick up and drop off, as well as vehicle section.

What’s the best car rental at Oaxaca Airport?

There’s no official best car rental at Oaxaca Airport. You’ll find many major car rental companies there, like Hertz in Oaxaca, Alamo Oaxaca and EuropeCar Oaxaca — but do read reviews before booking.

Different people can have a totally different experience with the same company, but if you do have a preference, you’ll find all the top international car rental companies and corporations in Oaxaca International Airport.

There are other places in Downtown Oaxaca you can rent from, but the airport has the biggest and best selection available in town.

The company I recommend and personally use is Discover Cars. They search both local companies and large international companies, so you get the best rates — no matter where you’re getting Oaxaca City rental cars.

You can add their Full Coverage Policy for only about $7-10 USD per day. It is cheaper than any full coverage Mexican insurance I’ve ever seen through a rental company, and I always use it myself.

With this, you’re fully covered for up to $58,500 MXN pesos (about $3,250 USD) — including damage to the car, towing, lost keys, and much more. For just $7-10 USD per day, it’s really amazing how much they offer for so little.

🚨 Note: You legally need insurance for Mexico to drive. There’s a whole section on Mexico car insurance, but know your United States or Canadian insurance does not work in Mexico, and neither will your credit card insurance.

renting a car in Oaxaca mexico

5 Tips for Renting a Car in Oaxaca Airport

eatery in oaxaca airport OAX
Inside OAX Airport, which is a small airport that’s easy to navigate.

1. Rent with a reputable company like Discover Cars, the company I recommend and have used myself about 10 times.

2. Take photos and/or video of all scratches, dings and dents to the car’s exterior. You’ll want to do the same for the car’s interior, noting stains, rips in the fabric, etc. 

3. Have all your emails accessible with any rental agreement booking information. If you want, you can print them out, though it’s not necessary.

4. Some companies will not let you take the car if you don’t have Mexico car insurance, so be prepared with a backup plan.

5. When returning your rental car at Oaxaca City Airport, you’ll pull up curbside at the end of the terminal roadway, where you’ll see a few parking spots.

Park the car there and go inside to find a representative from whichever company you rented from. I have got rental cars at Oaxaca Airport before, and though not the norm, you are allowed to park curbside here.

renting a car in Oaxaca mexico

What do I need to rent a car in Oaxaca Mexico?

Wondering, What do I need to rent a car in Mexico? To get your Oaxaca rental car, here are the four things you need: 1) valid driver’s license, 2) credit card, 3) to be of age (25 or older), and 4) Mexican insurance.

1. A valid Driver’s License

woman renting a car in oaxaca mexico
In my opinion, I always find the best car rental in Oaxaca Airport through Discover Cars. You’ll want to only use companies with great ratings so you never sacrifice customer service for a cheap rental.

If you have a valid driver’s license from the United States, or any country that uses the Roman alphabet (this alphabet), you can rent a car in Oaxaca with it.

Drivers from countries like China and Japan, which use the character alphabet, will need an International Driving Permit, or IDP. 🚗💨 Need an IDP? Apply for one here.

2. Mexican Car Insurance is mandatory

You do need car insurance to drive in Mexico. There’s a whole section of this article that covers everything you need to know about getting the best Mexican auto insurance, as it’s a big topic.

There’s a whole section of this article explaining everything you need to know about getting the best Mexican auto insurance, as it’s a big topic.

You can jump ahead using this link to find out about mandatory insurance in Mexico.

3. You must be 25 to rent a car in Oaxaca 

As with the U.S., anyone aged 25 and older can rent a car in Oaxaca City from any car company without restrictions.

Some companies rent to drivers aged 21-24, though they often have a $10-30 USD per day surcharge for underage drivers.

There is a very small minority of Mexico car rental companies that rent to drivers ages 18-20. Most of the big name companies (like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, etc.) will not do this, but you can always double check by calling.

For 18- to 24-year-olds renting a car in Oaxaca Mexico, check each company’s policy before booking to see which one offers the best options for underage renters, as well as any associated fees.

4. A valid credit card or debit card

When you rent a car in Oaxaca, they will swipe your credit or debit card to have on file in the event you damage the car.

Different companies hold a different amount of money, but it’s usually about $1,500-3,000 USD. When you return the car undamaged, you’ll get that money back.

🚙💨 Car Rental Oaxaca Tips: When leaving a card on file for any Oaxaca City car rental, opt for your credit card over debit card.

When you use debit cards, the company removes the money from your account — but with a credit card, the money is just on hold. If the money is debited, you might be (temporarily) out thousands on your Oaxaca vacation!

Note: If you opt for full coverage insurance through the car rental company, they often don’t hold any money. This insurance is usually about $30 USD per day.

renting a car in oaxaca mexico

Where do I book a Oaxaca car rental?

I always use Discover Cars, which searches all the Oaxaca car rental companies at once. Alamo, Hertz and EuropeCar are the top choices thanks to their great ratings, but you have some others options as well.

If you want to go with a Mexican company to support the national economy, opt for NuCar Oaxaca City, which I have personally used, America Car Rental Oaxaca City or Mex Rent A Car Oaxaca City.

Using an aggregate search service means you find great deals because Discover Cars checks all the best Oaxaca car rental companies, both national and local at once, so you get the lowest prices.

Renting A Car in Oaxaca Mexico

What kind of Mexican cars are for rent in Oaxaca?

For the most part, you’ll find the same makes and models you will in the United States and Canada. The most common types of rental cars in Mexico are Nissan, Chevrolet, Volkswagen and Kia.

red jeep driving on sand dunes in cabo san lucas mexico | renting a car in cabo mexico
Renting a Jeep in Oaxaca is fun because there are so many places to go off-road. (Photo: Canva, Jeep rental Oaxaca)

Besides those, some common companies in Mexico that aren’t common in the U.S. include Peugeot and Renault, both French car companies.


Most Oaxaca City car rentals are automatic, unless you’re renting a specialty vehicle like a dune buggy, 4X4, Jeep, luxury cars or sports cars.

When you book with Discover Cars, all cars are labeled as automatic or manual (stick shift), so you know what you’re getting.

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

You drive on the right side of the road in Oaxaca and all Mexico, the same as the U.S., Canada and most of Europe.

Note: If you have any questions like this, don’t hesitate to ask when you pick up your reservation at the car rental agency; they are there to help.

Renting A Car in Oaxaca Mexico

Can I take Uber from Oaxaca Airport?

No — There’s no Uber in Oaxaca, including Oaxaca International Airport.

You can sometimes get a taxi in the airport at the Taxi Stand near the exit door. However, to save some money, walk out to the main road, completely off airport grounds and get a taxi there.

For those who don’t want to do that, I recommend booking this Private Oaxaca Airport Shuttle instead.

Is there Uber in Oaxaca Mexico?

No — There is no Oaxaca Uber service, and no Lyft in Oaxaca either.

passenger calling uber in oaxaca from their cell phone

They do have DiDi Taxi through the DiDi Rider app, which lets you call a Oaxaca taxi via the app. It’s basically like using Uber or Lyft, but you will get a regular cab. However, you still can’t use DiDi at Oaxaca Airport.

  • Download DiDi Rider for iPhone
  • Download DiDi Rider for Android

If you’re coming from the airport, I recommend booking this Private Oaxaca Airport Shuttle for the convenience of having a ride as soon as you’re ready to leave the Oaxaca Airport.

Renting A Car in Oaxaca Mexico

Do I need Mexican car insurance?

Yes — You do need insurance for driving in Oaxaca City and all Mexico; though Mexico travel insurance is optional.

pot holes on a road in mexico
Not all roads in Oaxaca are well maintained, which is just one reason you’ll want full coverage insurance.

You must have Mexican Personal Liability Insurance to legally drive in Mexico, and some car rental companies won’t let you take their cars unless you purchase it from them.

While Oaxaca City car rental companies aren’t legally allowed to make you buy insurance from them — the most you can do is argue with them, and at worst, they just won’t let you rent the car.

This has become especially true of people who try to use U.S. credit card insurance. (More on insurance through a credit card in a minute.)

I rent cars in Mexico a few times each year, and have never had any issues using the Full Coverage Policy I have purchased through Discover Cars. Legally, third party insurance is completely valid.

However, that’s not to say an agent won’t try to up-sell you their company’s insurance. They will! Some companies actually encourage employees to do so — which is why you want to read reviews before booking.

While Mexico car rental companies aren’t technically allowed to make you buy insurance from them, the most you can do is argue with them.

As a worst case scenario, they just won’t let you rent the car.

For the least amount of headaches on your Oaxaca trip, buy insurance from the company you rent from.

If you get full coverage, you could essentially return the car in any condition and shouldn’t have to pay a single cent.

How much is Mexico car insurance? 

Different companies price coverage differently, but in general, Personal Liability Insurance (the minimum coverage legally required) is about $15 USD per day. For full coverage insurance, plan to pay about $30 USD per day.

When I’m renting a car in Oaxaca, I always use Discover Cars. Their Full Coverage Policies only cost about $7-10 USD per day. ▶︎ Book now with Discover Cars

With just Personal Liability Insurance, you’ll usually have about a $2,000+ USD deductible. The full coverage deductible is often $0, because you’re already fully covered (though Terms and Conditions can vary by company).

If you’re wondering, What’s the best Mexican car insurance? The answer would be full coverage with no deductible.

🤔 What is a deductible with car insurance?

woman renting a car in oaxaca mexico
I’ve been living in Mexico since 2018, and whenever anyone wants advice for car rentals in Oaxaca Mexico, I always tell them to get full coverage insurance!

If you aren’t familiar with what a deductible is, here’s a quick explanation.

If you have a $5,000 USD deductible, and you cause $5,250 in damages to the car, you will be responsible for paying the $5,000 deductible. The insurance will cover the remaining $250, after you cover the deductible amount.

As what you select will depend on your budget, do know that cheap Mexican car insurance is one of those “you get what you pay for” type of situations.

If you’re wondering what’s the best Mexican car insurance, that would be full coverage with no deductible.

Renting A Car in Oaxaca Mexico

What if I have Mexican car insurance through my credit card?

Some U.S. credit cards provide Collision Damage Waiver (CDW insurance) for their card holders. This is not the equivalent of Personal Liability Insurance, which you’re required to have by law.

Now, some car companies will let you take a rental car with just CDW insurance; some won’t.

This is just one more reason I always opt for Full Coverage when I rent with Discover Cars. Their policy means I am fully covered in Mexico for any damages to the car up to $58,500 pesos, and I won’t pay out of pocket.

The last time I rented a car, which was in Mexico City (notoriously more expensive than most Oaxaca rental agencies), I paid just $10 USD per day for a Discover Cars Full Coverage Policy.


red car on the beach


When booking your Mexico car rental online, I recommend and use Discover Cars. They offer free cancellation and search all options so you get the best deal.

🚨 Horror stories of using credit card insurance in Mexico

I have been in Mexico long enough, and heard enough horror stories, that I always tell people not to rely on credit card insurance.

If you do opt for it, you’ll want to call the credit card company and double check their policies (even the fine print), so you know you’re comfortable with it.

Also, know that if anything happens to the car, you will have to pay for 100% of the damages out of pocket when you return the car in Oaxaca. You’ll then file a claim with the credit card company, and hope they fully reimburse you 🤞

Spoiler: They don’t always do so.

Purchase Third Party Mexico Car insurance

travel insurance for mexico

You can also buy a separate Mexican auto insurance policy from a Mexican insurance company or a U.S. company that works with Mexican insurers, like Baja Bound, Allstate and Geico.

🚙💨 Driving to Mexico with your own car? Get your FREE quote on Mexican Insurance from Baja Bound so you can cross the U.S.-Mexico border without any issues or delays.

This is called Third Party Liability Insurance (sometimes called TPL insurance, or PLI insurance), it is 100% legal.

It is also enough to satisfy the Mexico Personal Liability Insurance requirement. Depending on where you’re renting, this can be the cheapest Mexico car insurance for drivers who need extra coverage.

Purchase general Mexico travel insurance — With a car insurance add on

Another option is to purchase a travel insurance policy for Mexico, and get an upgrade to include your Oaxaca Mexico rental car.

For this, purchase the Explorer Plan with World Nomads, one of the best Mexican travel insurance providers and top names in travel insurance. Note: This is only offered on the Explorer Plan. ▶︎ Get your FREE quote now

renting a car in oaxaca mexico

What’s the Mexican car rental scam?

What’s commonly known as a scam that’s specific to renting a car in Mexico, is a common practice at U.S. car rental companies as well.

forms for travel insurance for mexico
It’s definitely no fun, but always read everything (even the fine print) in the rental agreement when getting your car rental in Oaxaca Mexico.

In fact, I have been a victim of it myself in the United States (where I’m from). How this is legal anywhere, we may never know, but here’s the rundown on this common rental car scam:

About a year before writing this article I booked my Miami rental car online for $400 USD. When I showed up, there was an additional $200 USD in fees, taxes and additional insurance costs I had to pay in order to take the car.

If this scenario has also happened to you, then you’re already familiar with the so-called “Mexico car rental scam,” which is actually not unique to Mexico at all.

The scam in question is that most renters don’t read the fine print (who does?!) and aren’t aware of the fees, taxes, etc., that get tacked on.

For many, you end up paying about 25-40% more than what was quoted online when you booked, which is frustrating, though not a scam per se.

renting a car in oaxaca mexico

How to avoid this common Mexico travel scam

When renting a car in Mexico, you may see rates as low as $5-10 USD per day — and if this seems too good to be true, it is.

This base cost doesn’t factor in a whole slew of fees, taxes and the legally-required Mexico car rental insurance, all of which you do have to pay for.

To avoid this most notorious of Mexico travel scams, double the price you see online for the car if you’re taking the minimum insurance, and triple it for full coverage.

This new amount is closer to what you end up paying anyway — and now you’ll feel less scammed.


For a car listed online as $10 USD per day, assume you’ll actually pay $20 per day for this car with Mexico Personal Liability Insurance (minimum coverage), and $30 per day with full coverage Mexican insurance.

Annoying? Sure is — But this is how car rental companies seem to work, in Mexico and many other places 🤷‍♀️

renting a car in oaxaca mexico

Other Mexico travel scams to look out for

man pumping gas
When driving in Oaxaca City or anywhere in Mexico, you won’t pump your own gas.


In Mexico, you don’t pump your own gas. When you get to the pump, an attendant will do it and take your payment. When you pull up, make sure the pump is zeroed out — meaning the pump is set to $0.00.

Nowadays, many attendants will even ask you to verify before they start pumping.


Unless you purchase Mexico car insurance from the rental agency directly, they will try to upsell you extra services and coverage.

There is no need to pay this extra insurance cost if you already have coverage — which I purchase when renting with Discover Cars, as it’s the cheapest Full Coverage Policy I’ve seen.


This is a pretty standard bill swap, or wrong payment scam that can happen at a gas station in Mexico just as it can while shopping at a mall or market anywhere in the world.

If you’re paying in cash, count the bills one by one in front of the attendant, otherwise they can quickly change the bills with sleight of hand after you give them the money.

With this scam, they take your money and quickly swap out a $500 peso bill with a $20 peso bill, saying you gave them a $20 when it should have been a $500.

They hand you back the $20 and you hand them a $500, so they have essentially pocketed $480 pesos (about $24 USD). 💳 Oaxaca Travel Tips: This can’t happen if you pay with a credit card.

renting a car in oaxaca mexico

10 Oaxaca Mexico Driving Tips

mountain road in oaxaca mexico
There are a lot of mountain roads in Oaxaca State — especially near Oaxaca City in Central Oaxaca and also Northern Oaxaca.

1. Don’t drive in Mexico at night

When you live in Mexico long enough, you start to realize many people simply avoid driving at night, if they can. If you do drive at night, stick to only main roads and paid highways, called couta roads.

2. Always use the couta roads (Mexico toll roads)

In Mexico, there are libre, or free roads, and couta, or paid toll roads.

For longer drives, and when traveling between cities, always opt for paid roads. Yes, they cost money, but they are much better maintained and generally considered safer.

🚙💨 Car Rental Oaxaca Tips: When driving in Oaxaca Mexico, make sure to have small bills and coins to pay for the tolls. Some take U.S. dollars, but it’s still better to have pesos.

renting a car in oaxaca mexico

3. Oaxaca speed limit signs are in kilometers per hour

speed limit sign in mexico

Mexico street signs are in kilometers per hour, not miles per hour — and for those curious, 1 mile is 1.6 kilometers.

Rather than doing conversion math while driving, just make sure the speed limit sign number on the road matches your car’s speedometer number.

As you might imagine, the street signs and highway signs in Oaxaca are also in Spanish. Here are a few you’ll want to know:

  • 🛑 Alto: Stop
  • Retorno: Turn-around, which is where you make legal U-turns
  • Entrada: Entrance
  • Salida: Exit
  • Restringido: Restricted area
  • Prohibido: Entry prohibited
renting a car in oaxaca mexico

4. Download an offline map for Oaxaca driving

Your cell signal may go in and out as you’re driving in Oaxaca, especially when venturing to more rural places in Oaxaca state — so you’ll want to download an offline map from Google Maps or Maps.Me.

📲 Car Rental Oaxaca Tips: For the best possible cell signal, get a Mexico SIM Card.

5. Window cleaners may approach you at stop lights

When you’re at a stop light in Mexico, someone wanting to clean your car windshield may approach the car.

If you want them to, there’s no set amount to pay, but $10 pesos (about $0.50USD) is a standard amount. You can also just say “No, gracias,” and they won’t clean.

renting a car in oaxaca mexico

6. Beware of topes (Mexico speed bumps)

yellow sign that says "tope"
Always keep an eye out for topes when driving in Mexico and Oaxaca.

Mexico roads are notorious for an abundance of topes (pronounced toe-pays) — which are speed bumps. They can be everywhere from regular roads to on highways.

While some roads have bright yellow road signs that do alert you to the topes, keep your eyes on the road at all times, as some topes don’t have a sign.

If you go over one too fast, it can cause serious damage to your Oaxaca rental car, so make sure to slow all the way down at a tope.

7. Mexico gas stations aren’t self-serve

When you stop for gas, an attendant will pump it for you and take your payment.

After they finish, it’s customary to tip them at least $10-20 pesos ($0.50-1USD), as Mexico gas station attendants rely on tips.

⛽️ Oaxaca Travel Tip: Check out the info above regarding the gas station scam in Mexico.

renting a car in oaxaca mexico

8. It’s illegal to use your cell phone while driving in Oaxaca

woman driving in oaxaca mexico
Remember to pack this hands-free cell phone holder when you visit Oaxaca Mexico.

Not only is it unsafe to use your phone while driving, it’s also illegal in Mexico.

In fact, even just holding your phone is an easy way for you to get pulled over, as it’s a ticketable offense. When packing for Mexico, don’t forget to don’t forget to bring this hands-free phone holder for the rental car.

🇲🇽 Mexico Fun Facts: It’s also illegal to put on make-up or shave while driving.

9. Mexico traffic lights have an extra step

In Mexico, stop lights go from green to yellow, to flashing yellow for a few seconds, to finally, a red light. Some lights go from green, to flashing green for a few seconds, to yellow, to red.

🚦 Car Rental Oaxaca Tips: This doesn’t mean you should speed up to get through a yellow light; you are still legally required to stop at yellow lights, just like in the United States.

renting a car in oaxaca mexico

10. Yes, Mexico cops do take bribes

If the cops in Mexico pull you over — and they usually only will if you give them a reason to — they may expect a cash “payment” in exchange for not ticketing you.

The best ways to insure this doesn’t happen to you is to 1) not speed, 2) not be on your phone, and 3) not break any other Mexico driving laws.

I’m not in any way defending this practice, but I am saying the easiest way to make the problem go away is by paying them.

The worst thing you can do in this situation is argue because they can take you to jail — and is that where you want to spend your Oaxaca vacation?


About 10 years ago, the Mexican government implemented Article 152, though efforts fell flat.

The Tarjetón Turístico tourist card was intended to end police bribes on tourists, so it’s sad the program failed, but if you see anything about Mexico Article 152, it’s no longer operational.

Final Thoughts: Renting A Car in Oaxaca Mexico

Driving in Oaxaca is generally considered safe, and getting rental cars in Oaxaca is usually a simple, hassle-free process.

A Mexico road trip is one of the best ways to see the country — especially in Oaxaca with so many amazing places to see. Even if you’re not doing a road trip, the best way to explore the amazing Oaxaca City day trips is by rental car.

For the sake of convenience, just pick your rental up at Oaxaca International Airport when you fly in, as it has plenty of international and local agencies on site.

One of the most important things to keep in mind for a Mexico car rental, is to rent with a reputable company like Discover Cars. I also recommend their Full Coverage Policy, which I always use.

If not, make sure you also purchase Mexican car insurance, as you’re not covered in any way through your U.S. or Canadian policy while driving in Oaxaca Mexico.

Mexico Car Rental Blogs

Check out these linked guides so you understand the process at car rental agencies throughout the country, and you avoid getting scammed when renting a car in Mexico.

🚙 Renting a car in central Mexico

🚙 Renting a car in Yucatan Peninsula

🚙 Renting a car in Baja Mexico

Oaxaca Travel Planning Guide

Should I buy Mexico travel insurance for Oaxaca?

100% YES! — With basic coverage averaging just $5-10 USD per day, enjoy peace of mind with a plan from Travel Insurance Master, one of the biggest names in travel insurance. (Read more)

Can you drink the water in Oaxaca?

No — You’ll want to buy this Water-To-Go Bottle, which filters your drinking water so you don’t get sick from drinking water in Mexico, and helps keep you hydrated while traveling to Oaxaca. (Read more)

Is it safe to rent a car in Oaxaca?

Yes — Renting a car in Oaxaca is one of the best ways to see the state. I always rent with Discover Cars, which checks international companies and local Oaxaca companies, so you get the best rates. (Read more)

Will my phone work in Oaxaca?

Maybe — It depends on your company, so check with your provider. If you don’t have free Mexico service, buy a Telcel SIM Card. As Mexico’s largest carrier, Telcel has the best coverage of all Mexico SIM Cards. (Read more)

What’s the best way to book places to stay in Oaxaca?

For Oaxaca hotels, is the best site. If you’re considering a Oaxaca Airbnb, also check VRBO, which is often cheaper than Airbnb. For the best Oaxaca hostels, use HostelWorld.

What do I pack for Oaxaca?

Head to the Ultimate Mexico Packing List + FREE Checklist Download to get all the info you need on packing for Mexico.

What’s the best site to buy Oaxaca flights?

For finding cheap Oaxaca flights, I recommend booking through Skyscanner.

Do I need a visa for Oaxaca?

Likely Not — U.S., Canadian and most European Passport holders don’t need a visa for Mexico; but you can check here to see if you need a Mexico travel visa.

The vast majority of travelers will receive a a passport stamp, or 180-Day FMM Tourist Visa upon arrival.