Renting a car in Costa Rica is a popular and convenient way to explore the country’s stunning landscapes, pristine beaches, and vibrant cities. With a rental car, you can travel at your own pace and visit remote destinations that may not be accessible by public transportation.
However, there are some important considerations to keep in mind when renting a car in Costa Rica, including road conditions, insurance requirements, and local driving laws. Understanding these factors can help ensure a safe and enjoyable driving experience while exploring this beautiful country.
Car Rental Pricing in Costa Rica
Many people have called me over the years about Renting a car in Costa Rica because they are confused about the prices they find by going direct compared to those they have been quoted on some of the famous travel sites. If you are looking to compare “apples with apples” make sure to check the following important details…
- Does the price of the car rental company or online site include insurance and are you required to buy it it upon arrival (up to $200 a week)!
- Does the price quoted by the rental car company include the 12% fee charged by the airport management for pickup (fee is on both rental price AND insurance).
- Do they GUARANTEE a car type or is it simply described as an “intermediate 4×4” or similar. This usually means a sub class of 4×4 and not the car you see in the online photo.
That said, the average price to rent a car in Costa Rica can vary widely depending on the time of year, type of vehicle, and rental company. During the high season, which runs from December to April and June to August, prices tend to be higher due to increased demand.
On average however, prices for a compact car can range from $30 to $50 per day, while larger SUVs and 4×4 vehicles can cost upwards of $100 per day. It is important to note that rental car prices in Costa Rica often include mandatory insurance, which can significantly increase the total cost of the rental.
Additionally, some rental companies may require a deposit or hold on your credit card, which can also impact the overall cost.
It is also important to read the fine print and understand the terms and conditions of the rental agreement to avoid any unexpected charges. Be aware and have answers to all of these potential issues in order to avoid any “surprises” when you arrive at the car rental agency in Costa Rica.
Is it safe to drive a rental car in Costa Rica?
I get this question alot! Driving a rental car in Costa Rica can be a safe and enjoyable way to explore the country’s beautiful scenery, but it is important to be aware of the unique challenges and risks associated with driving in this country.
The road conditions in Costa Rica can vary greatly, from well-maintained highways to narrow and winding mountain roads with steep drop-offs. Additionally, many roads are not marked clearly or may not have streetlights, making navigation more challenging, especially at night.
It is also important to be aware of the local driving laws and customs, such as yielding to pedestrians and giving way to uphill traffic on narrow roads.
Also watch out for petty theft, especially in tourist areas. In order to avoid this “inconvenience” never leave valuables in the car and to park in well-lit areas or secure parking lots.
In the end, driving in Costa Rica really is not as bad as some people make it out to be and can be safe as long as proper precautions are taken and local driving conditions and laws are respected.
How Does It Work Once I Have Reserved My Car In Costa Rica?
When you arrive in Costa Rica the Car agency will meet you on your scheduled day, time & location. (Hotel pick up drop off in San Jose area is free. Other areas available but there are fees for certain ones.)
Make sure to ask the car rental company to see what, if any, the price is. If you choose to pick up your airport at the airport, then you will need to let them know the exact arrival information (airline, time and flight number). The car company in Costa Rica will meet you there at arrival and take you to their office FREE of charge!
Once you meet with the car rental representative, they will ask for major credit card and valid drivers license both of which need to be in YOUR name! You MUST be 21 to rent! You MUST have available credit for the deposit. They will then go over all the paperwork and insurance information with you.
You will do the site inspection of the car and you will sign off on it. On the last day of the rental you will bring back the car to the specified location on your car travel voucher provided to you.
There are NO Refunds for unused service. so if you need to return the car early you can do so but you will not be refunded those days. For information on Costa Rica Car Rental insurance, check out my car rental insurance post
Is it better to rent a car or hire a driver in Costa Rica?
I always rent, but whether it is better for you to rent a car or hire a driver in Costa Rica depends on a variety of factors, including your budget, travel plans, and personal preferences.
Renting a car can offer more flexibility and independence, allowing you to explore the country at your own pace and on your own schedule. With a rental car, you can also access more remote destinations and off-the-beaten-path attractions that may not be accessible by public transportation.
However, driving in Costa Rica can be challenging due to the country’s mountainous terrain, winding roads, and unpredictable weather conditions.
Hiring a driver or taking a guided tour can provide a more relaxing and stress-free experience, as you can sit back and enjoy the scenery without worrying about navigation or road conditions.