October 30, 2020

Guide to Car Rental Companies in Costa Rica

“My time’s limited… how do I choose? inch

Car rental is a hot topic with regard to vacationers headed to Costa Rica. Recent study conducted by the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism (ICT) indicates that, after accommodations, renting a car may be the largest expense, averaging $702 for an eleven-day vacation.

The Internet is humming with negative reviews discussing overcharging, poor customer service and mechanical complete breakdowns. You might have even written one your self!

A typical midsize (3 – four adults) 4X4 rental runs between $58 and $65 daily along with third party insurance and rates may differ as much as 20 percent among car rental companies, so reading a quick review will be time well spent as soon as you calculate the savings.

So the query is; which rental company provides the best balance of fair price, capable customer service and reliable automobiles? I’ve researched it all for you, therefore keep reading!

Disclosure: This research had been conducted in May – July 2013. The following companies were selected as they are the most widely used in Costa Rica. A few are local companies; others are international franchises of recognized brand names. Reviews include: customer service, pricing and the reservation process. The companies are listed alphabetically and not based on personal or online preferences.
Consider this information before renting:


One of the biggest causes for problems is from the stack of unforeseen charges presented to the renter once standing at the rental company’s kitchen counter. Vacationers are typically tired after a lengthy flight and then are confronted by costs that were not anticipated, explained or even budgeted.

Topping the list of grievances is the non-disclosure of fees associated with the mandatory third-party insurance at the time the reservation is made.

According to Costa Rican law, every driver is required to have liability coverage to insure against injuries to third parties. Carrental companies generally refrain from disclosing the cost of this policy in the quoted rental rate to appear more competitive. Obligatory third-party insurance can sometimes be as much as double the vehicle’s rental cost. The only guarantee against insurance confusion is to inquire if your estimate includes the third party insurance and insist on the written quotation.

Cost of Mandatory Insurance (also called Third Party or SLI)

Expect to pay between $12 plus $15 daily for this insurance, with respect to the make and model of the rented vehicle as well as the rental car agency. This is a legal situation of your rental agreement and is generally not covered by credit cards and cannot be waived. It’s a fact of renting a car in Costa Rica.

Collision Damage Waiver (CDW)

As the name suggests, that isn’t insurance, but a waiver, which relieves the renter from any liability for damage to the car rental after the deductible is paid (usually from $750 to $1, 500). Some agencies require renters to buy their CDW policy; thereby killing any credit card program. For an additional fee, many agencies do offer a zero liability option where the tenant will be freed from paying for any harm to the car. Some companies may put pressure upon renters to purchase the zero liability coverage; however , it really is entirely optional, unless it is in the fine print of their rental agreement.

Bank card insurance programs may cover the particular CDW for a rental vehicle. Seek advice from your chosen rental car company to find which proof of insurance is needed and then demand that from your credit card company prior to arriving. If you use your credit card’s CDW policy, expect to pay a greater deposit on the vehicle; around $1, 500 to $2000 is common. The greater deposit ensures that the credit card owner has enough financial reserves to hide damages if needed. It is important to consider that if using CDW coverage offered by a credit card (in lieu of the lease a car operator), all damages will be billed to the renter’s credit card. The credit card company will then reimburse the holder for damages.

More Insurance policy

Tires and windshields are rarely contained in insurance policies, although additional policies may be taken out for covering these regularly damaged items. Neither the interior nor the underneath of the vehicle may be covered. Always read the fine print.

Standard Procedure

Your credit card will be charged, or even a ‘hold’ placed, for the rental automobile during the time of the rental agreement; we. e. from picking up the leasing until you return it. Debit cards are generally not acceptable.

Additional Charges

Most companies possess surcharges for additional drivers, car seats/boosters, cell phones, coolers, GPS and/or roof racks. The costs vary from company to company, but since these extras are billed in a daily rate, it is worth exploring the total cost — additional choices can add up very quickly! A GPS is around $8 to $10 per day; however , some operators may offer discounted units. Expect to pay around $5 daily for a child seat and a few dollars a day for all the other ‘niceties’. Vamos is notable for offering most of these options and, throughout some promotions, even the GPS rental complimentarily. Alamo, Budget, Hertz plus National charge the most for such additional options; whereas the other companies listed, charge more reasonable prices.


Most companies add small incremental costs, such as license plate and environment fees, into the total tally. Be wary of operators who insert these additional charges into the small print from the rental contract. Vehicles rented direct at the airport incur airport fees, which are a whopping 12% of your leasing cost!

The rental vehicle needs to be returned with the same amount of fuel, unless otherwise indicated. If not, companies might charge above gas station rates for missing fuel.


There is a debate over the vehicles supplied by leasing companies: Older cars allow the motorist to blend in more than a shiny, brand new car. Having an older model may have the indirect benefit of being less scrutinized by car rental agencies for latest nicks and scratches, unlike a newer vehicle. However , a newer vehicle might be more roadworthy. This debate continues into the different vehicle makes and models. Usually, Costa Rican firms are able to rent their vehicles for a lower rate because their cars are typically 3 to 5 years old (versus two to three). Online reviews would suggest that the nearby firms have no more complaints concerning vehicle quality than transnational franchises; research on forums, such as TripAdvisor. com, seems to indicate that customers frequently appreciate driving a less-than-new vehicle through the wilds of Costa Rica. The reasons are plenty, from road conditions to the notion of less-then-new vehicles blending in better — a newer vehicle may draw more unwanted attention.

The choices of carrental in Costa Rica are mostly limited to makes that maintain a competitive resell value, are a common brand in the nation, and are inexpensive to maintain. As such the rent-a-car operator’s fleet tend not to be as diverse as the United States. Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Hyundai make up the mainstay brands of most leasing fleets.

Sometimes, drivers are billed for supposed ‘damages’ to the vehicle upon return. Once receiving the vehicle, renters should meticulously check for pre-existing flaws and compare it with the vehicle inspection document used by the rental car representative. Some renters recommend photographing or videoing the vehicle through all angles, to avoid any difference between pre-existing and recently broken items.


Car rentals in Costa Rica are pricier compared to additional countries. Duties on vehicles are usually high (as much as 50% of their value! ), parts are usually costlier and unforgiving road situations contribute to higher wear and tear, generating increased maintenance costs.

The rule is you get what you pay for — additional options than those rental companies listed here, but they are not listed for a valid reason. They simply fail to offer fundamental customer service and/or a suitable vehicle condition required for a (nearly) trouble-free holiday.

When comparing rental car charges, it is best to go directly to the Costa Rican web site of the rental car company, rather than endeavoring to use their international format or an intermediary (Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, Kayak, et al. ). For the similar vehicles and reservation dates, the rates offered by the respective global vs . Costa Rican websites intended for Alamo, Budget, Hertz and Cash conscious differed substantially.

To avoid confusion, print out all correspondence with the car rental organization with whom you have reserved an automobile and bring this to the leasing office with the quote given during the time of reservation.

The following top ten chart ranks the companies from highest priced in order to lowest and it includes the mandatory insurance charge. In the cases of Alamo and Hertz, the figure includes their CDW fee as it is among their rental requirements. This price comparison is based on a week’s rental of a Daihatsu Bego, where offered (Dollar offers the Suzuki Vitara) from September 14th – 21st, on the other hand in December to view both Green plus High Season rates. The list quickly demonstrates that the price variation depends greatly on the company — with regard to basically the same service. These costs were obtained in June/July 2013.

Rental Car Companies Ranked According to Cost


10. Alamo $650. 96
9. Hertz $514. 27
almost eight. Adobe $449
7. Budget $455
6. National $428. 01
five. Thrifty $421. 05
4. Program $374. 43
3. Vamos $370. 30
2 . Dollar $364
one Wild Rider $350


10. Alamo $650. 96
9. Nationwide $597. 51
8. Hertz $566. 52
7. Budget $555
six. Dollar $532
5. Thrifty $506. 58
4. Service $494. 43
3. Vamos $461. 30
2 . Adobe $459
1 . Wild Driver $395

Alamo ranks number 10 for both seasons, making it the priciest company. Budget, Hertz and Nationwide also rate low on the size for economical rental options.

Corporation Summaries


Website is clear and simple to use, but pricing and even the particular vehicles listed are not the same as individuals given by an office representative over the cell phone. Mandatory insurance costs are not shown with the list of vehicles and rental costs, but they are clearly displayed for the following page as a customer goes towards booking a reservation. Combined customer reviews online. Email reaction is less than 24 hours, but may not provide all requested information.

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