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Renting a Car in Puerto Vallarta – What You Need to Know

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If you’re thinking about renting a car in Puerto Vallarta, you’re in the right place! I live in Mexico and am going to walk you through what you need to know.

This comprehensive guide to car rentals in Puerto Vallarta has everything you need to know about where to get a car rental, tips for driving, and common concerns travelers have about renting a car in Mexico.

First and foremost, you’re probably wondering where to rent a car in Puerto Vallarta. I use and recommend Discover Cars.

discover cars promotion photo

Not only does Discover Cars search all the major companies to find you the best price, but you can buy add full Mexican insurance through them for less than 10 USD a day.

Do I need to rent a car in Puerto Vallarta?

Having a car in Puerto Vallarta can be a big advantage. While having one frees you from the hassle of paying attention to the bus schedule or hailing cabs, the main advantage is that it gives you the freedom to explore the surrounding area.

Puerto Vallarta is a fantastic base for taking day trips to nearby towns in Jalisco and Nayarit. You can visit the charming mountain towns of San Sebastian, or spend the day by the beautiful beaches of San Pancho.

car in san pancho mexico
Having a car rental gives you the freedom to explore cute towns!

Renting a car in Puerto Vallarta opens up your vacation to new forms of adventure. For example, hitting the road with no particular destination in mind. This is how you find those unexpected gems and memories that you’ll never forget, making your vacation truly memorable. 

Where can I rent a car in Puerto Vallarta?

The easiest place to rent your car in Puerto Vallarta is through Discover Cars.

The best place to pick up your car rental is at the airport (PVR). This is where you will find the largest selection of cars and the fastest service.

There are plenty of other places to rent a car if you’re not at the airport. In fact, agencies operating outside of the airport can sometimes have better prices. You’ll just need to factor in the added cost of transportation to and from the airport. 

Wherever you decide to rent a car, I recommend booking it ahead of time (especially in the high season), as car rental agencies can become full.

Booking A Puerto Vallarta Car Rental Online

There are hundreds of places to book car rentals online, but finding one that is reputable, trustworthy, and affordable is another matter. 

Many travelers will simply book their car rental on the same websites they use for airfare. While a bit faster, this method will most certainly lead to steeper prices and lower selection. 

Established search engines like Discover Cars are the best place to start when looking for a Puerto Vallarta rental. There, you can rent recent customer reviews!

roads in puerto vallarta

Is it safe to drive a car in Puerto Vallarta?

Many travelers have concerns about safety in Mexico, but Puerto Vallarta is one of the safest cities in Mexico to visit.

I have many friends (including solo female travelers) who own cars here and drive with no issues around PV and the surrouding towns.

For longer drives, always opt for the cuota roads. These are paid toll roads but they are better maintained and generally considered safer. Make sure to have small change and bills on hand to pay for the toll roads.

Roads in Puerto Vallarta

Cobblestone Streets at sunset in puerto vallarta
Cobblestone Streets

The roads in the Old Town of Puerto Vallarta are made of cobblestone, which make them bumpy to drive on. It can also be quite steep going up to all-inclusive hotels in Conchas Chinas and Amapas. Still, a standard car is fine for driving around town.

And once you leave the downtown area, most roads are in excellent condition. You can easily take the highway from downtown to nearby beach towns like Mismaloya and Boca de Tomatlan.

For the most part, a standard card will be sufficient for driving around Puerto Vallarta. However if you plan to go further into the Sierra Madre mountains, you may want an SUV or 4×4 as the roads become much more rugged.

Puerto Vallarta Car Rental Companies – Compared

All of the major car rental companies operate in Puerto Vallarta, including Budget, Thrifty, Firefly, Hertz, Dollar, Avis, and more. The easiest way to compare prices between the major companies is by searching on Discover Cars.


As their name suggests, Budget car rentals is known for providing a more affordable alternative. They are the same company that operates Avis and Zipcar. Popular models include Nissan March and Volkswagen Vento.

What to expect with most rentals: 

  • Unlimited mileage
  • VAT (value added tax)

Available at terminal: YES


Firefly generally has a larger selection of models to choose from than Budget. Prices tend to be a little higher, and the customer satisfaction rating isn’t as high as Budget or Avis. 

What to expect with most rentals: 

  • Unlimited mileage
  • Airport surcharge
  • Vehicle registration fee
  • State Tax

Available at terminal: YES


Hertz is another trusted rental company offered the world-over. Like other big companies, Hertz can include some extra or hidden fees that you might not expect. They’re not the most affordable option, but tend to have better rates than Enterprise and Avis. 

What to expect with most rentals: 

  • Unlimited mileage
  • Airport surcharge
  • Vehicle registration fee
  • State Tax

Available at terminal: YES


A ‘very-good’ rated car rental company according to the Discover Cars user reviews. They offer the most popular rental vehicles in Puerto Vallarta, including the aforementioned Nissan March and Volkswagen Vento. 

What to expect with most rentals: 

  • Unlimited mileage
  • Airport surcharge
  • Vehicle registration fee
  • State Tax

Available at terminal: YES


Enterprise usually has higher rates than the other car rental companies. This is true in Puerto Vallarta as well. On the other hand, this is a company that is known for excellent customer service and high satisfaction rates. 

There also one of the only companies offering SUVs like the Jeep Wrangler an Chevrolet Captiva.

What to expect with most rentals: 

  • Unlimited mileage
  • Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI)
  • VAT (value added tax)

Available at terminal: YES

MEX Rent-a-Car [Budget Pick]

For most multi-day rentals, MEX Rent-a-Car is going to provide the lowest rates. This is a great way to save money on a rental. However, there are also some extra add-on fees when going with MEX. They also require additional insurance on some rentals that aren’t included in your original quoted rate. 

In the end, MEX Rent-a-Car’s rates are similar to other operators at PVR. 

What to expect with most rentals: 

  • Unlimited mileage
  • Renters Liability Protection (RLP)
  • Airport surcharge
  • Tourism levy
  • Free modifications
  • State Tax
  • Customer Facility Charge (CFC)
  • Concession fee

Available at terminal: No, but free shuttle provided. 


SIXT is known for their user app, which lets people rent a car and start driving all with a few swipes on the cell phone. While their innovative rideshare program is more limited across Mexico, they still offer good rates on more traditional term rentals. 

Expect an airport pickup charge 

What to expect with most rentals: 

  • Unlimited mileage
  • Loss Damage Waiver
  • Third Party Liability (TPL)
  • Airport surcharge
  • Premium Location fee
  • Free modifications
  • State Tax

Available at terminal: No, but free shuttle provided. 

Gecko Car Rentals – [Local’s Pick]

Gecko Car Rentals is one of the only places in town that is fully locally owned and operated. Sadly, rentals through Gecko are not available at the PVR airport terminal. It’s only a few blocks outside the airport, but you’ll have to take a cab or Uber to get there. 

Available at terminal: No, Uber or taxi cab required to get to their rental office. 

I love renting with Discover Cars because I can compare prices easily and see reviews from recent customers.

Types of cars available in Puerto Vallarta

Generally, you’ll find the same types of cars that you would in the U.S. or Canada – such as Chevrolet and Nissan. Sometimes you may see Peugeot and Renault, which are French car companies.

Most car rentals will be automatic, unless you’re renting a specialized vehicle like a dune buggy.

What kind of car insurance do I need in Mexico?

For the majority of car rental companies in Mexico, some form of basic car rental insurance is required. While it’s possible to rent a car from an operator that doesn’t require insurance, it’s harder to find, and a lot more risky. 

Here’s what kind of insurance you’ll need when you rent a car in Puerto Vallarta::

  1. Liability Coverage is required for all car rentals in Mexico, without exception. Liability coverage can be purchased through the car rental agency at the time of booking or through Discover Cars.
  2. Collision Damage Waiver (CDW). The CDW is not required by law. It is included with most “full coverage” policies, or offered as an add-on. The CDW insures against accidental damage to the vehicle. The CDW does not provide insurance against injuries. It is also not always comprehensive, and can leave some gaps in coverage.

Here’s are the types of Mexican car insurance that aren’t required, but could be very useful depending on the type of trip or vacation you’re planning:

  1. Travel / roadside assistance – Provides access to critical services like towing, transportation, and mechanical issues. 
  2. Theft – Protects against personal items that are stolen from the vehicle. 
  3. Medical payments – Additional coverage for potential injuries.
  4. Legal assistance – Additional coverage that can help pay legal costs in the case of lawsuits 
  5. Vandalism – Protects against intentional aesthetic or mechanical damage to the vehicle

The best type of car insurance in Mexico is a policy that includes both zero deductible and full coverage.

Zero deductible means that you will not be on the hook for any out-of-pocket costs if you get into an accident. Full coverage provides protection from all forms of damage that could occur during your vacation. 

It’s true that plans with deductibles are more affordable per day. But the overall piece of mind that comes from this combo can make renting a car a lot less stressful. Consider your overall comfort level with driving in Mexico, and then get the policy that aligns with your vacation goals. 

But “full coverage” doesn’t always mean that you’re 100% protected. This is why it’s essential to read your rental agreement before signing. This is where you can get scammed! 


The cheapest place to get full insurance for your car rental in Mexico is on Discover Cars. They only charge about $7-12 USD per day for full coverage, so you are protected even if something happens while you have the rental.

Common car rental insurance scams in Mexico 

Like anywhere else in the world, there are some people out there who are always looking to squeeze you out of a few extra bucks. When it comes to renting a car in Mexico, this is no different. 

There are two primary ways that you can get scammed when renting a car in Mexico:

  1. You forgot to buy insurance at the time of rental, and now they can charge you whatever they want. This is common with ads that say “Mexico car rentals – $5/day” or something similar. If the deal seems too good to be true, then they may be angling to force you into a much more expensive insurance policy at the time of pickup.
  2. You buy “full coverage”, but find out that something basic actually isn’t covered. All rental operators have their own policy agreements, and there is no standardized list of what has to be included in a “full coverage” policy

How to Avoid Puerto Vallarta Car Insurance Scams

Avoiding car insurance scams is easy if you’re paying attention. Make sure to read over insurance policies before you sign the agreement. Don’t sign a rental agreement online without also purchasing insurance. 

Attempting to pick up your rental car without an insurance agreement in place could lead to charges of up to $200 per day on top of your rental fee!

car rental in puerto vallarta

What else do you need to rent a car in Puerto Vallarta?

Besides valid insurance, to get a car rental in Puerto Vallarta, you’ll need the following:

A valid license

A valid driver’s license. If your license is in the roman alphabet (what you’re reading), you can rent a car in Mexico using your country’s driver license. If you’re license is from the United States and Canada, you’ll have no problem renting a car here.

However drivers from countries like China, which use the character alphabet, will need an international drivers permit to rent a car in Mexico.

A credit or debit card

When renting a car in Puerto Vallarta, you’ll need a valid credit or debit card to put on file in case of damages.

If you use a credit card, they put a hold (usually around 1000-2000 USD) on your card, which you get back when you return the car undamaged. But if you use your debit card, they will actually take the money and then put it back, which is why I always recommend using a credit card over a debit card. Plus, many credit cards include car rental insurance.

To be at least 25 years old

Most car rental agencies will only rent to drivers who are 25 years or older. There are a few companies that will rent to drivers aged 18-24, but they typically will add a surcharge of 10-20 USD a day.

Other ways to get around Puerto Vallarta

If you only get a car rental for part of your trip, these are your other options for getting around Puerto Vallarta.

Busses and Taxis

The Puerto Vallarta area buses and taxis can get you most places you want to go. Over the course of your trip, it’s also generally much more affordable. All it takes is a few minutes to understand the different buses that run through the city, and you’ll be off and running.

Affordable buses also run between all neighboring towns and attractions, including Saylulita, Punta de Mita, the hot springs at Nuevo Ixtlan, and much more. 

The disadvantage of relying on the bus system is that not all buses run 24/7. Taxicabs are available throughout the night, but can get pricey if you’re using them for everything. 

Uber and Lyft

Uber is available throughout Puerto Vallarta, with the notable exception of the airport arrivals area. (Uber can take you to the airport, but not from it). Prices are reasonable compared to cabs and the experience is the same as it is in the United States.

Lyft does not operate in Puerto Vallarta. 

car rental

Tips for renting a car in Puerto Vallarta

When choosing where to rent your car, the best place to look is on Discover Cars. It’s an aggregate search services which means Discover Cars checks all the car rental companies at once so you get the best price without searching every website seperatly.

Some companies will not let you take the car without Mexico car insurance, so be sure to get it online beforehand or check with them to avoid any unwanted charges.

Always take photos of the car when you pick it up from the rental agency, and when you drop it off. This way, you have proof if they try to charge you for any scratches or dings that were already there.

Keep a record of your rental agreement in the car with you at all times.

Your cell signal may not work while you’re venturing to more rural places (for example, there is a part of the road to San Pancho that doesn’t have service), so you’ll want to download an offline map from Google Maps or Maps.Me beforehand.

Mexico police officers are known for taking bribes as “payment” for not ticketing you if they pull you over. While I’m not defending this, it is often the easiest way to make the problem go away. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep some cash with you.

car meter

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions About Renting a Car In Puerto Vallarta

Is a car needed in Puerto Vallarta? 

It’s entirely possible to enjoy Puerto Vallarta and the wider Bay of Banderas area without renting a car. The public bus system is safe and effective, and local taxi drivers are happy to take you wherever you want to go. 

Renting a car in Puerto Vallarta does have some big advantages. One of them is the freedom to hit the road without a destination in mind. It can free your vacation from bus schedules and cab fares, giving you more flexibility in exploring the area. 

Is it safe to Drive in Puerto Vallarta? 

Driving in Puerto Vallarta can be intimidating to the first-time driver, but is entirely safe for the driver who has researched the local laws and customs.

Is it cheaper to rent a car by the day or by the week?

In general, weekly rentals are going to be a bit cheaper than the per-day rate. However, when you book your rental, your rate will be calculated based on your total rental days either way. 

Do I need a license to drive in Mexico?

If you have a driver’s license that uses the roman alphabet, it will also be valid in Mexico. No additional driver license is required to drive in Mexico if your license is from the U.S. or Canada.

Which side of the road do you drive on in Mexico?

In Mexico, drivers drive on the right side of the road. This is true of all of Central and South America as well, with the notable exceptions of Suriname and Guyana. 

How do you pay for gas in Mexico?

Both cash and credit cards are accepted forms of payment for gas in Mexico. Pemex is the state-operated fuel provider for nearly all gas stations in the country. 

Tip: It’s always a good idea to bring some cash on a long drive, as some distant or rural stations might not always accept cards. 

Do I Need Mexican car insurance?

Yes. Driving in Mexico requires liability insurance. Other forms of insurance including collision, theft, and roadside assistance are not required and can be purchased separately.

Renting a car in Puerto Vallarta is a great way to add some adventure to your vacation, as it will give you the freedom to explore some of Mexico’s best towns.

The easiest place to pick your rental up at Puerto Vallarta International Airport, as it has most international and local agencies there. Always rent with a reputable company like Discover Cars, so you don’t have any surprises when you go to pick up your car.

Make sure to get liability insurance, and you’ll be on your way to an epic road trip adventure!

renting a car in puerto vallarta pin


  • Lora Pope

    Lora Pope is a travel content creator who’s been wandering solo for over a decade. In 2021, she moved to Puerto Vallarta and fell in love at first sight. After visiting 70+ countries, she decided to make it her base and now helps travelers like you make the most of your time in PV.

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