Renting a car in Costa Rica can be challenging for some, but I promise that if you follow my instructions, you will have a good time! Here are the brief steps I outline in the video…
Before I begin, I will say this – it costs NOTHING to book a rental car and then cancel it, so if you can, book it as soon as possible. It seems as though the rental car companies are working it such that last minute rentals are MUCH MORE expensive than those booked well in advance. Better to have that rate locked than to wait and discover that it’s now five times the price! Lower season and/or quiet times we can rent a car for about $25/day with the third party insurance (this would show as $10/day online not including taxes and insurance).
Before you begin anything, call your credit card company to see if you have rental car insurance coverage for Costa Rica. If you have a travel card of some sort, it is VERY likely you have insurance coverage. If you have it, you can save a bunch of money. If your credit card company can provide you some proof of insurance, get them to email it to you and print it off.
Next – search for a rental car on Expedia – my recommended rental agencies are (they are really one company here) National, Alamo or Enterprise. Do not choose the cheapest option here – choose from these three, or another reputable brand such as Hertz if it should happen to be your choice. Others may SEEM less expensive, but you will very likely regret that choice.
For whatever reason, you will get better rates from Expedia than from the rental company directly and….
If you do NOT have credit card coverage, then I recommend Expedia’s $11/day coverage, it is very comprehensive and totally reasonable compared to what you will pay at the counter (it is easily double for the same/similar coverage).
When you arrive, they will try to sell you insurance. If you have some proof (credit card or otherwise, show them). You will NEED to pay for their mandatory third party coverage, it will not be covered by Expedia’s insurance or your credit card company (not that I have ever seen either way). Expect $11-$13/day ONLY. Do not agree to any other coverage – it will invalidate your credit card or Expedia coverage if you accept anything more than basic third party liability.
Side tip – never buy the fuel fill up option when renting a car ANYWHERE including Costa Rica unless you are really big on the convenience of not stopping at a gas station – it is never, ever, ever a good deal for you, but is a really good deal for them (there is no way to get that tank empty obviously without running it out of gas completely, therefore they are always making a substantial profit on this).
FYI all gas stations in Costa Rica are 24 hours, and all are full serve – you do not have to fill the tank. So long as you have a gas car, to fill it at the station all you need to say is “lleno regular” which sounds like “yeahno regular” and they will fill the tank for you… very very straightforward.
Other, unrelated to where you are renting a car on planet eart tip – if you want a car, and don’t care about the size – rent the cheapest thing. You will almost always get a free upgrade to something larger.
And to answer the other question, depending on where you are planning to go in the country, almost all major roads are now paved, and so a car will get you where you want to go. Pay attention to hotels and B&B’s – if they say 4×4 required, then you will want to either have one, or skip that place. In dry season most roads are passable with most things, but in rainy season you may have a tougher go of things.
Now… the video…