Tricks of the Car Rental Trade

Sure, we love Costa Rica and so will you, but there are a few petty annoyances that make us watch out for our readers and you’ve landed here because you want to know more.

Generally, the cars are great and service us usually top notch. Its those pesky, sometimes common business practices regarding mandatory/optional auto insurance that is cause for extra scrutiny.


GOOD: OK,The Costa Rica government requires mandatory insurance for Third Party Liability (TPL) must be purchased from the Instituto Nacional De Seguros (INS) through your rental agency.

BAD: TPL costs a lot of money for visitors. Some rental agencies and Internet search engines prefer (usually, almost always) to offer less than full disclosure about what’s included, whats not, and how much for insurance and options. What is included on the more common websites and when calling agencies direct; usually nothing! That’s why the rates look so good, but its almost bait and switch. They generally quote the base price for the car rental itself. Period. Question them about the total, out-the-door price and conversations can go sideways very quickly.

UGLY: They much prefer to spring surprises when you’re at the rental agency desk or your delivery location, exhausted and more likely to cave after a long day of travel. A common practice is to get you to buy optional coverages or uhm “mandatory packages”. The only mandatory package we are aware of is the government mandated TPL which alone will add $12-23 a day. If you look vulnerable, you may even be told that if you don’t buy a “package”, they can’t rent to you. Of course you wanted a car, that’s why your spouse and your anxious kids are threatening you with your life if you don’t get a car right now (FACT: car rental Ticos can be immune to children’s noise and sobbing adults). Anything else that is implied by the rep is usually bonus pay material, made up on the spot or unlikely, a policy you should have been made aware of when making the reservation. You’re stuck, closing time is near!  You don’t want to forfeit your deposit do you?

WE ADVOCATE FOR FULL DISCLOSURE. We don’t recommend that you go uninsured or under-insured. Even though your credit card may provide coverage (primary is best), it might be more trouble than its worth to actually use it in Costa Rica. You will have to produce a document stating the extent of your coverage. This letter is provided by the credit card company and generally states exclusions, like N. Korea and Iran. The agencies often look to see if Costa Rica is specifically included, not excluded. If they don’t see Costa Rica, they can deny you, and sometimes do. If you found full coverage cheap enough, would you buy it and forgo the hassles, YES!  One call to your credit card company and they will email you the letter, print and keep with travel documents.  This tip alone is worth $25-35 per day, yes, per day!

Our preferred partner offers full coverage with various deductibles for less than the internet, the agency sites or with the hassles of working with your credit card company. Yet ultimately, you’re the boss and really depends on how deep you want to dig to make sure you’re properly covered.

When you use our preferred wholesale partner, your booking will be made with one of the major Costa Rican rental agencies: no funny business allowed at the rental desk! If, after you book, you decide you don’t like the car or plan, change it, cancel it for a full refund up to 48 hours prior to rental.