Car rental companies guide in Costa Rica 2015

Car rental companies guide in Costa Rica

Rate comparisons for 2015

Car hire in Costa Rica is a chance to explore the secluded beaches and quiet corners of this breathtaking country. Travel without the restrictions stipulated by the public transport timetable and with freedom on group travel. For the unprepared traveler; however, the costs and services for car rental can be a major shock and a blow to that vacation budget.

Renting a vehicle for your vacation is probably the most expensive part of your budget, so understanding the conditions and managing expectations is very important. The information below is not intended as a comprehensive guide, but it should guide you towards an informed decision for your car rental needs in Costa Rica.

Why is car hire so expensive?

Visitors from outside Costa Rica are often surprised by the cost of car rental. Although hotel rooms, restaurant bills and tours are lower than the prices paid at home, it may seem strange that car rental must be more expensive.

There are two simple reasons for these high costs:

  1. All vehicles in Costa Rica are imported and a tax is levied. Because of this heavy tax, the costs of buying a vehicle are higher than in other industrialized countries. There are a number of car rental companies that rent older vehicles to reduce their costs.
  2. The costs of compulsory insurance (see below).

Factors affecting car rental costs

Compulsory insurance

Third party insurance, known as TPI, PDW (partial non-life insurance), SLI (Additional Liability Insurance) and other abbreviations is a legal requirement. Tenants from car rental companies must ask the customer for this coverage that may or may not be clear in the offer that the customer receives.

The insurance itself is not the problem. After all, many other countries require car hire companies to pay compulsory insurance; including: New Zealand, Italy and Mexico, as well as a number of US states, such as California. The problem that leads to conflict in Costa Rica is that these costs are not always clearly displayed on the website of the car rental company or in a quote. Customers then discover the extra costs of their rental on arrival.

The costs of compulsory insurance vary from company to company and depend on the car category that is also rented. The cost for a small sedan can be as low as $ 12 a day, while a premium 4×4 vehicle could be $ 25 a day for insurance. This is in addition to the rent.

Credit cards in North America usually offer car insurance as an extra benefit for the credit card holder, so North Americans are not accustomed to having to pay in addition to the rental costs for the insurance. . However, there is no credit card that covers this insurance requirement.

Please ask whether the quotation provided contains a third-party liability insurance and check the prices on the website of the car rental company.

Collision damage [19659002] This is not insurance but a waiver. The basic level comes with a deductible that varies, but can go up to $ 1500. For a higher daily rate, a deductible CDW with zero duty can be purchased to relieve the tenant of any financial responsibility in case of damage to or theft of the vehicle.

Many tenants will receive their CDW through their credit card. However, it is worth noting that the responsibility for making an insurance claim lies with the customer and not with the car rental company. Some tenants may choose to purchase additional internal cover to avoid this responsibility.

There will be car rental companies that sell their own coverage plans hard by guaranteeing peace of mind, but ultimately this is the tenant's decision. It is worth remembering that employees of car rental companies, as in other parts of the world, sometimes earn commission for the sale of insurance.

If the customer's credit card does not provide CDW, the customer must buy this internally

Car renters need written proof that the credit card from the customer provides CDW. Ask the car rental company for the exact details of what they need and in what form. Some may accept a forwarded e-mail from the credit card company, but others may request a printed copy at the time of renting.


The required down payment depends on whether the customer chooses to use the car hire company's own CDW or if he takes this cover with a credit card. Expect to pay a much higher deposit if the in-house CDW is refused. The deposit may also depend on rented car model. This amount, which is kept on the tenant's credit card until the end of the rental period, can range from $ 750 to a maximum of $ 3,500. The deposit should not take more than five days to be returned to the credit card on the return of the vehicle. Some car rental companies accept credit cards for retention, but the payback period for this amount can take weeks.

Make sure the down payment in the vacation budget is calculated if an unexpected amount of a few thousand dollars on a credit card can otherwise seriously cut spending on vacation expenses.

Airport taxes

Customers who rent from a car rental company in an airport building are obliged to pay the airport tax.

Those Car Rental Operators with a counter at Juan Santamaria International Airport San Jose (SJO) are: Alamo / National, Budget, Dollar, Economy and Hertz. These companies add an additional tax of 12% to the rent.

The car rental companies with a counter at Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport (LIR) are: Avis, Budget and Economy. These companies add an additional tax of 3% to the rent.

To prevent this tax, take an airport shuttle with the car rental company to an office outside the airport.

Surcharges and Other taxes

There are a number of other mandatory fees that car rental companies can add to the rental price shown on the screen or shown in the quotation, or which are not released until the customer arrives. These potentially hidden costs may seem small if viewed separately, but these are usually daily rates, so they will add up quickly!

These may be:

License plate : less than $ 2 per day, but differs from company to company.

Environmental tax : less than $ 1 per day.

sales tax : all sales transactions in Costa Rica are subject to a 12% government imposed sales tax.

Car wash : recover an exceptionally dirty car and the cleaning costs can be added to the final payment. A car rental company charges $ 20 for this extra service.

Fuel costs : If the fuel tank is not filled to the same level as at the beginning of the rental period, then the car rental company will charge (usually to the nearest eighth of a tank). This charge is determined by the car rental company and is not subject to the fuel price set by the government which can be found at each petrol station.

Where should I reserve the vehicle?

confusion for travelers booking a rental car is the discrepancy between international car hire websites and the Costa Rican website for the same brand. Often the international websites are not aware of, or fail to mention, insurances, taxes and surcharges that are charged at the counter. This may be due to the fact that many recognized car rental brands in Costa Rica are not a foreign branch of the brand lessee, but are a franchise activity. This factor is also worth considering in terms of customer service expectations and other finer details. The Costa Rican franchise office may have its own way of working, apart from the same policy and guidelines that the customer may have experienced in other parts of the world.

It is therefore understandable that an online reservation can best be made via the local website and not the international site, wherever possible. A number of companies do not have a local website. In this case, check the details with a local staff member by telephone and request a written confirmation of the offer. Experience with live chat on the international websites indicates that the staff is trained in terms and conditions for the head office (usually the United States); they understand little of the policy to be observed in Costa Rica.

Car rental comparisons

In May / June 2013 I compared the prices and services of a number of car rental companies in Costa Rica and published the findings. To my surprise, the article is still regularly pirated on the internet, indicating that it is still useful and that an update was needed. The prices for this comparison were obtained in December 2014 and January 2015.

The ICT (Costa Rican Institute of Tourism) states that there are thirty registered car rental companies with eight others awaiting approval. However, there are many more agencies that rent cars for visitors. The selected car rental companies are those most often used by travelers:









National [19659002] Payless






Wild Rider

Exclusion of companies from final comparison

Budget, Economy, Payless and Toyota contacted, but this four companies have not provided accurate online rates. The Economy and Budget websites have one price, regardless of the dates entered, and customers must reserve a vehicle to honor the displayed price. Unfortunately, the Toyota website did not work until March. Apart from that, the price showed $ 0 for the remainder of the year. Payless has this disclaimer on their website: "Taxes and surcharges are beyond our control and are subject to change without notice."

Sending individual questions for each time period resulted in inconsistent results: budget offered the same price for all three examined time periods when receiving an e-mail request, which is highly unlikely; Economy reacted with different offers for the same dates of different staff members; and the e-mail quotations from Toyota for periods after the March prices quoted online did not match the listed prices in March (maybe the highlighted bids contain taxes that were not shown online). Payless can provide quotations by e-mail and telephone, but was not consistent with the prices for different seasons.

Avis is only excluded from the price comparison because they do not have an intermediate SUV category in their fleet.

Comparison information [19659002] Car rental, all taxes and surcharges and insurance costs of third parties are (presumably) calculated and ranked according to the weekly rent of a BeGo or comparable intermediate 4×4 from a location in San Jose / Alajuela (not from the airport) ))

The rates are calculated weekly and divided by seven to calculate daily costs that are more easily comparable. Because not all prices are fully transparent, the prices are as accurate as possible on the basis of the information provided by the websites of car rental companies, telephone calls and / or e-mails. Airport taxes are not included in these figures.

Shipping season (quotation for 13 – 20 July)

1. USave $ 43.37

2. Service $ 54.92

3. Fox $ 55.64

4. Hertz $ 58,17

5. Adobe $ 60.13

6. Alamo $ 60.99

7. Wild Rider $ 62.86

8. Dollar $ 63.35

9. Vamos $ 64.15

10. National $ 67.04

11. Thrifty $ 74.39

Low season (offer for 13 – 20 May)

1. National $ 37.04

2. USave $ 43.37

3. Dollar $ 46.49

4. Adobe $ 52.57

5. Vamos $ 53.15

6. Service $ 53.49

7. Hertz $ 54.59

8. Fox $ 55.64

9. Wild Rider $ 55.71

10. Alamo $ 60.99

11. Thrifty $ 74.39

High season (offer from 13 March to 20)

1. Dollar $ 55.92

2. USave $ 56.22

3. Hertz $ 56.67

4. Fox $ 59.36

5. Thrifty $ 64.69

6. Service $ 66.63

7. Vamos $ 67.14

8. Alamo $ 69.56

9. Wild Rider $ 70.00

10. Adobe $ 70.63

11. National $ 73.90

Overview of equation

Interestingly, there is no clear expensive or cheap business of those who are compared. The variation in ranking between seasons is highlighted and customers have to consider their holiday dates when choosing the car rental company. Thrifty, for example, seems to be the most expensive for both the low and the shrub season, but is only in fourth place in the high season.

It is also important that the pricing is not consistent with the rankings at car rental companies in other cars. categories. For example, the price of Vamos is the cheapest for a premium vehicle in the fall season; Although they are not the first in a ranking for the intermediate category and Adobe seems competitive, they are the most expensive for this period and car category.

Information about car rental companies

Adobe Rent-A-Car is a local car rental company with eleven offices across the country. The website is simple and easy to use without visible hidden costs. The mandatory insurance costs are shown as part of the online quote. The company receives mixed reviews online, but more positive than negative comments are made. E-mails receive an answer within 24 hours, but they may not fully answer the questions asked.

Free phone number: 1-855-861-1250

Child seat: $ 3 / day

Booster: $ 1 / day

Extra driver: $ 3 per day

GPS system: $ 9 per day

Alamo cooperates with National and has thirteen offices across the country. As with many big names, Alamo Costa Rica is a franchise and not an affiliate of Alamo itself. WA and CDW are included in the online quote, although the CDW can be refused on presentation of proof of coverage via the customer's credit card. This makes the prices seem high at first glance, especially when, unlike other car rental companies, Alamo includes airport taxes in their online quotation and their price is fair, but therefore seems much higher than other companies. Prices are different on the company's international website, although the terms and conditions state which costs are paid on arrival. This price difference is the main cause of negative reviews for this company. E-mails will be answered within 24 hours.

Free phone number: 1-855-533-1196

Child seat: $ 3 / day

Extra driver: $ 6 per day

GPS system: $ 12 / day

The website of Avis requires someone to select an auto-security option, but it does not show a final quotation total or price for the online selected coverage until a quote has been sent by e-mail. Cover costs can be obtained by clicking on the option & # 39; Protections Explained & # 39; at the bottom of the screen.

No toll-free phone number

Child seat: $ 5 / day

Extra driver: $ 5 per day [19659002] GPS system: $ 9.99 / day

Budget has a website that is easy to use but the stated price is the same for all seasons, indicating that it is not correct. E-mail responses were normally fast, but some remained unanswered. Quoted emails showed the same pricing for all seasons as the website did. Compulsory insurance is not included in the online quote, but the small print states that this must be paid at the counter. Budget receives mixed online reviews.

No toll free number, but Live Chat is offered

Child seat: $ 5 per day

Extra driver: $ 5 per day

GPS system: $ 14.99 / day [19659002] Dollar seems very have competitive rates, but airport taxes are applied when the vehicle is picked up at the airport counter. One can find this in their terms and conditions, but not in their online offers. Car washing tax is enforced for very dirty vehicles. There are four offices in Liberia and San Jose. The reply by e-mail is within 24 hours. Dollar receives mixed reviews from online travel forums.

Free phone number: 1-877-767-8651

Child seat: $ 5 / day

Extra driver: $ 5 per day

GPS system: $ 9 / day

Economy has twelve offices in the entire country. They do not have a Costa Rican website. Scroll down on their page to find insurance costs and click. Airport taxes are not included in the quotation. E-mails receive a quick response or no response at all. Economy has the worst online reputation of a major car rental company in Costa Rica.

Free phone number: 1-877-326-7368

Child seat: $ 10 / day

Extra driver: $ 10 / day

GPS system: $ 15 per day

Fox works together with USave. Offices are located at both international airports. E-mails receive an answer within 24 hours. Online reviews are generally poor.

Free phone number: 1-800-225-4369

Child seat: $ 5 per day

Extra driver: $ 10 per day (unless partner)

GPS system: $ 9.99 / day [19659002] Hertz has six offices in the country. Reservations can be made via a Costa Rican website. The first online quotation does not include sales tax, but the CDW, although CDW may be deviated from the proof of coverage of the credit card. E-mails receive an answer within 24 hours. Moderate reviews on travel forums.

No toll-free number

Child seat: $ 5 per day

Extra driver: $ 13 per day

GPS system: $ 12 per day

National works in collaboration with Alamo and has thirty offices in company throughout the country. The company has a Central American website, as well as the international site, which clearly shows the breakdown of prices. CDW is included in the online quote, but it may be disabled to receive a quote with only compulsory insurance. Note that the airport tax is also included in the online quote. Direct answers to questions are available via Live Chat on their website. Reviews are mixed, but there are more positive than negative ones.

Free phone call option via website

Child seat: $ 6 / day

Booster: $ 6 / day

Additional driver: $ 5 per day

GPS system: $ 12 / day [19659002] Payless is part of the international car rental company and does not have a Costa Rican website. Online quotations do not include third-party insurance, although the information about this can be found in the policy for the San Jose location. E-mails receive a response in less than 24 hours, but tend to refer back to the website instead of new information. Reviews are more negative than positive.

Free phone number: 1-800-PAYLESS

Child seat: $ 5 / day

Booster: $ 5 per day

Extra driver: $ 10 per day

GPS system: $ 9.95 / day

Service is a local company with five offices in the country. Click on a further clear website at & # 39; Book now & # 39; and not on & # 39; Request a quote & # 39; for an online price check. Rember is the staff member mentioned in travel reviews for his helpful customer service and the company generally receives good reviews. E-mails are answered within 24 hours and usually give the requested information.

U.S. Telephone number: 1-305-897-3718

Child seat: $ 3.50 / day

Additional driver: $ 3 per day

GPS system: $ 7.50 / day

Thrifty has no local website, so information is via the international website. Cover options or information related to third party liability insurance is not provided on the reservation page until you click & # 39; Security Information & # 39; click. E-mails receive a response within 24 hours, but may not provide answers to location-specific questions. Reviews are often negative due to price complaints.

Free phone number: 1-800-344-1705

Child seat: $ 5 / day

Booster: $ 5 per day

Extra driver: $ 12 / day

GPS system: $ 11 , 99 / day

Toyota is a big name; although at first glance their website seems professional, it simply does not work, or at least it did not work to get offers later than March 2015. Their online offers do not contain sales tax. E-mails receive quick answers, but quotations for different seasons turned out to be contradictory. However, Toyota has a good reputation on travel forums. There are eight offices spread across the country.

Free telephone call option via website

Child seat: $ 5 per day

Cooler: $ 1.50 per day

Additional driver: $ 3 per day

GPS system: $ 10 / day [19659002] USave cooperates with Fox and has three office locations. Insurance options are shown for the online quote, but these must be selected and recalculated & # 39; must be pressed before it is included in the price determination. E-mails receive an answer within 24 hours. The company generally receives bad reviews, but there are some positive comments on travel forums.

Free phone number: 1-800-467-3659

Child seat: $ 5 / day

Extra driver: $ 10 / day

GPS system: $ 9.95 / day

Vamos is a local company that is a popular choice for experts in the field of Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet because of their customer service and pricing. The website is easy to use and the specified costs are clearly displayed. The Live Chat option enables direct personalized quotes and answers from English-speaking employees. The company has three offices.

Free phone number: 1-800-950-8426

Child seat: free

Booster: free

Extra driver: free

GPS system: $ 8 / day

Wild Rider is a small, local company located only in San Jose. The website is easily included in the price with a liability insurance. At the start of this research the pricing was not up-to-date, but this has now been remedied. This car rental company stands out for having only positive reviews and is therefore strongly recommended by users of the travel forum. Owner, Thorsten, answers questions during office hours within an hour.

US. Phone number: 1-917-477-7712

Child seat: $ 5 / day

GPS system: $ 8 / day

General summary


Adobe, Alamo, National, Service, Vamos , and Wild Rider offer clear and complete rates on their websites. The other car rental companies were less transparent with allowances or taxes, such as airport taxes or sales taxes. Prices for extras were not always easy to find, and Avis, Thrifty and Toyota had to be contacted for these details.


Communication levels have improved since the first comparison, although it seems wise to have a local number and confirm responses with the Costa Rica office of the international car rental companies, as international chats or responding to e-mails, do not seem always 100% sure of the local policy and can even give incorrect information.

Be prepared to exchange a number of e-mails in order to get full answers to questions from a number of companies: Budget and Economy were particularly sensitive to this – requesting a lot of information to make a quotation. It is not unreasonable for members of staff who work in a second language to miss aspects of an e-mail, so ask questions in clear and simple language.

Live chat on both the Budget and Vamos websites means that information can be provided directly and still documented, as opposed to a telephone call.


The comparison above shows that the pricing between companies is highly dependent on the season and the category of cars that are being considered, rather than a clear choice between more or less expensive rents. [19659002] Customers have to take into account the pricing of other items, such as additional driver's or a GPS system, and families want to compare the prices of car seat rentals. Wild Rider offers the first additional driver for free, VAMOS does not charge extras, except the GPS, and in general international companies have higher costs for these extras than the local companies.

So Who Do I Rent From?

It is clear that local car rental companies continue to outdo the big names in their transparency and customer service when comparing their websites and online ratings. The difference with the previous tariff comparison of a few years ago is that the pricing has become more difficult to match.

Adobe, Alamo and National seem to score well as international car rental companies. It is worth noting that National is the most expensive in the high season for the intermediate category, but the cheapest in the low season. Adobe and Alamo are ranked on average for prices.

Wild Rider is exceptional in having zero bad reviews, but is only based in San Jose and has a much smaller vehicle fleet. Service and Vamos come from the other local companies and Vamos & # 39; free extras attract budget-friendly travelers and families with young children. Service also offers these extras at low daily rates.

Last but Certainly not least …

When you've come all the way through this article, you're ready to start your research on your holiday home, armed with facts and ready to recognize those prices that are just too good to be true! A wonderful (and affordable) holiday in beautiful Costa Rica!

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