Renting a Car in Costa Rica: Clearing Up the Confusion

If you’ve looked into renting a car for your trip to Costa Rica, you may be uneasy about the details. Maybe you’re unsure about the process of renting. Maybe you’re confused about the prices. Or maybe now you’re questioning your quote after hearing stories of getting charged more money upon arrival. If this sounds like you, this article has the answers.

 

Renting a Car in Costa Rica: Clearing up the Confusion

 

First, don’t be discouraged. Renting a car doesn’t have to be stressful and is a great way to explore Costa Rica. In our years living in Costa Rica, we have rented dozens of times from at least 5 different rental car companies. We also deal with rental car agencies on a daily basis for our clients and know what to watch for. Below we’ll give you the latest information about renting a car in Costa Rica and provide the resources you need to check your quote or get a new one (with a discount).

Rental Car Agencies in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has more than 30 different rental car agencies (and probably upwards of 50 if you include the very small ones). Some of them are global corporations that you might recognize like Alamo, Enterprise, Eurocar, and Hertz. Others are quite small and may have names like Mango J’s Car Rentals. The point is, with all this competition, there is a lot to sort through.

Going with a bigger company has its advantages. These agencies usually have multiple locations around Costa Rica and more support staff. They also tend to have newer cars in better condition. Some of the discount or smaller agencies may use older models that are less reliable. 

IMPORTANT: If you are looking at prices for one of the bigger companies, make sure to search for their Costa Rica website if they have one. The quotes that come from big corporate websites are often lacking Costa Rica-specific charges like insurance (more info below). Same goes for third-party websites like Priceline, Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, and Holiday Autos. Their rates may seem outstanding but are rarely accurate.

The company with one of the largest fleets in Costa Rica surprisingly is not a global giant. It is a Costa Rican company called Adobe Rent a Car. This is who we recommend all the time because of their transparency and customer service. We also offer a great discount through them for our readers. Adobe has 16 offices around the country and all new cars in their fleet. We’ll talk more about some benefits of them throughout this article.

Where Can You Rent a Car in Costa Rica?

Most of the rental car companies have main offices near the San Jose (SJO) or Liberia (LIR) airports. The larger companies have additional field offices around the country in popular destinations. It is possible to rent in one office location and drop off at another. You just have to pay a fee, which varies by company and pickup and drop off location. Some people also just shuttle between destinations and rent a car locally for shorter periods during their trip.

Airport Pickup

If you are picking up at one of the international airports, it is important to note that none of the rental car agencies have actual offices there. Instead, they have desks or representatives that will meet you. These employees will direct you to their complimentary shuttle van, which will drive you 5-10 minutes down the road to their actual office. These vans can hold your entire traveling party, with luggage. Some companies charge an airport pickup fee (more on this below).

 

Airport Pick up for Rental Cars in Costa Rica
Typical airport shuttle van

 

Process of Renting a Car in Costa Rica – What’s Required

To rent a car in Costa Rica, you will need the following:

1.) A Valid Driver’s License – Most travelers can use their driver’s license from their home country to drive in Costa Rica. But be sure to check with the rental car company for their specific requirements. Some companies require you to have had a license in your home country for at least two years. You may need an international driver’s license if your license is in an alphabet other than the Roman alphabet (e.g., Mandarin).

2.) Passport with a Valid Immigration Stamp – A current passport with a valid entry stamp is required. You’ll receive this stamp at the immigration desk when you enter the country and it is normally valid for 90 days.

3.) Minimum Age – Drivers must be a certain age to rent a car. This varies by company. Some have strict policies and others charge extra per day for young drivers. Here are some examples:

  • Adobe Rent a Car – Minimum age 23
  • Alamo, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz – Minimum age 21 (between ages 21-24, an additional fee applies)
  • Economy and Poas Rent a Car – Minimum age 18 (between ages 18-20, an additional fee applies)
  • Toyota Rent a Car – Minimum age 21

4.) Credit Card – You also will need a credit card (in the driver’s name) to put down a deposit. A few companies will accept a debit card as well, if it is a major card company (Visa, Master Card, etc.). Deposits vary but are typically around $1,000-$2,500. This hold is released when you return the car but could take several days or up to a week to process.

How Much Should You Expect to Pay?

Prices for rental cars fluctuate greatly by time of year, type of car, the company, and supply and demand. In general, prices are higher during peak travel months when inventories are lower (December to April, and also July). Be sure to rent several months in advance when visiting during the busiest times (especially Christmas, New Years, and Easter Week) because cars do sell out. On the other hand, prices in the low season can be very appealing, especially in September or October when tourism is at its slowest. Here is some general information about what you can expect to pay.

Estimated Cost of Renting a Car in Costa Rica
   High Season4×2 Sedan$250 to $450 per week
   High Season4×4 SUV$650 to $850 per week
   Low Season4×2 Sedan$200 to $300 per week
   Low Season4×4 SUV$300 to $650 per week

 

These prices are general estimates to give you an idea. They include the basic insurance that is mandatory (more on this below). If you’re seeing prices that are drastically lower, keep reading to find out why.

Rental Prices & Insurance – WHY IS IT SO CONFUSING?

When getting a quote for a rental car in Costa Rica, you will see huge differences in price from one website to the next. The biggest reason there is so much confusion is insurance. A certain level of insurance coverage is required by Costa Rican law and not all companies or websites include this cost in their quote. In fact, many of them hide it!  

According to ACAR (the Costa Rica Car Rental Association), most online travel booking sites rarely include the mandatory insurance.

“For pricing to appear competitive, often fees, taxes and surcharges are buried in small print or dismissed in a vague statement.” –ACAR

Adding up to as much as $25 per day, this mandatory insurance can increase the overall price of your rental car by hundreds of dollars. When you arrive in the country and suddenly find out that your quote did not have this, you have two choices: waste your precious time trying to find another rental car agency or pay the extra money and drive away with a bad start to your vacation.

 

Watch out for the fine print on rental car contracts!
Beware of the fine print!

 

The above example is one of the biggest reasons that we advise our readers and clients to use Adobe Rent a Car. Like we mentioned above, this company is completely transparent with their quote. They include all charges, including mandatory insurance, right from the beginning. Additionally, we offer a discount of 10-20% off their base prices, which makes them a great value compared to competitors.

What to Look for on Your Rental Car Quote

Base Price and Required Insurance

Regardless of the company, every rental car quote for Costa Rica should have the following three items. The first two are fixed/required charges and the third may be avoided if you can meet the requirements. If any of these charges are left off your quote, you should look further at the fine print. They WILL charge you for them when you arrive.  

1.) Car Base Price – This is the daily price for the car itself, before any insurance or add-ons. It typically ranges from as little as $1 per day to as much as $75+ per day. This is always included so don’t fret over this one.

2.) Liability Insurance – This is the third-party liability insurance that is required in Costa Rica that we talked about above. It covers damage you cause to third parties and their property. Coverage is limited and there is often a deductible so be sure to check the specifics with the company you are using.

This is the most common insurance that is not included in rental car quotes. It can add hundreds of dollars to your quote. The price varies depending on what type of car you are renting but typically ranges from $12 to $25 per day. Usually the larger the vehicle, the more expensive it is. Depending on the agency, this insurance might also be called:

  • Liability Protection (LP)
  • Third Party Insurance (TPI)
  • Third Party Liability (TPL)
  • Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI)
  • Additional Liability Insurance (ALI)

3.) Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) – This is not an actual insurance but is a waiver of financial responsibility for damage to or theft of the rental car. So basically it covers damage to the rental car itself if you’re in an accident or the car is stolen. It has certain coverage restrictions (often does not cover vandalism, towing charges, etc.) and usually has a deductible.

CDW or LDW is required by all rental agencies but often can be declined if you show your own coverage. People with major credit cards often have this benefit through their card agreement. Visa, for example, provides CDW coverage. To decline, you will need to show proof of your own coverage through a letter from your credit card company. This is something that can be done with a quick phone call. They have a form letter that they usually can email to you. Most rental car companies require that the letter have the name and the credit card information of the primary driver.

Be aware that your credit card agreement may contain restrictions or caveats (e.g., definitions of major roads and “off-roading,” type of vehicles that are covered, time limits to the rental period). These special terms may make filing a claim more complicated. CDW/LDW is typically around $5-$15/day if you choose to get it through the rental car company.

Optional Insurance

Just like with cars you have rented in your home country, there is always some type of higher coverage you can purchase. Considered something of a full or premium coverage, this insurance typically gets rid of the deductibles for third-party liability and CDW/LDW. It may also increase coverage limits to a high dollar amount.

People often ask us if they should pay for this. The truth is, it is a very personal decision and one you have to make on your own. Many people do opt for the extra coverage for peace of mind, while just as many go without. The price for this insurance ranges from around $13-21 per day, so it can add up. Depending on the agency, it may be called Extended Protection, Super Protection, Deductible Protection, Limited Loss Waiver, or something else.

Here’s a quote that includes all of the necessary options:

 

What to look for on a rental car quote in Costa Rica

 

Other Things to Watch Out for on Your Quote

Big Deposits and Credit Card Holds

Almost all rental car agencies will put a hold on your credit card. The amount depends on the type of car but normally ranges from $1,000-$2,500 (Adobe’s is $1,000-$1,500). We first learned about giant deposits being charged when we met a nice couple visiting Costa Rica for the first time. They told us they were having a great time aside from getting their rental car at the airport. They used a small company (unknown to us), and when filling out the paperwork, were told the deposit was $5,000! This couple was planning to use that credit card for purchases during their trip, so a hold like that was devastating. They eventually figured out a solution, but it took several hours and some scrambling. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it to their first destination that night because of the time they had wasted.  

Extra Charges and Hidden Fees

Sometimes the price of your rental car includes the insurances listed above and seems like a fair deal. However, once the rental car agency starts adding on charges (sometimes hidden), your price keeps going up. Keep an eye out for these extra charges that can really hurt your wallet.

Airport Fees

Some companies charge up to 13% of the total price for this fee. So a $500 rental (base price plus insurance) can become $565. Note that most companies don’t charge an airport fee. The ones that we know of that do are Alamo and Enterprise.

Environmental Fees

These are not very common and usually less than $1/day but add up on longer rentals.

License Plate Fee

We have seen this one on Alamo and Enterprise as well. They were charging $1.50 per day for this.

Mileage (Distance)

Most rental car companies have unlimited mileage but at least one that we know of, Hertz, has mileage restrictions and related charges for shorter rentals of 1-2 days.

Pick up/Drop-off Fees

These fees are normal, if you are picking up at one location and dropping off at another. They can be as little as $20 or upwards of $100 (for a cross-country journey). Just make sure that they are included in your quote from the beginning and aren’t exuberant. Some companies, like Adobe, have a list of the specific fees on their website.

Local Delivery

Some companies may charge you if you request car delivery to your hotel. Others, like Adobe, will deliver to hotels or rentals within a certain range of their office for free.

Optional Add-ons

Some add-ons are not so scary and will actually help you during your trip. Most companies offer the same options. This is one area where being a Two Weeks in Costa Rica reader really can be beneficial. Not only do we offer the rental car discount of 10-20% mentioned above, but many of these add-ons are either discounted or free when you book through our site.

Extra Driver

Having an extra person be able to drive can be really nice, especially on long hauls. Most companies charge around $10-$13/day for this. Our readers get 1 extra driver (2 drivers total) free of charge through Adobe.  

GPS

GPS works fairly well around Costa Rica, but if you’ve ever had one, you know that they sometimes can take a while to get the hang of. Be patient setting your course or ask the rental car associate to help you before heading down the road. Ten minutes of technical stuff can save you hours if you get lost. GPS devices range from $12-$15/day for most companies. These are $6/day when rented through our link.

WiFi

This is not offered by all companies but is really cool. It’s a small portable stick that works off the local cell phone towers (like your phone does) and makes a hotspot in the car. Wifi ranges from $10-$15 per day. This is great for navigation. You can download the Waze App on your phone, which works really well here, or follow along on Google Maps (fairly accurate but can take you down some backroads). It is also beneficial if you have Internet junkies in your family or someone who needs to check in with work (hopefully not!).

Cell Phone

A handful of companies offer cell phone rentals for around $10/day. When you rent through our link, a cell phone can be requested, free of charge. These phones are nothing fancy. They’re a basic track phone that you can use if you need to call a local number or the rental agency. These are loaded up with a few hours’ worth of minutes and you can add more at most supermarkets.

Car Seats for Kids

These are an important add-on and are required in Costa Rica for children 12 and under (up to 57 inches/145 cm or 79 pounds/36 kg). Our post Traveling with a Baby in Costa Rica has more on the specific requirements.

Most rental car companies have infant bucket seats, convertible seats, boosters with a back, and backless boosters for older kids. Some of the smaller, budget companies may not have all these options so be sure to ask if you’re not sure what they are offering you. If you are uncomfortable with unfamiliar brands (the types offered vary), we suggest bringing your own.

Our readers receive free car seats when booking through our discount link with Adobe. Other companies charge around $5-$10 per day for these.

 

Renting a Car in Costa Rica and Car Seats
Examples of the car seat types available through Adobe

 

Surf Racks

If you’re coming to Costa Rica with your surfboard, you’ll want to make sure you have the proper vehicle to carry it. Surfboard racks can be requested from many agencies. If you’re using our Adobe link, you can request one free of charge. Just be sure to communicate with the reservations department ahead of time since these are limited and only fit certain car models.

Conclusion

Costa Rica’s car rental industry is indeed complex. But if you know what to look for, you can cut through the confusion. We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to pick a reputable company with a strong track record. Double check your quote, read the fine print, and make sure you understand what’s going to happen (and what you’ll be charged for) when you arrive.

If you need a quote or want to switch companies, we highly recommend Adobe Rent a Car. We’ve used them ourselves, for friends and family, and have had thousands of readers and clients use them as well—all with excellent feedback. They lay it all out for you beforehand and have great customer service if you have questions. When renting through Adobe, be sure to use our discount to take advantage of those savings and benefits that we mentioned above.

And most of all, leave the rental car confusion behind and enjoy Costa Rica!  

 

Adobe banner 3Book through our Adobe Link to get the following benefits:

  • 10-20% discount on car prices
  • Discounted GPS (only $6/day)
  • Free second driver
  • Free delivery to hotels nearby
  • Free cell phone
  • Free car seats for kids
  • Free surf racks
  • Free cooler
  • Awesome customer service!

 

This article is based on our knowledge of the rental car industry as a travel agency and website. It is only intended to be a resource for what to look for when getting a rental car quote in Costa Rica. We are not experts on insurance. If you are unsure about any of the coverages and limitations with the company you are booking through, we recommend doing your own due diligence and contacting them directly.

Have a question about renting a car in Costa Rica? Post your comment below. (Subscribers, click here to post your comment online.)

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56 Comments

  1. My friends & I visited Costa Rica last year & I am still trying to figure out when I can get back.. but thanks to your blog & all of the information provided we felt very comfortable renting a vehicle. We had many people telling us prior to our visit that we are crazy if we rent a car. WE ARE SO GLAD WE RENTED A CAR! We rented through Adobe (thanks to your suggestion & discount) & it was such a pleasant experience with them, starting from the pickup at the airport til the end returning the car. Thank you as always for the detailed information you provide, from one of probably thousands of visits.. it is very appreciated!

    1. Hi Kristin, That’s great to hear that you had such a good experience with Adobe and were happy that you rented a car! A car is the best way to see the country for sure, if you’re comfortable driving. Hope you can get back soon. Pura vida!

  2. Unfortunately we had one of those bad unexpected experiences. Feb 2018 rented a small SUV for 10 days at the Liberia airport from Economy, booked through Expedia. Quoted rate $170.31 CAD. Total charged with insurance $1,076.54 CAD – ouch!
    Will definately take your advice next time. We love CR, but the car rentals…not so much.

  3. Very good advice and I followed it! And everything worked out great! Most important – bring a gps map program or rent one. I’m cheap so I almost tried to go without the gps but I would have been miserable without it. Getting around San Jose is impossible without it and it took all the stress out of driving. Adobe staff were always friendly and helpful.

    1. Agreed Jack! We almost always have our Waze on when driving in San Jose. Signage is bad and it’s so easy to get lost – and then it takes forever to get back on track because of traffic. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  4. My husband and I were in CR this past May. We loved your blog and found it very helpful. I realized the car rental situation was going to be different than what we are used to, so I read up on several sites to get an idea of how to handle it. We ended up renting through Budget, through rentalcar.com which included one type of insurance, and things worked out pretty well. In the past when we have rented out of the country, we were able to use our coverage that our credit card company provided. I called Budget and asked about it before we left. They said it would be fine, we didn’t need to purchase anything more. I also read where others went that way, one having to make a claim and it worked out just fine and another story of buying the expensive “extra” insurance and it didn’t cover damage that they caused. So quite a confusing thing, what to do! We ended up not buying extra insurance after a hard sell. They still put the $3000 hold on our card. Our total for 10 day trip, Toyota Rav 4 was $250. Now in our case, the car, which had less than 1000 miles on it, was pretty beat up. We made note of all the dents and scratches, so we wouldn’t be at fault. We drove on some pretty rough “roads” so I will say that you really should get 4-wheel drive when people suggest it. After reading reviews of most of the car rental companies from CR, I found that it can be SO different for everyone. Even with Budget, there were awful and wonderful reviews. You need to do what makes you comfortable and you certainly don’t want your trip ruined by a bad rental experience!

    We had a great first CR trip and found that WAZE was a godsend. It tripped us up a few times, but overall we would have been really lost without it. We had to get a $10-a-day plan with our phone provider in order to use it out of the country, but ended up making calls and other things as well, so worth it. We also purchased a fairly current lamenated map. Check the dates on the maps, I almost bought one at AAA that was from 2010. Amazon had a 2017 version. We tried to drive only during daylight when possible as finding places can be really tough. We found that lots of streets aren’t marked, really rough roads show up unexpectedly, there are some very narrow shoulders with people walking and riding at all hours and steep, scary drop offs on some roads. Thanks again for your helpful site!

    1. Hi Julie, It sounds like you did your homework, that’s great. Glad that the rental worked out for you. That’s strange that the car was so beat up but glad they didn’t give you a hard time about any of the damage when you returned it.

      Yes, Waze is so useful. We use it a lot here. It works well in San Jose and many other areas. Once in a while, it won’t know what to do in rural areas. We’ve heard from people getting lost using it to get to smaller national parks. In that case, it’s good to cross-reference Google Maps or use a hard copy map. That one you can get on Amazon is great. We recommend it in our packing list 🙂 Thanks for all the detail about how renting a car worked out for you!

  5. Good Article, and we did reserve our car for our next trip with Adobe, but they do not accept Credit Card letters according to their FAQ. Still a more transparent operation.

    1. Hi Dave, Adobe does accept letters from credit card companies to decline the Car Protection insurance. You have to show proof of CDW coverage through your credit card and the letter has to have the name of the cardholder on it and say that you’re covered in Costa Rica. We have done this before when we’ve rented through them and our clients do regularly as well. Their FAQs is a little confusing but we think they are just saying you cannot decline ALL insurance (i.e., basic liability insurance) with credit card coverage. Also, when you go to rent a car through Adobe, on the last page under Car Protection, it talk about how you can decline the Car Protection with written proof of coverage, then it refers you to their Terms and Conditions webpage, which says this: “The Car Protection (LDW) may be declined upon presentation of a letter from the credit card company that states coverage for a rental car in Costa Rica. Please consult: info@adobecar.com for further information.” Hope that helps!

    2. So, Dave, since Adobe doesn’t accept the credit card letters, what did you do? They say on their website to bring the letter.

      1. Hi Janice, Adobe absolutely accepts credit card letters to decline the Car Protection. If you have any questions, we recommend emailing (info@adobecar.com) or calling (1-855-861-1250) them directly.

      2. Yes I am going to take Jenns advice and get the letter anyway. Even without that their price is lower than the major agencies ( No airport fee)

    3. Hi Jenn and Matt,

      Can you tell me what current road conditions from the Liberia airport to Nosara are currently. I will be arriving in the evening thus will be driving at night. I would appreciate any advice.

      1. Hi Maureen, We highly recommend against doing that drive at night. We don’t recommend driving long distances after dark in general, and that drive in particular, shouldn’t be done in the dark if you are unfamiliar with the terrain because the roads are very dark and some are rough dirt. Read our Driving Tips post for more info. As for conditions, if you go via Route 21 to 150, most of it will be well paved but the last stretch from the Samara area to Nosara will be dirt. We recommend an SUV with higher clearance and 4×4 wouldn’t hurt!

  6. My flight out of Liberia airport is at 6:45 am on 12/10/18. I see they open at 5:00 a.m. Can they get me there in a comfortable time to check in to get home to the U.S. ?

    Thank you!

    Steve

    1. Hi Steve, That would probably be cutting it too close since you’re supposed to be at the airport 2 hours before your flight. We’d recommend dropping off the car the night before. If you’re renting through Adobe, they can pick up the car for free for you at your hotel near LIR. Just specify you would like this when making the reservation.

  7. Hi,
    Your blog has been very helpful, but one thing I can’t seem to find anywhere as far a rentals and budgeting for Costa Rica is any information about gas prices and availability of gas stations in more rural areas. I am planning on renting a 4WD vehicle and I have no idea how to budget for gas. Also, in the US I use gas buddy to find cheap gas prices… are there any similar apps for Costa Rica (I know that’s a long shot).
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Dana, Great question. Gas prices are regulated by the government so they will be exactly the same everywhere you go. The price fluctuates but is usually around 680 colones per liter, or $4.40/gallon. You will find gas stations along all major highways and in smaller towns in between, but it’s best to fill up beforehand if you’re driving a long distance. In general, though, there are plenty of stations around.

  8. I think that I rented a car through Adobe, but I have received confirmation. How can I tell if I sent the Information to Adobe or not?

  9. Hi, Jenn. Reading this blog and others’ questions has been so helpful. Thank you! I have read the Adobe website as thoroughly as possible, and I can’t find where they might mention what they determine what would be billable damages. What do you they consider when releasing the full amount of the deposit hold? I noticed they included “excessive dirt” as not included in insurance, and as we are renting a 4×4 and visiting during the rainy season, I would imagine the car would get excessively dirty. Do you find them to be fair in their assessments for returning the full amount of the deposit? Thank you!

    1. Hi Liz, We have been working with Adobe for several years now and have never received any complaints about deposits being unnecessarily withheld. If there is new damage to the car, they will charge you, but normal wear and tear and dirt should be fine. Everyone brings back the cars with some sand from the beach and a little jungle grime 🙂

  10. Hey Jenn and Matt,
    Thanks so much for this amazing resource that you’ve put together. So my family (myself, wife, and three children – 4yrs-10yrs and my in-laws) will be travelling to Costa Rica at the end of March. We’re flying into Liberia and will be travelling to Nosara for 10 days. I’m just trying to figure out our transportation options and wondering if you have any advice around that. Our initial plan right now is to do the majority of our vacationing in Nosara and hanging out at the beach. We did want to do a few excursions such as the Wildlife Refuge, visiting a national forrest, etc. In terms of cost effectiveness, I’m wondering is it cheaper for us to rent a car in Liberia for the entire duration of our trip vs shuttle there and back to Nosara and rent a vehicle in Nosara for our day trips? Any thoughts you might have around this would be great. Thank you!

    1. Hi Dan, Either option would work and the price would probably be similar. Depending on where you are staying in Nosara, you might want to have a rental car to get around town for restaurants, etc. It’s very spread out. Usually we recommend a car for people unless they are staying right in Guiones. If you decide to rent a car, be sure to check out our discount (we get free car seats for our readers too). Or if you need help with shuttles, send us a request through our Private Shuttle Booking page. Private shuttles are more economical for bigger groups.

  11. Just wanted to thank you for your wesome website, full of such great info! Just completed booking a trip for our family of 6 including 2cars using your links to Adobe. You have taken much of my stress about booking all away! We are so excited!

  12. So can you not rent a car if you don’t have a credit card? I personally don’t use credit cards at all and pay all cash (debit card) for all my purchases. Will I not be allowed to rent a car? I use Chase and have a Visa Debit if that helps at all?

    Why such high deposits/holds?

    1. Hi Lars, We think you do need a credit card to rent a car for the deposit, but you could contact Adobe to find out for sure. Their email is reservas(at)adobecar(dot)com.

      Cars have a very high value in Costa Rica so that’s the reason for the high deposits. New cars cost around 30% more on average.

  13. Your tips were helpful for me.

    Renting cars is about the most frustrating thing in Costa Rica. It feels like a scam, but with some additional info I think the challenges can be avoided.

    TPL [aka Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI)] – There is no way around this. It’s mandatory, regardless of what coverage your credit cards provide or other personal insurance you have. Most online rental agencies leave this number out of their prices, whether that’s Expedia or directly from the big rental car company site (Budget, Alamo, etc.). They’ll use some generalized version of ‘additional local charges may apply’.

    I used Booking dot com (branded Rentalcars dot com) and rented from Avis because they included TPL in the final price. I had to dig into the details to determine that. If your contract includes TPL, bring a hard copy of the invoice that indicates such. The only way to find out what the TPL charge would be if they are not included, would be to contact the local office of whatever company you’ve rented from and get the rates.

    CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) – No rental car companies include the CDW in the fees you see online. Your credit cards may have coverage to take care of the CDW the local agents say is mandatory, but you need to bring a hard copy letter from your credit card company stating that you have coverage. You may get away with providing the credit card company’s generic policy statement that says rental car insurance is included, but a letter is better. The letter should have the name of the credit card company on it. Local agents will tell you that one of the major credit card companies name’s has to be there because this is the only additional insurance they accept.

    Please note, personal 3rd party liability insurance, which should give you the ability to decline all rental car coverage was not applicable. Even if your coverage is from a company like Chubb (the biggest insurance company in the world), they will not accept it. It needs to be from a credit card company. See above.

    I watched a couple get dinged for $300 in unexpected charges at the time of rental. What an awful way to star a vacation.

    Side note. Rent a 4×4. The roads here get rough sometimes, so if you’re going further than Tamarindo, like Nosara or Santa Teresa you might prefer something larger. You could get by with the cheapest 4x4s they offer (Begos, Terios), but going slightly larger to something like a Nissan X-Trail will make you more comfortable.

  14. Hi there! Thanks for the informative post! I have a trip coming up soon with a car rental and had a question of a global liability policy that I have through my insurance at home – do you guys have any experiences with the waiving of the mandatory portion of the insurance policy (provided of course that I bring all the documentation to prove I am covered?) I’m booked with Budget – I would have gone with Adobe but they were all booked up! Also, do you know what the minimum insurance one must carry is? 1 million? 2 million? Thanks so much in advance!

    1. Hi Monique, As far as we know, you have to pay the mandatory liability insurance no matter what kind of other coverage you have. Your best bet would be to ask Budget directly if they’ll accept your global policy.

  15. Your website is so awesome and provides so much valuable information. Thank very much ! We have booked our rental car at Adobe via your website. It is wonderful to get the discount and other perks such as the free cell phone, free 2nd driver, and also a peace of mind.

    Questions: Does Adobe take credit cards that do not have the raised numbers ? Our credit cards now have the flat printed numbers only.

    Similar questions for other businesses in Costa Rica.

    Thank you very much for your help

    1. Hi Angela, Thank you for renting the car through our site! Yes, Adobe and just about all other businesses accept cards without raised numbers. They can do cards with chips. Hope you have a great visit!

  16. Hello Jenn and Matt,

    I just came across your blog and found it very interesting. We (my wife, my brother and his wife) are travelling to Costa Rica in March for a month. We have a condo rented and I have booked a car at the airport in Liberia. The broker agency is Economy Car rental. The actual company providing the car is called ‘Payless Car Rental’. My question is do yo know anything about this rental company? As far as I know the third party liability insurance is included in the price as I did an online chat with a rep who assured me it was included however a $2500 hold will be put on my credit card even though I have the coverage with my credit card company. I would appreciate any information you have regarding this company as it is still not too late to cancel and get my deposit refunded. We are really looking forward to this trip but do not want to start off with a downer because of the car rental. Thanks for any information you have. Regards, Peter

    1. Hi Peter, We have used Economy Car Rental before and had a good experience with the local office we used, though we have heard of others having not-so-great experiences. Not sure how they may be related to Payless Car Rental now. We don’t know anything about them. That’s good that you checked about the liability insurance being included. A hold on your credit card is normal and the amount doesn’t seem too outrageous.

  17. Hi Matt and Jenn, thank you very much for your quick response to my question earlier on credit cards without raised numbers. I have a couple more questions:
    1. What is the best way to contact the Adobe car rental company in Liberia ? I have called them a few times during office hours, but the line kept ringing with no one answering. The number I had called from the U.S was: 011.506.26670608.

    2. How often do thieves try to cause a flat tire on a rental car, in order to rob the owner later, when they pretend to help ?

    Thank you very much for your help.

    1. Hi Angela, Sorry for the delay in responding to this. That’s strange that you couldn’t get through to Adobe’s Liberia office. That is the right number that you have. You could also try their toll free number: 1-855-861-1250. Let us know if that still doesn’t work. We hear very rarely from anyone who has actually had that flat tire scam happen to them. I think it has been maybe 3 times in the past 5 years. It is something to be aware of but we wouldn’t worry too much about it.

  18. Thanks to your extensive blog we rented a car through Adobe. This was our 2nd time in Costa Rica and only found your site a few months ago. So much helpful information. Adobe rental was seamless, smooth and employees so helpful. GPS is necessary – the few extra dollars is worth it.

  19. My situation is a little complicated and I am wondering if you have any suggestions. I am traveling to Costa Rica with my three kids, and my 22 year old son wants to do most of the driving (I am nervous to drive there and he enjoys it so this makes the most sense). The problem comes because he is 22 and doesn’t have a credit card. Since he doesn’t have a credit card, I think I have to be the renter. I plan to use my credit card and be called the primary driver, and then put my son as an additional driver. It seems like Adobe won’t work for us because the minimum age is 23. Or is that only for the primary driver and not an additional driver? Do you know if the additional drivers always have the same age limits? And, is it really financially unwise to arrange the rental this way? Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Melanie, We think the minimum age to drive through Adobe is 23, for both the primary and any additional drivers. So you will have to find another company, unfortunately, if your son is going to be doing the driving. I think this is typically the case but there are other companies with lower minimum ages.

  20. Argh! This was the one page I didn’t read on your blog before our trip. We totally got slammed by insurance costs with Enterprise upon arrival at 11:00pm at night when we were exhausted. It even became a joke amongst our family that we needed to put use to the insurance. So when we were eating an amazing meal at, Ronny’s in Manuel Antonio, we joked that if the bull actually rammed our car as it seemed about to do, then at least we’d use the insurance. Insane car costs aside, it was fantastic to have the freedom of our own car. Google Maps came through on the entire trip!!

  21. How long does it take for adobe rental car to send the reservation email? It’s been about 4 hours, but I haven’t received anything yet. Any help you can give is appreciated!

  22. Hello,

    My partner and I are arriving October 19th and planning to drive most of our two weeks, even though we are first time visitors. I have read all your articles, and have actually been on and off your blog for a few years now! When I first looked into coming to Costa Rica. Long story short, I am still not confident on what vehicle to rent. I have read 4 wheel drive SUV at least or 4×4, and have also been told from people they were fine in a regular sedan car. We are planning to pick up our car in Guapiles, after busing from La Pavona boat docks. Our routes are: pick up spot to Cahuita. Cahuita to Puerto Viejo (with day drips to Punta Uva, Manzanillo) Then our final stretch is Cauhita to La Fortuna, and La Fortuna to San Jose airport. We will probably use bikes to get around during the day as well.

    Do you think we would make it around in a regular car? I am trying to work out the budget and SUV rentals are definitely more expensive. I have read that the Caribbean side is drier in October, so I was hoping the roads wouldn’t be as washed out. I apologize if this is asked a lot. I gained so much information from your articles on driving, just not certain on the choice of car.

    Thank you so much,

    Kyla.

    1. Hi Kyla, Thanks for following our blog all this time! With that itinerary, you can get away with a regular sedan. All the main roads between towns will be paved (except part of the road from La Pavona, which is flat), and if roads are washed out (hopefully they are not), they will be closed and impassable in any kind of car. So you can save your money. Hope you have a good trip!

  23. Hi! Thanks for this great post! I’m trying to budget for my trip with my 2 young kids (2,7)…I’m wondering if I need a 4×4 or if i can get away with a sedan…we’re traveling for 18 days in January 2020 and will be going from SJO to Poasito (to visit Poas and La Paz Waterfall), then to La Fortuna and to Playa Flamingo, and finally Manuel Antonio Park and back to SJO. Thank you in advance for your input!!!

    1. Hi Marina, the road to the Poas area is mountainous but paved and fine in a regular sedan. All the rest of your destinations don’t require 4×4 either unless you want to do some exploring on back roads. Hope that helps!

  24. Hi -We are going to be going to Costa Rica in April and I have a quote for a rental car from Enterprise. I am trying to figure out if it includes the mandatory insurance. Can you help me figure this out if I send you my estimate? Thank you!
    It says “Third Party Liability” is included. The total price for 8 days is $332.

    1. Hi Bridget, That price seems low for 8 days but it does sound like the mandatory liability insurance is included. We’d be happy to take a look at the quote to confirm. Just send it to info(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com.

  25. Hello you guys
    We are planning 13 days Dec 27 2019 to Jan 9 2020…kinda soon.
    There are 4 (3 worldly ladies and I) of us plus luggage and we’d like a comfy 4×4
    Adobe doesnt have anything suitable…can you suggest an alternate company?
    Ive subscribed to your site.

    Rgds
    Charlie

    1. Hi Charlie, You could check with any of the bigger companies. Just avoid small ones you’ve never heard of. You could also shuttle to your first destination then pick up a car there. A lot of times that opens up availability, since you’re not renting from the airport. Hope you can find something!

  26. Is there anyway to know what the hold on your credit card will be beforehand with Adobe? My highest limit card is only $1000 and I would hate to get there and not be able to rent the car because they were holding more than that. My plan is to take a shuttle to La Fortuna and then rent locally for 4 days.

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