Car rental in Tulum/Cancun?
September 25, 2016 3:57 PM   Subscribe

What's my best car rental strategy in Cancun/Tulum? Details inside.

We are renting a place in Tulum in April next year with friends. We will be 8 people overall, flying in and out of CUN. I'm trying to sort through the different car rental options. Here are my questions:

1. Should I embrace or avoid renting the car at the CUN airport? Sometimes you can get better deals "off airport" in the US. Could I hire a "transfer" company to get us down to Tulum and then maybe rent a car in Tulum? I like the idea of not having to do the drive between Tulum and Cancun myself - e.g., insane highway, police checkpoints, etc. Am I too worried about that? Also, I figure there is a bigger "rip off" risk at the airport because you're basically a captive customer. But, maybe the airport is just the easiest way to go for a tourist.

2. Is there a particular reputable company you can recommend? The web is full of wildly varying advice - these guys are good, no they are crooks, etc. I have "gold" with Hertz - maybe just using Hertz at CUN or Tulum would be easiest? I know these are local franchises, not "corporate" Hertz.

3. For 8 people, it seems like a big minivan or SUV would be something like $1,000 for a week, whereas a sedan would be closer to $300. So I guess we go with two cars rather than one bigger one, which seems wasteful. Am I thinking about this right?

posted by Mid to Travel & Transportation around CancĂșn, Mexico (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've been to Riviera Maya lots of times, and I always rent a car.

Lessons I've learned:
- Cancun airport has cheaper rates than smaller places on the coast, and the small places have very poor selection of vehicles.
- Go with the large companies. The small ones sometimes have terrible cars.
- The highway from Cancun to Tulum is easy, no big deal at all, but sometimes backs up. If you were on a bus you would still be in that same traffic. Transfer from CUN to Tulum is really expensive anyhow. A waste of money.

I would rent 2 cars at Hertz in Cancun and enjoy the drive.
posted by littlewater at 4:06 PM on September 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

The biggest challenge about renting a car in Cancun was that availability was poor. We rented through Thrifty (I think, but it was a major company) and it turned out that they only held reservations for 3 hours; another couple in line was delayed by a late flight and were refused a car because their reservation had been automatically cancelled. Our car was mysteriously missing, but eventually they found one for us. When we brought the car back there was a crowd of people begging to be given the car immediately. Since it took forever to get the luggage and rent the car, allow plenty of time.

Once we got the car, the drive between CUN and Tulum was no big deal; it's well-signed and mostly 4 lane highway. The trip took about 2 hours. Since we saw lots of police, I was careful to obey the speed limit. Yes, there was a police check point in one town (on our way down, but not on our way back), but it was quick and easy. I just had to show my rental car agreement and was on my way.

You'll be better off with two sedans; lower fees, better gas milage and improved flexibility are always good.
posted by carmicha at 4:08 PM on September 25, 2016

I don't think you need to worry too much about the check points in this area. My family travels to Akumal / Tulum very frequently. I've never had a problem at a checkpoint nor has anyone I know. We've received very good rates on a rental car through a place called The Easy Way Cancun Car rental. I've heard there is a tax if you rent at the airport. I don't know much about it, but I read about it on trip advisor.

Every person we dealt with at The Easy Way was friendly and professional. They were there at the airport to meet us when we arrived in Cancun and drove us to their rental office, which is 1 or 2 miles from the airport off 307 (the highway between Cancun and Tulum). I'm not one to care much about the kind of rental cars offered. I can't remember what we drove when we were there last. It was a nice, clean, newish sort of car.
posted by grubstake at 4:54 PM on September 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wasn't going to write but I must add we had a terrible experience with Easy way/American. They charged more than they said they would. The car alarm was broken and kept randomly going off. We attempted to return it and they said it was our fault (the suggested we stole a battery and switched it out with a different one!?). It took several trips to the office for their to be a replacement. It took a good 7 hours from our vacation. They really were unprofessional and seemed to be very uninterested in helping out.

I did have a very good experience with Avant. Little English but they were great and we got a nice minivan.

The drive to and from the airport was super easy.
posted by ReluctantViking at 6:14 PM on September 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thanks. I'll note I received a MeMail with a similar bad experience anecdote with Easy Way. This is what I meant by wildly inconsistent advice regarding specific rental agencies! It's crazy there isn't an agency delivering a consistently OK service for perhaps a slightly higher price.
posted by Mid at 6:58 PM on September 25, 2016

Honestly, if I were you I'd book a tourist shuttle for the 8 of you from the airport to your rental property. Tulum is very small, so unless you plan to drive somewhere far away, you probably won't need a car. If you do, you can rent one in town.

PS the highway is fine if you decide to drive, it's well travelled and no one is going to hassle you
posted by ananci at 11:35 PM on September 25, 2016

When we went, we rented "off airport" from a second-tier big chain. (Thrifty or Budget instead of Hertz or Avis.) I forget what the savings was, but I remember it being not quite worth the hassle. There was a hassle of getting their shuttle bus to the location, and they also strongly pitched us on tickets to a timeshare presentation. (No thank you, and very unprofessional, IMHO.)

They also gave us a manual transmission car without asking. This wasn't a problem for us, but if you need or prefer an automatic, be sure to ask for it.

I don't remember any particular issues with the highway from Cancun to Tulum, except for no on-road warning of speed bumps. (There was a sign for speed bumps , but the bumps themselves weren't painted and were hard to see on the road.)

My other piece of advice is to hit the Mayan City very first thing in the morning - as soon as they open. Mid-morning is when all the tour busses show up, and it turns from a quiet contemplative place into a shopping mall.
posted by Cranialtorque at 8:23 AM on September 26, 2016

To add to the anecdata, I stayed on the beach in Tulum this past summer without a car and had a great time. Most everything is accessible by walking. If you want to leave the beach and see the town of Tulum or some of the farther off cenotes, taxis (and taxi vans) are readily available and fairly cheap.

I arrived in Tulum by bus from Cancun to Playa del Carmen and then a second bus to Tulum. For the trip back to the airport I ordered a shuttle van through Happy Shuttle just to be absolutely sure I would be on time.
posted by rancidchickn at 9:31 AM on September 26, 2016

I booked with Alamo Rental in Tulum and had a good experience. (Never thought I would say that about a rental car company.) I paid $80 total for two days. A car is a must if you'd like to go to cenotes or any other place just outside of Tulum. Taxis are pretty cheap, too! I also took the bus from Cancun to Playa Del Carmen to Tulum. It was super easy and cheap (like $15).

(Alamo address: Av Coba Sur Esq. Con Calle Asteroides)
posted by Cwell at 3:25 PM on September 26, 2016

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