First of all, you should know that making an online reservation doesn’t mean much in Mexico. It will get you a fixed price for the rental, but it doesn’t mean there will be a car there waiting for you. In fact with Budget and Hertz, I have shown up at the car rental only to be told there is no car. No upgrade, nada. I even called ahead. This is especially bad during holiday seasons like Christmas and Easter. And the online price isn’t even always the best!
Secondly, the price you get online will NOT include insurance. There are several different insurance levels available, and it is illegal to drive without any insurance. My suggestion is to get all the available insurance — it’s to easy to get your car dinged or stolen in Mexico, and the rental offices are scrupulous about inspecting the car when you return it.
WARNING: Besides not having cars, Budget forces you to get a certain level of insurance, even if you don’t want it.
To avoid all this, don’t pick up your rental when you arrive at the Mexico City airport. A taxi will get you to your hotel quickly and economically — and it’ll give you a chance to get acclimated to the Mexico City driving style.
Then (or before you arrive), contact a reputable car rental agency BY PHONE. I recommend National in Mexico. You can get a compact 4-door car with full insurance for about $50 a day. If you ask, they will bring the car to you wherever you are staying. You are more likely to get a car this way. You can also upgrade to a better car for not-much-more, because more than half of the $50/day is insurance. Delivery also avoids the airport tax.
You can save some money by reducing the insurance, but be sure to get the minimum — I’ve never been sure whether Credit Card insurance actually will help you in Mexico. Not having any insurance will get you a quick trip to jail if you are pulled over.
IMPORTANT: An delivery time EARLY in the day will give you the best chance of actually receiving your car. By the end of the day, they are running out.
Some tips when inspecting the car upon delivery. The deliverer will make a note of all these issues:
1) Make sure you have an inflated spare tire and tire change kit.
2) Check all the glass for broken glass.
3) Make sure you have a gas cap, antenna etc.
4) Check the wheel rims for dings.
5) Check all around the exterior of the car for any slight dings or scratches.
6) Make sure to see all the paperwork for the car: They should give you a folder with the insurance AND the registration.
A tip is appropriate when your car is picked up or dropped off.
It is probably easiest to take a cab back to the airport, but if you decide to drop of your rental when leaving then you need to take it back to TERMINAL 1 of the airport. Drive past all the gate areas, and after that there will be a sign that says “Renta de Autos”. The road will split — make sure to choose the left split and the car rental return is on the left.