Renting a vehicle on Cozumel is a bit different than in the US or Europe. For one thing, you're are in no way guaranteed a spiffy under-one-year-old vehicle with that new car smell. And even if you make your reservation in advance via the internet, you may show up to find that your choice is between the only car they have left -- a clunker where the windows don't roll down -- or nothing.
This is in no way to suggest that all the cars or all the agencies on the island have a fleet of badly maintained vehicles. But some have bad track records.
If you are coming in high season -- Thanksgiving through April or July and August -- we suggest you book ahead of time on the internet. And as long as possible ahead of time. Print out your reservation form and take it with you to guarantee the price you were offered on-line or chances are not too low you will be in line for a bait and switch game.
Low season, you can shop around a bit more once you get here if you'd like to do this.
No matter where or what you rent, be sure to check out the car VERY CAREFULLY before you accept it. This includes things like rolling down all the windows and then rolling them back up, checking to see all the doors and the trunk locks work, etc.
You will be asked to give a credit card to secure the car. However, we'd advise that, when you go to pay, you do so in cash. This avoids a significant additional charge.
When you're comparing prices of cars, be sure to find out what is included in the base price. If you have insurance coverage for collision damage via your credit card or home insurance company, you may be able to waive the collision insurance from the Cozumel rental company. This is a big money-maker for local companies who seem to uniformly charge $10/day for $800 deductible and $20 for full deductible.
One insurance expense you must take is personal liability. If you have the misfortune to injure someone locally, you will be taken to the police station to settle up the bills. No foreign insurance card will be accepted. No credit cards will be accepted. Take the liability insurance your car company offers -- it's generally $6/day. This is a necessary expense. Some car rental companies bundle this in their price. Others don't. Be sure to ask about this.
Here is a list of car companies that, from what we have seen, are reputable and have good vehicles.
Avis--You can reserve on-line ahead of time. And if you're coming into Cozumel's airport, it is highly convenient to just walk out the door, jump in a car and drive merrily away.
Smart Car -- This is a local company that only has small vehicles. Like Chevy compacts, Nissan Sedans and VW's. They have some of the best prices on the island. before insurance is added in. They have a convenient downtown location and another office just off the airport grounds -- 1.5 blocks of quiet walking. Internet reservations may or may not be a problem with this company. Give it a shot. Google it.
Alamo -- Has an office downtown right across the street from Smart Car. Their cars tend to be in very good shape, they are reputable and you can reserve online. We note that their prices online are the same at the Puerta Maya cruiseship pier as they are downtown. So if you are coming in on a cruise, reserve from Alamo online and ahead of time to avoid getting ripped off on the spot. Here again, as with all the companies listed here, be sure to find out the total price -- including insurance -- before making a decision based on price alone.
Aguilar Rental -- These guys are a bit more expensive than some of the others. But they are one of the few companies in town to have a nice fleet of vans and other large cars that are suitable for a larger family group. They are also quick to respond if you have a problem. And the cars we've seen from them are all in excellent shape. This is a US-owned and managed business and they are good about answering emails.
We strongly advise against renting scooters on Cozumel. We have seen more accidents than we can count due to pot holed roads and inexperienced drivers who don't know their way around.
They're also vastly overrated re entertainment value as far as we're concerned. Okay for toodling around town. But if you take a longer trip -- like around the other side of the island -- you'll be going slow enough that you feel like the trip's going to last forever and the scenery along the big roads is nothing to write home about. But you'll be going fast enough that you'll get plenty of bug zaps. We've seen a lot of unhappy women stoically clinging to their driver, gritting their teeth and waiting out the end of some of these unfun drives.
If you want to keep your expenses low, rent a VW convertible instead. Much, Much safer. You'll have more room, more shade, less wind.