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Costa Rica Car Rental Experiences

Costa Rica Car Rental Experiences

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Old Feb 5, 18, 5:57 pm
  #1  
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Costa Rica Car Rental Experiences

I typically book through AutoSlash or Hotwire, but all the horror stories on other sites have me questioning if that's a good idea. Is it safe to book through a third party site for Costa Rica or am I better off just booking directly through the costa rica version of the big rental companies?
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Old Feb 9, 18, 12:57 am
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Let me know what you find nonstopski. I am trying to figure out for a trip in March as well.
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Old Feb 15, 18, 8:40 pm
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I know, you come stressed and tired from your flight, and these vultures are ready to rip you off. This is how they work here:


Doesn’t matter where you book your car, can be online travel agent (Expedia, Orbits, Hotwire, Kayak), physical TA, car rental web page, over the phone; you will only get the car, taxes, and fees prices. Despite some sites like Expedia say “no surprises”, that’s not true, not because they are lying, but the car rental don’t pass the coverages prices to them.

When you show up for pick-up, everything looks fine: the car, the prices, the length of rental, etc. But when the agent is ready to print the contract, this is where the things turn nasty…

They will say something like this: “the fare that is in your booking does not include any coverage, so we this is what we offer:”

PLI / TPL / Third party liability: this one is mandatory. There is no independent insurance in this universe that covers damages to third parties (cars, real estate/properties, persons injured/dead) due to an accident in Costa Rica, period. You must take the one offered by the car rental, you like or not. Doesn’t matter if you come with a certificate that states that it covers third parties, they won’t accept it, and won’t do the rental if you insist to use that one.

Prices: it ranges from USD 10 to 20 PER DAY.

Conditions: it usually covers around $500,000, but up to 80% of damages, the other 20% (deductible) will be charged to the driver if found guilty or accepts responsibility of the damages.

OK, that’s fine, I take it, print the contract… NOT YET! (and here is where all the terror stories come from)

That covers third party, not the car you’re driving. So they will offer you this useless thing:

CDW / PLW / TP / Crash damage waiver - theft protection: This is were the real business is for them. They will tell you scary stories, and push you HARD to accept this one, but you must be firm. You can decline this one, but they have their tricks to make you fall. You can rely on your credit card CDW coverage (I’m familiar with Visa and MasterCard, and are excellent products, can’t comment on AMEX). But they will ask you for written confirmation, so you must bring a printed copy of the email, or letter from the credit card company that CLEARLY states that the CDW of your credit card covers Costa Rica, if it says global, they won’t accept it, it MUST SAY COSTA RICA, and show at least the last four digits of your credit card and match the numbers in the plastic.

You can also bring an insurance certificate from an insurance company, but again, it must show that the coverage includes Costa Rica, and matches your name and ID/divers’ license/passport number.

If you decide to take their CDW coverage, take into account the following things: it doesn’t include damages to tires, windshield, stolen accessories (radio, mirrors). And doesn’t include damages from vandalism. That’s why I recommend using your credit card CDW coverage, because they do include all the above.

Prices: USD 15 – 40 ADDITIONAL PER DAY.

Conditions: if you accept their CDW, they will freeze your credit card between $800 – $1,000. If you decline, expect a freeze from $1,000, and depending on the car, it can climb up to $4,000 (yes, four grand gone during your vacations). That frozen amount will be the deductible in case the car is completely lost, if you took their coverage. If you declined their CDW coverage, then your liable for the FULL cost of the car, and it is where your credit card/insurance coverage will be needed. If the damages are less than the deposit, they will charge the corresponding amount as deductible.
If you don't accept their CDW, and don't provide written confirmation of coverage in Costa Rica, they won't rent you the car.

And again, it doesn’t include tires nor windshield. For that, you must add around 10 PER DAY for the TWP (tire windshield protection).


Those are to two basic things that should be considered during check-in or pick-up.


Now here come the extras:

Cero liability / DP / Deductible protection: Do you remember that 20% deductible that you must pay if you crash against other car or a bar? And the deposit they keep if your cars is destroyed? It can be zero if you pay extra. It’s around $8 ADDITIONAL PER DAY.

Occupants insurance: it covers medical assistance, ambulance, and hospital services for all occupants in your car. That one is around $20 ADDITIONAL PER DAY.

FULL COVER: All of the above around $45 PER DAY IN ADDITION to the TPL protection.



So my recommendation is to come with a credit card with enough balance and ready for BIG FREEZES. Call your bank or Visa/MasterCard/AMEX/Discover/DinersClub customer service and request the Car Rental coverage letter, and print it. Try to avoid as much as possible the car rental coverages, because they are not compressive, and they will still charge you a lot of expensive things despite you paid for protections.

Cars and everything related to them here in Costa Rica are expensive. Just to have an idea, a brand new Toyota Corolla has price tag of $32,000… That’s why at the time of pick-up and return, the agents check you car with extreme detail, because the smallest damage is big deal here.

Check your contract carefully before signing, because sometimes they will try to put the declined coverages, believe me, they do it, these guys are not friendly at all.

See attached a current contract of Alamo Costa Rica, that will help to have an idea on how these terrorists work here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1z6...Wxx3wcJOHoUaGp
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Last edited by ariel_sjo; Feb 17, 18 at 9:32 am
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Old Feb 19, 18, 1:40 pm
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The INS - Instituto Nacional de Seguros de Costa Rica (National Insurance Institution) REQUIRES certain Insurance of all drivers in Costa Rica. I’ve had to buy the required protection when I’ve driven across the border into Costa Rica - even with an international Insurance policy.

But the car rental agencies can mark that up by adding on stuff, and of course they will stack on their own various a la carte products marked up ‘til Tuesday. And they’re wiley as hell. ariel_sjo is spot on.

Beware of fuel tanks not full, missing spare tires or tools like jacks or bad bulbs, mirrors, etc. they’ll charge you for. Take photographs - with your phone or camera’s date and time displays on - from every angle, and assure small dings, scratches, windshield pocks and defects are well documented; “We normally won’t charge you for those” becomes “of course you are charged for those - they’re your fault!” Take your time - and be prepared to spend more time than in the US, Europe or Australasia. Be sure everything’s correct and taken care of, from paperwork to car condition. Be nice, or what I call “politely firm”, about this.

And it isn’t unknown for scammers to hang around at the rental lot exit and slash a tire. A few blocks later, you pull over to change the tire, and look, there are friendly Ticos who want to help - themselves, as it turns it they’re using the friendly Tico stereotype to approach you ad rob you.

Nope, this is not typical of Ticos, as we call our Costarricense brothers and sisters - this is the wild and woolly rental car industry’s approach to “wealthy” tourists in too many countries. (I’ve been traveling to C. R. since 1974, have driven my own and rental vehicles, guided nature tours there and will be visiting again next month before the dry season goes away.)
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Old Feb 19, 18, 3:49 pm
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Thank you, ariel_sjo. That is an extremely helpful post.

Originally Posted by ariel_sjo
But they will ask you for written confirmation, so you must bring a printed copy of the email, or letter from the credit card company that CLEARLY states that the CDW of your credit card covers Costa Rica, if it says global, they won’t accept it, it MUST SAY COSTA RICA, and show at least the last four digits of your credit card and match the numbers in the plastic.
We have an upcoming trip to Costa Rica. I had already gotten the letter from Chase Sapphire Card Benefits Department. It gives the last 4 digits of my credit card but it says Global Coverage (and lists 4 countries that used to be excluded but are now included). I just spoke to them again. Unfortunately, they cannot alter the letter to state Costa Rica. I would guess that their legal team has carefully vetted the letter and allows no alterations. I will be using a local company, called VAMOS. It was recommended in the Andaz Papagayo thread. The booking states the cost of the Third Party Waiver. It also says that we must have valid CDW Coverage for duration of rental. I have done everything I know to do. Hopefully it will be sufficient.
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Old Feb 23, 18, 8:19 pm
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Originally Posted by JDiver View Post
...Beware of fuel tanks not full, missing spare tires or tools like jacks or bad bulbs, mirrors, etc. they’ll charge you for. Take photographs - with your phone or camera’s date and time displays on - from every angle, and assure small dings, scratches, windshield pocks and defects are well documented; “We normally won’t charge you for those” becomes “of course you are charged for those - they’re your fault!” Take your time - and be prepared to spend more time than in the US, Europe or Australasia. Be sure everything’s correct and taken care of, from paperwork to car condition. Be nice, or what I call “politely firm”, about this.
This is completely true, make sure the agent marks all minor damages, especially the front bumper, because they usually are all scraped underneath due to Costa Rica's poor roads. If not, they will be glad to charge you that if it's not checked in the paper upon return.

Another point: they say "our fuel prices are lower than the gas station". This is completely false, all fuel stations have fixed prices because they are regulated, so nobody has a lower fuel price than someone else. Fuel you car yourself before return.

In case of Economy rent a car, they have a business with this: they give you the car filled 5/6 of tank, since it's quite difficult to know the remaining and how much you burned, people simply fill the tank at the time of return. After you return the car, they suck that 1/6 of tank to use it themselves! Fuel here is big business @ $4.20/gallon of premium and $4.00 for regular.

Last edited by ariel_sjo; Feb 23, 18 at 8:28 pm
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Old Feb 23, 18, 10:05 pm
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Do the big companies, like Avis, still do all that stuff too?

Avis in LIR get's positive comments in the Avis forum, but only a few data points.

Last edited by beachfan; Feb 24, 18 at 1:36 pm
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Old Feb 28, 18, 6:46 pm
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Originally Posted by beachfan View Post
Do the big companies, like Avis, still do all that stuff too?

Avis in LIR get's positive comments in the Avis forum, but only a few data points.
ALL of them. Take into account that here in Costa Rica a single company owns several brands: Alamo, National, and Enterprise. Another one has Budget and APEX.
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Old Mar 2, 18, 8:20 am
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I first rented with Vamos because they had a transparent SLI policy, but then cancelled it and rebooked with National at a lower rate - and their PLI was clearly in the terms and conditions (and I think it was $10/day). They didnt make any noise about my credit card covering CDW.

If something looks too cheap, it probably is. Make sure you add up all the costs before reserving.
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Old Mar 2, 18, 8:42 am
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We've now concluded our Vamos car rental with no drama whatsoever. They took the letter I had from the credit card company as to the insurance it provided. We were charged the rate at which we booked. The car was carefully checked on return and no dings were found.
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Old Mar 7, 18, 8:20 pm
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We rented from National at LIR last summer. Printed out the letter from Chase for the CDW insurance. Was able to select the liability coverage while booking on National's website. Had no issues and no hard sells for additional coverage.
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Old Jun 1, 18, 1:14 pm
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Originally Posted by SanDiego1K View Post
We've now concluded our Vamos car rental with no drama whatsoever. They took the letter I had from the credit card company as to the insurance it provided. We were charged the rate at which we booked. The car was carefully checked on return and no dings were found.
How did you get the letter from your credit card company showing coverage?

I sent Chase a secure message last night asking for a letter we can show the rental car agency to prove that our Sapphire Preferred provides primary CDW coverage for rental cars rented by us in Costa Rica. The response was one that said yes your card benefits provide CDW insurance but for a letter please contact Visa at XYZ phone number.

Others I've seen post here on Flyetalk seem to indicate that they got a letter from their credit card issuer like Chase so I'm curious, which specific department or method of contacting chase.

I plan to try by actually calling them next but I don't have high hopes of that getting anywhere.

We have a reservation with Vamos. I found their website to be easy to navigate and clearly explain the various cverages and requirements.

Thanks!
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Old Jan 3, 19, 2:42 pm
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Originally Posted by AndrewOnTheRoad View Post
How did you get the letter from your credit card company showing coverage?

I sent Chase a secure message last night asking for a letter we can show the rental car agency to prove that our Sapphire Preferred provides primary CDW coverage for rental cars rented by us in Costa Rica. The response was one that said yes your card benefits provide CDW insurance but for a letter please contact Visa at XYZ phone number.

Others I've seen post here on Flyetalk seem to indicate that they got a letter from their credit card issuer like Chase so I'm curious, which specific department or method of contacting chase.

I plan to try by actually calling them next but I don't have high hopes of that getting anywhere.

We have a reservation with Vamos. I found their website to be easy to navigate and clearly explain the various cverages and requirements.

Thanks!
How was your rental experience with Vamos? Did you had to buy additional insurance and if yes, how many dollars per day?
I have had horrific experiences in CR. Once you get on the bus and get to their location, there is no way out and they will add addtional 'mandatory' insurance coverage or you do not get the car.

If anyone has been able to get around this issue, please post here the name of the rental company in San Jose, I am certain we can benefit from it.

Thanks
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Old Jan 5, 19, 11:04 am
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Originally Posted by ariel_sjo View Post
I know, you come stressed and tired from your flight, and these vultures are ready to rip you off. This is how they work here:


Doesn’t matter where you book your car, can be online travel agent (Expedia, Orbits, Hotwire, Kayak), physical TA, car rental web page, over the phone; you will only get the car, taxes, and fees prices. Despite some sites like Expedia say “no surprises”, that’s not true, not because they are lying, but the car rental don’t pass the coverages prices to them.

When you show up for pick-up, everything looks fine: the car, the prices, the length of rental, etc. But when the agent is ready to print the contract, this is where the things turn nasty…

They will say something like this: “the fare that is in your booking does not include any coverage, so we this is what we offer:”

PLI / TPL / Third party liability: this one is mandatory. There is no independent insurance in this universe that covers damages to third parties (cars, real estate/properties, persons injured/dead) due to an accident in Costa Rica, period. You must take the one offered by the car rental, you like or not. Doesn’t matter if you come with a certificate that states that it covers third parties, they won’t accept it, and won’t do the rental if you insist to use that one.

Prices: it ranges from USD 10 to 20 PER DAY.

Conditions: it usually covers around $500,000, but up to 80% of damages, the other 20% (deductible) will be charged to the driver if found guilty or accepts responsibility of the damages.

OK, that’s fine, I take it, print the contract… NOT YET! (and here is where all the terror stories come from)

That covers third party, not the car you’re driving. So they will offer you this useless thing:

CDW / PLW / TP / Crash damage waiver - theft protection: This is were the real business is for them. They will tell you scary stories, and push you HARD to accept this one, but you must be firm. You can decline this one, but they have their tricks to make you fall. You can rely on your credit card CDW coverage (I’m familiar with Visa and MasterCard, and are excellent products, can’t comment on AMEX). But they will ask you for written confirmation, so you must bring a printed copy of the email, or letter from the credit card company that CLEARLY states that the CDW of your credit card covers Costa Rica, if it says global, they won’t accept it, it MUST SAY COSTA RICA, and show at least the last four digits of your credit card and match the numbers in the plastic.

You can also bring an insurance certificate from an insurance company, but again, it must show that the coverage includes Costa Rica, and matches your name and ID/divers’ license/passport number.

If you decide to take their CDW coverage, take into account the following things: it doesn’t include damages to tires, windshield, stolen accessories (radio, mirrors). And doesn’t include damages from vandalism. That’s why I recommend using your credit card CDW coverage, because they do include all the above.

Prices: USD 15 – 40 ADDITIONAL PER DAY.

Conditions: if you accept their CDW, they will freeze your credit card between $800 – $1,000. If you decline, expect a freeze from $1,000, and depending on the car, it can climb up to $4,000 (yes, four grand gone during your vacations). That frozen amount will be the deductible in case the car is completely lost, if you took their coverage. If you declined their CDW coverage, then your liable for the FULL cost of the car, and it is where your credit card/insurance coverage will be needed. If the damages are less than the deposit, they will charge the corresponding amount as deductible.
If you don't accept their CDW, and don't provide written confirmation of coverage in Costa Rica, they won't rent you the car.

And again, it doesn’t include tires nor windshield. For that, you must add around 10 PER DAY for the TWP (tire windshield protection).


Those are to two basic things that should be considered during check-in or pick-up.


Now here come the extras:

Cero liability / DP / Deductible protection: Do you remember that 20% deductible that you must pay if you crash against other car or a bar? And the deposit they keep if your cars is destroyed? It can be zero if you pay extra. It’s around $8 ADDITIONAL PER DAY.

Occupants insurance: it covers medical assistance, ambulance, and hospital services for all occupants in your car. That one is around $20 ADDITIONAL PER DAY.

FULL COVER: All of the above around $45 PER DAY IN ADDITION to the TPL protection.



So my recommendation is to come with a credit card with enough balance and ready for BIG FREEZES. Call your bank or Visa/MasterCard/AMEX/Discover/DinersClub customer service and request the Car Rental coverage letter, and print it. Try to avoid as much as possible the car rental coverages, because they are not compressive, and they will still charge you a lot of expensive things despite you paid for protections.

Cars and everything related to them here in Costa Rica are expensive. Just to have an idea, a brand new Toyota Corolla has price tag of $32,000… That’s why at the time of pick-up and return, the agents check you car with extreme detail, because the smallest damage is big deal here.

Check your contract carefully before signing, because sometimes they will try to put the declined coverages, believe me, they do it, these guys are not friendly at all.

See attached a current contract of Alamo Costa Rica, that will help to have an idea on how these terrorists work here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1z6...Wxx3wcJOHoUaGp
There are problems like this world wide with different agencies.

Chase Saphire CSR & CFP CCs provide world wide coverage, primary, "where applicable".
Citi Bank makes a statement "world wide coverage".

Both Chase and Citi are insured by Chubb and the "loophole" exclude countries like Italy and maybe Costa Rica where the laws of countries overrule the Banks & Chubb.
Neither Chase nor Citi Bank care to add clarification in their Proof of Insurance Letter or Benefits Guide.
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Old Jan 5, 19, 11:02 pm
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Generally good experience with National, maybe it is Emerald Executive that gives the extra bit. Never had a problem with our letter from Amex either(even when I wasn't able to print it this last time and had to present it on my phone). Remembering the harrowing bus rides from a decade before, the first time back we rented a car doing the full deal, I didn't have any regrets about it. Not being as bad as I remembered we use credit card coverage and the TPL. We also don't hang out in the cities FWIW. LIR has been easier to deal with than SJO, just do the documentation and go over the car with extra care. Bumpers and the space between the doors and roof in particular.
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