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Tips for Renting a Car in Costa Rica

4 reasons Why you need to rent a Car in Costa Rica

1. Easy Social Distancing and Road Trip Fun

In the era of social distancing, there is no better option than renting a car while visiting Costa Rica. Renting a car provides you with the freedom to explore this beautiful country, its incredible nature, and save money on a road trip of a lifetime!

2. Prices are comparable/cheaper than private shuttles and domestic flights

Car rental in Costa Rica is much easier and more affordable compared to taxis, private shuttles, or domestic flights. When you add up the costs of taking taxis to get from the airport to your hotel and booking tours with a company on a crowded bus, you quickly realize renting is the best option. Besides, domestic flights let you take just 1 small luggage, whereas with a rental car you can have bring everything along. Eventually domestic flights are sometimes cancelled due to bad weather.

3. Explore at Your Own Pace and Enjoy the Views

Many areas outside of cities are only accessible by road and lack public transport, while buses, taxis and Ubers can be hard to come by. Having your own vehicle allows you to stop anywhere you want and get out and explore areas like the Arenal Volcano in la Fortuna for as long as you want.

4. It’s the Best Option for Long Term Stays

If you are planning a longer stay in Costa Rica, renting a car is still the best option. Although you could manage without a car sometimes, the only way to really see the country is through driving yourself. 


Tips for Cheap Car Rental in Costa Rica

Tip 1 – Reserve your car in advance

Depending on the time of year, availability can be limited during high seasons. The best way to ensure you get the vehicle you want at the best price is to book early. 

Tip 2 – Book online

Booking your rental car in Coste Rica online saves you money as rental companies compete the hardest in the online marketplace. Plus, booking online is convenient! You can pay with a credit card or debit card ahead of time and have your car waiting for you upon arrival. 

Tip 3, Collect your car at the airport

Collecting your car from San José Santamaría International Airport is the best place to start your trip. 

  • The car rental rates are the best you will find in Costa Rica
  • There is free shuttle and no trafic between our agency and the airport, whereas many car rental agencies are too far away from the airport and suffer from trafic jam, which sometimes causes customers to miss their flights 
  • The airport has the widest selection of vehicle models 
  • It has the shortest wait times 
  • You don’t have to wait on a bus or use an expensive taxi to pick up your car elsewhere 
  • You can return your car right at the airport before catching your flight home 

costa-rica-car-rental 4wd

What Kind of Car Should You Rent in Costa Rica?

Is a 4-wheel drive necessary in Costa Rica ? 

Yes! Renting a 4-wheeled vehicle or at least an SUV is highly recommended. Roads outside of big cities in Costa Rica are not well maintained. Many roads are unpaved dirt roads with many potholes. Driving a small car that sits low to the road could get easily damaged or stuck.

4-wheel drive vehicles are much safer, especially during the rainy season that runs from May to November. During this season, rains are heavy and can last for hours, making many roads impassable and dangerous. While it is not allowed to cross flooded roads, 4-wheel drive vehicles are much safer for driving in such conditions. 

Please remember it is prohibited to to drive off the road (beaches, rivers…) for environmental and safety reasons.

Automatic vs Manual

If you can drive a manual stick shift, this will be your least expensive option. However, sticking to the type of vehicle you are most comfortable driving is the best and safest option. 

Car and Engine Size

Although Costa Rica may look like a small country compared to the USA or Canada, it can still take at least 8 hours to cross the country. Larger vehicles driving in the conditions found in Costa Rica can be more economical in the long run. 4-wheel drive vehicles are more comfortable and much safer driving through some of the rugged terrain found in Costa Rica. 

rent a car in cost rica

Breaking down Costa Rica car rental


Liability insurance is mandatory in Costa Rica and the minimum coverage is included in our rental prices. Basic liability in Costa Rica only covers body injuries for around 10.000 USD maximum (material damages are not included).

Protection against damage and theft of the rental vehicle:

This insurance covers any damage to the rental vehicle in an accident or theft. This coverage could also be also included in our rental prices online but is optional if you choose to use your own insurance. In that case, the rental company will ask for a bigger deposit to cover the car + conditions of using your insurance (make sure your insurance includes Costa Rica and 4wd rentals).
Additional coverage can also be purchased.

Supplemental Liability Insurance:

This optional insurance enhances the benefits from the liability insurance, including damages to third parties.


The deposit depends on the type of insurance you purchase and the type of vehicle you rent. The more insured the rental car is, the lower the deposit will be. 

The deposit cannot be paid in cash. So, it’s important to check that your credit card has a high enough limit to cover the cost of the deposit. 

In case of an accident?

If you have an accident in Costa Rica, do not move the rental vehicle, even if it is in the middle of the road and creates a traffic jam. Only the police are authorized to complete an accident report. Moving the vehicle will cause you to lose your insurance coverage.

In case of an accident in Costa Rica, take refuge and notify our Jumbo Car team, we will take care of the procedures with the authorities.

Airport pick up and return

The best place to pick up your rental car is at the San Jose airport. Our team will be waiting for you at the exit of the terminal and take you on our complimentary shuttle to our office just three minutes away where most of the car rental companies are located. 
To drop off your car at the end of your trip, simply return it to the same place you picked it up. To navigate back to us using your GPS, Google Maps, or Waze, type in “Jumbo Car Rio Segundo”. Be sure to consider traffic when returning your vehicle so you don’t miss your flight! 

Gas and mileage

Almost all car rental vehicles in Costa Rica run on regular gasoline. Diesel cars and trucks are also popular in Costa Rica, so be sure to pump the right kind of gas in your rental vehicle! 


Need a GPS, Wi-Fi hotspot, SIM card, or roof rack? All these options and more can be added to your rental at time of booking. 

How we do at Jumbo Car

Jumbo Car prides itself on offering excellent customer service, a wide range of options, and competitive transparent prices with no surprises. 

Driving in Costa Rica

Minimum Age for Driving in Costa Rica?

The minimum age to drive a car in Costa Rica is 18 years old, however, you must also have had a driver’s license for 1 year to rent a mini or economy vehicle from Jumbo Car. 

For drivers who are 21 years old and have had a driver’s license for 2 years, they are able to rent all vehicle categories from our fleet in San Jose, except Full Size and Prestige models. 

Drivers who are at least 25 years old and have 3 years of driving experience may rent any vehicle from out fleet. 

Depending on driver’s age, some insurances may apply : 
- 18-20 year’s old drivers and 20-25 years’old drivers have to purchase extra insurance depending on the vehicle they rented out.
- Drivers’ over 75 years’ old also need to purchase an extra insurance.


What documents do I need to rent a Car?

All you need to rent a car is a valid driver’s license and your passport with a valid tourist stamp in its original form (copies are not accepted). 

Driver licenses from the USA, Canada, and international driving licenses are acceptable to drive in Costa Rica for 3 months. To drive longer than this, you need either a local driving license or to show a new valid tourist stamp which will give extend your license for another 3 months.

Due to COVID situation, foreign driver’s license are valid only for the duration of their health insurance period cover and so only the person has received a complete Covid 19 vaccination procedure. This is why our agents now check also visa stamp during vehicle pickup.

Quality of the roads in Costa Rica

In large cities, the roads are well maintained, but outside of built-up areas, the infrastructure leaves much to be desired. Not all roads are paved, even those that lead to highly touristy places like Monteverde or the Arenal Volcano. Potholes, dirt roads ... it is better to rent a 4WD or at least an elevated vehicle like an SUV.

What Side of the Road Does Costa Rica Drive On ?

Costa Ricans drive on the right side of the road, just like in the USA and Canada. 

Cost of a Costa Rica Car Rental

The cost of your rental car depends on the type of vehicle you rent, the amount of time you rent it for, the insurance and extras you add, and the time of year. 

The least expensive time to rent a car is the low season from May to June, and from September to late October. During this time, an SUV for one week would cost about $260. However, prices depend on availability, so booking in advance online is always a good idea !

Cost of Gas

Gasoline prices are measured by the liter in Costa Rica, but converted to gallons, gasoline currently costs around $4.00 per gallon. The overall cost for fuel will depend on what kind of vehicle you rent and how much you drive it. On average, most tourists drive about 300 miles for a one-week trip and the cost to fill a tank in an SUV will come in around $65. 

Driving at night?

Driving at night is strongly discouraged in Costa Rica.

Outside of cities, roads are not illuminated and markings on the ground are often absent. In addition, we find many pedestrians along the roads walking or sitting with friends, without light or clothing with light bands. Cyclists rarely ride with lights at night. If you do not know the area, be very careful and make sure you get home before dark.

Our advice: Take advantage of jet lag to start the day early. Ticos (= nickname for Costa Ricans) often get up at 5:00 a.m. and they start work at 7:00 a.m. Take the same pace, if you have a trip to do, do it in the morning at 5 a.m. (when it is daytime) !