How to rent a car for Costa Rica

All about how to rent a car in Costa Rica

costa rica suv
This car will bring you everywhere in Costa Rica
If you plan to travel Costa Rica on your own you need a car. It is very comfortable to travel to the national parks of costa rica by your own car. The best advice is to rent the car online while at your home country. This way you can compare prices and choose the right car for you. To travel all roads in Costa Rica with some kind of comfort you need to get an 4WD. You do not need such a big one as on the picture. But its a cool car I saw at Juan Santamaria Airport on my last day in Costa Rica. To compare the available cars, you should keep the following things in mind: capacity, gasoline consumption, price and insurance.
Most car rental services in costa rica are offering the same cars. You should consider choosing either a Suzuki Jimmy, a Daihatsu Terios or a Toyota Rav 4. These are reliable cars for a good price.
costa rica car
A typical tico car :)

Choosing the right rental car

The Suzuki Jimny is a small, two person 4WD-SUV. It is on of the cheapest 4WD available at Costa Rica. Many people like the Jimmy because it is a very reliable car. But it is also a very uncomfortable car, as you can feel the road while driving.
suzuki jimny
The Suzuki Jimny in an ugly white color
(Picture: TTTNIS license: Creative Commons by-sa 3.0 de / short)
The Toyota Rav 4 is a reliable 4WD-SUV. You will see hundreds of this car on your Costa Rica trip.
There is enough space for up to seven people including luggage.On our holiday trip to Costa Rica We had choosen the Rav4 because of the additional space in comparison to the Daihatsu Terios. The price was just 50 dollars additionally a week, compared to the Toyota Rav 4.
costa rica rav4
The Toyota Rav 4.
We rented the car at a typical car rental comparison site. Later we got to know it was rented by europcar. I did not have any bad experiences with europcar yet so I was happy.

Have a look at this table. You can See all relevant attributes for the Suzuki Jimmy, Daihatsu Terios and the Toyota Rav 4.

- Suzuki Jimny Daihatsu Terios Toyota Rav 4
Persons + luggage 2 persons with light luggage up to 4 persons with luggage up to 7 persons with luggage
Gasoline consumption 37.3 MPG or 7.6 litres/100km  34.3 MPG or 8.3 litres/100km  38.0 MPG or 7.6 litres/100km 
Comfort quite hard comfortable very comfortable

GPS Navigation for Costa Rica

Most car rental services will try to offer you an additional GPS navigation for about 5 dollars a day. Read my article how to use your android smartphone as GPS navigation with a free navigation software and free offline maps for Costa Rica.

Picking up your rental car at Juan santamaria Airport

After you have rented your car and arrived in Costa Rica international Airport. You have three choices to get your car:
  • take the car rental bus shuttle
  • pick it up at the car rental station,
  • or let the car rental bring it to your hotel.
The first is the easiest way. After exiting the airport, look for a guy with a sign of your car rental service. He will bring you to your car. If you do not see a sign of your car rental service, friendly ask a guy with another sign to contact your car rental. He will surely help.
The shuttle bus operates the whole day and drives from the airport to the car rental station and back.

You can also let your car rental service bring the car to your hotel. Just make sure to call them to arrange everything. From the airport, take your hotel shuttle to your hotel and if your car rental service arranged everything properly, your car will already be waiting for you.

Obey the costa rica traffic laws

The traffic laws and fines in costa rica are very high. Please make sure you read my article about these traffic laws. You can get in big trouble not following these tips. For example making a simple U-Turn can cost you up to 250.000 colones!

How to check a rental car

When picking up your car, make sure that all dents and defects are marked on your papers. Have a look at the receipe I got. My car was covered with dents. ;-) Because of the ugly gold paint you can barely see them. At the beginning of my trip I was unsure about this ugly color, but a lot of cars in costa rica have this color. The reason is simple, you can almost not see dust, mud, dents and defects. 
In case you are unsure, you should make pictures from your car.

costa rica rental car
My rental car in costa rica


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  4. I'm also having the rental car business.... Thanks for sharing this article....
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