I just got back from Cancun, Mexico, and had a wonderful time. The weather was fantastic, the beach was clean, the Gulf of Mexico was sparkling and the people are wonderful. I rented a car from Alamo (only because Budget had no representative present at the airport to honor my reservation) and drove about 150 miles during my three day stay. I generally like Alamo. The Alamo office near the Cancun airport was efficient and seemingly trustworthy (you absolutely must take pictures of all scratches, dents and imperfections with your smartphone at the time of the rental), but my Mexican rental car was a scratched up VW with no radio and manual windows. The upside was that the A/C was absolutely great and the VW got excellent mileage.
Remember, the low price quoted on your Mexican car rental (usually $4 to $10 a day) does not include the mandatory Third Party Protection insurance (about $15 a day). You will also be offered Collision Damage Waiver-Theft Protection (a combined coverage in Mexico), Deductible Protection and Personal Accident Insurance. These combined protections could cost up to $40 a day. Your car rental insurance most likely does not cover you in Mexico. I rented with my American Express card which has the additional Collision Damage Waiver feature offered through AMEX Assurance Company and covers you for most car rental types in Mexico (AMEX CDW coverage does not apply in Australia, Israel, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica and New Zealand). How much coverage you purchase is up to you. I don’t recommend bare backing it.
I had been warned to be careful driving because the Mexican police are extremely aggressive about pulling over tourists. Accordingly, I drove my like grandmother—never exceeding the speed limit, limiting lane changes, full stops at all stops signs and generally taking it very sloooow. On my way back to the airport from the Fiesta American Grand Coral Beach (about 29 km), I saw no few than five rental cars pulled over by the Mexican police. If you get pulled over you can expect a shakedown for $100 to $200 to make the problem go away. This is absolutely inexcusable in a city that lives and dies on tourism. The internet is ripe with advice about what to do if you are pulled over. I’m not going to pretend to have the ultimate answer—just keep your cool and do your best.
My sage advice—just don’t rent a car in Cancun. There is really no reason to rent a car if you’re staying in the Hotel Zone. Spend a few bucks on cabs or take the bus (only 8.5 pesos) and save yourself the aggravation. Things are more spread out in Riviera Maya but most of the activities you will participate in include transportation. If you absolutely, positively must have a car—exercise extreme caution and obey all rules and regulations to the tee