How To Avoid a Common Rental Car Scam

We’re not brave enough to drive in foreign countries, which has helped us avoid a common rental car scam that our viewers often complain about in the comments.

These rental car scams occur throughout Latin America, including Ecuador and Mexico. If you’re not careful, you could end up paying hundreds or thousands of dollars in extra fees, but scams aren’t the only issues you might face by driving in a foreign country.

Why You Should NOT Rent Cars Abroad

Renting a car may seem like a good idea, but there are several downsides to driving yourself, and a few reasons why it’s better to let someone else drive you.

Rental Car ScamsRental Car Scams

The first thing you’re likely to experience when renting a car abroad is they’ll try to shove a bunch of unnecessary insurance down your throat.

They offer super cheap rental car rates, but by the time they finish tacking on all the extra insurance and fees, it could very well be the most expensive rental car you’ve ever driven.

Then there’s a chance the car you get isn’t actually owned by the rental car company and they don’t have permission to rent it.

Or they don’t actually have a car to give you when you show up, even though you reserved one in advance.

The cars are often neglected with lots of problems. Then they break down on the side of the road and you have to pay for a tow.

Or you go to return the car and they blame you for everything that was wrong with it when you drove it off the lot.

Oh, and make sure there’s a spare tire in the trunk because there may not be and then they’ll accuse you of stealing it and make you pay $1000 to replace it!

If you decide to take the risk and rent a car abroad, do yourself a favor and take a video of the car and the person renting it to you before you take possession as proof that you can use in your defense if they try to scam you later.

Or a better idea is to not rent a car in the first place, because scams aren’t the only thing to worry about.

Police Corruption

The next downside of driving in a foreign country is police corruption.

Bribes are a lucrative source of income for traffic cops in Latin America.

This has only happened to us once. One of our drivers was stopped and had to pay a $20 bribe. He called it the gringo tax because he was driving a couple gringos.

You might think you’re saving money by driving yourself, but hidden fees like bribes can really add up.

Different Traffic LawsDifferent Traffic Laws

Each country has different traffic laws that you might not understand.

The signs are in a foreign language and their meaning isn’t always obvious.

The road may have a speed limit, but no signs so you won’t know how fast to drive.

And if you aren’t careful, you could get a ticket or arrested due to your lack of knowledge.

Different Driving Culture

The driving culture is different around the world.

We’ve heard that driving in Ecuador is like a dance and if you don’t know how to dance, that can cause problems.

Lanes, stop signs and traffic lights are just a suggestion. Passing on the shoulder is normal. Everyone honks all the time for any reason. Motorcycles zig in and out of traffic and drive on the sidewalk.

Accidents Are YOUR FaultAccidents Are YOUR Fault

And if you get into an accident, there’s a really good chance it will be your fault, even if it isn’t.

Traffic cops will side with citizens over foreigners, especially if you can’t speak the local language.

In some countries, they take you to jail until they figure out what happened and whose fault it was. That could take hours or days!

Is that really how you want to spend your time?

Getting Lost

Getting lost is a real possibility. Maps aren’t always accurate and you might not know what parts of town to avoid.

If you arrive late at night and you’re trying to find your hotel in the dark, you could end up in a very dangerous part of town without realizing it.

And that could lead to a very bad start to your trip.

Why Hiring a Driver is Better

And now for the reasons why you should hire a driver instead of renting a car…

It’s Less Stressful

It’s a lot less stressful if you let someone else drive.

You don’t need to worry about getting scammed by the rental car companies.

You don’t need to worry about paying bribes or learning new traffic laws or being blamed for an accident that wasn’t your fault.

Might Actually Be Cheaper

If you hire a driver, you might pay a little more for each trip, but you’re only paying for the time you need transportation.

If you rent a car, you’re paying a daily rate whether you use the car or not.

Over the course of a trip, it might actually be less expensive to take public transportation, taxis, Ubers, etc.

You Can Enjoy the Scenery

Instead of white-knuckle driving in a foreign country with crazy drivers, you can sit back and enjoy the scenery when someone else is driving.

Plus, your driver might know about some cool things to show you that you would never find on your own.


A lot of people like the freedom of being able to drive themselves, but that comes with a lot of risk and cost when you’re traveling abroad.

We’ve lived abroad for the past 5 years and visited over a dozen countries, but we’ve never rented a car abroad. Instead, we use taxis, Ubers, buses and private drivers.

The major downside is that you lose a little freedom of movement, but the upside is you avoid scams and only pay for transportation on-demand, when you need it.

Renting a car comes with a lot of risk and hidden costs that can ruin a good trip. Do yourself a favor and pay someone else to drive you when you need it. Sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery.

Watch Our Video About Rental Car Scams



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Hola todos! Welcome to my author bio page! Let's see. Where to begin... I grew up in the country on a lake outside a small Kansas farm town. As soon as I could, I got the hell outta there! Since then, I've lived and/or worked in Kansas City, Washington D.C., Denver, San Francisco, and Ecuador. I started and sold a dotcom, wrote a book about it, started a YouTube channel, and now I write a lot. Amelia and I have embraced the Unconventional Life and we want to help you do it, too!

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