Is it mandatory to purchase CDW insurance from your car rental agency in Mexico?

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By | June 9th, 2017

Anna Kim was taken for a ride. Unfortunately, it’s not the one she had planned for.

She had done tons of research, both online and via phone, before booking a rental car for her Mexican vacation. Specifically, she was assured by her car rental company, Europcar, that the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance provided by her credit card company would be sufficient for her rental.

It’s important to do your research before, during and after booking your flight, hotel, car rental, or any other aspect of travel. It’s frustrating when, after you’ve done all that hard work, a company representative tries to take advantage of a bad situation by insisting that your research is wrong in order to pry more money from your wallet, and that is exactly what happened to Kim.

“I made a one week reservation through Priceline for $171,” Kim told us. “Prior to picking up the car, I researched Europcar’s policies online and received confirmation from an agent that Europcar provides all mandatory required third-party liability coverage in Mexico and that CDW was optional.”

But when she arrived at the counter, she learned otherwise:

The agent told me that I had to pay extra to purchase both the mandatory liability insurance as well as CDW coverage in order to rent the car.

They would not allow me to use my credit card for CDW coverage, even with a damage deposit, which contradicts with Europcar’s policies. For the bare minimum “basic” coverage, I would have to pay $567, or I could get “full” coverage for $800, but if I didn’t choose one of the two I wouldn’t be able to rent the car.

The basic coverage offered by Europcar’s policy offered a 20 percent deductible, much less coverage than the zero percent deductible offered by her credit card’s CDW policy. To make matters worse, it was peak holiday season, and the agent claimed there were no other rentals available in the area.

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The Europcar representative also told Kim that there were more reservations than cars available, and the car she wanted to rent was the last one available. The agent threatened to take away Kim’s car in order to rent it to someone else if she didn’t purchase the insurance, so Kim took the car with the minimum coverage.

Because the rental ended up being much more expensive than she had planned for, Kim shortened the rental from seven days to four. Still, she was out about $250 ($63 a day) more in fees than she had counted on.

Immediately after receiving the car, Kim sent an email to Europcar customer service outlining what had happened and requesting that they cancel her CDW coverage for the remainder of the rental term. However, she did not receive a response or a refund.

She also contacted Priceline, from whom she had rented the Europcar vehicle, but they sent her back to Europcar, saying they do not deal with insurance issues.

This highlights an accountability issue that takes place whenever you do business with a third-party travel provider such as Priceline or Hotwire. Fewer customer service issues occur when just dealing with a company directly. I’ll often do my research on these sites, find the lowest-priced rental, and then contact the company directly to get that lowest price.

Kim definitely did her homework before making this reservation. She checked Europcar’s website for their Mexico Terms and Conditions, which stated that CDW “is optional and is typically purchased by customers that are not covered for vehicle damage or loss by their credit card company (or insurance linked to a credit card).”

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So what happened at the Europcar location in Los Cabos, Mexico? We’ll never know. Europcar never responded to Kim. Our advocates attempted multiple times to contact the company on her behalf, and the lone public relations person we spoke to never called us back.

We’ll have to file Kim’s nightmarish rental experience in the Case Dismissed pile. I’m sure Europcar won’t be getting her business anymore, and we strongly suggest that she and our other readers use caution when using Europcar and third-party travel sites.



  • Dutchess

    This is why I avoid Europcar like the plague! I’ve heard so many horror stories about mandatory insurance scams like this from them.

    “So what happened at the Europcar location in Los Cabos, Mexico?”

    She got scammed. When the agent started saying this was the only car available I would have walked away and checked. The employee was obviously lying.

  • Lloyd Johnston

    “This highlights an accountability issue that takes place whenever you do business with a third-party travel provider such as Priceline or Hotwire. Fewer customer service issues occur when just dealing with a company directly. I’ll often do my research on these sites, find the lowest-priced rental, and then contact the company directly to get that lowest price.”

    If you don’t learn anything else from this site, this ^^^^

    I always book direct (either on the main website like ihg.com, budget.com, etc) or with hotels, sometimes I will call the property directly. This eliminates ANY chance of finger pointing or buck passing. I am your customer, this is your circus, and I am your monkey, and you can’t send me anywhere else, because literary, there is no one else involved.

    Same reason I try, unless absolutely impossible, to avoid code-share flights as well. I don’t really want to have a fight to determine if it’s Airline A or Airline B who needs to rebook my ticket after a mechanical/weather flight cancellation. Just fix it already.

  • Charles Owen

    What to have some fun? Go to expedia.com and choose Cars. Enter CUN as the airport and some upcoming summer dates. I used July 18-25. Then see what prices you get. Yes, you can rent a car for $1 a day. Hyundai Access: $6.83 due at pickup. And that’s with a big red warning: “We’re experiencing high demand at this location for your trip dates. Book soon.” So, do you think there may be some extra charges down the line somewhere?

    At the bottom of the page: “Note: At time of pick up, the car rental agency may charge you for additional insurance, such as liability insurance, which may be required in certain locations.”

  • Annie M

    Mexican car rental companies pull this all the time. It isn’t just limited to Europe car. She should have brought the email with her and when they insisted, written “under protest” next to where she was forced to sign and taken a photo of it.

    Did she try a chargeback with her credit card company?

  • Bill___A

    The other place where this sort of thing seems to be a contentious issue is Ireland. I started to make a reservation with Herz, and on the reservation was printed out very clearly what was compulsory and what was optional. CDW was clearly listed as optional. I can’t speak for Europcar, whom I don’t deal with, but I can see at least one rental car company does print this out. If I ever go to Ireland again, which is far more likely than me going to Mexico, I will be armed with this printout and with the certificate of insurance from my credit card. It appears obvious that travelers renting cars should be armed with this information so that they don’t get scammed like this. This is the second “do not go to mexico” story I have read this week.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Oh great. I’m headed to Ireland in two weeks, and am renting a car there. ;-)

    Fortunately I was made aware of this situation in Ireland right here in Christopher’s forum. I’ve done all my research, and ensured that I will have print-outs of all documentation that I need to confirm that I have purchased the insurance that is necessary to rent a car there, and will not be pressured into buying more than I need.

    Things are different in Ireland – I don’t recall the specifics (I’d have to go look up my notes) but in Ireland you are required to purchase some type of insurance that is not required in other countries. We’re renting cars both in Scotland and Ireland I was wondering why the daily rates for rentals in Ireland were SOOO much cheaper than in Scotland – and that’s why. Once I added in the additional insurance that is legally necessary in Ireland (but not in Scotland), the rates in Ireland ended up matching much more closely with the rates in Scotland without the (unnecessary) additional insurance.

    Sorry if that was confusing – the whole thing is very confusing! :)

  • Phyllis Morris

    When renting a car in Ireland and a handful of other countries your US auto insurance and US credit cards will not cover the rental. I found this out before going to Ireland with a package that included a car. The rental company gave me a choice of levels of coverage. Driving in Ireland is an adventure and we were glad we did after blowing out a tire which bent the rim. The car could be driven and we found a place just to check the price to have the rim & tire replaced (curiosity). It was more than the cost of the insurance we had purchased. You will also see many vehicles with side mirrors hanging off because of driving on the very narrow roads.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yes, that’s exactly what I found. (I didn’t articulate it well in my comment above – I didn’t feel like going to look up my notes, but I knew it was something like that.) When I pre-reserved my car for Ireland, I made sure it included the legally required insurance. For Scotland, I confirmed that my credit card coverage will be all I will need, so I didn’t reserve it with any additional insurance, and we’ll have proof of our credit card coverage with us. So I *think* I’ve covered all my bases.

    Yeah, we’ve heard the driving there will be pretty interesting! Can’t wait to find out for myself. I hope my experience does NOT include any tire blow-outs, though. LOL!

  • MarkKelling

    The other thing to look out for is manual transmission. In Ireland unless your reservation states specifically otherwise, you will receive a manual transmission vehicle. And they usually try and dump the one on you that is just about to burn out the clutch so they can charge you for it when it leaves you immoble on the side of the road.
    But after reading this site for a few years, we all already know that. :-)

  • Phyllis Morris

    Our package included a manual car. My own car is manual so it wasn’t a problem. They tried to talk us into an automatic for a ridiculous price. i loved driving in Ireland but my husband hated the small roads with the stone walls and tall shrubs.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yes, someone actually mentioned this to me in the comments on another article in this blog a few weeks ago. I went to check out the price of an automatic vs a manual, but the automatic was SUPER expensive. So we’re going with a manual. I’m not too worried about that part – hubby will be doing all the driving, and he’s been driving a stick his whole life. Plus he’s a leftie, so he thinks he’ll be fine. :-)

    The thing about the clutch being near to burn-out – that’s definitely a concern. But after years of reading this site, I’m well versed in all of the myriad scams that auto rental companies try to pull! I’ll have my iPhone camera well deployed in upon pick-up and drop-off. I don’t know how easy it is to determine the state of the clutch when you pick up the vehicle, but hubby happens to be a car enthusiast and knows a ton about car mechanics, so he’s my ace in the hole. Wish us luck!

  • JohntheKiwi

    I haven’t ever had to do it, but in this kind of situation I have a plan to sign the contract with what looks like a signature but on closer inspection reads “Decline CDW”. I feel like that might hold up in a credit card dispute, alongside a copy of the official “CDW is optional” policy.

  • Sharon

    Many CC insurance coverages definitely EXCLUDE rentals in Israel, Italy, Ireland (all “I’s”, making them easy to remember).

  • Tigger57

    I’m sorry you were not able to help in this circumstance. This is one of few instances where I believe the client got screwed by no fault of her own.

  • Bill___A

    I made a reservation on Hertz for Dublin and no extra insurance was required at all. They gave me a summary of what was required and what was optional. So if you are getting quotes that require insurance, you might wish to get one from the hertz site just to compare. I didn’t follow through with the rental, just stayed in Dublin for three nights, and if I do return to Ireland and rent a car, I will be having this printout and my credit card’s insurance certificate in hand, and will be on the phone to customer service if anyone tries to tell me any different than what’s on the information I have.
    That said, you should have a great time. I’ve driven all over Scotland and England. It is really nice to go and see all the quaint little places. Don’t trust your GPS too much, it is an aid, but not the authority. It did direct me some places that I couldn’t go, like a railway crossing which actually wasn’t a crossing, but it is easy to overcome. If you deal with Bank of America, you can get cash at Barclay’s for no extra fees, but they will show the currency exchange commission as a “fee”. Watch out for DCC when you make credit card purchases. If they offer to charge you in US dollars, it is likely going to be more expensive than if you pay in the local currency and let your bank convert it.

    The people were very nice in both UK (Scotland and England) and Ireland. I always went on long walks from the hotels, it is nice to see how people live.

  • Bill___A

    I guess one point I didn’t make clearly is that my credit card coverage does in fact cover Ireland, but they have two types of CDW in some places…”CDW” and a “super cover” type…I am really not understanding why some don’t cover Ireland. But the credit card I use isn’t from the USA either…

  • cscasi

    I would not drive a vehicle in Mexico unless I was fully insured. If you get into an accident in Mexico and do not have the proper coverage ( what the police consider proper coverage), one can be thrown in jail. I have not experienced an accident there and I never want to. Avis used to let us rent a vehicle and take it into Mexico (most other rental companies did not allow one to take their vehicles into Mexico at all)., but was had to pay about $22 a day for extra coverage (that was back in the early 2000’s)

  • ajaynejr

    Regarding renting a car through Priceline etc. and then the rental company won’t give you the car unless you bought optional insurance you did not want — I would have suggested declining the insurance you did not want anyway. Then if the agent won’t give you the car you immediately call Priceline, etc. explaining the situation and asking them to refund your money (even if non-refundable) or getting the rental company on the spot to rent the car to you.

    Now if the rental agent declines your credit card leaving you with no appropriate insurance coverage then you would be better off changing your mind and buying the rental company’s coverage.

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