Last updated on June 7, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, travelling and renting cars In Costa Rica

How old do you have to be to rent a car in Costa Rica

The minimum age is typically between 18 and 21, and it depends on the rental company. This is the short version of the answer but there is much more about possible young driver fees, license requirements, and insurance premiums that I explore in this guide.

Renting a car in Costa Rica under 25 is not complicated, however, your driver’s license must be valid for at least 1 year. Sometimes rental companies have however a different requirement like possibly 2 years.

There is no standard approach by the rental companies and that is why I decided to write this post including a few booking examples, scams, and how to avoid them.

But let’s have a start

You can drive to some of the most amazing beaches in Costa Rica otherwise impossible by bus
You can drive to some of the most amazing beaches in Costa Rica otherwise impossible by bus

Minimum Age Requirement

Based on the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the minimum age to drive in the country is 18 years. However, most car rental companies stipulate a minimum age of 21 but it varies by rental agency.

There are some agencies that might allow rentals to younger drivers, typically with the condition that they have had a driving license for a certain number of years, usually one or two.

It’s worth noting that younger drivers may face additional fees or restrictions even if they meet the age requirement. The next sections will cover that. Therefore, it’s crucial for potential renters to verify the specific age policies with their chosen rental agency before making a booking to ensure a smooth rental process.

Some rental agencies also impose a maximum age limit, often set at 75 years, so older drivers should likewise confirm any age restrictions.

One thing to notice is that in 2017, the Comisión Costarricense de Cooperación con la Unesco considered changing the minimum age for driving to 21 but it hasn’t happened so far (I will update this post in case).

Driving License Requirements

When renting a car in Costa Rica, the type of driving license you hold, as well as your age, will impact your rental agreement. Both local and international licenses are accepted, as long as they are valid and have been held for at least two years.

There are a few rental companies that accept also less than two years of driving license, however, expect a fee and a larger deposit.

A license written in Roman letters like English or Spanish does not require an International Driving Permit (IDP). However, if your license is not written in Roman letters, for instance, Chinese or Cyrillic, you are required to obtain an IDP.

Most rental agencies will pick you up from outside the airport - Right side as you exit the terminal
Most rental agencies will pick you up from outside the San Jose International Airport – Right side as you exit the terminal

Age-related Rental Conditions

When renting a car in Costa Rica, the driver’s age can indeed impact rental conditions and policies. Typically, car rental companies have a minimum age requirement, usually around 21-23 years old. Some rental companies may not rent certain vehicle types, such as luxury or high-performance cars, to drivers under a certain age, typically 25 or 30 years.

There can also be a maximum age limit, usually 75 years, after which additional documentation or insurance may be required. Furthermore, drivers under a certain age, commonly 25 years, may face a ‘young driver surcharge‘, a daily fee added to the rental cost.

In terms of insurance, some rental companies might require younger renters to purchase comprehensive insurance, considering them high risk. It’s important to check the specific age-related rental policies of the chosen rental company ahead of time to avoid any surprises upon arrival in Costa Rica.

I usually book my cars with DiscoverCars, an aggregator website that compares location and international rental companies providing the best deal. I love them because they do not have small letters and you can find all you need in the Rental Conditions, including the section on the driver requirements (see pictures below).

Driver requirements clearly stated
Driver requirements clearly stated
With this renter you can drive even if you are 18 years old but your license must have been issued at least 1 year prior and there is a young driver free for under 21
With this renter, you can drive even if you are 18 years old but your license must have been issued at least 1 year prior and there is a young driver fee for those under 21
With this renter you can drive if you are at least 21 years old and your license must have been issued at least 2 year prior and there is a young driver free for under
With this renter, you can drive if you are at least 21 years old and your license must have been issued at least 2 years prior and there is a young driver fee for those under 24

If under 25 years old, check carefully the driver requirements. The last thing you want is to book a car, arrive at the renter’s desk, and discover you can’t pick it up or you have to pay a very high younger fee.

Young Driver Surcharge

The “Young Driver Surcharge” can vary quite a bit based on a few factors. It’s not only about the age but also about the car that you rent and the length of the hire.

You may end up paying anything between $10/day and $20/day.

Typically the booking website should tell you the charge once you add your date of birth and surely before completing the payment. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and some renters may tell you that only at the counter (this is one of the scams of Costa Rica).

My biggest tip here is to avoid completing the payment if you do not get reported on the surcharge. On the DiscoverCars booking platform, for example, you get the below alarm and the updated total cost once you enter the date of birth.

Price has changed alarm
Price change notification. The new updated price will come once you book the car
Updated price with the Young Driver Fee

Age Limits for Different Vehicle Categories

Certain vehicle types may carry different age restrictions when renting a car in Costa Rica. Usually, basic economy, compact, and standard vehicles are available to drivers from the minimum rental age (usually between 18 and 21 years).

However, for larger, premium, or specialty vehicles such as SUVs, luxury cars, or vans, rental companies might impose higher minimum age requirements.

For example, you can rent an economy car when you are 20 years old. You may be required to be at least 25 to rent an SUV or a luxury car. It is also common to see restrictions on young drivers from renting high-performance sports cars, rarely offered anyway.

Tips for Young Renters

Here below I have organized 10 tips that will help with renting a car in Costa Rica at a young age.

  1. Do Your Research: Understand the policies of different rental companies, as they can vary widely when it comes to young drivers.
  2. Early Booking: Reserve your car well in advance to ensure availability and possibly lower rates.
  3. License Validity: Ensure your license is valid and in English or accompanied by an International Driving Permit.
  4. Insurance: Understand the insurance requirements in Costa Rica and make sure you’re adequately covered.
  5. Vehicle Selection: Choose a vehicle that suits your driving comfort and the terrain you’ll be exploring. Renting a 4×4 in Costa Rica is the best choice, assuming the rental company does not have restrictions on age for this type of car.
  6. Additional Driver: Consider adding an older driver to the rental agreement, if possible. This will smooth the process.
  7. Avoid Additional Fees: Refuel the car before returning it and avoid a late return to prevent extra charges.
  8. Documentation: Carry all necessary documents, including passport, credit card, and driver’s license. Although you can rent a car in Costa Rica without a credit card, it becomes almost impossible at a young age due to the already many restrictions.
  9. Road Awareness: Familiarize yourself with Costa Rican traffic rules and road conditions. I have written a full guide for first-timers driving in Costa Rica that has plenty of great information and tips.
  10. Emergency Numbers: Have local emergency contact numbers handy for quick assistance (you find them all in my driving in Costa Rica guide).
Roads in Costa Rica are quite often unsealed but still very doable
Roads in Costa Rica are quite often unsealed but still very doable

Conclusion

Like in most of the world, also in renting a car Costa Rica has age-related requirements and conditions. Being well-prepared can help you avoid unexpected complications and costs.

Remember, each car rental company might have their unique policies, so doing your due diligence beforehand is key. Choose a suitable vehicle, understand your insurance coverage, and ensure your driving license meets the requirements.

In doing that, you will save money, and time and you will experience a safer trip in the beautiful landscapes of Costa Rica.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the minimum age to rent a car in Costa Rica?

The minimum age is typically between 18 and 21, but it varies by rental company.

Is there an upper age limit for car rentals in Costa Rica?

Most companies have an upper limit between 70 and 80 years old.

Do I have to pay a Young driver surcharge if I’m under 25?

Yes, many companies apply a “young driver” surcharge for those under 25, but not every rental company. Read the Driver Requirements before booking

Can I rent any type of car at age 21?

It depends on the company; some restrict young drivers to certain vehicle categories.

Do all companies charge the same young driver surcharge?

No, the surcharge varies from company to company.

Are there any exceptions to the minimum age requirement?

Generally, no. But, some companies might have different policies, especially for long-term rentals.

Can a 19-year-old rent a car in Costa Rica?

Most likely not. The majority of companies set the minimum age at 21, however, I have seen rental agencies with the minimum age at 18. Read the Driver Requirements

Does age affect the cost of car rental insurance in Costa Rica?

Yes, younger drivers may face higher insurance premiums

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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