Reality Check


Car Rental Pricing – The "Hidden" Economics

We’ve known that there are questionable pricing practices in the car rental industry and that’s why Vamos incorporated its transparent, "No Hidden Fees" motto several years ago.

When we launched our Price Match Guarantee in the summer of 2013, we received numerous requests to match rates that appeared deceptively low.  So low in fact that we researched the marketplace and found that travel comparison websites were advertising $6 to $17/day rentals.  That sounds great to be sure, but from a business standpoint, the quotes appeared unrealistic.

Some rental agencies rely on one or more of the following four methods to create the impression of a low rate.

  1. Neglecting to include Mandatory Insurance in quote

    Costa Rica requires every rental vehicle to be insured against third-party claims.  This is a mandatory policy.  So no matter what you’re told, this charge will appear (in one form or another) on your final bill.  Expect to pay between $10 to $25 per day, depending on the make/model of your rented vehicle.

  2. Conditionally requiring additional insurance or waiver

    This usually appears as an in-house version of what your credit card program would provide, but instead, it is added on top of the Mandatory Insurance AND it’s a requirement to rent their vehicle.  Although the online quote will automatically include this in-house policy, it may be refused by presenting sufficient proof of coverage at the counter.

  3. Failing to mention the added airport tax

    Officially, the airport tax for San José is 12%; Liberia is 3%, but some agencies do charge more…a lot more.  One globally recognized brand, in particular, charges 13% airport tax for their rentals in San José; 14% for Liberia.  Other hidden surcharges exist as well, such as license plate fees, environmental fees and more, but finding this information generally requires sleuthing skills, as it is rarely listed in regularly-sized print anywhere near the quote.  See our Compare Fees chart for more details.

  4. Offering "teaser" rates via third-party websites

    Well-known booking portals, such as Expedia, Kayak, Priceline, etc. will decline any responsibility for undisclosed taxes or charges that a local rental car company may charge upon your arrival.  In other words, it’s more than likely that those rates will increase at the counter.

An excerpt from a well-known internet-based travel website is shown below.  It is representative of other related websites that offer car rentals.

The rates are for a midsize 4x4 (Daihatsu Bego or similar) for a 7-day rental (the typical rental duration).  We have "decoded" some of the fine print legalese that is responsible for an increased rental bill.

Typical Hidden Fees

Our intention is to help you, the consumer, to make informed decisions.  While comparing rates, it pays to research all mandatory or conditional extras beforehand.  Also ensure that you have a copy of all written correspondence.

At Vamos, we stand behind our pricing.  We are the only car rental company in Costa Rica that publishes their rates for the entire year in advance!  We do not change our rates according to a whim or availability.  If you want a real guarantee, see what Vamos can do for you.

Savings Add Up Over Time

Click to Get a Quick Quote

We’ve also ranked highly in surveys of recommended car rental agencies in Costa Rica.  Here’s the most current comparison, reposted with permission.  Although this list doesn’t show the final tally (where we truly shine), Vamos’ rates are competitive with the brand name franchises.  All car rental operators provide vehicles, but our service is what genuinely separates us from the rest.

Text Luis or Melissa over Live Chat or call our toll-free number to speak with them for an honest and transparent quote.  They’d love to speak with you!

P.S.  If you’ve experienced a similar story that you’d like to share, please leave a comment below or you may email us directly.  Help more people to avoid being disappointed on their vacations.  Please "pay it forward".  Karma does work!  😉

Tune In

Ricardo Vargas

Webmaster at Vamos Rent-A-Car
Ricardo posts rental comparisons to demystify confusing disclaimers.  If you encounter a tricky quote, let him know, so he can help!
Tune In

Latest posts by Ricardo Vargas (see all)