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Frequently Asked Car Rental Questions

Little confused? We understand.

There’s an overwhelming amount of traveler advice out there — especially when planning a vacation to another country, but having all that info in front of you doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easy to comprehend.

Look, we all need guidance at some point; there’s no shame in that. We’ve created the following (and ever-growing) list of the most asked car rental questions along with answers written plainly.

Information Sign

1. How old do I have to be?

Minimum age for all drivers is 18 years. We have no set maximum age for senior drivers; as long as you are in good health and confident driving in a foreign country, then go for it!

However if you, or any authorized drivers, are between 18 and 20 years old, the Basic Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) deductible is doubled ($1,500) and the Full CDW (zero deductible) option is unavailable.

2. How much is the deposit?

Vehicles in Costa Rica are more expensive than most other industrialized countries due to the high import tariffs. As such, rental deposits may seem higher.

Depending upon the selected insurance (which may be viewed here), either a $100 (minimum), $750 or $2,000 (maximum) rental deposit will be placed on your credit card. This credit card will not be charged until you pick up the vehicle.

This amount will be refunded upon the safe return of the vehicle; typically within 2 to 5 business days.

Deposit and Payment Choices

3. What holds are placed on my credit card?

There are two types of holds placed on the renter’s credit card at the time of vehicle pick-up (check-in). The first is the rental deposit and the second is the total rental.

To learn more regarding the three rental deposit amounts based on the chosen insurance, please refer to this section above.

The total rental hold, as agreed upon at the time of pick-up, allows the opportunity to adjust any online reservation to better adapt to the renter’s changing itinerary; i.e. an additional day’s rental, for example. Upon return of the vehicle (check-out), a new total rental charge will be billed; including any further adjustments; i.e. cleaning fees, fuel level, etc. and the previous total rental hold will be released just like the rental deposit hold.

From the renter’s point of view, this process will create three separate charges: one hold for the deposit, one hold for the check-in rental fee and the check-out total rental charge. The hold/deposit may appear as a charge on the credit card statement, but in reality it is not. "Hold" and "charge" are two separate terms. Just like every other reputable car rental agency, we make a check-out charge — where the bank turns the initial hold into a transaction by way of another line item.

TL;DR: We will generate three credit card holds/slips: two holds (rental deposit and check-in rental) that will be released as soon as the renter’s bank allows, typically 2-5 days, and one purchase (check-out total rental charge) transaction.

Please be aware that these two holds, and the final bill, may occupy a large portion of that credit card’s available limit, so it may be useful to have a backup credit card for purchases during the vacation.

4. What types of payments do you accept?

The method of payment available to the customer depends on the coverage options selected.

If the customer decides to waive in-house CDW with a proof of coverage letter from their credit card supplier, then the credit card CDW is only valid if the customer pays both the deposit and final payment on the same credit card. Only one car rental per card holder is allowed in this case.

If the customer chooses to purchase CDW coverage from the car rental agency, then although the deposit must be made with a credit card, the final payment may be made with a debit card or even cash. In this case, multiple vehicle rentals may be made by a card holder just as long as the available balance can cover both the deposits and final bills for the combined rental cars.

5. Which credit cards do you accept?

Vamos accepts VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club and Discover. The type of credit card; i.e. raised/non-raised numbering or chip, is unimportant.

Some of these companies also offer rental car protection plans which include a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW). Please see our Credit Card Insurance Programs summary for more information.

6. Can the rental deposit be placed on a credit card that is different from the credit card used for payment?

According to American Express’ documentation, part of the requirement for obtaining CDW coverage in the first place is that the deposit AND the final bill will appear on the SAME credit card. We cannot speak for all credit card companies, so please contact yours prior to reserving a vehicle.

It also goes without saying that the "driver" is the card holder. If that is not the case, then make sure the one who will be operating the vehicle is added to the rental agreement as an additional driver.

7. Can I put the deposit on my debit card?

The short answer is that we used to, but due to the nature of debit cards, we no longer do.

Since most of them do not offer a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) as a member benefit, renters needed to purchase our insurance in order to have more coverage than just the country’s mandatory minimum.

Furthermore, it may take the bank up to twelve (12) weeks to release a deposit, making its use impractical. This is considerably longer than the 2 to 5 business days for a credit card hold to be released. This is not how we’d like to be treated, so we’ve moved away from using these cards as part of our deposit process.

One may pay the final bill using a debit card — just not the rental deposit. For a full explanation, please see the accepted payments section for more information.

8. How Safe is My Info?

While no company likes to divulge their security protocols, we do want to inform our customers on the steps that we take to protect their interactions with Vamos.

  • Website:
    – Current SSL technology to encrypt data flow.
  • Servers:
    – Uses the latest firewall/anti-virus software.
    – As robust as any American e-commerce site.
    – Handles all internet usage; including employee and clients’ local wireless connections.
  • Paperwork:
    – Duplicate Rental agreements (RA); each party retains a copy.
    – Client’s copy has zero credit card information on it.
    – Carbon imprints/written numbers are recorded only on our office copy.
    – Current RAs are kept locked in the office.
    – Once completed, the RA goes to Accounting to be secured for up to four years as required by law from the Ministerio de Hacienda (Costa Rica’s IRS department). After which, it is securely shredded.
  • Customer Service:
    – We never ask for the 3-digit security code/PIN, nor write it down.
    – Customers use a hidden keypad to enter the PIN directly into the software; only ‘stars’ (****) appear on the screen.

If you encounter suspicious activity or if a member of our staff acts outside of our protocol, please contact us immediately.

For further details regarding our collection and usage of personal information, please review our Privacy Policy.

9. Can I Rent Multiple Cars?

Yes you can if you chose our in-house CDW.

Since Vamos is assuming the responsibility for the damages, then multiple vehicles may be rented by the same person, using the same credit card — as long as the available credit limit is sufficient to cover both the deposit ($750 for Basic CDW and $100 for Full CDW) and final bill for the combined total amount of rented cars.

On the other hand, if the renter elects to use the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) that their credit card offers, then only one car rental per person is allowed — since the "driver", as defined by the CDW, is the card holder.

10. Can We Split the Cost of a Car?

"Yes, but..." is typically our answer. It’s not us, but the insurance that determines the hows and whys.

A vehicle needs to have a (1) Collision Damage Waiver (either from a credit card company or one of our in-house versions [Basic/Full]), along with the country’s (2) Mandatory Insurance, normally referred to Third Party Liability (TPL) or Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI). These two parts are required.

Furthermore, a car has one primary driver and a credit card is required for the deposit.

If a credit card CDW is used, the name of the driver AND the final method of payment must be made with the same card used for the rental deposit. The perk of the credit card company’s CDW is reliant on the card paying for the rental — in its entirety. Two persons cannot be listed as the primary driver so that they can claim CDW coverage via their credit cards. No spilt payments are possible with Vamos, but the two parties can make whatever arrangements they wish in order to reimburse the other.

If our in-house CDW is chosen, the final payment may be billed separately using two credit cards, etc., but the deposit starts and stays attached to one person’s credit card. There’s no way around this point.

We can put both names on the rental agreement, but one will still be the primary, while the other will be listed as an "additional driver".

TL;DR: If you want to split the bill, then select one of our in-house CDW options.

11. Can We Combine Discounts?

I love the movie The Fifth Element, but unlike Leeloo, Vamos does not have a "multipass" ... meaning that while we may have several promotions or seasonal discounts occurring at the same time, we will only apply the highest one to your reservation. For example, if you’re a wedding party renting a quantity of vehicles to qualify for our top 25% discount AND you were arrive during a 20% seasonal discount, we would deduct 25% from your car rental rate; not 45% since we do not add them together.

12. What is Express Check-In?

If you provide us with the information needed to prepare the rental agreement in advance, you may depart right away towards your next destination. Start your rental — and vacation — even faster!

13. How Much Luggage Can I Fit?

The amount of accommodated luggage is referenced with our numbered baggage icons for each vehicle — look for the Luggage Icon x # notation. As the number of bags allowed per airline differs, along with your variable amount of carry-on items, please take this often overlooked "total" into consideration when planning an appropriate car size.

For those clients who need seating for seven passengers in our Premium SUVs, our staff advises them to pack light or to take advantage of our free roof racks to transport their additional luggage. If so, please request these roof racks in advance so that your departure is not delayed unnecessarily.

14. Do you allow pets?

Yes we do and with no additional fees — provided all goes well.

You’re going on vacay and your pets are just as much a part of your life as your children (sometimes more), so it’s understandable to want to share the experience with them.

Pets are welcome to ride in the car, doggie heads sticking out of the windows and all, but be aware that pet owners of all sorts may incur additional charges due to glass smears, shedding, accidents and/or interior damage from claws or teeth caused by their animals.

This is why Vamos strongly recommends the use of pet carriers or crates as much as possible to avoid any extra cleaning fees or damages to the car since, ultimately, it’s the renter’s responsibility and not covered by any insurance plan.

15. Is there a cleaning fee?

Typically no, because our clients are mindful. However, accidents do happen.

We have an average range for clean-ups, depending if it’s a $20 "got sand on the seats and floor" occurrence to a $100+ deep cleaning caused by an overturned fish cooler... It’s happened.

This policy applies to pets as well. Vehicles should be returned free of pet hair and clean to avoid any further fees.

Furthermore, our vehicles are all non-smoking in keeping with Costa Rican law, so do light up outside the vehicle — the dashboard ashtrays are purely decorative. Charges will be incurred if a vehicle’s interior smells of smoke on return.

You don’t want to pay for it and we don’t want to clean it up, so treat our cars with a little love — and shake out those beach towels pretty please.

16. How can I pick up my rented car?

Pick up arrangements may be made for either the San Jose (SJO) or Liberia (LIR) airports. We offer this service free of charge. One of our representatives, holding a sign saying VAMOS, will "Meet and Greet" you outside the Arrival terminal. Please inform us of your flight information during the reservation process. From this info, we’ll monitor the airport schedules for your arrival date.

From there, our local shuttle will take you and your party over to the office to pick up your rental. The SJO shuttle holds 15 passengers, while LIR seats nine. Just in case you’re wondering if that’s the right shuttle, the Vamos name appears alongside Poas — our sister company.

Alternatively, you may take a taxi to either of our office locations. Our main office in Alajuela is approximately 3-5 minutes away from the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) and the Liberian branch office is 5 minutes away from the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport (LIR). You will be responsible for the taxi fare.

Update: Recent reports show that some of our competitors are being "helpful" in a different manner. Now they are informing our arriving customers that Vamos has closed its doors. Needless to say, this cannot be further from the truth. I suppose, "If you can’t beat ’em, tell people they’re out of business" is their new marketing strategy. Ask one of these nice people to borrow their cell phone and call us at 4000-0557 and we’ll be sure to answer!

17. What happens when our airplane lands somewhere else?

In the slight chance that your flight has been diverted to another airport due to volcanic activity, storms, etc., don’t worry, we’ll generally know what’s happening on the ground before you do!

Nevertheless, we’d certainly appreciate a quick call, text or email letting us know of your new arrival. Like a worried parent, we’d like to know that you’re alright.

In the past, the airline has bused the passengers down to the appropriate locale.

No matter how you eventually get here, your reservation will remain open and your vehicle will be waiting.

18. Do you have an office in Liberia?

Yes, we do have an office in Liberia. Please see the section, "How can I pick up my rented car?" for more information.

19. Do you have an airport location?

The simple answer is no, we do not. The reason why is because maintaining offices at the airports would require us to raise our rates due to the 12% airport tax. Our clients like saving money and we bet you do too!

The solution: we arrange to meet you there. Please see the section, "How can I pick up my rented car?" for more information.

20. Can Vamos Rent-A-Car deliver the car to me?

Yes, we can deliver the vehicle to all regions of the country for a reasonably priced fee.

Please see the Vehicle Delivery Fee Table at the bottom of this page for typical destinations and corresponding rates.

Whether it’s your hotel, bed and breakfast or vacation home, we will prepare all your paperwork in advance. Take possession of your car right away, all without having to wait! No lines, no hassles.

21. Can I return the car to a different location than where I picked it up?

Yes. You may receive the rental vehicle at one location and return it to a different location, although separate fees may apply.

For instance, if you wanted to receive the car at our San Jose office, but at the end of the rental, return the car in Liberia (or the other way around), the fee would be $50 (as seen on the following chart).

22. Can I return the car earlier than your office hours?

Yes, of course. We have different times depending on which office you are returning the vehicle.

  • Our San Jose office closes at 10:00 PM, so 9:30 PM would be a more appropriate time to drop-off the vehicle. We will reopen at 6:00 AM and approximately thirty minutes later, you’ll be on your way to the airport. TL;DR: Flights leaving at 8:40 AM or earlier from SJO will be pushing it timewise. Please consider using a "Plan B" below.
  • Our office in Liberia closes at 7:00 PM, so again, thirty minutes prior would generally allow enough time to close out the rental agreement. Their normally scheduled opening time is 7:00 AM. TL;DR: Departures leaving at 9:40 AM or earlier from LIR will be at jeopardy of missing the flight unless another option below is used.

In some cases, these times may not allow for the completion of the return process (allow up to 30 minutes depending), transportation to the airport (5-10 minutes), and going through security/check-in (two hours minimum) in time, so here are three options to accommodate this request:

  • Return the vehicle the night before and stay in a hotel with an airport shuttle for less stress in the morning.
  • For a modest $20 fee to cover our employee’s overtime, we may schedule an early office opening.
  • As a last resort, we can make arrangements to retrieve your rental from the airport parking lot. Please be well aware that the renter is still responsible for the car (and any accessories: cell phone, keys, gps, etc.) up until the time we collect it, as well as paying for the parking time. We recommend that you take pictures of the rental car for your peace of mind although we’re known to be more than understanding when considering scratches and regular road wear. If this is the *only* option you have, then taking our Full Collision Damage Waiver may be your best choice.

23. Parking Tickets and You - The Law vs. "You’ve Got to be Kidding Me?"

We all like to tear up parking tickets...because after all, they aren’t a *real* ticket, right? Think again. Doing so in Costa Rica can mean a high fee at the rental counter.

Changes to the traffic laws in 2017 gave additional power to the transit police to confiscate the license plates from illegally parked vehicles as well as imposing a fine.

From La Nacion, January 31st, 2017:

  • 4. La policía de Tránsito podrá retirar las placas al vehículo que obstruya vías públicas, el tránsito de vehículos y personas, aceras, ciclovías, o que permanezca estacionado frente a paradas de servicio público. Incluso, se podrá proceder con el retiro temporal del vehículo con el fin de evitar que siga obstruyendo el paso.
  • The Transit Police can remove the license plates from a vehicle that obstructs public roads, the movement of vehicles and people, sidewalks, cycle lanes or is parked in front of public service stops. They can proceed to temporarily remove the vehicle with the aim of avoiding the continued obstruction of the route.

Despite public outcry at the perceived double punishment for a minor infraction, the law continues to stand. So how can you avoid the inconvenience and costs related to parking tickets?

It is customary that we advise our customers to park in well-lit, secured parking lots wherever possible — although we realize that this is not possible everywhere in the country. Street parking is permissible — unless indicated by signposting or yellow lines on the curb. However, it should be noted that the parking restrictions apply even where the yellow lines or signposting have faded, so a keen eye will be helpful in avoiding ticketing.

For very popular tourist areas, such as Manuel Antonio, parking attendants can be pushy, but it is better to pay a few dollars to rent a space in a lot for the day than risk parking illegally.

Receiving a parking ticket and having the license plates confiscated have serious repercussions for both the renter and the rental agency.

Firstly, the renter is responsible for paying the ticket’s fine but there may be additional costs; such as:

  • Paying for a tow truck to deliver it back to the nearest Vamos office (since it cannot be legally driven without license plates).
  • Administrative costs associated with recovering the plates from the authorities. These include the labor hours involved in this time-consuming procedure — since the license plates must pass through three different agencies (Police/Transit/CONSEVI), each with a five working day allowance to process them. Add to this, that the fine must be paid at a governmental bank — whose lines are notorious and legendary in their own right. The typical ‘plate retrieve process’ will take days on Vamos’ end due to returning numerous times to CONSEVI until our number is called and we’re finally processed.

Vamos is not without penalty too for as long as the vehicle is without plates, no rental income is generated. This can take as much as three weeks to finally process this paperwork — and that’s a lot of downtime in our industry!

Our policy is to only charge customers for the fine incurred, any necessary tow truck costs, and the administrative costs involved in recovering the plates. Unlike other car rental agencies, we do not charge for the days when the vehicle is not in use.

Despite our attempts to minimize the cost to the renter, these additional charges can make quite a dent in any vacation budget and we’d like both you and Vamos to avoid this enormous buzzkill in the first place by simply parking in the proper designated areas.

24. How's insurance treat driving in water?

As there seems to be a few questions about the validity of insurance for river crossings, we consulted with our legal department to clarify this point. Vamos does not cover damages which occur due to river crossings because our insurance policy does not cover it. If we’re not covered, the renter isn’t either. The insurance documentation clearly outlines this exemption from coverage:

  • Article 9 (Damages, Events or Loss Not Covered on this Contract), Section 8, Paragraph A — from our policy with the Instituto Nacional de Seguros. "a. Los daños inmediatos o consecuenciales de la varadura, estacionamiento, circulación o cruce por el cauce de ríos, quebradas o riachuelos, costas, esteros, playas y la rivera de lagos." And in English: "a. The immediate or consequential damages of breaking down, parking, circulation or crossing by the river bed, streams or streams, coasts, estuaries, beaches and the riverside of lakes."

The unspoken truth is that people mistreat rental cars. It’s a simple fact but because it’s not their car, they may do things they wouldn't in their own, i.e. standing on the roof to get a photo shot, crossing a river because they don’t want to drive the 'long' way to their rental home, or parking the car on the beach so they can watch their belongings more easily. Sure, some of it makes sense, but there are rules — and legalities; namely the protected beaches and the high chance of damage due to the other "I thought it would be okay" events. We state clearly, plainly and upfront that if you do any of these things, among others, it will void the insurance — not only our in-house insurance, but most likely the credit card plan used as well.

We like to offer these guidelines for renters: avoid driving through more than four inches (10cm) of moving water, or more than six inches (15cm) of standing water to avoid stalling out. A car may begin to float in less than 12 inches (30cm) of water — and since there are no rudders on a car, you will be at the mercy of the water. The saying, "Turn Around, Don’t Drown" (TADD) applies to non-flood conditions as well.

This is not to say that Vamos, nor any other rental company on the face of the earth will accept this defense in a case of damages. It serves as a reminder as to how little water it takes to ruin your day. So let's leave the water for the birds and fishes; stick to the roads while in a rental car. 😉

25. Are there any special rental restrictions for ferry crossings?

Nope. River crossings performed by professional services, such as the ferry at Puntarenas, are fine. And in which case, we suggest being at that port at least 45 minutes before the ferry’s departure in order to purchase a ticket — and to secure a spot onboard.

What we do have issues with are those drivers who take it upon themselves to navigate water using local assistance...or worse, on their own. If you’d like to void your insurance and become 100% responsible for the well-being of the vehicle, then go right ahead. Otherwise, keep the wheels out of the water!

26. Can the car leave the country?

Generally rental cars cannot be taken out of Costa Rica without serious repercussions. Latin America is not like the European Union; our neighboring countries don’t allow uncontrolled exchanges.

One renter drove a car into Panama where it was seized. This is considered negligence and voids all insurance; thus, they were financially responsible for the vehicle. Normally, that’s doesn’t sound too bad, but all the red tape didn’t allow the car to be recovered quickly — all the while, the meter was still running — until the car returned to the office.

So if you don’t mind paying for a car that you’ll probably never see again, then by all means. Go right ahead and see how far you get, but if you’d like to save forty grand or so...you might want to heed our advice and don’t do it.

27. What if the rental vehicle experiences mechanical difficulties?

Our in-house mechanics perform a thorough, pre-rental inspection on every car, so our meticulously maintained vehicles are safe and reliable, but things can happen.

If your rental vehicle does experience mechanical issues, just contact us with the supplied cell phone (from anywhere there is cell phone coverage) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!

We will either dispatch a replacement vehicle or have a mechanic resolve the issue on the spot. Our main goal is to get you back on the road as fast as possible.

28. Are these tires safe to drive on?

It’s true that tires undergo strenuous use in Costa Rica.

To combat this, Costa Rica’s authorized agency; which is called the RTV, or RITEVE, and is equivalent to the state safety inspections and emissions testing performed in the United States, has stipulated that tires must have a minimum of 2 millimeters of tread to pass the country’s standards for roadworthiness. For your reference, both the USA and the EU stipulate that tires with less than 1.6mm (2/32") of tread are unsafe; making Costa Rica a safer country in that respect. 😉

What does this mean for you? Vamos has implemented the "Valid Tread Pledge" which means our mechanics will change out any tire if it’s below 2mm. Safety is our number one concern.

29. What exactly is a Road Hazard?

We’ve had a few questions on what exactly "hitting obstacles on the road" means with regards to invalidating the car rental insurance waivers.

Based on the automotive industry’s standards regarding road hazards and tire protection plans, Vamos incorporates the following statement to describe the multitude of things that may be found in/on Costa Rican roads.

Road Hazards Defined:

"Road hazard" shall include but not be limited to potholes, rocks, curbs, wood debris, other debris, nails, screws, bolts, metal parts, or glass; however, "road hazard" shall not include any damage caused by collision with another vehicle, vandalism, or other causes usually covered under the comprehensive or collision coverages provided by an automobile physical damage policy.

30. Vehicle Delivery Fee Table

Whether you’re arriving late in the day, staying at a remote Airbnb, or possibly wanting to skip dealing with the metro traffic in the Central Valley entirely, schedule to have your rental car delivered to you instead. We deliver all over Costa Rica!

  • Shuttle service between our office and any San Jose metro-area hotel (including Heredia & Alajuela): FREE
    To allow us to serve you better, please arrange this service in advance.
  • Deliveries or returns of rental vehicle to or from San Jose area hotels (including Heredia & Alajuela): $9
  • One-way drop-offs between our Liberia and San Jose branches: $50
  • Picking up from or returning to an office outside of our regular office hours will incur an additional $20 fee, per event, to cover staff overtime.
  • One-way delivery fees are listed below for reference. If you do not see your destination, please contact us and our friendly staff will gladly assist you.

One-Way Fee from Nearest Office to Destination
Arenal / La Fortuna $ 75
Atenas $ 25
Avellana Beach $ 35
Brasilito Beach $ 35
Buenos Aires $ 90
Cabo Matapalo $ 200
Cahuita $ 120
Canas $ 40
Carillo Beach $ 60
Cartago $ 35
Ciudad Quesada $ 60
Conchal Beach $ 35
Corcovado $ 200
Dominical $ 150
Drake Bay $ 250
Esterillos Beach $ 60
Flamingo Beach $ 35
Garza Beach $ 50
Golfito $ 220
Grecia $ 35
Guacimo $ 40
Guapiles $ 40
Guiones Beach $ 50
Hacienda Pinilla $ 35
Jaco $ 65
Junquillal Beach $ 35
La Cruz $ 50
La Paz-Waterfall $ 60
Langosta Beach $ 35
Limon $ 60
Los Chiles $ 150
Manuel Antonio / Quepos $ 110
Monteverde $ 120
Montezuma $ 150
Naranjo $ 35
Nicoya $ 50
Nosara Beach $ 75
Ocotal Beach $ 30
Orotina $ 35
Palmar Norte $ 150
Pan de Azucar Beach $ 35
Panama Beach $ 20
Papagayo $ 35
Paso Canoas $ 250
Penas Blancas $ 75
Playa Grande $ 35
Playa Hermosa $ 30
Playas del Coco $ 20
Poas $ 30
Potrero Beach $ 35
Puerto Jimenez $ 220
Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui $ 75
Puerto Viejo de Talamaca $ 130
Punta Islita $ 120
Punta Leona $ 50
Puntarenas $ 50
Samara Beach $ 75
San Gerardo de Dota $ 100
Santa Cruz $ 75
Santa Teresa / Malpais $ 160
Siquirres $ 50
Sixaola $ 150
Tamarindo $ 35
Tambor $ 120
Turrialba $ 75
Uvita $ 150

"All of Your Questions Answered"