Hola travelers! My name is Aaron Hersey, and I’m the owner of Sun Valley Rent A Car.

I have seen so many questions when it comes to car rental insurance in Costa Rica from travelers, as well as concerns about hidden fees on many travel forums and groups, that I figured I would create this post, and hopefully it will be useful for those who have doubts regarding this subject. From my experience, I know it can be overwhelming. 

Car rental seems to be the most stressful part of planning a vacation to Costa Rica, and it really shouldn’t be.

First, before I start, I would like to clarify that offers on Expedia, Booking, and similar sites (9 times out of 10) do not include the mandatory coverages as well as some taxes and fees that will be added at the counter, hence the bad taste travelers keep having when renting cars in our beautiful country.

There are three main types of coverage offered in Costa Rica for car rentals, some mandatory and some optional. I will explain.

𝐓𝐡𝐢𝐫𝐝 𝐏𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐲 𝐋𝐢𝐚𝐛𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲 (𝐓𝐏𝐋) 𝐨𝐫 𝐒𝐮𝐩𝐩𝐥𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐥 𝐋𝐢𝐚𝐛𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐈𝐧𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞 (𝐒𝐋𝐈):

Costa Rica requires all car rental vehicles to be covered with TPL or SLI at the time of rental; this is 100% mandatory. No vehicle can be rented without this coverage, and it cannot be covered by a credit card (CC) benefit or third-party provider. It must be purchased at the car rental agency, with no exception. As the word explains it, it covers damages to third-party property 80%-20% (which means the customer is responsible for the 20% deductible of damages caused).

The car rental deposit (CC HOLD) will vary depending on the company, from $2000 to $5000 if you decide to only purchase this coverage during your rental period.

𝐂𝐨𝐥𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐃𝐚𝐦𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐖𝐚𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫 (𝐂𝐃𝐖):

In addition to TPL or SLI, CDW can become mandatory as well. This covers the rental vehicle itself. There are two types commonly used in the industry: BASIC and FULL (Premium).

Basic 𝐂𝐨𝐥𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐃𝐚𝐦𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐖𝐚𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫 (𝐂𝐃𝐖):

This coverage protects the rental vehicle with a maximum deductible caused by accident or theft. The max deductible will vary depending on the company and vehicle category selected (ranging from $750 to $2000), and the car rental deposit (CC HOLD) will range from $500 to $1000.

The 20% third-party liability deductible here is covered (in some cases, it depends on the agency); if not, you are still responsible for the 20% deductible. With us (Sun Valley Rent-A-Car), it is covered. The maximum deductible for damages caused to the rental vehicle will be $750 to $2000, depending on the company’s policy and the vehicle chosen.

Basic CDW has its limitations, depending on the car rental agency. In most cases, it does not cover ᴡɪɴᴅᴏᴡꜱ, ᴡɪɴᴅꜱʜɪᴇʟᴅꜱ, ᴛɪʀᴇꜱ, ᴄᴀʀ ᴋᴇʏꜱ, ɪɴᴛᴇʀɪᴏʀ ᴀɴᴅ ᴇQᴜɪᴘᴍᴇɴᴛ which means customers are responsible for the total repairs or loss, except in the case of an accident or theft.

𝐍𝐞𝐠𝐥𝐢𝐠𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞 is not covered in any protection; I will explain negligence below.


This is the highest coverage you can purchase for your rental vehicle; it covers the vehicle 100%, which means a $0 deductible caused by accident or theft, except 𝐧𝐞𝐠𝐥𝐢𝐠𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞. The rental deposit (CC HOLD) here varies again depending on the car rental agency, usually ranging from $100 to $400. The 20% deductible for third-party liability is covered

Again, this depends on the agency, but usually Full CDW covers the excluded items mentioned in Basic CDW, but some agencies have additional coverage for windshields and windows, tires and rims, and car keys, so this can even be excluded from Full CDW. Again, read and check your coverage to avoid surprises. With Sun Valley Rent A Car, all these accessories are covered under FULL CDW.

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐂𝐫𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐭 𝐂𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝐛𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐟𝐢𝐭 𝐜𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐜𝐚𝐫 𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐬 (𝐂𝐃𝐖)?

Yes, most (but not all) agencies accept CC coverage to waive the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW). This does not cover third-party liability. This benefit (CDW) has been removed from many credit cards, so you must make sure you have it.

To use your CC coverage, you must present a valid written proof at the agency’s counter to avoid having to purchase CDW, but there are different things to consider here while using this benefit:

  1. The rental deposit (CC HOLD), as mentioned above, will be higher ($2000 to $5000).
  2. You must verify that the CC coverage includes your selected type of vehicle, rental period, and driving restrictions.
  3. The customer is responsible firsthand for any and all damages caused to the rental vehicle, as well as the 20% deductible for third-party damage.
  4. The customer must file a claim with the CC provider for reimbursement, and the rental agency will provide the necessary documentation as well. Keep in mind that this procedure takes time.
  5. If you fail to show proof of CC coverage, CDW will become 𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 at the car rental agency counter. No rental vehicle can be rented without CDW (in-house or CC benefit), so you will have to choose from Basic or Full Collission Damage Waiver if you don’t have this benefit.

Now let’s talk about “Negligence”.

Most people who rent a vehicle with full coverage have the idea that nothing can be charged to their credit card if anything were to happen. This is not the case if you read the fine print of the rental agreement. Here are a few examples of what is considered negligence:.

  1. The driver is not authorized by the rental agency.
  2. Driving contrary to the laws of Costa Rica.
  3. Not providing an accident report to the rental agency.
  4. Misuse or negligence of driving. For example: Driving in or through rivers, estuaries, or beaches.
  5. Driving over 40 kmh with the 4×4 engaged
  6. Driving on poor-condition roads, etc.
  7. Driving under the influence

Each agency has its own limitations for car rental coverage, so make sure you read and understand these to ensure you have a pleasant trip in Costa Rica.

I know Costa Rica does not have the best roads, and in some cases, you will have to cross a small river or something similar to get from point A to point B. In most cases, nothing happens, but it is important for you to understand that if the vehicle suffers any damage, this will void your purchased coverage.  

If you understand this, your car rental process in Costa Rica should be a breeze!

Happy travels!!!