Avanti Car Rental Company: Price Transparency in Costa Rica.  Raise your hand if you have ever had a disagreement on payments and/or felt duped by a rental car company.

Don’t be embarrassed — our hands are up too!

It’s a safe bet that many of us, and other fellow travelers, have been misled, hoodwinked or flat-out lied to at some stage of a rental car transaction. All these negative things can happen anywhere, and that includes Costa Rica.

You can google basically any rental car company in the world and see negative posts. Go ahead, google any rent-a-car company anywhere and now do it for Costa Rica. Oh-oh … plenty of bad press.

For this to be a black mark on the country’s reputation as a travel and relocation hotspot is the last thing Anibal Morales, General Manager of Avanti Rent-A-Car, wants to see.

“Whether it’s bait-and-switch sales tactics or deceptive pricing,” he says, “no form of ill treatment should be tolerated as a rite of passage for car rental customers in Costa Rica.”

More often than not, Morales points out, people’s car rental experience is their introduction to Costa Rica, so he wants to get them going on the pura vida vibe.

“Its one of the first services that most visitors or newcomers seek out of necessity. It’s shouldn’t be a sport or a game.”

When Howler was approached by Avanti Rent-A-Car for a promotional partnership, its business model was a breath of fresh air. Morales was quick to point out that Avanti was created with one goal in mind: to be the trusted, price-transparent rental car source in Costa Rica.

“We want to be known as the go-to car rental company, providing this needed service for a fair price with great customer service.”

This type of insurance coverage
is required in most countries
around the world.


Price Transparency Crystal-Clear

Whether needing a rental car for vacation, for business or while your car is still at the mechanic’s shop, you always have one eye on your finances. Budget-minded consumers do their research and plan their costs accordingly.

Yet, it’s not unusual for rental car customers to be shocked when the final price they are asked to pay at the counter is significantly higher than what they were quoted. Typically, they are blindsided when the mandatory insurance requirement suddenly drives up the price, especially if the rental car company fails to mention it until they are deep into the final contract details.

The truth? All car renters in Costa Rica are required by law to purchase Third Party Liability insurance coverage (TPL). It protects drivers and passengers against injuries, as well as damages to people or property outside of their vehicle. This type of coverage, also known as Supplemental Liability Insurance, is required in most countries around the world.

A common misconception is that your personal car insurance, travel insurance or credit card company covers mandatory TPL insurance in another country.  You might have even been told — or mistakenly believed — that it does. Again, that is not the case in Costa Rica, where TPL insurance must be purchased in the country.

To avert any confusion or unpleasant surprises, Avanti includes the TPL cost in its all-inclusive car rental price quotes. No additional taxes, fees or miscellaneous charges are sprung on customers unexpectedly.

Understand your options and what they truly mean

On the other hand, many customers are unwittingly persuaded by a car rental agent to purchase Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) coverage unnecessarily. Knowledge is your best protection against this common cause for regret.

Although CDW is completely separate from the mandatory Third Party Liability insurance, it can be purchased in addition at the car rental company if needed. This depends on whether you already have protection under another car insurance or travel policy, if not a qualifying credit card provider. In fact, most major U.S. credit card companies do provide CDW coverage as a cardholder benefit but do not assume that yours does.

Be sure to verify ahead of time whether your coverage through another insurance or credit card provider is international. In addition, obtain proof in writing that you can present to the car rental company. As a further precaution in Costa Rica, find out if a Spanish translation of this verification might be required.

If a car rental company demands that you purchase its CDW insurance in addition to the mandatory TPL insurance, and you are absolutely sure you are covered, we recommend you go to a different car rental agency.

As a related precaution, be very clear about deposit requirements ahead of time. Avanti deposit requirements are clearly outlined on its website.

Be aware that not purchasing CDW coverage from the car rental provider will result in a larger deposit. Right or wrong, this is standard practice for the Costa Rica car rental industry.

Important: Although some car rental companies accept debit cards for deposit payments, credit cards are generally recommended as the best option, especially if you already have your own CDW insurance.

Anyone opting to use a debit card for the deposit transaction must clearly understand that ALL car rental companies will debit your bank account, as opposed to putting a hold on your credit card account. With that typically comes an inconvenient wait for your bank account to be reimbursed after returning the vehicle, whereas a credit card account hold is reversed immediately. To minimize bank issues, Avanti is currently preparing a document stating Avanti has returned the debit card deposit, should you experience any delays on your bank side of this transaction.

True discount means no monkeying around

If it sounds too good to be true, be careful. Even the savviest of consumers can fall into price traps. We are talking about internet search results that tout $10-per-day or even $5 daily rates. Really?!

As you compare car rental costs in Costa Rica — a wise practice for visitors and locals alike — you may notice companies claiming to offer “discount” or “budget” rates. The asterisked text may be less eye-catching —  details in small print about the final price being subject to the above-mentioned insurance costs, additional taxes and fees.

Comparison shopping is only effective on an apples-to-apples basis. Even if you have to dig deep during your car rental research and ask questions more than once, try to come away with the most straightforward, all-inclusive rates as possible. Then we encourage you to compare the quotes you receive from other companies — even those offering special “discounts” — with Avanti’s all-inclusive rates.

On average, Morales says he’s confident that Avanti’s price will be 20 percent, or up to 30 percent, lower than any other car rental service in Costa Rica.  Further, discounts are rewarded to long-term renters and returning customers.

In addition, Avanti is excited to offer Howler readers a 10 percent discount on any car rental. 

If it’s your first car rental experience here,
we hope it’s the beginning of your love affair
with our beautiful country.


What about what-ifs?

Accordingly, your choice of rental car service in Costa Rica should take into account the unexpected. A straightforward process for “plan B” assistance can make all the difference when encountering more than your average bumps in the road.

Reliable customer service, as well as safety, are not always a matter of getting what you pay for. Nor can assumptions be based on whether you are renting through a large franchise corporation or a smaller-scale local entrepreneur. What matters is that the car rental company has your back in the event of a mishap anytime, anywhere.

Morales assures Avanti customers that someone is always available to assist, 24-7. A helpline number is provided when renting the car and on the website. In cases of vehicle damage or breakdown, for example, a coordinator (usually Morales) arranges transportation to the client’s destination and/or a replacement vehicle as soon as possible.

“We know our clients’ time is valuable, so we are going to make every effort to get them on their way as fast as possible,” Morales says.

Customer care so you feel at home

Costa Rica holds a special place in the hearts and minds of visitors, expats and locals alike, Morales says of Avanti’s customer service mission.

“We want our customers to feel like members of the Costa Rican community. You are not just another tourist passing through. If it’s your first car rental experience here, we hope it’s the beginning of your love affair with our beautiful country. We want you to think of Avanti as your keys to Costa Rica.”

Do your homework, drive safe and enjoy the pura vida experience.

Don’t forget to mention Howler to receive an additional 10 percent discount on top of Avanti Car Rental Company’s unbeatable prices.


Consumer Checklist

Some of the most confusing or commonly misunderstood aspects of car rentals are addressed in the adjacent article. Whether or not the onus should be on car rental companies to communicate more clearly or thoroughly, there’s little doubt about the negative impact on customers’ experiences and perceptions.

The more proactive consumers can be while comparison shopping for car rental quotes, the better. The following is a checklist of key issues covered in the article, along with some additional questions to help you finalize your decision.

    • What is the amount of deposit required? Is the deposit amount (or range of amounts) based on the level of insurance coverage?
    • What specific types of damage are covered and NOT COVERED by the deposit? Be wary of the potential to be “dinged” unreasonable charges for very minor damage.
    • Are debit cards accepted for the deposit or only credit cards? If debit cards are accepted, bear in mind the length of time you might have to wait for your bank account to be reimbursed after returning the vehicle, compared to immediate reversal of a credit card account hold.
    • What “official” proof is required of my existing Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance? Does this need to be translated into Spanish?
    • What if your car rental is booked online through a third-party travel service provider (e.g., Expedia, Priceline, etc)? Are you charged a higher rate that overrides the transparent prices promoted independently by the car rental company?
    • What about theft or loss/damage to my personal belongings in the car? Are you covered through your home property insurance or a travel policy? Be aware of your existing protection or need for additional coverage not included with TPL and CDW insurance.


Read more about car rentals in Costa Rica here!