To Rent, Or Not to Rent…That is the Question (autos that it) Car Rental
Elise Van Enoo
When foreigners come to Panama they have to confront the issue of transportation while here. Depending on length of stay and where they stay, some of the answers become obvious.
For those who want to see the sights, or plan to be here for any length of time, the question persists. Do you use private transportation companies, public cabs – ( both options free you of the intensity of driving), or do you want to rent a car?
The advantages of having a car at your disposal whenever you want to drive are apparent. You are your own boss, dependent on nobody. The disadvantages are, to name a few, you are responsible for the vehicle, you need to maneuver through traffic which can be harrowing in Panama, and of course, you need to know where you are going if you ever want to get there- wherever that is.
After doing a bit of research on auto rentals in the Beach area of Panama, I have discovered a few good options. Of course, there are the usual suspect rental companies – the big names, Budget, Thrifty, Avis, Hertz etc. which can be found at the airport in Panama City. The big advantage of using their services is that everything can be arranged from your home before you arrive in Panama and they have lots of options for rentals. Also, when you arrive you are free to explore from that moment on. The disadvantage is that no matter what their website quotes, and no matter what they tell you, the price is always a whole lot more due to mandatory insurance, taxes, airport fees and by the time you get the car, the final price ( and I guarantee it) will NOT be as little as you thought. Plan on double whatever you see on the internet. Also, the roads and tolls from the airport are at times a bit confusing. Especially challenging for the first time if you arrive after dark. If you take the toll road, you must have a pass.
Cash is NOT an option. Discuss this with the rental company. They just might forget to mention it. Ooops!
So what to do if you want autonomy but not the hassles. Here are a couple of scenarios:
Get a cab from the airport to your destination. Upside- convenient; Downside-expensive. If you do this, be sure to negotiate a fee BEFORE you get into the cab. Then rent locally ( details to follow).
Hire a transportation service – lots of good ones, who for between $80-125, will get you to the beaches safely and securely. Then rent locally.
OK, so now that you are thinking about renting after you arrive safely in your hotel or condo, here are some companies to check out.
Value Motors, located in the heart of Coronado. Bilingual.
They currently have 13 cars and will have 20-25 by next high season ( Jan 2015) .
All their rates include insurances and taxes. There is a $400 deductible ( in case you have damage or loss). They will deliver the car to your condo; have a 1-way policy if you want to drive to one of their other locations – David, Boquete or Santiago with a $50 drop fee. They will even arrange transportation for you from the beaches to Tocumen airport for $75. That’s cheaper than the private transportation companies, but they only offer it to renters of at least a few days. They plan to offer gas golf cart rentals within Coronado by next season as well. If you want to lease or lease to purchase, they are happy to do that too.
Gold Coast Auto is an American owned company. Rob Condit started GoldCoast and offers options from compact vehicles to SUV’s and has in his fleet a 7 seater vehicle as well. He will offer delivery and pick-up within the beach area so you don’t need to have the car before you are ready for it and waste precious days of charges when the car won’t be needed. All prices are weekly only and his vehicles rent year round ( regardless of season) for $250/week except the 7 seater is $300/week. Prices include all fees of taxes and insurance. Here you can rent a GPS to help you get around for just $10/day. A handy helper.
Beaches Auto is a new and growing company with just a few cars now and in the process of acquiring another 10 vehicles (I was told at the time of this writing). As with the other companies in the beach area, prices include taxes and insurance so you have no surprises at the end. They have a few GPS’s available even though it doesn’t say so on the website. Their site in undergoing further construction, so don’t get frustrated when it seems to be a bit difficult to book what you want. Send him an inquiry and he will let you know what is available. Contact Josh. beachesauto.com is their website and you can get more details there.
Thrifty Panama is located at the far west end of the beach area, on the way to Santa Clara or Rio Hato. They keep a few cars there, but with 24 hour notice, they can get the entire fleet of Thrifty vehicles from Panama City. The office is inside of the Restaurante XOKO located on the Interamericana Highway at the entrance to Santa Clara Beach. Prices are all inclusive of tax and insurance and with a rental of 3 days or more, they are willing to deliver the car to your door. Any rentals of over 3 days require a 24 hour notice. They also have 4X4’s available for 3 days or more rentals. GPS’s and child seats are available and they allow 1 way drop offs at the Panama City Tocumen airport for $45. They do not have a specific presence on the web. If you go to Thrifty.com, you can’t reach this office with the all inclusive pricing. So you must call.
Contact Roland Sanchez ( Spanish speaker with a bit of English) at 507-908-8090
Lastly, let me add, that the beach rental cars are in great demand, especially at the high season. When I was interviewing for this article, at least 3 of the companies here had NO cars available at that moment. So do not expect you will get a car when you happen to want one without prior arrangements. This place is HOT!