This article is the most complete guide to renting a car in Chiang Mai. After reading it all the way through, you will know where and how best to book a car, what documents are required, why it is very important to pay full insurance, and much more.
As you already know, our company rents motorbikes, and we always mention that a motorcycle is a high-risk means of transportation. Especially considering that Thailand is the world leader in the number of fatal accidents involving motorcyclists. However, many travelers, for reasons we do not understand, wanting to rent a bike, not only do not have a motorcycle license, but also do not have any riding skills. This automatically puts them on a par with suicides and Darwin Award nominees.
However, due to the lack of an extensive public transport network in Chiang Mai, and the language barrier between travelers and songthaew drivers, a personal vehicle is a necessity during your vacation. Especially if you are a traveler interested in local attractions and not a seal who likes to lie by the pool 24 hours a day cuddled up with bottles of heavy drinks.
Before 2020, you could find more than 100 private and chain car rentals in Chiang Mai. After the pandemic collapsed the travel market worldwide, and Thailand was no exception, many of these companies went bankrupt. Nevertheless, some of them still exist and offer their services.
So let’s get into the details!
If you need a car for a couple of days, it’s better to rent it from international chain companies, so you don’t have any problems. They have everything clear and well-established, the vehicles have low mileage, and the prices are the same as everywhere else. There’s no point in looking for a rental service anywhere else. Just book online, pick up at the airport or hotel, and travel!
Also, the big chain rental companies give you the opportunity to rent a car in one city and return it in another. This is very useful if you start your trip in Chiang Mai and finish it in Bangkok or on Phuket.
First class commercial vehicle insurance, which fully covers any damage, in Thailand is issued only on cars that are no more than 5 years old. This is very important, because some private renters offering cars for rental at a very low price, have vehicles that exceed this age. That means that no insurance company will cover the damage in case you get into an accident.
But if you are going to rent a car for several months, then look at the local private rental companies, it may be cheaper. But keep in mind that during the peak season (December-January) small companies may not have cars available in the parking lot, and prices can exceed all reasonable limits. The reason for this is that during the high season, it is not profitable to rent cars monthly, because they make as much in just one week of high season as they do in one month during normal times.
When mentioning local car rental companies, we are referring to small companies and individuals. These companies rent cars on the street or at the hotel, sometimes after a long search or by making a reservation at the reception of your hostel or hotel. Usually it makes sense to rent a car from a private rental place only if the rental period is a month or more, then it comes out cheaper and the time spent searching for the best deal is also worth it.
But in private rentals there can be some problems with insurance (it may not be present at all), with drawing up an agreement, and also there may be no car inspection sheet, which can lead to further problems. Moreover, the smaller the rental place, the “easier” will be the execution of documents and conditions. You may have to come to an agreement in words with a private person, which means that in case of any misunderstanding you will not have any documents confirming the exact conditions of the rental car. In general, small companies are not trusted by all travelers, because there are many uncertainties with them, from search to insurance and rental terms.
Network companies are the ones that operate not only in Thailand, but all over the world. You may know and remember their names from your travels in other countries: Hertz, Sixt, Avis, Thifty, etc. They all have similar requirements, always have insurance (with or without deductibles, your choice), all conditions are clearly spelled out on their websites and in their contracts. In that sense, everything is safe and guaranteed, and they all have a similar registration procedure. And you do not need to waste time looking for it.
All international renters offer their services not only through their official websites, but also through online brokers. These are special online services that display car rental options and rates from all renters at once. Experienced travelers know about these online brokers and always rent cars with their help. Just in case, I will tell you more in detail.