It’s possible to rent a car in all the big cities. There are lots of offices near to the airports in Quito and Guayaquil. You must be over 21 to rent a car and may have to pay a surcharge if you are under 25.
You can drive with your foreign driving licence for a maximum of 90 days. You must have it in the vehicle at all times.
When you visit the rental agency you need to take your licence, a form of ID (passport) and a credit card. The agency will seek authorisation to cover a deposit between $2000 and $2500. You sign a voucher and when you return the card the voucher is destroyed. No transaction appears on your account statement – the money isn´t actually charged. I have also presented an international Visa Debit card with no problem.
A small car is OK if you’re in the cities or for driving along the Panamericana or from Guayaquil to the beach. For any other trips outside the cities you should hire a 4x4/ SUV.
There are many rental agencies based around the airports. Budget and Avis have offices throughout Ecuador and offer you the option of picking up the car in one location and dropping it in another.
Where should I buy fuel?
There are many different companies competing to sell fuel in Ecuador and you won’t usually have to worry about finding a petrol station except for on some of the more isolated routes. There are types of petrol / gasoline. Super is the higher grade, Extra is the lower. Extra costs $1.48 a litre everywhere. Super varies – Mobil and Primax charge $2.18 or $2.19 a litre. Petrocommercial petrol stations belong to the state and sell it at a cheaper price - $2.00 a litre. Some other competitors match this price, especially in the highlands and especially around Ambato which is definitely a place to fill up your tank.
If you’re hiring a car you will always be advised to fill up with Super. No doubt this is better for the engine and it is probably necessary for the more expensive cars, but with the cheaper models, A Chevrolet Spark for example, you probably won’t notice any improvement to fuel economy or performance.
Diesel is notoriously dirty and poor quality but it is also cheap – around $1 a litre so if you’re driving long distances its definitely worth looking for a diesel model.