I thought I would ask what peoples thoughts on Car rental are.
I don't know if you remember the earlier days on this Web site before the Forum facility when Els had a monthly "Newsletter"? She kindly asked me to do a review of our 2008 trip to Mexico - "17 WHS in 17 days". In true journalistic style she "interviewed" with a couple of questions - to one of which my response was "Have a good sense of direction"!
I have found a couple of the paras on car rental/driving from that article - "We rented a car from/to Mexico City airport – this route could have taken at least 4 weeks by public transport and, for 2 people, the rent-a-car cost is not that much greater. Gas is cheap and we didn't make much use of the expensive autopistas. The police caused no hassle and indeed were friendly whenever we asked directions. The main problem with Mexican roads is the infamous "Topes" (speed bumps) – often unannounced, and so high that, if taken above walking pace, they will scrape the car underside and/or throw you into the air! Also unsigned 1 way streets – keep a close eye on fellow drivers and the direction of parked cars!
Maintaining this momentum means minimizing time spent on travel logistics – you can't "waste" it finding hotels or getting lost! I recommend the "Michelin Mexico". A bit "academic" perhaps, compared with LP or Rough guides (which we also had), but I found its "environs maps" very useful for those last few kms towards town centres (Mexican signposting isn't good!). We used 3/4* hotels and could have gone down-market but, with prices between US$45/$80 per room, it was hardly worth it. Most, even in the city centres, had free car parks. We never used a guide book recommendation as 1 way streets made getting to a specific, possibly unsuitable, hotel not worth it. Just try not to have to walk too far to the town centres!"
Els was driving on her own which can't have helped. My wife won't thank me for this but her map reading skills are only average and her sense of direction .........so I had to do the main "looking after" on these matters despite her presence! BUT it did help to have another pair of eyes in the car as I barked out orders/questions "Look out for"... "can you see..." whilst I was trying to fight the traffic as a driver!!
A few other points
a. The car is really a waste of time (or worse!) in Mexico City - but it wasn't worth handing it in for the last 2 days as we were already on a "long hire" discount. I also "planned" that one of the days was a Sunday for ease of traffic. I chose the guest house in Coyoacan to have car parking. Although you can get everywhere by subway it is quite slow and distances long - and I do think we gained on the Sunday when I fitted in Anahuacalli, the Rivera/Kahlo houses as well as other sites scattered across the city. But I can remember being totally lost in the dark one night largely because of road works and 1 way streets sending us off in the "wrong direction" and stopping off at an Oxxo store for a coffee and a walk around the area to work out where we were and whether we were facing N, E, S or W -we had a good street map of greater Mexico city by the way - an essential if you do have a car there!! I can also recommend Oxxo for quick coffees/donuts etc if you are driving anywhere in Mexico - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OXXO
b. We arrived in Mexico City late, picked up the car, drove to a prebooked hotel in Toluca (yes - a hairy drive!!) for a 1 am arrival and were in the Butterfly reserve by 11 am the next morning - a rate of travel which would be impossible without the rent-a-car. You just have to consider how important that is to you
c. If you only want to see the colonial cities around Mexico city then the value of a rent-a-car is certainly reduced.
d. What is your personal attitude to "Public transport"? If the car added to Els's "stress levels" I am afraid using public transport adds to mine!! It has plenty of hassles and frustrations as well.
It is a "personal" choice with no "right answer" for everyone. The important thing is to be aware of the issues and your preferred personal approach to travel. Among my many "travel lists" is one for "Countries I have driven in" - It includes - Egypt, India, Nicaragua, Kenya, Botswana, Jamaica, Chile, Morocco, Lesotho .. and around 70 others. My preference now is to have a car with driver where the costs make that practicable (e.g Pakistan, Mauritania, Armenia)- you get the benefits of being totally in control without many of the downsides (Remember that Self drive always has the possibility of accident and/or police involvement - hopefully very unlikely but across many trips it WILL happen even if only a slight scrape or a police "sting") - but this isn't on for Mexico. However, in contrast to Els, I would say that if we went back to Mexico I WOULD rent-a-car again even in Central Mexico!!
PS I hope you have considered visiting Anahuacalli - see the Wiki entry ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anahuacalli_Museum
) and follow through to the 360 degree virtual tours. Are you going out to the Rivera/Kahlo house (see my review) -different of course from the Kahlo house in Coyoacan which no doubt will appeal primarily to Mrs Meltwaterfalls!!!