A reader question in a Seattle Times column has brought attention to what columnist Christopher Elliott described as "the old Mexican insurance scam," in which the renter was required to pay insurance, more than doubling the cost of the rental.

Elliott wrote that reader Gordon Houston of Calgary booked a car rental through Hotwire for $9.80 a day for a nine-day Cancun trip, expecting the total cost with taxes to be $97.

But when the renter arrived in Cancun, the Europcar agent said the renter must buy extra insurance. The renter was charged $268.

Elliott wrote that Hotwire should have disclosed the mandatory insurance, at least sometime before the renter signed the rental agreement. Hotwire's fine print, he added, appears to do an inadequate job of warning customers of the Mexico insurance rules.

Although the lack of clear disclosure only helps the car rental company, which profits from selling insurance. Hotwire bears some responsibility for failing to quote the renter a total price, Elliott wrote. 

Renters running into the same problem should write to Hotwire through Hotwire's website and also write to a company executive. Additionally, renters should send the letter to the insurance commissioner in their state and to the nearest American consulate in Mexico.  As a last resort, renters can dispute the credit card charges or sue Hotwire in small claims court.

How did the reader's situation get resolved? Columnist Elliott contacted Hotwire and said the company agreed to credit the renter for the extra money he was forced to spend on insurance.