Buying a Car in Mexico
A non-citizen cannot REGISTER a vehicle unless they have either a temporary or permanent resident visa. Careful! That means that an unscrupulous dealer or a private seller may still sell you the car, but if you cannot register it - well that's a fancy paperweight you just bought. This is a source of frustration for many Americans and Canadians that enter the country with just a tourist visa. This is true for new OR used vehicles.
Many soon-to-be expats start looking at possible new cars online before they move down. This is a great way to narrow down the options but it’s important that you’re looking at the manufacturer’s Mexican site because the available models and equipment options vary from country to country.
Here are a few of them to get you started:
Chevrolet México: http://www.chevrolet.com.mx/
Ford México: https://www.ford.mx/
Honda México: https://www.honda.mx/
Hyundai México: https://www.hyundai.com.mx/
Nissan México: https://www.nissan.com.mx/
Seat México: http://www.seat.mx/
One thing that I love about the prices in Mexico is that by law, the displayed price must be the total amount to be paid to obtain the item, including all taxes, fees and commissions. This will make it easier for you to calculate the cost of a particular vehicle as you look through the sites above.
Some car manufacturers will list two different prices: one for credit (crédito) and one for cash (al contado). Registering a vehicle in Mexico is not considered part of the purchase and the responsibility of doing it falls on the buyer. That means that those fees are not included in the displayed prices.
The Art of Negotiation
In the U.S., very few prices are negotiable but the price of a new car is definitely the exception to the rule. Some people love the negotiation process, while others absolutely loathe it. If you’re in the latter group, you’ll be happy to hear that new car prices are generally non-negotiable in Mexico. In other words, the price is the price. There are always exceptions, such as negotiating a lower price for a model that was used as a demo. You can also ask them to throw in some free floor mats or services as an incentive not to go to another dealership.
Buying or selling a Used Car
Head down to your local tag agency, called a recaudadora, with the following:
In the United States, each state issues vehicle titles to indicate the owner of a vehicle. It works very differently in Mexico where the proof of ownership is actually a special sales receipt (called a factura) issued by the dealership. The vehicle facturas are printed on security paper that is very similar to the type used for vehicle titles in the States. The seller transfers rights over to the buyer by signing the back of the factura and writing something like this:
Yo (sellers name) cedo la propiedad de este automóvil a (buyer’s name), como nuevo propietario de dicho vehículo.
(municipality), a 12 de febrero de 2021 — obviously change the date.
Here’s the translation for the first line: I (seller) concede the ownership of this vehicle to (buyer), as the new owner of said vehicle. Don’t take up too much space on the back of the factura because each time the vehicle is sold, you’ll have to repeat this step.
Tarjeta de circulación
This is a card similar to a registration in the States. This will be turned in with the old license plates by the seller.
You’ll need some type of sales agreement between the buyer and the seller. Some offices are stricter than others and may request something called a carta responsiva, a legal document that signs the vehicle over to the new owner. It is signed by the buyer, seller and two witnesses. You MUST include copies of everyone’s official identification — including the witnesses. Make sure the signatures match the ones on the identification provided or the form might not be accepted. You can download a PDF of one of these forms HERE.
Proof of payment of past registration fees and taxes
You’ll be required to show proof that all past taxes and fees have been paid. The last time I helped a neighbor transfer ownership of a vehicle, they asked for five years of records. If you don’t have proof for a particular year, you may be required to pay the taxes for that year.
Proof of address
This one is for the buyer. The preferred proof of address in Mexico is the electric bill, also known as a CFE bill. If someone else’s name is on it, they may ask you for something in writing from the person whose name appears on the the bill along with a copy of their identification.
Copies, copies and still more copies
Government offices in Mexico will not make copies for you, so make sure you bring copies (black and white) of every document and everyone’s identification (front and back). When copying the factura, the copy should be two-sided.
Tips to Make It All Go Smoothly
The buyer and the seller should go together
This is a big one. If a document needs to be redone or there are outstanding fines, fees or taxes on the vehicle, you can take care of those things fairly quickly if all of the parties are present.
Bring your own screwdriver
On one of our recent trips, borrowing a screwdriver to take off the old tags and put on the new ones turned out to be the most difficult part of the process. From now on, I always bring one along.
Bring the vehicle
Part of the registration process often includes a physical verification of the vehicle identification number. Unlike many jurisdictions in the States, they just don’t take your word for it down here.
Ever wish your vacation lasted a few more weeks? What about years? We left the daily grind in California to live and work in Mexico and now help others do the same! From assistance with residency visas to property rentals and purchases to digital nomad networking, we are here to help people take that leap towards living in paradise. DM us your questions! Or follow us on Instagram for a peek at what it’s like to live the #mexicolife