How to buy a car in Mexico: A complete guide

TransferWise content team
07.24.18
5 minute read

Owning a car in Mexico is a good idea; between huge cities like Mexico City that stretch across massive geographic footprints and widespread towns and destinations, it’s important to be able to get around. That being said, vehicles aren’t limited to two wheels; many Mexicans choose to get around by motorcycle or scooter instead.

If you're planning to purchase wheels in Mexico, it’s a good idea to be armed with plenty of information up front. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about where to find a car, the buying process, how to register the car, and some of the special driving laws you’ll encounter in Mexico.

Should I bring/import my own car to Mexico or should I just buy new in Mexico?

Shipping a car to Mexico isn’t always practical. In fact, the country recently passed a law that only allows cars that are exactly 10 years old and in good working condition to be imported. As such, your new car probably won’t make it-- and your older car won’t either.

Because the regulations are so strict, it often makes much more sense to sell your old car before you move and buy a new vehicle once you get to Mexico.

How do I buy a car in Mexico?

  1. Choose a car. The most important part of the car buying process is narrowing your selection down to 1-3 vehicles before you start visiting dealerships, otherwise you’ll waste a ton of time in Transit going from dealer to dealer.
  2. Test drive your options. The only way to get a good idea of whether you’ll enjoy driving your new car is to actually take it out for a spin.
  3. Make a purchase. In addition to the deposit that you put down on your car, a reputable dealer will also collect the taxes levied against the purchase and take care of the process of getting the vehicle registered.
  4. Buy insurance. It’s illegal to drive in an uninsured car in Mexico.
  5. Hit the road!

What’s the cost of owning a car in Mexico?

The cost of the car itself will vary significantly depending on the year, make, and model of your car. As an example, a new Toyota Corolla costs $262,075 MXN. Mexicans also have access to many vehicle types that don’t exist in the US, which often cost $200,000 MXN or less.

Beyond the cost of the car itself, you’ll also want to consider gas prices, which currently weigh in at $569 MXN. Cars are also subject to VAT, ISAN, and local tax, all of which are determined by the value of your vehicle.

After tax, you’ll have to consider the cost of insurance. While insurance varies by car type as well, it also varies by the age and gender of the driver, as well as their driving history. A good ballpark number, however, is $7,500 MXN.

Where can I find a car (and how)?

For new cars, it’s easiest to purchase directly from the dealer. If you’re looking at used cars as well, however, you may want to start online. Some of the best sites to begin your job search include:

How can I pay for the car?

If you’re buying a new car, you’ll make your initial deposit and the following payments via credit or debit card, or direct transfer. Before you make the transaction, it’s crucial to check on the exchange rate you’re getting from your bank and the fees associated with foreign transactions.

If you find that your transaction rates are less than favorable, you can use TransferWise to ensure that you’re not only getting the mid-market exchange rate, but that you’re paying the lowest fees possible on the transaction.

Alternatively, if you’re purchasing a used car be prepared to pay entirely in cash. Most used car dealerships don't have a way to process card payments, and private sellers will be the same.

How do I register a car in Mexico?

If you’re buying a new car, the registration process will be handled by your car dealer. If you’re buying your car from a private seller or a smaller dealership, you’ll likely have to undertake the process on your own, though the seller likely will have to visit the registration office with you to do the transfer of ownership. When you go to the registration office, bring your passport, residence visa, proof of address, a utility bill, title deed or rental contract, and your clave única de registro de población (CURP). Additionally, you’ll want to being $1000-2000 MXN in cash for registration costs. The total amount will vary depending on whether you need new license plates or not.

What should I know about driving a car in Mexico?

Mexican driving laws are similar to those of their northern neighbors, the US, though there may be some slight changes you want to keep in mind as you get ready to hit the road.

What equipment is compulsory to have in your car in Mexico?

Mexico does not require you to carry any specific equipment in your vehicle, though it may be a good idea to keep the following with you:

  • Warning triangle
  • First aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Security vest

What driving laws should I be aware of?

While Mexican driving laws aren’t particularly unique, there are a few key points to keep in mind. Firstly, the blood alcohol limit for driving is .08%, and is strictly enforced. Wearing seatbelts is compulsory in a moving vehicle. Motorcycle drivers and passengers must wear helmets.

Children under 5 aren't allowed in the front seat, and you must be 16 to be eligible to drive. You can not rent a car until you’re 21.

What kind of driving licenses are accepted in Mexico?

In the short term, you’ll be fine using your Australian, UK, or US driving license in Mexico. That being said, it’s up to the police officer who stops you to decide whether you’ve been driving on a foreign license for too long and whether you may be ticketed. To be safe, it’s a good idea to get your Mexican driver’s license as soon as you can.

Generally you’ll need the following to obtain a license in Mexico:

  • Valid passport
  • Visa proving your legal status in Mexico
  • Birth certificate
  • Proof of address such as a recent water bill

What kind of useful vocabulary is helpful for me?

Regardless of whether you’re planning to learn the language in its entirety, having a few relevant Spanish words under your belt is a good idea if you’re driving in Mexico. Some important ones to learn include:

Car and Driving VocabularyMexican Spanish Translation
CarCoche / carro
MotorcycleMotocicleta
TrafficTráfico
Car dealershipConcesionario de coches
Car accidentAccidente automovilistico

Now that you understand what buying and driving a car in Mexico entails, you’re ready to start enjoying the beautiful, Central American country.

Good luck buying your car in Mexico, and drive safe!

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