Buying a used car in Mexico

Used car flea market

Used car flea market

Public transportation in Mexico is great, especially in large cities. It is easy to use the many intra- and intercity busses. Also, taxis are widely available.  However, after a year of living here, I have come to the conclusion that for efficiency and ease, it’s time to buy a used car.  Running errands to pick things up will be so much easier.  While I am no expert on the subject, here is my understanding of how it works as I go through this. Keep in mind this is NOT legal advice and the process may vary from state to state. I am giving you what I deem to be true for the state of Yucatán.

You may opt to buy a car from an individual or a dealership. Dealing with an agency may be easier as they will take care of much of the paperwork. However, sometimes you can find a good deal from an individual, but BUYER BEWARE! Once the car is sold, you are responsible for any and all issues the car may have. I will discuss what I am currently doing- buying from an individual.  Once again, I’m no expert, but here is the checklist I have going for the process.

1. Some states, including Yucatán, require the car owner to have some sort of residency status. A tourist visa (FMM) will not serve as legal status for car purchases in many states.

2. Many cities have weekly flea markets (tianguis de autos) for autos. You must be careful what you buy!  Also, you may want to keep your eyes opened for cars on the streets. If you see a car with a “$” and a phone number, that means it is for sale. You may also try websites such as or to search online for used vehicles.

3. Make sure the paperwork is in line and up-to-date!

  • The seller should have the original “factura” or bill of sale from the auto agency from which it was originally purchased. On the reverse side of this there will be some lines in Spanish that basically say that the seller is giving all rights and responsibilities to the buyer and then a signature. (Sometimes you may come across a car that is ‘refacturado’ meaning it was issued a second ‘factura’. You may want a professional to look over this.)
  • Make sure the tenencia is paid, IF applicable as some states have discontinued this car tax.
  • Make sure the ‘tarjeta de circulación’ is valid and in the name of the current owner. This would be similar to the registration card from the United States.
  • Make sure there are copies of the IDs of the previous owners and current seller. This would most likely be their IFE card. (electoral cards).
  • Make sure it has insurance coverage until you can get to the insurance agency to have your own.
  • You can also check the status of the car being stolen by entering the NIV (our VIN) into the federal site Some state governments may also have links on their websites for such information.
  • My personal choice (because sometimes paperwork can be a headache in Mexico) is to find a vehicle that already has plates and ‘tarjeta de circulación’ from the state in which you are buying. Just my personal choice to avoid possible hassles!

4. Don’t forget due diligence when inspecting the car and giving it a test drive. Once again… A personal choice… Have a mechanic inspect the car! This person could also look at the paperwork if you are unfamiliar with the process and may tell you if you are paying the right price.

5. Now it’s time to do the transaction! It’s very simple! In a very informal  way, the seller simply handwrites the previously mentioned wording that the ownership is being transferred to you on the back of the ‘factura’.  You pay… most likely CASH… and you are done!  YES! CASH!  Mexico is a cash society!

You drive off in your new set of wheels with a smile on your face. Next… it will be time to register the car in your name!  Now that process…  well… we will save that for another post!  All that paperwork?  Make sure it is line before you register with the local office!  You will most likely spend a day or two doing this as it may have to go through the police station for a check along with a lot of time in line to get this done.  Like I said… Stay tuned!  That will be another post once we cross that bridge ourselves!

Car tianguis in Mérida, Yucatán

Car tianguis in Mérida, Yucatán

Some additional sites with more detailed information regarding car purchases in Mexico: (good story as to why it is important to look at the paperwork carefully and cross check VIN numbers, etc.)

2 thoughts on “Buying a used car in Mexico

  1. Thank you so much for this blog! I am planning to carefully read every post. My family and I are moving to Mexico soon, with our toddler and child, so this information is very helpful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s