It seems that it is quite possible, as outlined in great detail here in this blog entry.
Buying a Used Car in Mexico as a Foreigner
Here is what we found out
straight away about buying a used car in Mexico: the only ones you’re
going to find for $1000 and under are mostly the old beat up VW bugs
you see everywhere. I’m not knocking it – I want one! I plan to buy a
white one as a second car down the line just for fun. It reminds me of
my Omni van in India! Used cars here are priced the same as the USA
for the most part and you can use Kelley Blue Book to see what prices
should be. If you want something in good condition and only 5 years
old you’re looking at around $3,500-8,000 USD depending on what type
of car you want.
The next thing that is important is that you can rock up and buy a car
on a tourist visa, no problem… you can even get insurance to drive as
a tourist without issue BUT you can’t register the car to your name
until you have residency here, either temporary or permanent. You
cannot even register the car while your temporary is pending.
Luckily, when you buy a used car in Mexico, the plates are usually
good for a year so there is no rush to register the car in your name.
You could, if you want to, buy the car right away and then go through
the residency process, then once you’re a resident and have your
little plastic card, you can register the car to your name. OR you can
just rent until you’re a resident if you don’t like the idea of
waiting to register.
99% of people I speak to say that you cannot get a car in Mexico in
your name unless you are a resident, but I did read once that you can
apply at the INM for the “CURP” number as a tourist, and get the car
in your name. Others state they tried this and it failed. You could
give it a go! Since I am getting residency, I didn’t do this, but if I
were a tourist, I would certainly try it.
Now, if you buy a car as a tourist because you’re here just under 6
months and don’t get it registered to your name because the owner has
the plates good for a year, that’s no problem but you will have issues
selling it legally. So you might just eat that cost or try to have the
previous owner help you re-sell it.
Once you find the car you like, you need to make sure it has
everything you need. First of all, don’t even bother looking at cars
with plates outside of the state you are in (for us, Yucatan). It
causes more of a headache, and although it’s possible we looked into
this heavily as there was one we really liked and it’s just not worth
So, once you find a car, get it checked by a mechanic, negotiate the
price (based on what the mechanic says about the car), it’s time for
the paperwork. You need to make sure the owner is the owner (aka it’s
not stolen and the title is in their name), the plates are real, the
VIN matches, taxes have been paid, there are no outstanding tickets,
the “factura” is legit, and more. You can go to the SSP to get this
checked out (the same place you can change over the registration.
We hired Yucatan Transitional Services to make sure it was all done
right. We had immigration going on at the same time, a missing cat,
and work. The guy we were buying from spoke only Spanish and was a
little impatient about the sale, so we needed someone to help
translating. It was SO WORTH it as we had issues getting the money and
didn’t have time to check on paperwork. Erick from the YTS did the
paperwork checks for us, talked with the owner so the owner had
everything in order (a copy of his ID (signed), the original factura
(aka title, signed), a letter that he no longer is responsible for the
car that we both signed, and made sure to give us all the other
paperwork he had for the car. Once you have the factura which is
signed and the ID, you are good to go.
We actually used YTS mechanic they partner with to check our cars so
we knew it was a trusted mechanic. It is 300 MXN to check out a car.
You can then take the car to the SSP to switch over to your name. The
owner doesn’t have to go – although if you did your paperwork check
there, you could check the paperwork, pay the owner, and switch it
over right then. I can’t register it yet as I am not a resident yet
(my last step of the process is still pending). But, I own the car and
can go register my plates in a month or so. The plates are good on
ours until 2019, and usually, when you get a car they are good until a
year or so – you can keep using those plates and it’s not necessary to
go register the car until they are expiring but I just want to because
I just do!