I'm planning to go to Mexico this winter, buy a cheap used car/van and start going south. The intinerary is not really strict, thought I'd cross different countries (perhaps I'll reach Chile?).

What kind of documentation must I produce to buy a used car in Mexico? As a European, I know I have to have the International Driver License in my country, but what about insurance?

Are there other fees and bureaucratic steps? How long does it take to do all the papers?


1 Answer 1


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 the trouble.

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!

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