When buying a vehicle in Mexico there are some obstacles. This is not to discourage but to inform. All my comments are based on experiences with clients. There is no CarFax or similar websites available to the public (only to auto dealers at considerable expense) to check a vehicle’s history. What is the actual distance the vehicle was driven? Car sellers including dealers are known to lower the odometer reading. Was it stolen? Was it in an accident and possibly totalled and restored? Was it used as a taxi or in some other commercial application? Is the emission test current? Are the annual fees current? And, how many of the miles/km driven were on cobblestone? Was the vehicle properly maintained? Were oil changes and filters changed on schedule? Is the vehicle under warranty?
Registering a Vehicle
May you register your vehicle in your state in Mexico as a tourist if you are not a Temporary or Permanent Resident? In almost every state in Mexico, one needs a CURP number (similar to SIN in Canada and SSN in the US.) to register a vehicle. A CURP is only available once a person becomes a Temporary or Permanent Resident. A tourist has no CURP.
In all states, you are to have a Mexican state driver’s license when you own a Mexican state-registered vehicle. Some may have gotten away by not doing so but if you ask the proper state authority, it is a requirement. To obtain a driver’s license, often the license office is booked weeks in advance. With the latest Federal driver’s license regulations issued summer 2022, to obtain a driver’s license you may be required to pass a test that is in Spanish plus a driving test. I strongly recommend, no one buys a vehicle without obtaining a state driver’s license first.
In some cases, one buys a vehicle and then discovers it can not be registered, e.g. the documents are not complete or not available; the documents have an error such as VIN not matching car’s VIN; the vehicle has foreign registration; the car you thought was nationalized was done fraudulently and it was never legally nationalized and subject to confiscation, etc. In buying a used vehicle privately, I recommend your payment should be conditional on the buyer being able to register their vehicle within 10 days.
Did you check on REPUVE, the national database of 30 million-plus vehicles to see if the car is registered there?
Original Bill of Sale
Note that the original factura (bill of sale) from when a motorized vehicle was purchased new, must remain with the car for its’ life and signed off on the back by every subsequent seller. In many cases, a factura is impossible to replace and without it, the vehicle may not be registered. For vehicles that have been nationalized, the same rule applies with the need to keep the original ‘pedimento’ from Aduana.
Buying a Used Vehicle From Another State
Is the car registered in another state? if so, the plates and tarjeta de circulacion (registration) should be returned to that state and the Baja de Vehiculo form issued before you can register locally. And, to do so, the emission test must be current and all past annual fees paid. If the license plates are not returned, one may still be able to turn in the plates locally, when vehicle is registered in state. However, your vehicle will continue to be registered in the state from where it was registered and the annual fee (refrendo), tenencia (an additional tax applicable in many states) and emissions fines will keep accruing.
When a vehicle is registered in another state from where you bought it, you must have your vehicle physically inspected and a stolen report issued before the local office called Rentas will register your newly bought vehicle and your state-issued license plates. The inspection office and Rentas for registration normally require appointments as they are a different branch of the state government. Usually, numerous documents must be scanned and emails sent to make appointments. There will be fees and a tax to complete in this process.
Only buy from quality car dealers with a license to sell cars. In summary, please do your homework when considering a used car purchase in Mexico.