How much is a car in Mexico? Buying a Used Car as a Foreigner

An image of a small sign that shows the flags of the United States and Mexico, along with the word Border. It points to the US and Mexico border

Mexico is a vast country. Suppose you want to travel from city to city or get to work on time. In that case, it may be time to start researching buying a used car in Mexico, especially since many people are feeling nervous about taking public transit due to safety or potential sickness. Plus, taking a taxi or Uber all the time can be costly. 

Foreigners buying a used car in Mexico might not know how to start searching or what costs to expect. You’ll want to know what the typical costs are to avoid overpaying. Knowing the prices of used cars in Mexico could also help you avoid buying a damaged vehicle. 

This cover will follow some of the following key topics:

  • The prices of buying a used car in Mexico
  • How tourists can buy a car
  • Other steps you need to take as a permanent resident

There’s a lot to cover, so buckle up! 

Can a US citizen buy a car in Mexico? 

A US citizen can buy a car in Mexico as long as they have a permanent address in the country and a Visa. For example, you will be able to buy a car in Mexico if you have:

  • a school Visa
  • a work Visa 
  • a family Visa

Without a Visa, you will only be able to rent your own vehicle. If you choose to rent a car while visiting Mexico for a little while, you can get insurance for your rental while you stay.

Tourists and other people on short visits may also choose to bring their personal car. An American visiting Mexico can get international car insurance before crossing the border, so their American car will have coverage down south. 

If you’re staying in Mexico on a Visa, there are a few essential things to consider before you start to purchase a car. 

Before You Buy A Used Car 

Buying a used car opens you up to the possibility of being scammed. Unfortunately, there is always a chance you could accidentally buy a wreck. Like any other country, make sure to ask meaningful questions before you buy. 

As a foreigner, you might feel nervous about being tricked and sold an unsafe car. There are a few important things to consider first: 

  • Is buying a car in Mexico a necessity for you?
  • Do you have any local friends or family who can help you choose the car?
  • Will you need to hire a translator while you make the purchase and register the car?
  • Is it possible for your workplace to provide you with a car? Or with a translator?

Thinking about these questions will help you have an easier time as you navigate the used car market in Mexico. 

Then, when you’re ready to start test driving, there are a few more things to keep in mind how the car feels to handle, if it sounds okay while you drive, where your blind spot is, and if you’re comfortable behind the wheel. 

Once you know how you feel about the car, there are a few critical questions to ask the seller.

  • How is the mileage of the car?
  • Why is the car being sold?
  • How old is the car?
  • Has the vehicle had any problems before?
  • Has it been regularly maintained? How about oil changes?
  • Have any parts been replaced?
  • Does the seller have the original bill (this is required to resale in Mexico)?

The more you know about the car, the more you can accurately choose if it’s worth the money. These are essential questions to ask no matter where you buy a used car, but as a foreigner looking to buy, you might want to reiterate them with the seller and ask follow-up questions too. 

It’s highly recommended that you hire a translator if you don’t speak Spanish. Buying a car is a major purchase, and you don’t want to be fooled or accidentally buy a car without understanding the answers to all of the critical questions outlined above. 

Once you know what to ask and think about before you buy, it’s time to start searching for a used car in Mexico. 

Where to Find Used Cars in Mexico?

An image showing a second hand car lot in Mexico. It shows a line up of 12 modern cars painted in different colors including red, silver, green, and white

You can find used car dealerships in Mexico, but they’re not popular outside of big cities. If you’re able to get to a used car lot like in America, that’s great! It should operate close enough to used car lots in the US. You won’t feel too out of place while you browse the lot. 

In most instances, you’ll be searching for it by yourself. Before you start looking online, ask friends, work colleagues, and other people you trust if they know anybody who is selling. This way, you will be likely to get a good deal and a reliable seller. 

If you’re looking for a used car quickly, you might want to buy one directly from the seller online. Online buying is likely what you will need to do if you don’t have many people in Mexico who can help you search. 

The primary way of buying a used car in Mexico is online. You’ll probably need to find a used car through a posting on websites like Facebook Marketplace.  

You can also find one directly on used car sites such as:

  • Kavak
  • Auto Plaza
  • Autocosmos
  • Solo Autos

These websites should provide you in-depth information about the car, such as model, year, and mileage. 

Don’t forget that when you buy a car from one of these websites, you should also test drive it before you give the seller any money.

Some people may even choose to import a used car from another country such as the US. When you import a vehicle into Mexico, you will have to pay additional fees. 

Importing a Used Car Into Mexico 

An illustration show two cargo containers suspended in the air. On one container is a U.S. flag and on the other is the Mexican flag. It represents trade between the two countries

When you import a used car into Mexico from another country, you will need to know a few things first. The simple answer to “Can I buy a car in Mexico and bring it to the US?” is a cautionary yes; there are a group of steps you need to take and you need to pass each one.

Before you buy the car online, you will need to determine if the exact model is allowed in the country. Not all vehicles will be street legal in Mexico. Factors such as age, safety restrictions, emissions, and the maximum speed can make it so a car isn’t street legal. 

Before you start trying to import a used car into Mexico, you will also need to make sure it comes from a NAFTA country. 

There will be additional import duties, which can vary depending on the model of the car. You may also have to pay additional taxes on the car too. 

Due to the complicated process, you might want to consider hiring a used car broker or buying directly from an online company specializing in selling cars cross-border. 

What Are the Costs of Owning a Car in Mexico? 

The costs of owning a car in Mexico include:

  • A translator to help you negotiate (optional)
  • The car itself
  • Gasoline
  • Auto insurance
  • Registration fees

Local taxes on your purchase and other fees may pop up and increase the total amount you need to pay for a car in Mexico. 

We’ll break down these different fees so that you can factor in all of the additional costs that may change the base price from what you initially imagined. 

The Price of A Translator In Mexico

If you’re able to have a good friend or family member translate for you, you’ll be able to have some serious savings. While buying a car in Mexico can be slightly cheaper than in the US, a translator to help you can be pricey.

The average translator in Mexico charges about 150 USD per hour, according to Salary Expert.  

Of course, hiring a translator for a few hours and spending 300 USD could save you hundreds down the road if you know the car won’t need a lot of work done in an expensive garage. 

Weigh the pros and cons of hiring a translator yourself and try to find someone online with rates that you can afford if you choose to pursue this path. 

The Price of A Used Car In Mexico

You might be wondering: is it cheaper to buy a car in Mexico? If you’re paying in your own country’s currency, and exchanging it for Mexican pesos, then that is already going to be the most significant factor of affordability. 

Used Car Price Comparison Mexico vs. the US

An illustration showing a set of scales with a pile of coins on one side and a blue car on the other. It rerpresents price comparisons for used cars

Most used cars run between USD 4000 to USD 10,000. In Mexican pesos, you’re looking at MXN 65,000 to MXN 1,500,000.

Like buying a car anywhere else, selecting a very inexpensive used car will increase your chances of having the car be faulty or riddled with problems. So if you’re thinking, “why are cars so much cheaper in Mexico?” you might want to reconsider what you look for in a used vehicle. 

You can get a car much cheaper if you choose, there may be unexpected costs in the garage if it always breaks down and needs new parts. 

As a foreigner, you might wonder if some other fees could impact price. 

Related: Cost of Living in Mexico

The Price of Gas in Mexico 

You also need to consider the price of fuel when buying a used car. Specific models will get better mileage than others, and gas prices will factor in which car you choose to purchase.

Gas prices in Mexico are generally low. However, PetroIntelligence has reported a significant jump in gasoline prices during 2021. Currently, the price is about 1.01 USD per liter. 

Once you know where to start looking and what questions to ask, it’s time to start hunting. Tourists and permanent residents will have different concerns, so these will be addressed separately. 

Cost of Auto insurance in Mexico

Mexico requires auto insurance by law for every vehicle on the road. In most instances, you can assume it will cost around 7500 MXN or 375 USD. Depending on where you lived in the US, this may be a regular price or less than you’re used to paying. 

Like other countries, the price of car insurance will depend on which package you choose, where you live, your age, and various other factors. If you choose an unreliable car, have a bad driving history, or live in a high-volume area, the price might increase. 

Regardless of what you pay, you will still require the same coverage as other people in Mexico. It’s not too different from car insurance in other countries.

In Mexico, you’ll need car insurance that covers: 

  • Collisions and accidents 
  • Damage to the car
  • Bodily injury
  • Personal liability 

If you’re having a challenging time looking for insurance by yourself, you may want to speak to a broker or hire a translator who can help you find the best coverage for your needs. 

If you don’t know where to start looking for auto insurance in Mexico, here are some popular providers: 

Once you know all of the fees to expect, you might begin to wonder what else you need to do to start driving. There are a few concerns we will outline. 

Related: Best Cell Phone Carrier in Mexico

Do I Need a Mexican Driver’s License?

A photograph showing a person filling out a driver's license application form. It shows the person's hands, the form, a set of keys, and some stamps

According to current laws, you do not need a Mexican license to purchase or drive a car in Mexico, as long as you have a valid license in your home country. 

However, if you plan to rent a car or drive your new car in a tourist area, you might need documentation. AAA suggests getting an International Driving Permit to avoid any potential issues with law enforcement. 

You will want to get a Mexican driver’s license if you live in the country for some time. The testing process is similar to in the US, and you will need to study and book a test in advance.

Buying Cars for Tourists 

You may have heard about tourists buying cars during short stays in Mexico. Selling cars to tourists is not recommended because Mexican car registration is tied to your address. Companies that offer to forge fake addresses aren’t trustworthy, and you shouldn’t pursue buying a car in Mexico as a tourist. 

Thankfully, a tourist who will be driving a car owned by somebody else should be able to get car insurance since it’s required for all cars in Mexico, just like it’s in the US. For example, if you’re in Mexico on a work Visa and need insurance to drive a company car. 

If you’re not a tourist and live long-term in Mexico for any reason, there are a few more things to consider.

Buying Cars for Permanent Residents 

Permanent residents who live in Mexico on a Visa can legally register cars in their name. Living in Mexico can impact price in a few ways for foreigners:

  • Bundling auto insurance with home insurance 
  • Extending how long you pay for the vehicle (if it’s from a dealership)
  • If you can get help finding a translator from your work

Once a permanent resident has purchased a car, they need to register the vehicle and fill out the appropriate paperwork. 

If you live in Mexico, you absolutely need to have your permanent address sorted out before you can think about buying a car. Your address is how you will register your vehicle with the government. 

There is a bit of paperwork you will need to register a used car while you live in Mexico

Wrap Up

Overall, it would be best to take many steps before you start buying a car in Mexico as a foreigner. Understanding the current Mexican used car market is a big hurdle since most of the selling is online rather than at a physical car lot. 

This difference can be a big adjustment for an American living in Mexico. Always make sure to research each car thoroughly and that you have all of the paperwork in advance before you’re ready to register the vehicle. 

Paperwork can be a big part of a foreigner’s life when living in a different country, making sure to have copies of any pertinent forms and keep them safe.