Having bought new cars in both the U.S. and Mexico, I can attest to the fact that there are some very significant differences. I thought it would be useful to point out a few of the differences in a post.
There are very few purchases that require any type of price negotiation in the U.S. but buying a new car is definitely one of them.
Although we negotiate the price of many things in Mexico, there is little or no negotiation when it comes to the price of a new car — the price is generally the price. Of course this does not apply to used cars.
Some car manufacturers will list two separate prices: one for credit and one for just paying it off. The second option is called al contado in Spanish.
Here is a tip: you can negotiate for some add-ons like floor mats or a certain number of free services (oil change etc)
The dealerships always allow the customer the opportunity to drive the specific vehicle that he or she is interested in purchasing.
We have even had dealers allow us to take a vehicle home for the weekend to see if we liked it before buying.
Due to liability issues, most dealerships will not allow you to test drive exact vehicle you are interested in buying; however, they will allow you to drive a designated “test” vehicle that is identical.
If the dealership is smaller, they may have to wait a day or so for the test drive vehicle to be delivered.
New car dealerships in the U.S. will take almost any type of trade-in. Some of them even allow you to tow one onto the lot.
Many new car dealerships in Mexico are reluctant to take a trade-in and may even limit trade-ins to cars that are less than two years old. It seems that most people just sell their used car outright.
Length of Process
Unless you are working through a tough negotiation, it only takes a few hours to buy a car and drive away with it. This includes negotiating the trade-in, the new car price, completing paperwork and getting either a temporary or permanent tag.
Don’t expect to get everything done in one day.
We went through the process of buying a new car twice — because we absolutely hated the first car that we bought — and both times it took about a week. The reasons for the delay were different each time but the end result was the same.
After a few frustrating days of trying to complete one of the purchases and get our car, I commented to the dealer that the entire process only takes a few hours in the U.S. — and that includes getting the tags.
I usually try to avoid being the guy who says, “That’s not how we did it back home.” But in this case, I just couldn’t resist.
He looked absolutely astonished and told me that would never happen in Mexico.
The dealer always took care of the paperwork to either issue a new tag for the vehicle or transfer the tag from the trade-in to the new car. It was never necessary to head down to the DMV to complete the process.
It is often necessary to head to the local “tag office” yourself to register your vehicle and get plates. Some dealerships may offer a service — many times at an additional cost — where a person will go down and register the car for you. This option requires you to sign a document authorizing the person to act in your behalf for that purpose only.
Let’s Wrap This Up
The information in the article is based on our own experiences and those of expats that we know. It is quite possible that the new car buying experience is different throughout the country.
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