Mexico: The Importance of Checking for Unpaid Fines and Taxes When Buying a Used Car

This is a fairly common scenario in Mexico: A person buys a used car from a private seller and upon trying to register it, discovers that there are thousands of pesos of unpaid taxes and/or fines. The buyer then has to fork out the extra money in order to get their tags and tarjeta de circulación (registration).

Tips to Avoid This Happening to You

Make sure that the seller provides you with receipts to show that the taxes were paid for the previous years but don’t accept this as concrete proof. It is not uncommon for people to use fraudulent receipts when selling a vehicle.

In most jurisdictions, the only way to check to see if there are any unpaid taxes or fines is to a government office and inquire in person. This may take awhile, so you might want to bring a book or something to keep you occupied.

A small number of jurisdictions now have online search tools that make this a bit easier (see Online Resources below).

The best scenario is to have the seller meet you where you intend to register the vehicle. That way they can provide any missing paperwork, pay any outstanding fines, and even turn in their old tags at the same time.

Online Resources

Here are some links to government sites that allow you to look up unpaid taxes (tenencia) and/or fines (infracciones o multas). Unfortunately, there are very few sites that will give you both, so you may want to consider a personal trip down to verify the information prior to buying the vehicle.



Cuidad de Mexico

Estado de Mexico 




Quintana Roo


Let’s Wrap This Up

When buying a used car in Mexico, it pays to be diligent and do your homework. Don’t take the seller’s word as proof of anything and always be on the lookout for scams.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. In 2016, they started a blog called Two Expats Mexico ( sharing their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border. The blog has been viewed over two million times and the articles have been republished in numerous periodicals across Mexico.

5 Comments on "Mexico: The Importance of Checking for Unpaid Fines and Taxes When Buying a Used Car"

  1. Bud Gallagher | October 24, 2017 at 3:01 pm |

    Thank you Paul for posting about this issue. I am a former administrative law judge and it is so easy to do a bit of homework to avoid the pitfalls when buying a used car privately. I have purchased two used vehicles. I had them inspected and had a compression test on the motors, checked the VIN through the Mexican government website, then insisted that the seller go with me to have the registration transferred to my name. In both cases there were outstanding unpaid tickets and the seller had to pay them before I paid out any money. The net result was I bought good vehicles at prices below what used car dealers were asking.

    • Thanks for sharing, Bud. The fact that there were unpaid tickets in both cases just goes to show how common this sort of thing is and why it pays to do your homework.

  2. Was just getting ready to buy a used VW and did not know this money saving tip. THANKS, Qroo Paul.

  3. Thanks for your ongoing helpfull tips

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