If you’re moving to Mexico and you’re in the market for a used car, chances are that you’ll be buying it directly from the owner. That’s because used car lots aren’t as prevalent here as they are back in the States.
The procedures and paperwork for buying or selling a used car are a little different from what people from the U.S. or Canada are probably familiar with, so I decided to dedicate an article to the topic.
This one is going to run a little longer than most of my articles. Sorry about that, folks. There’s a lot to cover.
If you’re buying a used car from a stranger, you should be aware that there are plenty of frauds and scams out there. I suggest you read the following before meeting with anyone or sending them money:
Now that we have the safety part out of the way, let’s move on to the boring paperwork part of the process.
Head down to your local tag agency, called a recaudadora, with the following:
In the United States, each state issues vehicle titles to indicate the owner of a vehicle. It works very differently in Mexico where the proof of ownership is actually a special sales receipt (called a factura) issued by the dealership.
The vehicle facturas are printed on security paper that is very similar to the type used for vehicle titles in the States.
The seller transfers rights over to the buyer by signing the back of the factura and writing something like this:
Yo (sellers name) cedo la propiedad de este automóvil a (buyer’s name), como nuevo propietario de dicho vehículo.
(municipality), a 12 de febrero de 2019 — obviously change the date.
For the linguistically-challenged, here’s the translation for the first line: I (seller) concede the ownership of this vehicle to (buyer), as the new owner of said vehicle.
Don’t take up too much space on the back of the factura because each time the vehicle is sold, you’ll have to repeat this step.
Tarjeta de circulación
This is a card similar to a registration in the States. This will be turned in with the old license plates by the seller.
You’ll need some type of sales agreement between the buyer and the seller. Some offices are stricter than others and may request something called a carta responsiva, a legal document that signs the vehicle over to the new owner. It is signed by the buyer, seller and two witnesses.
You MUST include copies of everyone’s official identification — including the witnesses. Make sure the signatures match the ones on the identification provided or the form might not be accepted.
You can download a PDF of one of these forms HERE.
Proof of payment of past registration fees and taxes
You’ll be required to show proof that all past taxes and fees have been paid. The last time I helped a neighbor transfer ownership of a vehicle, they asked for five years of records.
If you don’t have proof for a particular year, you may be required to pay the taxes for that year.
Proof of address
This one is for the buyer. The preferred proof of address in Mexico is the electric bill, also known as a CFE bill.
If someone else’s name is on it, they may ask you for something in writing from the person whose name appears on the the bill along with a copy of their identification.
Copies, copies and still more copies
Government offices in Mexico will not make copies for you, so make sure you bring copies (black and white) of every document and everyone’s identification. When copying the factura, the copy should be two-sided.
Tips to Make It All Go Smoothly
The buyer and the seller should go together
This is a big one. If a document needs to be redone or there are outstanding fines, fees or taxes on the vehicle, you can take care of those things fairly quickly if all of the parties are present.
Bring your own screwdriver
On one of our recent trips, borrowing a screwdriver to take off the old tags and put on the new ones turned out to be the most difficult part of the process. From now on, I always bring one along.
Bring the vehicle
Part of the registration process often includes a physical verification of the vehicle identification number. Unlike many jurisdictions in the States, they just don’t take your word for it down here.
I’m not talking about your credit card either — I’m referring to your immigration status.
Generally speaking, a non-citizen cannot register a vehicle unless they have either a temporary or permanent resident visa. This is a source of frustration for many Americans and Canadians that enter the country with just a tourist visa.
I used the term “generally speaking” above because the rules and procedures vary from state to state and even office to office. So, just be aware that there is a possibility that someone might ask you for some immigration paperwork when the time comes to put the car in your name.
Let’s Wrap This Up
The cost of transferring a vehicle into your name and getting tags for it can vary by jurisdiction. I’ve helped several of my fellow expats do it over the past couple months and it came out to about $3,800 pesos each time.
For you folks that you have trouble doing the conversion without taking your shoes off, that’s around $200 USD.