Top 5 Gas Station Scams in Mexico (Video)

photo source: iStockphoto

When we first moved to Mexico, I was surprised to learn that all of the gas stations were still full service. An attendant will pump your gas, wash your windows — and if requested to do so — even check your vehicle’s tire pressure and fluid levels.

It reminded me of the old fillin’ station on the Andy Griffith Show — with one exception, on that show, Goober wasn’t trying to shortchange, cheat or otherwise rip off the customers.

Unfortunately, frauds and scams at gas stations are not uncommon in Mexico and if you’re a foreigner, the odds of someone trying to rip you off increase exponentially.

In the video below, I’ll be discussing the five most common gas station scams you’re likely to encounter and sharing some tried-and-true tips to avoid becoming a victim.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Even though these types of scams are common, that doesn’t mean that every gas station attendant is out to pull one over on you. There are a lot of hard-working men and women who do that job, so if all goes well, remember that it’s customary to tip them.

To learn more about tipping etiquette in Mexico, click HERE.

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About the Author

Qroo 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. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) to share their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

14 Comments on "Top 5 Gas Station Scams in Mexico (Video)"

  1. I have been scammed twice – and this was after reading all the tips about not being scammed. I had read in various travel publications about the switching of bills – you hand the attendant a 500 peso bill and suddenly it becomes a 50 peso bill. I knew that this happened, and I still allowed it to happen to me!!! Both times I allowed outside distractions to interrupt my focus, and I felt that I had no grounds to argue. Not anymore!!! I will never allow myself to accept what they are saying. Now when I stop for fuel, I hold the 500 peso bill up, and I hang on to it until the fuel is pumped. I never lose eye contact with the attendant when I am handing him the 500 pesos. It is a shame that this scam is allowed to continue when the gas station owners know it is happening. And what a bother when one dreads stopping to purchase fuel because they fear being a victim of a crime. We started out spending one month in Akumal, last year it was two months, and this year, it will be three months. So, I suppose it is just a necessary evil if one wants to enjoy time in the area. Sad, though.

  2. Thanks Paul. I have been scammed once, told myself ‘That will never happen again’ and of course I was unaware of these other kinds. Thanks for letting us know the other kinds of scams that are common out there.

  3. Patricia Sharick | October 21, 2019 at 4:36 pm | Reply

    Thanks for that tip. My husband and I have been to Akumal the past 3 years and stay with friends but this year we are staying alone in Tulum 2 weeks in January and I am very nervous about this scam. Good idea to hold up the 500 while they pump. I really enjoy Pauls tips. Hoping someday to be snowbirds at the least!

  4. Great video full of great advice.
    Thanx.

  5. I add Tip #6…I almost always go to the same gas station. They know me there and they know I tip well. I also always use cash.

  6. Tip # 7.
    A Mexican friend told me that you should avoid gas stations where there are no customers. If the Mexicans don’t use a certain gas station it may indicate that there are scams there or the litres are short. That’s why they don’t go there however if there are line ups of taxis and collectivos gassing up up then you will generally get what you pay for in terms of volume but you should still be aware of other scams and act accordingly.

  7. Fran Clark-Fiorentino | October 22, 2019 at 1:25 pm | Reply

    Very interesting, Paul. New Jersey and Oregon are the only states in the US that do not let you pump your own gas. As I am currently visiting in NJ, I am suspicious of some of the weird people that pump gas, but hubby, Bob, seems to have a handle on it so I let him take care of our gas purchases. BTW, they don’t offer to wash the window, check the oil or tire pressure. Hello to Linda!!

    • Hi Fran! Linda says hi back.

      One question about the full service stations in New Jersey, is it customary to tip the attendants there? I haven’t been to a full service station in the States since…I can’t remember when.

  8. Hi Paul, thanks for your always informative blog!!
    I’ll be arriving in Cancun in December and renting a car, driving first to Puerto Morelos and eventually to Xcalek (have you been?). Instead of saying, “fill it up”, can you give me a ballpark figure of a specific amount of gas that would be a generous quantity? (I.e., 500 pesos, is that good?). I don’t know what gas costs in QR but I’ve thought in the past it was pricey. Thanks! I’ve driven Tulum-Cancun several times, this will be my first time more south. ☀️⛱‍♂️

    • It really depends on the size of the tank. I have a smaller SUV and if it’s on 1/4 of a tank, about $600 pesos will fill it up. So, $500 pesos is a safe amount to go with.

      And you’re right, gas is quite pricey in Mexico.

  9. Having traveled 8n Qroo for many years. I have had the exchanged bill scam pulled on me multiple times. I got to the point that I would use both hands put the bill on the hood and loudly declare the amount of the bill. I live in San Miguel de Allende where this has never happened. The attendants always verbally confirm that you see the pump set to zero. However I always purchase a fixed amount of gas. Never just say “fill her up”

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