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Buying Vehicles in Mexico: A Comprehensive Guide

Buying a vehicle in Mexico can be an exciting yet challenging process, especially for foreigners. The lack of public vehicle history databases like CarFax, potential odometer fraud, and complicated registration procedures are just a few of the hurdles buyers might face. This guide aims to inform and prepare potential buyers about the intricacies involved in purchasing a car in Mexico, ensuring a smoother and more informed experience.

Vehicle History Challenges (Buying Vehicles in Mexico: A Comprehensive Guide)

Lack of Public Databases

Unlike in the United States, where CarFax provides detailed vehicle history reports, Mexico lacks a comparable public database accessible to individual buyers. This makes it difficult to verify the true history of a vehicle, including mileage, accident history, and previous uses.

Common Issues to Check

  • Odometer Fraud: It's common for sellers to lower the odometer reading to make a car appear less used.

  • Accident History: Without proper records, determining if a car was previously totaled and restored can be challenging.

  • Commercial Use: Ensuring the vehicle wasn't used as a taxi or for other commercial purposes is crucial.

  • Maintenance Records: Confirm if the vehicle has been regularly maintained, with timely oil and filter changes.

Tools and Resources for Buyers


REPUVE (Registro Público Vehicular) is a government database that can help verify if a vehicle is registered and if it has any reported issues. While not foolproof, it’s a useful tool for checking the legitimacy of a vehicle.

Libre Azul

Libre Azul is a resource where used car prices can be found, aiding buyers in determining a fair price for the vehicle they are considering.

Buying from a New Car Dealer

RFC Number Requirement

To purchase a new car from a dealer, an RFC number (tax ID number) is typically required. This necessitates the buyer to be a temporary or permanent resident, as it must be obtained from the SAT taxation office.

Registering a Vehicle

Residency Requirements

In almost every Mexican state, you must be a Temporary or Permanent Resident to register a vehicle. A CURP number (similar to the SIN in Canada or SSN in the US) is also required and can only be obtained by residents.

Mexican Driver’s License

Owners of Mexican state-registered vehicles are generally required to have a Mexican state driver’s license. Obtaining this license may involve passing tests in Spanish and scheduling appointments weeks in advance.

Potential Registration Issues

Several issues can arise during registration:

  • Incomplete Documents: Missing or incorrect documents can prevent registration.

  • Foreign Registration: Vehicles with foreign registration might face additional hurdles.

  • Fraudulent Nationalization: Vehicles fraudulently nationalized may be subject to confiscation.

Ensuring Proper Documentation

Original Bill of Sale

The original factura (bill of sale) must stay with the vehicle for its entire life. Each subsequent seller should sign off on it. For nationalized vehicles, the original pedimento from Aduana is also required.

Buying a Used Vehicle from Another State

Registration Transfer Process

Transferring the registration of a vehicle bought in another state involves returning the original plates and tarjeta de circulación to the state where it was registered. Additionally, all past annual fees must be paid.

Physical Inspection

Vehicles bought from another state must undergo a physical inspection and have a stolen report issued before local registration.

Tips for a Successful Purchase

Buy from Licensed Dealers

Ensure you purchase from quality car dealers with a license to sell cars, reducing the risk of fraud and ensuring a smoother transaction.

Do Your Homework

Thoroughly research and verify all aspects of the vehicle’s history and legal status before making a purchase.


Buying a vehicle in Mexico involves navigating various legal, administrative, and practical challenges. By understanding these challenges and utilizing available resources like REPUVE and Libre Azul, buyers can make informed decisions and avoid common pitfalls. Preparation and due diligence are key to a successful vehicle purchase in Mexico.


1. What is REPUVE?

REPUVE is a government database in Mexico that helps verify the legitimacy of a vehicle, checking for issues such as theft or irregularities in registration.

2. Do I need to be a resident to buy a car in Mexico?

To purchase and register a car from a new car dealer, you generally need to be a temporary or permanent resident with an RFC number.

3. What is a CURP number?

A CURP (Clave Única de Registro de Población) is a unique identification number required for various administrative processes in Mexico, including vehicle registration.

4. Why is the original bill of sale important?

The original factura is crucial for the vehicle’s registration and must remain with the car throughout its life. It serves as proof of legal ownership.

5. Can I use a foreign driver’s license in Mexico?

While you can drive with a foreign license as a tourist, owning a Mexican state-registered vehicle typically requires a Mexican state driver’s license.

6. What should I check when buying a used car in Mexico?

Check the vehicle’s history through REPUVE, verify the odometer reading, inspect for signs of past accidents, and confirm the vehicle’s maintenance records.

7. How do I transfer a vehicle registration from another state?

You need to return the original plates and registration to the state where the vehicle was previously registered, pay any outstanding fees, and have the vehicle inspected locally.

8. Are there specific taxes and fees for vehicle registration in Mexico?

Yes, vehicle registration involves paying annual fees, possibly tenencia (a tax in some states), and other administrative fees.

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