Buying a Car in Lake Chapala or Guadalajara.

You have decided on a new or used vehicle to use Lakeside. Where can you go? How expensive will it be? How different are the laws about registration, insurance, etc.? Even within Canada or the US, different states have different requirements, especially for insuring a vehicle. It is the same way in Mexico, and it helps to buy from someone who is bilingual, has an impeccable reputation, and knows the ins and outs.

There are similarities in regulation, however. You come to a deal on cost, and money changes hands, along with documentation proving that the vehicle is owned by the seller and that government taxes on that vehicle have been paid up. You will pay registration fees from the time you take possession (annually during the first quarter of the year), along with inspections (bi-annually, except for annual smog inspections).

Buying New, Used and Insurance?

All vehicles must be insured. Fortunately, insurance may be cheaper here than it is up north. In rare cases, an accident can lead to the car being impounded and the driver being tossed into jail in which case you need insurance with Protección Legal. If you have that clause, the insurer will get you and the vehicle out. If you drive it into the US, however, you’ll need US insurance when you cross the border.

If you buy a vehicle more than 15 years old, in some cases only 10 years, insurance is permitted only for third party liability policies unless an official appraisal (avaluo) is acquired. That also applies to foreign plated vehicles that, after arrival in Mexico, acquire Mexican plates while some insurance companies will not offer full insurance for any Mexican plated vehicles. Ask for the best you can get and compare.

Would you rather buy new or used? Some dealers in Ajijic and Chapala will arrange matters even for cars available only in Guadalajara so customers can avoid confusion. Other customers prefer to drive in and compare-shop for themselves.

Whether new or used, a Mexican plated vehicle makes sense in Mexico, and purchase prices have come down dramatically. At present, buying a new vehicle in Mexico is cheaper than buying up north. If you have working papers, the purchase provides a huge write-off too. And parts are available here for Mexican models more easily than for US models.

You can sell your Mexican plated vehicle easily, but if you own one with a foreign plate, it must leave the country to have ownership transferred. You and the purchaser both go. Make an adventure of it.

South Dakota Plates

You may notice South Dakota plates around Lakeside. That’s because (1) the owners may drive back and forth between the two countries and South Dakota keeps the costs of registration low regardless of where you call home, or (2) the owners may actually be from South Dakota.

Most Lakesiders with South Dakota plates, however, are avoiding registration costs in Mexico because there used to be a stiff tax for the first ten years. That no longer applies, so why not get a Mexican plated vehicle in the first place? There’s another reason for not getting South Dakota plates – they make your vehicle illegal and that negates your Mexican insurance.  The choice and the risk are yours. Most people with South Dakota plates don’t  realize how affordable Mexican plates are now.

What Do I need to buy and sell a car?

What documents are needed to purchase a vehicle in Mexico? A passport is the best photo identification. Foreigners need a VISA TEMPORAL or VISA PERMANENTE, plus proof of address in Mexico. That’s to make sure you are legal in country. What you need is a phone or electric bill no older than the past 60 days, showing the full civic address in your name. If a car buyer has no proof of address because documents are in the name of a previous property owner or the present landlord if renting, then there must be a copy of the purchase agreement or rental agreement (minimum one year) plus copies of the appropriate utility bills in the owner’s name and his/her picture ID. Copy all documents for the officials.

What documents are needed to sell a vehicle in Mexico? The original vehicle purchase receipt (factura), not the title document, must show the seller’s signature on the reverse side, signing over the vehicle to the purchaser. There must be five years of registration receipts, plus passport, FMM, FM2, or FM3, and proof of address in Mexico as stated above. The documents need only be shown, not copied, except the factura.

Once you have your wheels on Mexican soil, you have to go somewhere, right? Almost all the driving laws in Mexico are familiar to us so learn the road signs and use common sense. Keep a Spanish-English dictionary handy. It’s a beautiful country.

By Kay Davis, Access Team Writer

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