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GUADALAJARA CAR OWNERS’ HANDBOOK

Insider Tips for Buying, Selling, and Protection


Note: Exceptionally this guide is free to non TWIG members to thank all the generous expats and locals who helped us after our incident. There are some truly great people out here!


On a Friday night with friends, we had no idea that while we were enjoying cocktails listening to live music, two thieves were opening the hood of our car and stealing the computer system, one of the most important and expensive parts of our car. That day, I realized I hadn’t done my due diligence on owning a car in Mexico, and Guadalajara more precisely.


This guide was born from the desire to learn everything I could on automobiles and to share it with everyone driving in Jalisco, so you don’t have to go through our costly experience.


Don’t be the one taken advantage of because you didn’t know the Mexican system and ended up losing money or buying a lemon.


In this guide you will learn:

🚗 Things you should know before buying a car in Mexico

🚗 Best ways to buy a used car

🚗 How to easily sell your car

🚗 How to properly insure your car in Mexico

🚗 How to avoid having your car stolen or broken into

🚗 How to not be a victim of car parts thieves

🚗 Recommended honest mechanics


Guadalajara is a big city. It isn’t necessary to have a car in our city but owning one means the freedom to go anywhere anytime, get off the beaten path, and enjoy 30+ amazing day trips at your own pace.


Should we start making you a pro of owning a car in Jalisco?



EMERGENCY: Dial 911 – Download the 911 APP


GDL GOV OPERATOR TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION

👉Add GuaZap to your WhatsApp: +52-3336101010

Telephone: +52 3837-4400

Hidalgo 400, Col Centro, CP: 44100


HIGHWAY ASSISTANCE AND TOURIST HELP (Angeles Verdes-Green Angels)

👉Dial 078. They serve as Roadside Assistance and can help you in a variety of ways, such as changing your spare tire. You must have a Mexican phone line to dial 078. You can get one TELCEL phone card at any OXXO.


PRIVATE BILINGUAL SAFE DRIVERS: TWIG uses and recommends 2 bilingual drivers.

  • ANWAR (Based GDL) : WhatsApp +52 1 33 3130 3056

  • CHUY (Based GDL): WhatsApp +52 1 33 1073 4983


SOBRIETY TEST STATIONS

TWIG does NOT support drinking and driving. Please take a taxi or Uber when inebriated as you could cause accidents. To be aware of the locations where the police places sobriety test stations daily, join the Toritos, Tráfico y Operativos GDL‎ WhatsApp, a community of Notifications about Toritos, Traffic Operations, accidents that affect the roads of our City. https://chat.whatsapp.com/Bt4NEu67gic8WOcuVd81Tz


THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE BUYING A CAR IN MEXICO


Can a foreigner buy a car in Mexico?

Yes, if you have residency, you can legally register your vehicle in Mexico. You need both an RFC number (Tax ID) and a CURP number (Clave Unica de Registro de Poblacion - Social Security number) to complete the registration process and that is not available to tourists. They are unique numbers given to residents and citizens of Mexico only.


Don’t trust anyone that says they can get you plates from another state. They are submitting fraudulent documentation on your behalf including proof of residency in that state.


Can a tourist buy a car in Mexico?

No! You cannot get an RFC and CURP as a tourist, and therefore can’t legally register a car in your name on a tourist visa.


If you’re not sure what an RFC and CURP are and how you can get them, we recommend consulting TWIG’s preferred lawyer, Spencer McMullen. He offers free consultation.


Is my Foreign Driving License valid in Mexico?

Yes, as long as your driving license is valid (non expired). However, the benefits of getting a Mexican DL is to be eligible for discounts given to locals only. Your Mexican DL is a proof that you are a local.


Can I bring my foreign car to Mexico?

Yes! Many people bring their foreign vehicles to Mexico while they have tourist visas or temporary resident visas. The temporary vehicle import permit (TIP) can be extended beyond the initial six-month limit when you get a temporary resident visa. However, when you move to a permanent resident visa you may no longer have a foreign vehicle in Mexico. Some people prefer to stay as temporary residents as long as they can, so they don’t have to get rid of their foreign vehicles. At some point, you need to decide between either trying to nationalize your vehicle (very challenging) or buy something locally. In most cases, it will be a better idea to sell your vehicle back home and buy something here.


There are several restrictions on getting a TIP. Vehicles with salvage titles are often rejected. Additionally, vehicles with a gross weight over 7,000 lbs. need to have a motorhome registration. Large vehicles beware.


Do I need a Mexican driver’s license to buy a car in Mexico?

No. It is not a requirement to get a local drivers’ license to buy or register a vehicle. However, it’s the perfect opportunity to get a local identification card. It is a lot easier to replace a drivers’ license than it is to replace immigration documents. TIP: Once you have a Mexican DL, it is best to keep your driver’s license with you and leave your immigration card at home.


Can I buy a car in Mexico and bring it to the US?

Temporarily yes, permanently it’s not likely. Buying a car in Mexico and driving to the US is permitted up to one year. It is not supposed to be permanent. In order to qualify for importation, the vehicles must be built to US safety and emissions standards. The cheaper vehicles in Mexico would not pass emissions and safety requirements. Check with the NHTSA for requirements and eligible vehicles.


Am I a target if I have a foreign plate in Mexico?

No. There are countless foreign plates driving through Mexico.


BUYING A CAR


Buying a car in Mexico is the easy part. The difficult parts are buying the right car and getting that vehicle registered.  


CHOOSING THE RIGHT CAR


There are many car brands and models in Mexico that are not available in the US for example. It’s important you do your research about choosing the right vehicle for your needs. Cars by Nissan and Volkswagen are different from the versions in the US for example.

Some cars are cheaper in Mexico because they have very different standard safety features. Cars are built to meet the safety and emissions standards of their final destination and the prices will vary greatly. The price of cars in Mexico will depend on the version and standard safety features.


YouTube offers informative videos from mechanics talking about the true cost of owning different vehicles. Some cars can be money pits because the parts are expensive, and you need special computerized tools to work on them.


Scotty Kilmer, a mechanic for 50+ years, created lists of the best and worst cars for long term ownership costs.


TIP: Make sure to check before buying your car that if it is not on the list of the most likely cars to be stolen for spare parts or else.


BUYING A NEW CAR


The best part of buying a brand-new car is the simplicity of the paperwork. 


The car buying process in Mexico is almost the same as in the U.S. or Canada. You go to a car dealership, find your perfect car, and pay. Done!


Know that the price you see listed for a car in a dealership in Mexico is NOT NEGOTIABLE. You cannot ask the dealership for a lower price. This should give you peace of mind that you won’t get gringo priced. You also won’t get the pushy salesman.


TIP: In Guadalajara, the Auto EXPO usually occurs end of September.  It’s a great place to see hundreds of models, test-drive, and see all your financing options all in one place.


Paperwork: If you buy your perfect car at a dealership, they’ll handle all the paperwork for you! The dealer should give you:

  • the invoice of payment or an official “factura

  • your proof of payment for taxes or “tenencia”

  • and your registration card or “tarjeta de circulacion


Financing is possible in Mexico, but it usually comes with high-interest rates. Most dealerships that offer in-house financing will offer an expensive interest rate of up to 25%.


BUYING A USED CAR


The best part of buying a used car is that it is so much more affordable when you buy a vehicle that is a few years old.


That said, buying a used car in Mexico can be a real challenge because there is a lot of fraud in the marketplace and the documentation to register a vehicle is complicated and easy to falsify.


The three biggest markets for used cars in Mexico are Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey. 


The most popular sites that most locals use to find used cars all around the country are:


TIP: The best deals sell quickly, so you must be fast to act once you find the vehicle you like.


Word of Mouth: Another way to find used cars in Mexico is by letting people around you know or post it on various ex-pat groups. See TWIG’s full list of social groups in GDL. Look for people that are trustworthy.


Important Warnings:


Language: Many sellers will likely only speak Spanish so if you’re not fluent in Spanish do ask a local friend to help you communicate with the seller. If you need a translator, TWIG’s favorite interpreters are Iram from Ademia School and Ana Melendez.


Fake Information: Some listings may have fake information. It’s the internet after all, and scams can happen. To avoid this, find a reputable and honest car brokers in Mexico you can buy a used car from. They will do all the paperwork for you, register your vehicle, speak English, and some even offer their own in-house warranties.


Inspection: In Mexico, odometers are often rolled back. When buying a used car, always have the car checked by a trustworthy mechanic first. See TWIG’s recommended mechanics below. TIP: Choose a car dealership as a public place to meet the seller and get a presale revision/evaluation on the spot.


Check the Seller’s ID: To avoid any scams, check the seller’s ID and verify that he/she is the owner of the car and that the name matches the title. To verify that the car isn’t stolen, you need to check that the VIN number in the car matches the VIN number on the original receipt of payment aka the “factura“. To check that the “factura” is an official or authentic invoice, you can check its authenticity on the Mexican treasury website. If it’s authentic, you’ll get redirected to another window that will allow you to print this confirmation. However, if it’s fake, you’ll get a message letting you know the “factura” is not in their system.


Check That the Car is Not Stolen: To make sure the car is not stolen, you can check the Repuve database to make sure it’s not reported stolen. You’ll need to right-click and translate to English to fill it out. TIP: Section 3 is the number on your blue tag. Section 4 “Constancia de Inscripcion” is optional.


Ask for Proof of Tenencia: The seller should also provide you with proof that the taxes or “tenencia” have been paid in previous years. If you decide to buy the car knowing that back taxes are owed on the car, you won’t be able to register the vehicle until the “tenencia” is fully paid off.


Buying Foreign Vehicles on Expired Temporary Vehicle Import Permits: It’s not worth the trouble to get them nationalized and the cops will give you a hard time about expired registration tags and paperwork that is not in your name.


Buying a car from another Mexican state and transferring it to Jalisco: See American expat Paul Hudson’s experience buying a car in the state of Nuevo Leon and transferring it to the state of Jalisco.


Paying For the Car: Did you review all the documentation and make sure all is legally in order? Then, the best way to pay for a car is with a cashier’s check. You are documenting who is receiving the money and the sum is guaranteed by the bank, not the account holder. If you choose to pay cash, be careful carrying around a lot of cash and make sure to meet in a public place.


REGISTERING A CAR IN MEXICO


There are a lot of documents required to register a vehicle and every state is going to have different policies.


If you’re buying a brand-new car from a dealership, they will handle the whole process for you. See the upper section on “Buying a New Car.”


If you’ve bought a used car in the state of Jalisco and are just transferring ownership within the same state, you can go straight to the local Recaudadora office and show them your paperwork. Purchasing within the same state is much faster.


Once all your paperwork has been approved you will need to pay some taxes. Jalisco license plates cost about $2,000 pesos. If the transfer is between private citizens, they will levy a tax of 7% over the valuation of the vehicle. The government valuation of your vehicle tends to be much lower than the market value. For everything (license plates, taxes and fees) expect to pay at least $10K pesos. 

 

If you’re registering a car bought in a different state than Jalisco, see American expat Paul Hudson’s experience buying a car in the state of Nuevo Leon and transferring it to the state of Jalisco.


USING A FACILITATOR OR CAR BROKER


You might find that buying and registering a used car in Mexico is quite complicated and choose to make better use of your time by hiring a facilitator or car broker.


A good car facilitator will check for:

  • The original invoice for the vehicle (factura). This invoice must be presented however old the car is, and each previous owner should have signed the back of the factura when selling the vehicle.

  • If the vehicle was imported legally (with Mexican plates), the original registration document must be presented instead of the invoice along with all import documents (Pedimento de Importación).

  • Check the database in Mexico to see that the car has not been reported “Stolen.”

  • Receipt proving payment of the vehicle tax (tenencia) for the last 3-4years. Without this receipt, the new owner may be liable for any unpaid taxes.

Facilitators and car brokers oftentimes have access to a fleet of used cars and know the ins and outs of registration in Mexico. They will handle the process of registration, taxes, and your license plates. In some cases, they can even help you get your driver’s license in the same transaction. They do this for an additional fee, but the money is well worth the convenience.


Several expats recommend Antonio Regalada of R&R Car Solutions. TWIG never used him, but he is supposedly the expert for all things cars in the Chapala/Guadalajara Metro Region. He will help you find the right car, sell a car, rent a car, get it checked out by a mechanic, register it, and even insure it.


PROTECTION


SHARING TWIG’s EXPERIENCE: CAR HACKED in Chapala at night!


👉After an almost perfect day in Chapala, two men opened our car's hood, cut all the cables and stole our car computer system while we were having dinner in a famous restaurant around 9 pm.

👉POLICE: We called 911 and 2 policemen showed up in a fancy modern police truck immediately. They were nice and compassionate, filled up paperwork and took photos for about an hour, but didn't provide any help in getting a mechanic or tow truck, or anything. They asked if we wanted to go to the police station to open a case and we declined as we knew it would take hours and nothing would be done to catch the thieves as we couldn't even describe them.

👉INSURANCE: We called our insurance which offered to send us a tow truck in between 2-3 hours as we were far from home GDL. They were willing to cover $3,500 pesos for the tow truck and the rest for us to pay. They explained we were covered in case someone stole our car, but as the thieves only took the computer system of the car, we were not covered as you need to have an EXTRA partial theft plan. So it was on us to have the car fixed and buy and have installed a new car computer system. As we were not covered for partial theft, the insurance did not give us a transitional car rental.

👉TOW TRUCK: As we had no desire to wait 3 hours (maybe more) in a Chapala Street at night, we managed through a great taxi driver connection to get a Chapala tow truck immediately to take us and our car back home in GDL. Our taxi friend negotiated a lower price of $2,100 pesos for the ride. The tow truck driver was super professional, nice, good driver and with the help of the security guard at our condo they did a great job parking the car in an accessible parking spot, as our parking wasn't accessible by a large tow truck. Kudos for their help and compassion.

👉LESSON LEARNED: We found on the internet that our car has several YouTube videos posted online on how to easily steal the computer system and how to prevent it. It was news to us! Stealing the car computer system is the new thing. It is imperative to have special protection locks installed.

👉COUNTING OUR BLESSINGS: We made it back home safely by 12.30 am, with our car. Yes, it was terribly disappointing, shocking and it's super inconvenient, and costly, but we stayed calm and refused to let it destroy our weekend and plans. We posted our incident on the TWIG’s WhatsApp chat and other social groups and we met many helpful and compassionate people. We also met quite selfish expats who couldn't care less about what was happening to us that night, and preferred finishing their beer and steak rather than helping.

👉COST OF INCIDENT:

  • Tow-truck Chapala to GDL: $2,100 pesos (negotiated price)

  • Tow-truck home to mechanic: Covered by our insurance

  • Mechanic: $11,500 pesos (change cables, computer system, inspect the whole car). It took 24h.

  • Locks installation to prevent repeat: $1,600 pesos

  • Ubers: $1,500 pesos (4 days)

  • TOTAL COST: $16,600 pesos (The Chevrolet dealership quoted us over $100K pesos)


INSURANCES


Most car insurance policies only cover vehicle theft and not theft of auto parts. In reality, it is more likely that thieves will steal parts from your car (tire, computer system and more) than the car itself and your insurance won’t cover you for it (except for towing your car to a mechanic or your home if needed).


In the US too, there is rampant theft of catalytic converters from cars parked on the street (even in the best neighborhoods) due to value of the precious metals in them. They are very expensive and long-time lead to replace.


The most stolen parts are: Tires, wheels, computer system, battery, tailgate, air-bag, and catalytic converter.


It's amazing how quickly thieves can do it. The police showed us how easy it is to pop a hood!


This is why we strongly recommend partial theft and vandalism coverage, which is a more expensive policy or an additional coverage for these situations.


See the Vehicle Theft 2023 Statistics in Mexico, including the most stolen models. Nissan owners beware.


Looking for a good car insurance? TWIG’s preferred insurance agent is Robert Cortes.


AVOIDING THIEVES


New cars: Be very careful about what you do with a new vehicle. Thieves know which vehicles are valuable.


Avoid parking your car or letting a valet park your car in the street, unless you park it in front of where you can see it. Too much crime occurs.


Have your dealership or mechanic install a special anti-theft hood lock, a lock system put around the computer car and the engine. Cost: $1,500 to $5,000 pesos depending on your car model.


IF YOU GOT YOUR CAR PARTS STOLEN


You will most likely have to join the sad vicious circle of re-purchasing the parts from the thieves who stole from you or others in the first place.


Your car parts are probably at Calle Cinco de Febrero by now. It’s where thieves go to resale them. The area is near the old bus station (Central Vieja. It's supposedly safe during the day, and you shouldn’t face any risks if you go as a buyer. But it’s better to go accompanied by someone and using an Uber to go there.


First you may think, absolutely not! I’m not buying parts these guys stole from someone else to put on my car. But you may want to save on the dealership parts that can be 75% more expensive. In our case, the Chevrolet dealership quoted us $100K pesos to replace our computer system and other damaged cables. Our trustworthy mechanic did it for $11,500 pesos. It’s hard to say no. Our mechanic did assure us that they were not purchasing used parts from Calle Cinco de Febrero but from legitimate used parts. I’m hoping it’s true.


TIPS FOR DRIVING SAFELY IN MEXICO


On long distance, outside of big cities, drive during the day, not at night, due to possible lack of sufficient lighting and poor road conditions.


Use toll roads versus free roads for efficiency and protection. TIP: Toll roads includes insurance in case you have an accident or your car breakdown. It includes free towing.


Save the Green Angels phone number: 078. They serve as Roadside Assistance and can help you in a variety of ways, such as changing your spare tire. You must have a Mexican phone line to dial 078. You can get one TELCEL phone card at any OXXO.


On long distance always carry $3,000 pesos in case of needing to pay tolls or a tow truck.


Always have a valid driving license + TIP if driving a foreign car + Mexican Liability Auto Insurance (you can get one before passing the Mexican border).


If driving very slow drive on the right shoulder lane.


STOP signs are suggestions, like YIELD signs, not a rule.


Activating your left light means that you are allowing the person behind you to pass you.


Gas: The green color is equivalent to 87. The red color is premium and is equivalent to 92. Diesel is available. There is a law forbidding self-service gas stations, which is why you'll have an attendant to serve you. TIP: Make sure the counter is set to ZERO when the attendant pour gas. You can pay with your CC at most gas stations but some brands do not accept foreign CC. Always ask for your receipt. Show that you are aware of what the attendant does.


If stopped by the Police and asked to pay a fine, cooperate but insist on paying at the Police station, not on the side of the road. Refuse to pay brides. The Police will most likely let you go.


Best MAP of Mexico created by Bill (aka Memo) Eakins, a motorcycle tour guide: https://www.goexperiencemexico.com


Q&A with Mexico Relocation Guide: Driving to Mexico.


MAINTENING YOUR CAR


Cars are expensive to repair, so maintain yours regularly to avoid breakdowns. TWIG’s favorite maintenance shop is MIDAS for tires and auto service. Bilingual. Special discount for TWIG members.


Emissions inspections are now mandatory in Jalisco. Midas helps your car get ready with 10% off your first visit. Just mention TWIG and you're golden. Preventative service only. All brands, all modern cars 1995 and up get to experience the gold standard in auto service. Reach us at https://facebook.com/jaliscomidas or by WhatsApp (322 103 8810). If you're not confident in your Spanish, please feel free to DM Paco Robles for help. Trust the Midas touch.


TWIG recommends the following two mechanics:

  1. JC Barrera Mecánica: Super-fast, honest, affordable. They work from a private home garage in Zapopan. They accept foreign credit cards with a 4% fee charge. We chose them to replace our stolen car computer.

  2. Luis Hernandez: The mechanic for 20 years of dear friends of ours. He is based in Tonala. Honest. Affordable. Speaks Spanish only. WhatsApp number: +52 1 33 3724 0842

 

RECOMMENDED ADDITIONAL FEATURES


These extra features are recommended to anyone driving through Mexico: COMING SOON!


🎇The TWIG team wishes all of you a safe life in our beautiful city of Guadalajara. We’re always here to help, if we can!

 

FAQ´S -

  1. HOW SAFE IS GUADALAJARA? Guadalajara is both safe and unsafe, depending on your lifestyle and choices. Numbeo safety index gives Mexico City a crime rating of 68.2 which is high. Guadalajara's is close at 62.2. If the crime rate comes higher than other similar big cities (Paris, London, New-York, Rome), in Mexico, most violent crimes are restricted to instances between criminal organizations. Reading about cartel activities in Mexico can be scary, however, unless you are extremely naïve or unlucky to find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time, as a tourist or expat, you have no reason to encounter criminal organizations, just like you don’t meet the mafia when traveling in Italy.

  2. What makes Guadalajara a safer place than most other big cities in the world? People’s kindness and helpful nature. Very low aggressivity and no mass shootings. Most Mexicans are non-aggressive (except behind the wheel), polite and well mannered. GDL has a great expat community ready to help. Check TWIG’s connect page for all the wonderful groups we recommend you join to get help, good advice and make solid friends.

  3. Is Mexico safer than the US? In this video Andrew compares Mexico to the USA and explains why Mexico is safer.

  4. How to Make Your Move to Guadalajara Smooth and Stress-Free? Sign-up to TWIG's Relocation Program and learn in 4 days what it takes other years. From where to eat, where to stay, what to see, and connecting you to all the top professionals you need for your new life, you’ll feel home in an instant.

  5. How can I stay updated on the latest events and attractions in Guadalajara? Subscribe to TWIG's free weekly newsletter to get the best of Guadalajara delivered directly to your inbox.

Want more of everything going on in Guadalajara? Subscribe to TWIG’s free weekly newsletter to get the best of Guadalajara in your inbox. And get the “Best of Guadalajara List” to know the top bilingual professionals in 30+ categories (from private drivers to doctors).



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