Buying a car in Playa del Carmen

If you decide to buy a car in Playa del Carmen, here is what we learned about the process…

Where to look:

We found our car on the popular community trading post, Andale. We looked at about six other cars before we found one which we liked (and which seemed roadworthy!).

There are also cars for sale in the car parks of several shopping centers: Mega, Walmart, Aki and Centro Maya. They have phone numbers (but rarely prices) written on the windows.

You will also see many cars around town for sale, with phone numbers on the windows.

What you need:

Anyone can buy a car in Playa del Carmen. In order to register the car in your name, or to sell the car later, you will need the original invoice from the very first time the car was sold.

It is called the original ‘factura’ and everybody knows you need it to buy or sell a car legally.

If the seller does not have the original invoice, it’s best to look somewhere else. I’m not sure about the process of acquiring a new one, but I wouldn’t want to imagine the red tape involved.

In our experience, it is possible to register a car on a tourist visa. We didn’t need to show a visa at all, just the lease on our apartment which we got our landlord to write up, and a passport.

In addition to the purchase contract the seller will fill out for you both to sign, you will also need proof of the previous sale to the current owner, handwritten on the back of the original factura.

You will also need the tax receipts for previous payments, and and for older cars, you will need receipts for an old tax called the tenencia. The tenencia has not been in effect for years, but you are responsible for this tax being paid if it wasn’t.

If the seller does not have these receipts, they will need to visit the licensing center and pay for a print out of all the receipts they are missing, or pay all the tax owing.

It’s probably a good idea to have the car checked out by a mechanic. This area is a bit of a minefield, but we found Speed Service and Citiclub to be the most reliable mechanics we personally dealt with during our time here (find other recommendations at

Speed Service is located on Av 115 and Calle 13 on the west side of the highway. Phone: +52 984 859 2856

Citiclub is located in the Centro Maya shopping Center at the south end of town.

The check should be around 300 Pesos ($25).

They probably won’t do this!

In saying that, always check the price before you agree to any service at any mechanic in Playa del Carmen.

If there is work which needs to be done on the car (with second hand cars there inevitable will be, especially as the mechanics want you to come back) it gives you some bargaining power with the sale price. If a major issue is found, you lose $25 and save a big headache.

Don’t let a seller convince you about anything to do with the car. Unfortunately we found all the prospective sellers quite the story tellers, like the Jeep that “just needed to be filled with water every 100KM like normal” or the windows that happened to stop working that day.

How to make the deal:

It’s a good idea to have a local go over the paperwork with you, especially if you don’t speak Spanish. Our landlord helped us and it was invaluable during a relatively stressful time for these two naive Gringos!

Our seller was a smooth talker, but he was very accommodating as he wanted to make the sale.

The seller accompanied us to the licensing center, or ‘Recaudora de rentas’ on Calle 2 and Av 10. We actually registered the car in our name before we handed over the money (we did sign the sale contract though), but this took some trust on his part and may not be normal procedure for most sellers.

We just wanted to make sure we could register the car as we wanted to drive out of the country into central America.

Our car also had plates from another state (quite common) so we changed the plates over to local Quintana Roo plates for an extra fee. We wanted to do everything by the book to avoid any future hassles with traffic police. We have had no issues in the whole time we have had the car, including our 5,000KM road trip around the country.


Third party liability insurance is compulsory in Mexico. We purchased comprehensive insurance including damage and theft with a US$500 excess for our $5000 car for around US$350 for one year.

We got it through Intercam, a finance company who provided decent service, a good price and spoke some English.

They are located on Avenida 10, near Calle 16.

Other tips:

Important: Only US nationals can drive cars with US plates, and must have a valid import permit and a valid Mexican visa. If buying a car in Playa del Carmen, it’s best to buy a Mexican plated vehicle. The laws change all the time, but you can find more information at

Rust can be a problem in coastal areas, so a car from an inland city may be a better buy (ours was).

You can test drive the cars but the owners will come with you, so beware of them putting the radio on loudly, or talking to distract you from your task of assessing the car.

It’s good to be friendly of course, but it’s easy to let a smooth talker distract you from a thorough appraisal. Stay focused on the task and be polite, but assertive.

If you are unsure about a mechanic who checks the car, get a second opinion. It’s a small price to pay for piece of mind.

Take your time. Don’t give in to pressure to buy. There are so many cars for sale in Playa del Carmen,and not as many buyers as your seller would have you believe. We have seen cars for sale for many, many months.

Our experiences:

Buying a car in a foreign country can be a stressful experience. We worried about getting ripped off, buying a dud or making a mistake. It’s a lot of money to spend on a hunk of metal and we wondered if we had done the right thing.

But we have loved having a car here. Not everyone wants one, of course, but if you like being the captain of your own ship and want to discover the Yucatan and other parts of Mexico (not to mention beyond to Central and even South America) like we did, then it is well worth the investment.

We drove all over the Riviera Maya, the Yucatan and through six states to Oaxaca and back, seeing and experiencing so much more than we would have on a bus or plane. We never had any problems with police and never paid a bribe (touch wood).

I did get a parking ticket though. The first week I parked in a ‘yellow zone’ in town and had our plates taken. That is how the police let you know you’ve been fined, as well as leaving you a paper ticket.

I was pretty horrified, but after a trip to the ‘DMV’ (north-east of town, address on the ticket), we retrieved our plates with a mere 150 Peso fine ($14). Phew!

Further info:

Check out Tyrhone’s post on buying our car here.

And check some of our road trip adventures around the Yucatan and beyond:

Punta Allen

Flamingo Spotting in Las Colaradas

Border run to Belize to renew our visas

Palenque to San Cristobal

San Cristobal to Oaxaca City


Buying a car in Playa del Carmen — 10 Comments

  1. Thank you for the informative info on car buying in Mexico. We are considering purchasing a vehicle instead of renting every time we come to Mexico and was wondering if a tourist visa will work to register. Since I own a home there, do I need to bring my original deed to prove my residence? I have a copy and am wondering if I should bring the original too? Thanks Donna

    • Hi Donna! Since the rules change all the time in Mexico (as you know!) it is best to check with your local office before you purchase the car. We just showed a lease agreement, but they do seem to like originals in Mexico. It was a surprisingly smooth process for us, so I hope the same goes for you. Good luck!

  2. Hi, thanks for all the info! Did youmhave to,have a Mexican Licence to register the car?? I keep getting conflicting answers!

    • Hi Sharon! We didn’t, but you should check with your local licensing office. I know, it is almost impossible to get a definite answer, but at least if you ask and get the guys name, you have something to back you up

  3. I have gotten so much conflicting information on registrating a car in Playa del Carmen!
    I want to buy a new car and was told I need a Permenant Visa which I don’t have. I have a US passport with a tourist visa.
    Then someone told me I can buy a used car with my tourist visa.
    How can I get the REAL information?

    • Hi Carol, we were on tourist visas and registered our car using a lease agreement from our landlord. We were nervous about it and only had the advice of our lawyer friend who said it was possible, but it worked out. I am sure it will for you too.

  4. Pingback: Buying a car in Playa del Carmen - Playa del Carmen, Mexico forum

  5. Hi Sarah, thank you very much for all the precious information you are sharing with us. We are planning to drive all the way from Canada to Mexico (Playa del Carmen) and we were wondering for all long we can keep our Quebec plates once we are in Mexico….You said: ”Important: Only US nationals can drive cars with US plates, and must have a valid import permit and a valid Mexican visa.” We are coming with a Temporary Residence Visa and we will get Mexican insurance before to cross the border. We have both a driver license valid in our province of Quebec so I guess we should good to go… I’m not sure if you can help us with that but if you have any additional information that will really help us. Thanks and have a wonderfull day! Isabelle

  6. Thanks for the great article! Do you have any information on how to buy a new car? Is it like in the states where the dealership does all of the legwork for you?
    Thanks for any information you might be able to share !

  7. Great information, you have given about buying a car in playa del carmen. And also thanks for sharing your experience. This will be very helpful for those who want to buy a car.

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