Buying a car was probably the most frustrating situation we had to go through living in Mexico. It’s very different than getting a car in the States. Car dealers all over the U.S. are like vultures waiting to pluck the money from your bones. There may be a few hours of paperwork, bank transfers and insurance approvals, but more than likely, you can drive off the lot with your chosen car the same day, sometimes tags included.
Mexico is different, and we were going to learn the hard way.
We thought we were doing things the right way. First, we opened a bank account so that we could transfer money down to get a car.
The next day, we went to the Honda Dealership to see what was available. Dealerships overseas are much smaller than in the States. Usually they just have the new models on display, and their inventory is stored somewhere else. Both of us had Hondas before, so it was a car we trusted. We also researched what cars were made in Mexico. If the car ever needed parts, it would be easy to get them here instead of having parts shipped from another country.
We met with a car salesman who could speak English. Our hearts were set on a Honda CRV 6 years old or newer. He checked his database and didn’t have anything available in our price range ($12,000 US). He checked all the associated dealerships around the country and still couldn’t find one. He told us people in Mexico hold on to their CRVs and that it is very difficult to find one 5 years or under. He recommended checking back in 10 days to see if anyone traded one in.
Waiting another 10 days for the possibility that there would be a CRV available was a big risk to take. We decided to look at the smaller cars and decided to get a new Honda City (smaller than the Accord). We chose the model and the color from the booklet. At least we knew that we wouldn’t have any unscheduled maintenance to deal with for a year or two while we learned the ropes.
Now the fun part begins.
BUYING A CAR
The Honda dealership does not accept money on the spot. It will need to be transferred from my bank account to Honda’s bank account.
We had transferred money from the U.S. last week. It did not go through. This is when we discovered it takes 4 business days (more or less) for the bank account to be “maintenance free” or accessible.
Two days later, the transfer went through after 4:40pm on a Friday. I transferred the money right away, but because it was after 1 pm, Honda would not receive the money until Monday.
Saturday, the salesman wanted us to come down to fill out the paperwork, you know, to “speed up the process”. During the course of the conversation, he kept pushing the delivery date of the car from Monday to Tuesday then Wednesday. We sternly made it clear that we needed the car by Tuesday, no later. We had plans to go to San Miguel de Allende, and we really didn’t want to Uber it.
Tuesday at 6pm we arrived at Honda. The salesman delayed us with more paperwork and shuffling. Lots of shuffling. When he handed us the keys, there was one fab and one ordinary key. This pissed me off because we both wanted our own fab and key. Now we would have to order another fab. Finally, the salesman showed us the car. We left the Honda dealership after dark and had to drive home in the crazy after-work traffic. Mexicans are really bad drivers. It was totally nerve racking.
Worst part: Getting the tags
In the state of Queretaro, you must “prove” you live there. If we were Mexican, we would just need an I.D. and a utility bill with our address on it. But we are Americans, so there’s more hoops to jump through to not pay a 7000 pesos tax ($385 US)because we “don’t live here” in their eyes. Tom has labeled this the Gringo Tax.
We paid the salesman 1600 pesos (roughly $86 US) to go to the tag office for us. He said there is a lot of waiting around, and it’s just easier if he sends his guy there to do it for us. He printed out a full letter to post in our rear windshield that says we are working on getting the tags.
Here is how the week(s) progressed:
Day 1 – (Tuesday) drove the car home
Day 4- (Friday) The salesman could not get the tags. We need to go back to Honda to drop off Tom’s FM2 visa card (which we just got that day) and passport to the salesman. From the car, I emailed the property tax from from our landlord. The salesman said he could not use it because it was not the original. Our landlord was not going to drive up from Mexico City 2-3 hours away to give us a piece of paper.
Day 7- (Monday) Tag office was too busy that day. Couldn’t get tags.
Day 8- (Tuesday) Tag office ran out of plates. They won’t have more in until Thursday.
Day 10- (Thursday) Salesman was turned away.
• Our water bill was not proof because our area gets private water, not from the government.
• Our electric bill isn’t proof because it doesn’t have our name on it. It has our landlords’.
• Our lease isn’t proof because it does not come from a government office.
• They had no idea what an FM2 visa was.
Day 11- We got a letter from our banker stating we lived at the address provided. He knew this for a fact since he drove us home to verify it. The tag office still refused to give us the tags.
Tom spoke to the salesman on the phone for well over 20 minutes expressing the fact that we had done everything he has asked us to do. The salesman also expressed how time consuming it was for him to constantly go down to the tag office and be refused. That’s not our fault. Our last option was to pay the 7000 pesos.
Day 13- The salesman called bright and early this morning. He gave us back some of the papers he needed on Day 11, so we had to make another run down to Honda. Later he called saying the tag office still wouldn’t give him the license plates even with the extra 7000 pesos. We were over it.
We told the salesman our banker had another option for us. His brother down in Mexico City could get us plates. Miraculously, the next day, the salesman had the license plates! How? The salesman knew the sister of the tag office manager. That’s how he finally got the tags.
So we headed down to Honda once again to get the physical tags for our car. It only took us a week to buy the car, and another two weeks to get the tags.
When we walked in, we saw the salesman showing an American couple around, Donna and Lyn. They came in, expecting to buy a car that day. Just like us, they were in for a rude awakening.
Stay tuned for the continuation of the Car Saga with getting insurance, our accident and the body shop!
P.S. This might end up being our second car: