The exchange rate between the United States and Mexico makes some goods favorable for United States citizens to purchase in Mexico and bring across the border. This makes many people wonder if it may be cheaper to purchase a car in Mexico and naturalize it in the United States.
Cars in Mexico are priced similarly to cars in the United States. Most used cars are priced within the Kelley Blue Book value range. New cars are priced similarly, but many are more expensive in Mexico. This does not include added travel, customs, DOT, and EPA regulations and costs.
Those who decide to purchase a car in Mexico and move it across the border must research regulations very carefully. Cars that do not meet certain regulations can not cross the border. It is up to buyers to ensure that everything is done correctly because it will be their loss if the car is confiscated or destroyed at the border.
Can a US Citizen Buy a Car in Mexico?
A US citizen can buy a car in Mexico, but the car may not be eligible for importation into the United States. The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) allows vehicles that are registered with customs to enter the United States for one year. After that year, the car must be either registered in the US or deported.
- The US Department of Transportation keeps a database with every car brought into the United States, along with all contact information for those related to the car. This is called the Motor Vehicle Importation Information (MVII) System.
- This database contains personally identifiable information for everyone who imports a vehicle to the US.
- This MVII database is used to track cars that are imported to the US and deport them when they become non-compliant.
- Noncompliance can include failure to clear the vehicle through customs and register it with the DMV within one year.
- Noncompliance also covers vehicles that are given special permits to enter the country for racing but are not exported within the allowed timeframe.
- All MVII information is shareable with law enforcement.
Be aware that it is possible to get a customs exception to gain entry to the US for some vehicles that are not compliant. However, this exception is not the same as compliance, and these cars may never be able to obtain compliance. Noncompliant vehicles can not clear customs, so they can never be registered with any DMV and remain in the US legally.
Is It Cheaper to Buy a Car in Mexico?
There are deals to be had all over the United States and Mexico on both new and used cars. Some people may desire to fly to Mexico to take advantage of a great deal rather than flying across the US for a similar great buy. For people who live within a convenient drive to Mexico, the allure to buy South and drive North is greater.
Here is a comparison of several cars that can be purchased both in Mexico and the United States. DMV fees are different in every state, and these fees will be the same whether the car is purchased in the United States or Mexico. However, a car purchased in Mexico must be registered with the Customs and Border Patrol to be eligible for US registration.
|Vehicle Make and Model||2021 Chevy Silverado High Country 4×4||2008 Honda Civic EX-L||2006 Toyota Camry LE||2016 Chevrolet Express 16-passenger van|
|Mexico Vehicle Cost||About $82,000 USD||About $6,300 USD||About $5,000 USD||About $22,500 USD|
|United States Vehicle Cost||About $74,000 USD||About $6,000 USD||About $6,000 USD||About $20,000 USD|
|Mexico Taxes||16% VAT plus vehicle taxes that vary by city and state where the car is purchased||16% VAT plus vehicle taxes that vary by city and state where the car is purchased||16% VAT plus vehicle taxes that vary by city and state where the car is purchased||16% VAT plus vehicle taxes that vary by city and state where the car is purchased|
|United States Taxes||0% to 11.5% by state||0% to 11.5% by state||0% to 11.5% by state||0% to 11.5% by state plus Gas Guzzler tax up to $6,400.|
|US Import Fees||25%||2.5%||2.5%||25%|
Bottom Line: There is no advantage to purchasing a car, truck, or SUV in Mexico and then importing it to the United States if it is a commuter vehicle. Vehicles that are made in the US will be manufactured to EPA and DOT specifications, but they will cost more to purchase from Mexico because they have been imported there for sale.
Why Is It Not Cheaper to Buy a Car in Mexico?
As our chart above shows, sometimes the sticker price may be less on the vehicle, but by the time someone adds in taxes, fees, and travel expenses, the price adds up fast.
- Taxes like VAT and vehicle taxes will be paid on various levels to the Mexican government.
- US import fees and customs fees.
- Various taxes that will be imposed by the US government and state governments.
- Costs to upgrade emissions and security features if needed.
- High broker fees if the buyer chooses to use a vehicle broker to import the car.
- Flight or fuel costs for traveling to the location.
- The cost to import the car from Mexico to a location in the US can cost $1,000 to $2,000.
- Those who do not have a passport will have to get one and wait for it to arrive.
The costs add up fast because buyers are working with the seller plus local and federal governments of two nations and possibly customs brokers and auto transporters.
Buyers must be wary of brokers and sellers who claim that the car can be imported with little to no fees, or that VAT fees can be refunded. Additionally, buyers must never take it for granted that the EPA and DOT stickers are in place because of the seller’s claims.
The EPA Sticker and the DOT Sticker
Buyers must carefully verify all aspects of the vehicle that they are buying before they consider putting any money into it. The majority of cars that are sold outside of the US are manufactured without conforming to United States EPA regulations. It is vital not to take these certifications for granted or take a dealer’s word for it that it is conforming.
Vehicles purchased from Mexico that do not conform to US EPA and DOT regulations will not be allowed for import. Customs and Border Protection clearly states, “Vehicles entering the United States that do not conform with U.S. safety standards must be brought into compliance, exported, or destroyed.”
There are two stickers that are considered basic starting places for deciding if a vehicle is worth the effort to declare and import.
- Firstly, check the vehicle’s engine compartment for an EPA emissions sticker.
- Secondly, look at the driver’s side door jamb. There must be a sticker, written in English, that says, “This vehicle conforms to all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety and Theft Standards in effect on the date of manufacture.”
- Both of these stickers must be original and written in English. These do not guarantee that the car is importable, but it is a start.
If the vehicle does not have these stickers, then it is not worth the trouble to bring it up to standard for importation. Buyers who go this route will spend a ton of money on improvements to find that it still can not leave Mexico.
It is important to understand that if the car was originally manufactured in the United States and then exported for sale, it would be easier to declare it and get it back through customs. If it was manufactured in a different country, it will be nearly impossible and almost certainly not worth the expense.
Are There Any Cars Available in Mexico Not Available In the US?
There are a lot of cars that are available in Mexico that are not for sale in the United States. Cars manufactured for sale in Mexico are not required to meet the same emissions, safety, and theft-deterrent standards as models in the United States. This makes them ineligible for US registration.
- The Dodge Attitude. This car is the same as the Mitsubishi Mirage, but it is subpar in some of the emissions and safety standards.
- Ford Ikon Hatch. Similar to the Ford Fiesta, but built in India, this entry-level car is one of the cheapest models to be found in Mexico, but it falls short on safety.
- Daewoo Matiz. This is basically the Chevy Spark, but it lacks the safety and emissions certifications to be legally imported to the United States.
- Peugeot RCZ. The manufacturer has been happy to sell this gorgeous sports car around the world and not bother with EPA and DOT compliance to bring it to the US market.
- Volkswagen CrossFox. This mini SUV is very popular throughout Central and South America, but due to the lack of EPA certifications, it can not be naturalized into the US.
This is a short list of many cars that are available for sale in Mexico that are not allowed to be sold in the United States. In general, automakers only avoid the US market when the vehicles are not up to EPA and DOT regulations. Many times the cost to bring the model of a vehicle up to the US standards is not worth it.
This also means that those cars that can only be found in Mexico are generally ineligible to be registered in the United States. To purchase a car in Mexico and then import it to the US, it must be a novelty car or an exact model of one for sale in the US, in which case the cost of it will also be higher because this increases the value.
What Is the Cheapest New Car to Buy In Mexico?
The cheapest new car that can be purchased in Mexico and possibly imported to the United States is the Mitsubishi Mirage.
- The 2WD manual version is priced at about $12,500 USD.
- The US version starts at about $14,000 USD.
- The price is right about even once the customs, VAT, and taxes are paid on the Mexico version.
- Both versions will have the same state tax and DOT fees when they are registered in the United States.
Someone looking to purchase the Mitsubishi Mirage in Mexico must confirm that the EPA and DOT certifications are present, or it will not cross the border as a conforming vehicle.
Are Cars Cheaper in Mexico Than Canada?
Cars are significantly cheaper in Mexico than in Canada. The exchange rates give the Canadian dollar and the US dollar more buying power; those dollars purchase more in Mexico than they do in Canada.
- The Mitsubishi Mirage costs about $14,000 USD in the United States.
- The same Mirage costs about $12,500 USD in Mexico.
- The Mitsubishi Mirage purchased in Canada will cost about $14,000 USD.
The car purchased in Mexico will be much cheaper initially. Cars from both Mexico and Canada will be required to conform to the DOT and EPA regulations.
Are There Any Good Mexican Used Car Websites?
There are a few good used car websites in Mexico. In addition to these sites, people often use Facebook Marketplace for private party sales, though the vehicles are often left on the site long after they are sold.
- https://www.segundamano.mx is a site that serves as a marketplace for many different industries, including vehicles.
- https://soloautos.mx/ is a very informative site, much like Edmunds, with articles, pricing guides, and sellers all in one place.
- https://www.seminuevos.com/ is an excellent website for finding used cars available from more reputable dealers.
Buyers need to research and understand all of the customs forms and requirements before purchasing a car in Mexico and attempting to bring it to the US.
There are rare exceptions, such as cars that are for racing only or collectors cars that may be eligible for exceptions to CBP, EPA, and DOT certifications. All other cars must be fully compliant and registered with the DOT, or they will be deported after one year.
I hope this article has been informative and helpful. Thanks for reading!
For more, check out How Much Does a Used Car Dealer Make per Car? | Average Markup.
Hey, I’m Jim, and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up, I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!