A Car for Oaxaca, Mexico: Searching for a Honda with the Right VIN

What’s a VIN?  Vehicle Identification Number, for the uninitiated.  The VIN indicates where the car was assembled, the manufacturer, the year of assembly, and lots of other fine details.  Critical, when thinking about buy a car to use in Mexico. (Critical any other time to be certain there were no accidents or the car was salvaged.)

Three years ago I bought a terrific 2003 Honda CRV with the intention of driving it to and using it in Oaxaca.  Despite our best intentions, the plan went awry two days before departure, when I discovered quite by accident that the VIN number indicated that car was assembled in the United Kingdom. Because of NAFTA rules, it could not be brought into Mexico.

I recently sold that car, and now I’m looking for another Honda to buy and bring here.  Seems I can’t find a CRV in the model year 2003-2005 that was made in the USA.  How can I tell?  The VIN number has to start with a numeric — like a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 to indicate it was assembled in either the U.S., Canada, or Mexico.  All the CRVs I’ve looked at online have VIN numbers that begin with J (for made in Japan) and S (for made in the United Kingdom).  You won’t believe how many sellers I’ve queried to send me the VIN number.  They want to know Why? I explain. All the CRVs in this model year range that I have found start with J or S.  If anyone knows anything differently, please share. Please! ‘Cause I’d really like another CRV. 

Lots of myths circulate among the ex-pat community about bringing cars to Mexico and keeping them here.  Someone recently told me the car has to be exactly 10 years old.  Not true!

My trusted friend in Austin, Texas, who is originally from the village I live in, is my car advisor.  He tells me that cars up to model year 2007 can be legalized at the border and ready for Mexican registration.

To register a car in Mexico, an expat must have a permanent resident visa. Otherwise, it has to be registered to a local.

Right now, I’m looking at what may be the next best thing to the Honda CRV — the Honda Element EX.  Looking for model years 2003-2005, with a manual transmission, 4WD, in good condition, under 130,000 miles.  Anyone out there have one they want to sell?  Of course, VIN number is the most important element.  It must start with a number!

As the car saga continues, I will be writing more about whether I buy a car in North Carolina and take a road trip to Austin with the right Honda.  Stay tuned.

6 responses to “A Car for Oaxaca, Mexico: Searching for a Honda with the Right VIN

  1. Norma – I have a cousin who drove his CRV from Dallas to Ajijic – he has a condo there and this is where the car resides. If you give me a direct e-mail address for yourself, I will have him write you directly and you two can discuss what is legal in this type of situation.

    Mine is Corrigan@centurylink.net

    Regards, Susanne

  2. Norma,
    Maybe you can just buy something when you get to Oaxaca. Gringoland is lined with dealerships. Perhaps a smaller selection, but at least you’ll have fewer hassles (until you want to drive it back to North Carolina.)
    Good luck,
    Elaine S.

    • Hi, Elaine, thanks for the suggestions. Actually, buying a used car from a private party in the U.S. means one can research the VIN on the car to know whether it has had any accidents or is a salvage vehicle. Once a car is imported to Mexico, the VIN is wiped out and there is no history. I am also finding that there is a $2-3,000 premium on cars offered for sale in Mexico because someone has already driven it here and legalized it. So, I’m better off financially negotiating a purchase price, then adding on the legalization and driving fees. Turns out to be way cheaper and more reliable this way.

  3. Norma, does your Travis Co. paisano know if I can just have a Oaxaca cousin take title for registration purposes? Must this be done at the border or would Oaxaca City be ok?
    Thank you, Alejandro Iglesias Nivon

    • Alejandro, as far as I know and I am no legal expert, and most of what I have learned, I have learned by experience and word of mouth, is that the car must be legalized for Mexico at the border. I don’t exactly know what that means. I think it must be registered at the border by whomever is driving it from the U.S. to Mexico. Then, it can be retitled in Oaxaca. But, don’t quote me, because I don’t know! The best place to get information about legalizing a car in Mexico is from Banjercito.

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