Buying a Car


I am new to the forum and have been reading all day!  I am moving to Puerto Rico in December.  Luckily I have a job (Guaynabo) and a place to live.

Previous blogs have been extremely helpful however I didn't see anything about buying a car.  I plan to buy one there. I will be living in San Juan and commuting to Guaynabo for work.  I need a reliable but used car.  Any advice???

Buying a car when you get to PR is probably your best bet. It's not much different getting one here. I recently picked up a '99 Ford Explorer. People put vehicles out for sale along the main roads. That's how I got mine. Another good way is to look at Bring somebody with you that knows the ins and outs of how to go about purchasing and registering a car. It's a little different than in the states. You also get your liability insurance and registration at the same time. It costs like $170 for the year for both.


Hi Amb,

I'm new to the forum too.  I haven't moved to PR yet (I will in Sept.) but just wanted to pass on what 2 people have told me.  One, a friend who is from PR and the other, a guy at the excise tax office- both told me that it is more expensive to buy a car in PR than in the mainland USA.  That is b/c it is an island and there's just less inventory; everything has to be shipped in. 

However, yea, from your perspective it probably makes sense to buy one there.  It seems like car shipping costs are pretty high, PLUS you have to pay an import tax (even if you are just bringing it temporarily)!!  That was surprising to me b/c...i mean, PR and the rest of the USA are the same country...right?  Kinda.  I guess that is just one of the many contradictions inherent in "commonwealth" status.

I myself am considering shipping (b/c my employer might pay for it), so today I called the excise tax office and, surprisingly, someone answered the phone right away.  I asked him how much it would cost to bring down a 2003 Honda Civic (the tax amt. varies depending on the year, model & make of the car) and he said somewhere around $1200 (I don't remember the exact number).  That was when I asked him about buying a car down there and he said that it is more expensive than in the mainland US.

Apparently insurance is super cheap tho, so that is some consolation...

Good luck!

I guarantee there is no shortage of used cars available for sale. At least not here on the western side. The main roads are lined with them.

I use this PR classified site for everything.  It's pretty good.

GreggK :

I guarantee there is no shortage of used cars available for sale. At least not here on the western side. The main roads are lined with them.

Same on this side of the island.

How's it going Gregg?

That is really helpful...I think I will still go with buying one on the island when I get there.  I will let my partner do it for me since he is a native :).

Hello: Is it better to buy a car in PR vs buying one here and shipping it to PR? Which one is cheaper?

Buy from a dealership!! My fiance and I bought from a dealership here ( used) and felt so much better about the purchase because you never know what that vehicle has been through. there IS no CARFAX here!! LOL we learned that. Also, so you know, it takes up to 10 months to get the title switched to your name ( I know!) and thats gov. Also, take CAR INSURANCE. they do not require here in puerto rico, which is out of control. So I would purchase it ! We bought our car at the honda dealership off of JKF boulevard, and they have tons of dealerships there! and HAVE FUN!

I am new to PR as well, I've been here just over a week and on Monday I am going to buy a Jeep.  As many have mentioned, there are a lot of used cars, however, you will pay a premium for a Jeep, they are very popular here.  Expect to pay 50% more for the same Jeep you could buy on the mainland.

Now, I did manage to find exactly what I want, so Monday when I go to make the transfer, what should I expect?  It is a private party sale.  In the US, you make the sale, sign over the title and that's it.  You pay taxes and registration afterwards.  Is it the same here??  Does anyone know if I will pay taxes on the value of the vehicle or the sales price?

Also a bit more advice for those wanting to buy used here,  I've found that if you want a decent used vehicle, with low mileage, expect to pay.  It seems though we are on an island, many of the reasonably priced vehicles I've seen have 150,000+ miles on them.  You will need a car though, not much walking around in PR unless you live in Old San Juan.  The roads here can be rough, lots of stop and go, 2-lane driving, pot holes etc... so 150,000 puerto rican miles is not equivalent to 150k highway miles.

One last bit of info...  Bank accounts.  Since it is a private sale, I needed cash.  Key bank doesn't have a branch here, so I had to get money here to pay somehow.  The quickest way I found is to open an account online with Banco Popular (I'm sure you can do this with other banks), it took about 30 minutes.  Then I went into the closest branch and had them withdraw from key and deposit into Banco Popular.  The other options are wire transfer and online transfer.  Wire had to be initiated from the US and had a fee, online transfer has taken more than a week to set up and will take a few days for the transfer to go through...

If you're moving here, you can set up your account on-line before you get here to make the transition more seamless.  First Bank and Santander have branches here as well so you could open with them.

O.K. so I bought a car as a private sale.  I lucked out and the people I bought it from were SUPER nice and helped out big time or I would have been lost.  Lost finding the place, lost in the process... Thought I speak spanish, I'm certain I would have waited in long lines that I didn't need to had it not been for them.

Now, I learned all of this chatting with a guy in line and with the owner of the vehicle I bought:

In a private sale, you'll have to go to DTOP or SESCO with the owner of the vehicle to transfer the title.  If you don't go together, you have to follow another much longer process and they won't let you in.  Expect to wait in line, eat before you go!  You'll need your driver's license (doesn't have to be from PR), and your address.  The owner will need the title, the registration (or Marbete) and their ID.  It costs $10 to transfer the title and the registration. In Bayamón you can then go wait in another line and have the title printed in your name.  They are in the same building (still different lines) but in other municipalities, they are different buildings.  I didn't pay tax on the sale and the remainder of the registration is transferred to the new owner.  So, I only paid the cost of the vehicle + $10 and I'm good until March.  Sweet.

Another note of caution:  You have to make sure that the previous owner has paid any outstanding parking tickets.  From what I understand, they can be transferred along with the registration.  So, when your Marbete expires and you re-register, you could get stuck with the tickets.

As other's have mentioned, a dealership can do all this for you ;)

Good Luck!

Some more info:

The marbete is the sticker that's on your windshield. You have to get a new one every year. The papers for the new marbete and registration are sent to the address on the registration. You take this to one of the many 'official' inspection stations.

They should inspect your car but the only thing they do is (pretend to) measure your exhaust gasses. If the values are too high they pull the sensor halfway out or stick in in another car's exhaust pipe. Some stations have a computer hack that emulates the actual measurement and produces random good numbers.

You pay 11 bucks for the inspection (some want an additional 20 if they had to fake the numbers) and get an inspection certificate.
Either the inspection station will sell you the new marbete and stamp your new registration or you go to a colecturia, a Banco Popular branch office or another place like a cooperativa where the take your money and give you the new sticker and stamp the new registration

During this transaction you also have to pay any outstanding fines, not only parking tickets but any unpaid (car-related) fines. They are mentioned (multas) on the new registration. Don't pay more than the total printed on the registration (other than $11 for the inspection and something under the table for faked results)

When you transfer a car title at the DTOP/CESCO office they should check the open fines and collect them from the seller. So after you have the title in your name you should not get any surprise fines at the next marbete date.

The $ 169 that you pay for the marbete/registration includes a liability insurance but that one only covers $3000 if I remember it right. Many people, especially the ones in older cars, only have that insurance. Newer cars that are bought on monthly payments have a full insurance that comes with the financing.

Will be moving to PR in September.  Have to make a decision to sell car in US or ship.  What are the pros and cons.  Thank you!

If you have a good, reliable car now and live close to the East Coast, I'd ship. I've posted extensively on the process and costs in other fora.

Check this thread:
Lots of info..

Apparently,  there is no excise tax on 1998 and older vehicles.  I have not confirmed this but if you use the calculator on PR's site, there is nothing for any car older than 1999.  It may be that the minimum is $750 but it may also be nothing on cars older than 1999.  You can see how much it costs to take your car into PR here : … 1Form.aspx

We plan on taking a 1998 Honda Accord over.  It's about $1,000 to ship from Jacksonville FL or Philly.

Over the years I have shipped two cars from the states to Puerto Rico.  It will cost you about a thousand dollars from Jacksonville plus the cost to get it to that port.
The car arrives in about three to six days, but you cannot drive it away until you pay the excise tax.  See comments above.
The process is not difficult, but sometimes frustrating with driving to each govt office.  Years ago you could pay the tax at the port, but not now.  You have to go downtown to Hato Rey.
I have also bought two new cars at dealers.  If you do this, there is one very important thing to know.  Make the dealer show you the exact excise tax he
paid on the new car.  Without knowing this number, you will have no way to accuratel negotiate a price.  Dealers should be forced by law to show the tax on the vehicle.

Hi, how do I know how much tax a dealer paid for a car? Any info on this matter would be greatly appreciated!

joepr77 :

Hi, how do I know how much tax a dealer paid for a car? Any info on this matter would be greatly appreciated!

Unless the dealer is willing to inform you I wouldn't know how to find out. Well, if you know somebody who knows somebody who works in the right department of Hacienda you might have a chance.

Just wondering, why do you want to find this out?

Thanks for taking the time to respond. I'm planning on purchasing a new car before  2015 comes along. Again, thanks!

If you want to pay 3000 for a car that has 250k miles I don't care how ell you take care of car there crazy out here with prices

Any advice on avoiding hurricane/water damaged vehicles?

Paul E Mac :

Any advice on avoiding hurricane/water damaged vehicles?

Go to a reputable dealer and buy new. But you are going to pay top dollars. Cars in the island are expensive, aproximate 15-30% over the price of the same car in the states. Also, carfact is not reliable in the island to verify the car history.

adlin20 :
Paul E Mac :

Any advice on avoiding hurricane/water damaged vehicles?

. Also, carfact is not reliable in the island to verify the car history.

Hmmm... I have researched car history on carfact (or carfax?).  The information was available, or so it seemed.

My understanding on how it works, using the VIN#, searches the insurance industry claims history for hits related to flood, collision and other damages claimed against a policy covering that car.   Don't the PR insurance companies participate in the data base?   Of course, if the car was uninsured or no claim was filled, then their is no history on recored.

Anyone with knowledge on this subject?    :/

My suggestion is "don't buy a car unless it is listed on carfax" Then you lessen your worried. I think you will be plesantly surprised how many great cars do have carfax. I brought a 2014 Hyundai last year with the report and have had no problems.

Since the government has a default insurance that covers other cars and properties (liability) and the majority of the people use that, it is unlikely that many cars will appear in car fax, most cars are repaired in corner body shops and mechanics that do not use reporting systems.

Buying new and waiting a few more months will raise the chances that what you purchased is not a drowned car. However lots of people with cars live in flood areas so any heavy storm, not huracane can result in a drowned car. It is a fact of life.

My son is working in Puerto Rico and has purchased a car. How does he go about registering the vehicle? Thanks

Hey, Thanks for the info. Capital 1 help you with the autobank  account Transfer  to Puerto Rico? I’m in Orlando and I want to move back to my island and take my car Financed by Capital 1. Thanks

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