We have been here for 3 1/2 months now and will have a car by the end of the week – it seems. This has been a journey and an introduction to doing business here. We are going to buy a Toyota Avanza and put a deposit down on the car in mid-April – there was a 10,000 peso discount available during the month of April (about 4.9%) and we paid a 15,000 deposit to lock in the discounted price even if the actual delivery did not happen until May.
Attempt 1 – Debit card route
I worked with our financial institution in the US to get permission to do a one time large purchase with our debit card. They okayed the purchase and I thought I was home free. I did not realize that the car dealer’s bank also had to approve the charge. They did not.
Attempt 2 – Funds transfer
Up to this point we had been living fine using our ATM cards. We have an account through our brokerage that refunds all ATM fees and we were feeling pretty good about that. However, needing over 200,000 pesos for the car would have taken awhile, so…
We set up a currency exchange account with a Intercam, a firm that friends here have used for some time to transfer funds from the US for living expenses and for larger things, such as home purchase and renovation. We also opened a savings account with their bank, InterBanco. We could do a domestic wire transfer from our financial institution to Intercam’s account in a US bank – far easier than an international wire transfer in that it could all be done online. The only hitch was that there was a limit as to how large an individual transfer could be during the first couple of weeks. No problem, we moved the money in three transfers over a three day period.
It had been possible to transfer funds by writing a check on a US account and taking it into the local office, but our representative told us they will no longer be able to do that as of June – blaming Mexico (Mexico City) for that.
Intercam then moves the money from their US bank to Mexico on the same day that it gets transferred to the US bank. I provide our local Intercam representative with the confirmation of the wire transfer and the Fed unique transaction number, known as the Fed reference number. Once it is received, I provide instructions on what I want done with the funds. I have a couple of weeks to exchange it to pesos if I want to guess that the exchange rate is going to change in my favor. I had the transfer done immediately and the funds placed into our local savings account. So far so good.
Getting the plates, paying the taxes and getting insurance
The dealership is taking care of getting the plates and paying the first year’s tenecia (tax). I paid them the money, provided them with the documents they needed to do that on my behalf and waited a day. I received a call last night – apparently they were told that since I drive on a on a US license I have to pay the full tax. If I had a Yucatán state driver’s license I would pay a lower amount. By this time I am just like “tell me how much it is and I will pay it.” (turns out it is an additional $310 US). That should happen today. I will get the local driver’s license sometime this year and maybe get the discounted rate next year.
Today I will also pick up a check at Intercam to pay the remaining balance on the car. We are scheduled to take delivery on Thursday. In fact, the sales agent just called me and gave me the amount of additional tenencia they will need and confirmed that the plates would be there and we could take delivery of the car tomorrow afternoon.
We bought insurance through a local agent, Julieta Morales, who speaks good English and comes highly recommend by many in the expat community. Full coverage, including 27 days of car rental coverage in case of an accident. Proof of coverage was required in order to get the plates issued.
Success is at hand
It seems this is pretty sure now but, if any other roadblocks appear, I will certainly inform all of you.
All this means we will soon be taking some day trips around the Peninsula, driving to shop instead of taking a bus or cab and schlepping groceries home (all those wine bottles get heavy), and expanding the availability of restaurants beyond those in walking distance – all good things