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Cars at a red light in Milla de Oro (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

How to Buy a Car in Puerto Rico

Having your own car to get around the island is easier and more convenient. Follow these 8 steps to buy a car in Puerto Rico.

When living in Puerto Rico, having your own car to get around the island is easier and more convenient. However, be prepared for sticker shock! Buying a car in Puerto Rico can get expensive as new vehicles cost about $1,500-$5,000 more than on the mainland. When you buy a car in PR, dealerships import their cars and pass on the shipping expenses to the consumer. You will also have to pay Puerto Rico’s sales tax when buying a car.

Another option is to ship your car from the mainland. However, you might find that purchasing a car in Puerto Rico upon arrival can be more cost-effective than shipping a vehicle due to transportation costs and import taxes. If you ship, you will have to pay the shipping fee and an import tax that varies based on the value of your vehicle. There may be other hidden fees once you pick up your car in Puerto Rico.


Buying a Car in Puerto Rico

You have several options when purchasing a vehicle on the island. You can pay in cash, finance, or lease and choose to buy from a dealership or a private seller. Regarding the purchase price, haggling over the price might not be as successful on the island as on the mainland. Therefore, we suggest looking for sales on the make and model you want and negotiating for extras. Some dealers may offer bonuses, discounts, lower interest rates, and payment offers that start after the first three months of purchasing the car.  

8 Steps to Buy a Car

Step 1: Research and Budget

Determine your budget and the type of car you want to buy. Consider factors such as your transportation needs, preferences, and financial capability.

Step 2: Find a Car

Explore car dealerships, both online and in-person, to find the car that meets your requirements. Consider bringing a friend to serve as moral support and as an objective person. If you don’t speak Spanish, you may want to bring a Spanish-speaking friend to help the purchase go more smoothly.

Puerto Rico has reputable car dealerships for popular brands such as Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, BMW, Jaguar, Lincoln, and Porsche. Other brands like Chrysler, Kia, and Mazda are also available. Tesla has established dealerships and service centers in San Juan, Puerto Rico. However, public charging stations for electric vehicles can be limited on the island but becoming more available.

If you are considering buying a used car, check out websites like Clasificados Online, Clasificados PR, Autos PR, and Facebook Marketplace. Caution is advised to avoid scams and make sure to ask about the vehicle’s history.

Step 3: Negotiate and Finalize the Purchase

Once you’ve found a car you’re interested in, negotiate the price with the seller. Again, remember that haggling may be less common in Puerto Rico compared to the mainland. Once you agree on the price, finalize the purchase by preparing the necessary documents.

Step 4: Gather Required Documents

Before completing the transaction, make sure you have the following documents:

  • Driver’s license: You’ll need a valid driver’s license.
  • Social security card: Your social security card will be required for identification.
  • Utility bill: Provide a utility bill that shows your current address in Puerto Rico.
  • Pay stubs and bank statements: If you’re financing the car, you may need to provide recent pay stubs and bank statements.
Step 5: Complete the Transaction

Present the required documents and payment to the seller. Ensure you receive all necessary paperwork, including the title and bill of sale.

Step 6: Register Your Vehicle

After purchasing the car, you’ll need to register it with Puerto Rico’s Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP). Visit a Centro de Servicios al Conductor (CESCO) or Driver Services Center to obtain the necessary registration forms. Provide personal information and proof of island residency, such as a Puerto Rico driver’s license or documents showing your address in Puerto Rico. The registration process may involve visiting DTOP and Hacienda (Department of Treasury) offices.

Step 7: Obtain Auto Insurance

It is mandatory to have auto liability insurance in Puerto Rico. Make sure to obtain the required coverage from an insurance provider.

Step 8: Maintain Your Car

Regularly service and maintain your car to keep it in good condition. Mechanics are readily available throughout the island, and Costco (with various locations in the metro area) is a convenient place for car service and new tires.

Road Conditions and Driving Tips

Some roads in Puerto Rico are not well-maintained, and caution is advised. Due to road conditions, high-clearance vehicles like Jeeps, SUVs, and trucks are popular. Reckless driving can be encountered, and speed bumps may not always be clearly marked.

You will also encounter tolls around the island. AutoExpreso is the Puerto Rican version of EZ-Pass. Therefore, we recommend you get an AutoExpreso transponder (tag) that you put in your vehicle to pay tolls. You don’t need to stop to pay a toll with the AutoExpreso tag, which is accepted across all toll roads in Puerto Rico. 

You can buy it online here, and it will be delivered directly to your home. You can also purchase the tag at specific retailers around the island. You can even replenish it online on their website (where it says Recargar) or via the AutoExpreso app. There are also designated replenishment lanes (designated with a green “R”) at selected toll plazas. To avoid long lines, though, we highly recommend you replenish online.

By the way, if you are moving to Puerto Rico from the United States, you will need to get a local driver’s license. A U.S. license is not valid on the island, but it can be easy and quick for a licensed U.S. citizen. Check out our blog post on how to get your driver’s license in Puerto Rico.

About Piloto 151

Piloto 151 is the destination for virtual officesflexible workspaces, and private office space. With coworking spaces in the heart of San Juan, Puerto Rico, our spaces have been designed to inspire creativity, cultivate connections, and celebrate wins. 

Let us help you prepare your business for landing in paradise, from incorporating your business, getting a physical business address, and virtual mailbox services to permitting and certification under Puerto Rico’s world-class tax incentives, including Act 60. Contact us to get started.