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Many people are drawn to Puerto Rico for its sandy beaches and tropical terrain. However, it’s important to note that owning a car is essential in Puerto Rico, especially outside of San Juan where public transportation is limited.

As such, many people consider buying a used car on the island. But with concerns about car theft, it can be challenging to know how to proceed. People often wonder, “How can I ensure the car isn’t stolen?” and “Is it safer to buy from private sellers or dealerships?”

In this article, We aim to provide you with everything you need to know about buying a car in Puerto Rico and how to stay safe from potential scams. We’ll cover essential information such as best car dealerships and private sellers, steps to take to verify the car’s ownership and history, and ways to protect yourself throughout the purchasing process.

Buying a Car from a Private Seller vs. Buying from a Dealer

Before purchasing a car in Puerto Rico, you need to decide whether to buy from a private seller or a dealer. A dealership sells and buys hundreds or thousands of cars annually and must follow all state and federal legislation.

Buying a used car from a dealership is always safer and easier. Although purchasing from a private seller may save you money, you must be aware of the potential risks before investing your time and energy into buying privately.

Risks Associated With a Private Car Seller

Despite the advantages of buying from private sellers, such as access to possibly better deals, there are reasons why you might want to avoid them:

  • Lack of consumer protection: Private sellers are not subject to the same laws and regulations as dealerships. If you buy from a private seller, you’re buying the car “as is,” meaning any problems are your responsibility.
  • No warranty: Unless the manufacturer’s warranty is still active, you won’t be able to get any warranties for the vehicle.
  • No right to cancel the sale: Unlike dealerships, private sellers usually don’t allow buyers to cancel the purchase if they change their minds. Once you sign the title and pay the money, you’re locked in.
  • More effort required: Buying from a private seller involves extensive research, contacting owners, discussing meeting times, scheduling inspections, transferring paperwork, and more. It can be a frustrating and time-consuming process.
  • Negotiations can be worse: Some private sellers use unethical methods to close deals, and there is no social media recourse if things go wrong.

Process of Buying a Car from a Private Owner

However, if you still want to purchase a used car from a private seller, here are the detailed instructions on how to go about it:

  • Prepare the Bill of Sale: If you like a car then a car owner and you reach an oral agreement to buy the car, you need to write down the agreement to make it legal. To do so, prepare a bill of sale.
  • Make a Payment: You and the seller will negotiate the amount you will pay, but on the bill of sale you must write down the amount that both parties agree upon. If you do not need a loan to purchase the car, you can make the payment in cash, by manager’s check, or by wire transfer. When working with a seller, decide the payment method, but bear in mind that wire transfers, for example, incur fees.
  • Visit a Notary: To get a title, the buyer and seller must both go to a notary. Physical presence is required, as well as a properly filled-out document. If you don’t speak Spanish well, familiarizing yourself with the document in advance may be wise. You may feel more at ease if you bring along a Spanish speaker.
  • Purchase Stamps: You will need government stamps to transfer the title, which is used in place of money to pay government processing fees. Stamps can be purchased at banks, but there are also several stores and notary locations that provide both stamps and notary services.
  • Transfer the Title: Upon completing all the above steps, you can proceed with the official title transfer process. When you have transferred the money to the seller, visit your local DTOP office with your signed and notarized title, the executed bill of sale, and your government stamps, and have them process the title transfer. You will receive a title in your name and the respective license.

Pro Tip: Explore our comprehensive guide on car title scams to protect yourself from potential fraud and make informed decisions about your vehicle transactions.

Buying a Car in Puerto Rico From a Car Dealership

If you are planning on buying a new or used car from a dealership instead of a private seller, you must be prepared to deal with aggressive salespeople. Stand your ground if you are looking for something specific. It is possible for a salesman to convince you to buy something more expensive than you originally intended.

The 5 Best Car Dealerships in Puerto Rico

Looking for the perfect car dealership in Puerto Rico? Look no further! Here’s a rundown of the top 6 dealerships that promise not just vehicles, but exceptional experiences.

1. Caribbean Auto Distributors

With two locations in Carolina and Escorial, Caribbean Auto Distributors specializes in Hyundai, Kia, and Mitsubishi. With an impressive Google rating of 4.8, based on 3,153 reviews, they shine in customer service.

Their knowledgeable sales team guides you to your dream car while offering diverse financing options to match your budget. Plus, their extensive inventory guarantees you’ll find the right fit.

2. Lexus de San Juan

Indulge in luxury at Lexus de San Juan, where new and used Lexus vehicles are showcased. Boasting a 4.8 Google rating, backed by 1,287 reviews, they provide unmatched service and attention to detail. Their experts specialize in the Lexus brand, offering various financing options and warranties for a top-notch deal.

3. Triangle Toyota de San Juan

Triangle Toyota de San Juan, a spacious Toyota dealership, earns a 4.6 Google rating from over 1,200 reviews. Known for competitive pricing, they offer a range of financing options. Their commitment to customers shines through, along with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty on all vehicles.

4. Triangle Honda 65

At Triangle Honda 65, explore a variety of new and used cars with a 4.6 Google rating based on over 1,100 reviews. Competitive pricing and financing options make your experience seamless. Their strong reputation for customer service and the 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty on all cars add to the appeal.

5. Autogermana BMW

Delve into the luxury of Autogermana BMW, a dealer with new and used BMW vehicles. Their 4.6 Google rating, drawn from over 350 reviews, reflects their commitment to excellence. Competitive pricing, flexible financing, and a 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty create a satisfying ownership journey.

Tips for Buying a Car from a Dealership

Six tips to ensure you get the best deal when shopping for a car:

  • Do your homework: Think about the type of car you need, how you will use it, and your budget. Remember to factor in other costs like registration, insurance, gas, and maintenance. Find the best car dealerships near you before you visit. Check your state and local consumer protection agencies to see if a particular dealer has unresolved complaints. You can also get information about a dealer’s reputation by searching online for terms such as “scam,” “review,” and “complaint.”
  • An uninspected car is a mistake: You should never buy anything without an inspection. Even a car that appears fine on the internet can reveal a multitude of problems when looked at in person. Make an appointment to see the car on your own. The professional inspection of your car will ultimately save you time and money.
  • Do not buy on impulse- Don’t buy your dream car on the spot if you see it – Don’t be impulsive. Act as if you’re still unsure. This will result in a lower price.
  • Bring a friend– It is always a good idea to bring a friend along for support. They can be more objective than you and can tell you if you are making a bad deal.
    Consider the final cost when negotiating- When negotiating the price, you should always consider the final price as the absolute figure. Otherwise, there might be a bunch of additional fees added at the end, which would increase the price considerably.

Disclaimer: Neither Car Trade Insider nor this article provides legal advice. Puerto Rico’s tax incentives, maintaining residency in Puerto Rico, and any other issues related to taxes or residency in Puerto Rico should be evaluated by your own legal counsel.

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Author

  • Naveed Ahmed

    Hello there, I'm Naveed Ahmed, an experienced auto industry blogger with over 5 years of experience. My passion for cars and trucks started at a young age, and I've been writing about them ever since. I strive to provide readers with accurate, up-to-date information that can help them make informed decisions when it comes to buying, selling, or transporting their vehicles. As an expert in the auto industry, I'm always keeping an eye on the latest trends, innovations, and changes in the market. When I'm not writing about cars, you can find me tinkering with my own vehicle or exploring new scenic drives. I'm also a big fan of classic cars and enjoy attending car shows and auctions.