Navigating the Puerto Rico Car Market: A Comprehensive Guide to Buying, Importing, and Understanding Automotive Options on the Island

Buying a car in Puerto Rico can be quite different from purchasing one in the mainland United States. While the process of choosing a vehicle and negotiating with dealerships may be similar, there are some key factors to consider that are unique to the island. Understanding these factors can help ensure that you make the best decision when it comes to investing in a car in Puerto Rico.

First, it’s important to know that the prices of new cars in Puerto Rico can be significantly higher than in the United States. In fact, new car prices on the island can be $1,500-$5,000 higher. This is due to various factors, including import taxes and fees. Additionally, there may be a smaller selection of vehicles available at dealerships, which can limit your options and potentially affect the negotiation process.

Understanding the Puerto Rico Car Market

In this section, we will explore the Puerto Rico car market, discussing new vs. used cars, popular makes and models, and car prices and costs.

New vs. Used Cars

When considering purchasing a car in Puerto Rico, it’s important to understand the differences between new and used cars. Buying a new car in Puerto Rico can be expensive, with prices often $1,500-$5,000 higher than on the mainland U.S. However, you won’t have to pay the island’s usual sales tax of 11.5% since it was already paid when the car arrived in Puerto Rico source.

On the other hand, the used car market presents some attractive options for those looking to save money. The buying process for used cars in Puerto Rico is similar to other countries, but keep in mind that you will also need to purchase a minimum obligatory insurance, which costs around $250 per year and provides limited coverage source.

Popular Makes and Models

Automobile sales in Puerto Rico saw an increase in 2021, with a total of 129,145 units sold, compared to 95,020 units in 2020 source. Some popular car manufacturers in Puerto Rico include:

  • Toyota
  • Hyundai
  • Honda
  • Nissan

It’s essential to research both the make and model of the car you are interested in, as some vehicles may not perform as well in Puerto Rico’s climate and road conditions.

Car Prices and Costs

When purchasing a vehicle in Puerto Rico, keep the following costs in mind:

  • Car prices: As mentioned previously, new car prices can be $1,500-$5,000 higher than on the mainland U.S. source.
  • License plate fee: There is an additional fee for the car’s license plate.
  • ** Insurance**: For used cars, obligatory insurance is required, costing around $250 per year source.

It is essential to keep these costs in mind when budgeting for a car purchase in Puerto Rico. Additionally, consider researching and comparing prices, special sales, and optional extras at different dealerships to ensure you get the best possible deal.

Steps to Purchasing a Car

Finding a Vehicle

When looking for a car in Puerto Rico, you can start by searching through online clasificados and contacting private sellers. Make sure to ask questions about the car’s history and condition. You can also visit dealerships to check for availability and compare prices.

Negotiating the Price

Negotiating on the sticker price is not common in Puerto Rico, but you can still try to get some extras or better deals thrown in during the negotiation. Be prepared to walk away from a deal if it doesn’t meet your expectations.

Financing Options

There are several financing options available when purchasing a car in Puerto Rico, such as:

  • Cash: Paying for a car outright eliminates the need for financing and often allows for a quicker transaction.
  • Bank Financing: If you cannot pay cash, consider getting a loan from a local bank. Be prepared to provide your social security card, bank statements, and other necessary documents.
  • Leasing: Leasing is another option, although it is less common in Puerto Rico than in the US mainland. Make sure to review the details and costs involved before signing a leasing agreement.

Completing the Sale

When buying a car from a private seller or dealership, the following steps need to be followed:

  1. Crafting a Bill of Sale: This document outlines the terms of the sale, including the agreed-upon price, and serves as proof of purchase. Both parties should sign the bill of sale.
  2. Notary: Visit a notary to have the bill of sale notarized and to transfer the title of the car to the new owner. You will need documents like your driver’s license, social security card, and insurance information.
  3. Registration and Insurance: Obtaining a marbete (registration) and car insurance is required in Puerto Rico. Your insurance provider will issue the marbete which should be displayed on your car.
  4. Liens: If there is a lien on the car, the seller must clear it before the title can be transferred. It’s essential to ensure there are no liens to avoid any issues in the future.

Remember to be cautious during the entire process and double-check all documents to ensure a smooth transaction.

Importing a Car to Puerto Rico

Shipping Options and Costs

When considering the logistics of importing a car to Puerto Rico, it’s important to understand the available shipping options and their associated costs. Typically, the cost of shipping a car to or from Puerto Rico can have a wide range, from $1,500 to $5,000, depending on factors such as:

  • Distance from the port of origin
  • Type and size of the vehicle
  • Shipping method (such as roll-on/roll-off or containerized shipping)

In order to ship a car from the U.S. to Puerto Rico, you must have:

  1. Copy of the vehicle’s title
  2. If there is a lien on the vehicle, a letter from the bank authorizing the car to be exported

Once the vehicle arrives in the port of San Juan, it will be appraised by the Department of the Treasury for import duty assessment.

Import Taxes and Fees

Importing a car to Puerto Rico entails paying import taxes, which are based on the vehicle’s value. The import tax rate varies depending on the specific make, model, and year of the car. It’s essential to factor in these additional costs when considering buying or shipping a car to the Caribbean island paradise.

Keep in mind, buying a car in Puerto Rico can be more expensive than purchasing the same vehicle in the United States. In general, you can add $2,000 to $5,000 to the U.S. price of any car when buying from a local dealership.

Registration and Inspection

After arriving in Puerto Rico, your car will need to be registered and inspected. If you are a resident of Puerto Rico, you will need the following documents:

  • Valid Puerto Rico Driver’s License
  • Title of the vehicle
  • Import paperwork

The registration fee for a vehicle weighing below 3,500 lbs is around $72.00, while for those above 3,500 lbs, the fee can range from $115.00 to $155.00. After successfully completing the registration and inspection process, you can legally drive your vehicle on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico.

Automotive Regulations and Procedures

Driving in Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico, driving is on the right side of the road, and traffic signs and regulations are similar to those in the United States. However, most signs are in Spanish, which should be considered for non-Spanish speaking drivers. The public transportation system is limited, so having a car is often necessary. Weather conditions can affect driving, especially during the rainy season and when roads are affected by flooding or landslides.

Vehicle Registration and Titling

To register and title a vehicle in Puerto Rico, you must first establish residency or own a property in the territory, as a Puerto Rico driver’s license or proof of residence is required. The registration process involves several steps, including:

  • Crafting a bill of sale
  • Paying an excise tax and other fees, which vary depending on the vehicle’s value
  • Visiting a notary to finalize sales documents
  • Obtaining insurance
  • Transferring the title
  • Registering the vehicle at the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP)

The overall cost of living in Puerto Rico is relatively lower than in the mainland U.S., but keep in mind that import taxes on vehicles can be substantial.

Insurance Requirements

Insurance is mandatory in Puerto Rico, and you must have at least liability coverage. Additional coverage options, like comprehensive and collision insurance, may also be considered depending on your needs. Insurance rates can vary depending on factors such as the type of vehicle you own, your driving history, and where you reside in Puerto Rico. Be sure to shop around for the best insurance options that fit your needs and budget.

When relocating to Puerto Rico, whether by shipping your car or buying one locally, it’s essential to follow automotive requirements and procedures to ensure a smooth experience. Keep in mind the importance of understanding local driving practices, language barriers, and weather conditions that may impact your journey on the island.

Types of Cars and Their Benefits

When considering buying a car in Puerto Rico, it’s essential to understand the various types of cars available and their benefits. In this section, we will briefly discuss sedans, hatchbacks, SUVs and trucks, and convertibles.


Sedans are a popular choice for many car buyers in Puerto Rico. These vehicles typically have four doors and a separate trunk, providing a comfortable and spacious interior. Sedans are known for their fuel efficiency and smooth ride, making them ideal for daily commutes and road trips. Some popular sedan brands in Puerto Rico include Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda.


Hatchbacks are another prevalent option in Puerto Rico. These cars offer a compact size, making them easy to maneuver in tight spaces and park. Hatchbacks have a rear door that opens upwards, providing access to a large cargo area. This feature makes hatchbacks versatile and practical for carrying luggage, groceries, and other items. Additionally, hatchbacks usually have good fuel efficiency, similar to sedans.

SUVs and Trucks

SUVs and trucks are increasingly popular in Puerto Rico, offering additional space, power, and off-road capabilities. SUVs often have higher ground clearance, making them ideal for navigating through Puerto Rico’s diverse terrain. Trucks are valued for their towing and hauling capacities, making them suitable for commercial and utility purposes.

Popular SUV and truck brands in Puerto Rico include Jeep, Ford, and Chevrolet. When considering an SUV or truck, it’s essential to evaluate the higher fuel consumption and maintenance costs compared to sedans and hatchbacks.


Convertibles provide a unique driving experience, perfect for enjoying the warm Puerto Rican climate. These vehicles have a retractable or removable roof, allowing drivers and passengers to enjoy the open air while driving. Convertibles come in a variety of styles, including luxury, sports, and compact models.

While convertibles might not be as practical as sedans, hatchbacks, or SUVs, they offer a fun, stylish option for car buyers in Puerto Rico. Luxury convertible brands available on the island include BMW, Jaguar, and Porsche.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Car in Puerto Rico


One advantage of buying a car in Puerto Rico is that you can avoid the cost and hassle of shipping your vehicle from the mainland United States. Shipping a car can be expensive and may result in additional fees upon arrival, such as a $75 processing fee 1.

Another pro of purchasing a car on the island is that the process of buying a used vehicle can be relatively straightforward. You’ll need to secure at least the minimum compulsory insurance, known as Seguro Obligatorio, which costs around $250 per year 2. Comprehensive coverage is also available from reputable Puerto Rican car insurance providers 2.

Finally, buying a car in Puerto Rico can provide increased convenience, as you’ll be able to start using your vehicle immediately after purchase, without having to wait for it to be shipped from the mainland.


The primary disadvantage of buying a car in Puerto Rico is the higher cost of vehicles compared to those in the mainland United States. In general, you can expect to pay an additional $2000-$5000 on top of the U.S. price for any car 1. This can be attributed to various factors such as import taxes, dealer fees, and a smaller market size.

Availability can also be a concern when buying a car in Puerto Rico. The selection of vehicles, particularly used cars, may be more limited compared to the mainland United States. This could make it more challenging to find a specific make or model, or a vehicle that suits your needs.

In summary, buying a car in Puerto Rico has both pros and cons. While you can save on shipping costs and enjoy immediate access to your vehicle, you may also face higher prices and a more limited selection.

Top Dealerships and Private Sellers

When looking for a car in Puerto Rico, there are several top car dealerships and private sellers to consider. In this section, we will discuss some of the most reputable options available, including their vehicle offerings and customer service.

Toyota de Puerto Rico is a highly rated dealership with a 4.6-star rating on Google. They offer a wide range of new Toyota vehicles, as well as pre-owned and certified pre-owned Toyotas. Customers appreciate their excellent stock and attentive service.

Another top dealership is Alberic Auto Bayamon, which offers various brands, including Jeep, Kia, and Nissan. The dealership boasts a 4.7 rating on Google with over a hundred reviews, indicating that customers are satisfied with their purchases and overall experience.

Caribbean Auto Distributors is another car dealership in Puerto Rico that is worth exploring. This dealership has a strong reputation for its inventory of new and used cars, as well as providing a helpful staff to assist customers in finding their perfect vehicle.

For those interested in luxury vehicles, Autogermana BMW is an authorized BMW dealership in Puerto Rico. With a team of expert staff members, they can offer guidance and advice on the best deal for customers interested in purchasing a BMW in the island.

When considering a used car in Puerto Rico, there are a few reputable private sellers and used car dealerships available. Caparra Auto Sales and Vicente Auto Solutions are examples of used car dealerships that offer a wide range of used vehicles and expert advice on finding the right car for your needs.

Private sellers can sometimes provide better deals compared to dealerships, but it is crucial to do your homework before purchasing from a private seller. To protect yourself, ensure the car’s title is genuine, request a vehicle history report, and have the car inspected by a professional mechanic.

Lastly, when purchasing a used car in Puerto Rico, it’s essential to inquire about warranty options. Some dealerships might offer limited warranties, but it is always a good idea to understand the terms and conditions before making a decision.

In conclusion, by researching and considering these reputable dealerships and private sellers in Puerto Rico, you can confidently find the best car for your needs without sacrificing quality or service.

Understanding Car Technology and Features

When buying a car in Puerto Rico, it’s essential to have a good understanding of the car’s technology and features. This would not only help you choose a car that suits your needs but also makes your driving experience more enjoyable and safe. In this section, we will briefly discuss some important elements to consider when examining a car’s technology and features.

Firstly, let’s look at the car’s transmission. A car can either have a manual or an automatic transmission. A manual transmission, also known as a stick shift, requires the driver to change gears by operating a clutch pedal and shifting a gear lever. On the other hand, an automatic transmission changes gears by itself, without any input from the driver, providing a more effortless driving experience. The choice between manual and automatic largely depends on your preferences and driving habits.

Next, consider the technology used by the manufacturer in the car. Manufacturers are continually innovating and developing new technologies to improve efficiency, safety, and overall driving experience. Examples include adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning systems, and advanced infotainment systems. It’s essential to research the specific technologies provided by the car you’re interested in and determine their usefulness based on your needs.

As for safety features, the triangle of safety is crucial to consider when buying a car. The triangle consists of three main components: active safety, passive safety, and driver assistance features. Active safety features help prevent accidents by providing information, warnings, or actions that help the driver maintain control. Examples include anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and traction control systems. Passive safety features protect occupants during an accident, such as airbags and crumple zones. Driver assistance features assist the driver in making safer decisions, examples include parking assist systems and blind-spot monitoring.

When evaluating car technology and features, consider the following points:

  • Transmission type: manual or automatic
  • Manufacturer’s technology innovations
  • Safety features: active safety, passive safety, and driver assistance

Understanding these elements will help you make a well-informed decision when buying a car in Puerto Rico. Remember to test drive the car to ensure that the technology and features meet your expectations and needs before making a purchase.


  1. A Guide to Shipping or Buying a Car in Puerto Rico 2

  2. The Process to Purchase a Used Car in Puerto Rico 2

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