The need for a car in Chapala and Ajijic depends on your lifestyle. If you're going to go to Wal-Mart once a week, is it worth you spending US $10,000 on a car? You could probably take a cab once a week and keep the money in the bank if that's all you're going to do. If you want the freedom to go out anytime you want- go out for dinner, come home late, go to the beach, go to Guadalajara, or go across the lake, you will need a car, and you will have to make sure it’s a reliable car.
You can buy a junker for US $2,000 – US $3,000 in Chapala and Ajijic, but will it get you to the beach without a problem? Maybe. That really depends on the individual as well. If you are a person who doesn't go out a lot, you might not need a vehicle because you can take a taxi or the bus. The bus systems in Mexico are excellent. You can take a bus anywhere.
Public transportation in Mexico is really A1, and there are different classes. It can cost 54 pesos (US $2.50) to take a bus directly from Chapala to Guadalajara. US $2.50 is not a lot of money, and from Guadalajara, you can take another bus to the station to get to wherever you're going. Taking public transportation can be somewhat of an inconvenience, though, if you are going shopping, for example. For my lifestyle, I have to have a car.
Generally speaking, brand new cars in Mexico are cheaper than what they cost in the States. I can sell you a brand new automatic Nissan March hatchback in automatic with air conditioning for around US $10,000. That includes sales tax, but does not include plates, registration and insurance. I just quoted a brand new 2016 automatic Honda CRV base model with air conditioning and power windows for US $18,800 (including tax). I went online and found out that that car's suggested retail price in the States is US $23,845 (plus tax).
The pricing for new cars in Mexico is all fixed; there are no negotiations. If they advertise a price, that is the price for any dealer you go to. One dealer cannot undercut another dealer; otherwise they could get fined.
Buying used cars in Mexico can cost a little more than when you pay in the US or Canada. For me, used cars are at a higher risk as well because we don't have Carfax. You don’t have to get a safety certification to get the car ownership transferred, therefore we always recommend people buying used cars to take the car to a mechanic and get it checked out. The roads here in Chapala and Ajijic can really beat up a car. I'm more confident selling a brand new car because it comes with a warranty.
( Karen Herrtwich and her team at S & S Auto, Ajijic, Mexico, pictured.)