Buying a Car in New Mexico

New Mexico has a number of regulations relating to vehicle purchasing. We’ve collected the relevant information for you here, with useful links if you need more details, to help make buying a vehicle in the state as smooth as possible.

1. Title Information

In New Mexico, all vehicles must be titled. If you are purchasing a new vehicle, you will have to take the information to your closest Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) office. You will need the original Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO), proof of insurance, the dealer’s invoice statement, an odometer reading and proof of residency. In New Mexico, the owner receives the title even if there is a “lien” (a loan) on the vehicle. When the lien is paid off, the lienholder will transmit a lien release to the MVD, which will then issue a new title.

If you are purchasing a used vehicle, you will need all of the aforementioned documentation with the exception of the MCO. Instead of that you will need the current title. You will also need emission inspection certificates (if in Bernalillo County).

In all cases, you have 30 days to get the title and registration done on the vehicle.

2. Insurance Information

New Mexico requires mandatory liability insurance for all vehicles driven in the state. The minimum insurance requirement is $25,000 liability per person bodily damage ($50,000 per accident) and $10,000 liability property damage.

Once you have the insurance, you should make sure that the insurance agent sends the information electronically to the state. Be aware that if you are found not to have insurance, your vehicle’s registration will be canceled and the vehicle can be impounded until you secure coverage. You may also be fined as appropriate. So, you should definitely be sure to get insurance immediately upon buying your vehicle.

3. Emission Information

New Mexico requires emission testing only within Bernalillo County. Vehicles that are registered within that county or that will be in that county for 60 or more days a year are required to be tested. If you have bought a new vehicle, you will be exempt for the first four years. Otherwise, all post-1977 model vehicles are required to be tested every two years. You can read about the other exemptions (some of which are unusual enough that they will rarely apply) on the New Mexico MVD’s website.

4. Lemon Law Information

New Mexico’s Lemon Law protects any new or leased vehicle sold in the state for a period of one year or the manufacturer’s warranty period, whichever is shorter.

The law applies to a particular vehicle if, during the coverage period, the vehicle has a defect that remains after three attempts to fix it or the vehicle is in the shop because of repairs for 30 days. If one of these conditions exists, the vehicle owner may begin the process of attempting to get a refund or replacement. They must send a certified letter to the manufacturer to begin the process. Arbitration may be required, but if it is, it is binding on the manufacturer and not the owner.

5. Special Information

In 2004, New Mexico added a Used Car Lemon Law that automatically offers a warranty for 15 days or 500 miles, whichever comes first, on all used vehicles bought from a dealer.

If, during that warranty period, the vehicle has a major defect, the owner must bring it into the dealer and attempt to get it repaired. The dealer can charge $25 the first two times it attempts a repair. Any mileages going to and from the dealer, or any days the vehicle cannot operate because of repairs being done, do not count against the warranty.

If the problem persists, the owner can demand a refund or replacement of the vehicle and, if they originally traded in another vehicle for the problem vehicle, demand the trade-in vehicle back as well if they get a refund.