how to buy gas in mexico and not get ripped off (as much)
July 17, 2020
There’s no doubt you’ve heard Mexico gasoline stories that range from it’s exceptionally poor quality to being ripped off at the pumps in more ways than you could even begin to understand. I’m here to tell you all those stories you’ve heard are true.
Regular gas here (magna) sucks. Generally speaking, it is exceptionally bad quality. As for the gas attendants…gosh, I wouldn’t even know where to begin with that one, so I won’t. What I will do instead is share with you a tip I was given years ago that has been the best (and truly, most common sense) tip I’ve ever gotten to buying gas in Mexico without getting ripped off…as much.
First thing is first though. You’re going to be ripped off to some degree no matter what. That’s life in Mexico, so when it happens — cuz it will — don’t take it personally. They rip everyone off.
Oh, you gave me a 50 peso bill not a 500 peso bill. Sir, you still owe me 450 peso (which, if you fall for, gives them a hefty tip that they pocket).
They do this by having a 50 peso bill on standby that they instantly whip out to show you, creating doubt on your part that perhaps you did indeed, give them the wrong bill. The downside is that with the recent bank update to the 500 peso bill, the 50 and 500 now are the same color blue.
The most common issue with Mexico’s pumps however, is that lack of actual pumped liters. Some days you may pull up and be charged the same price for a different amount of liters (usually less liters). It’s frustrating and is a serious issue around the country.
How to buy gas for your car in Mexico without getting ripped off as much
Don’t “fill up”. Give them a specific amount to put into your tank (like 500 peso).
Watch the pump and the attendant. Do not deviate your eyes away from that pump until the attendant yells “zeros”! That’s how you know it’s been reset for your purchase.
While in your car, don’t allow yourself to be distracted by a second attendant. Sometimes another one will come along and ask about your oil, tires, etc. It’s a distraction while the pump attendant shuts you down early but charges you the same, pocketing the difference.
Know your vehicle. My vehicle for example, has a 70L tank and at current rates of 19.90 peso per liter, costs nearly 1,400 peso to fill. That means half a tank should cost around 700, a quarter 350, etc. Knowing this will help make sure you get the correct amount of fuel. If there’s a dispute, get out your phone and take photos. You can report it.
I’ve had a few questionable incidences, but no outright rip offs (that I’ve noticed) because I refuse to let them distract me. I actually hang out my car window and request the zeros if I feel they are stalling. Most of them give me stink-eye for doing that.
The tip I was given was this. To find the best gas station(s), look for the stations with the longest line ups. The reason. Good news travels far and fast around here. Gas stations that offer the best “liter-to-liter” purchase are duly noted by motorists and that word quickly spreads.
I know I just wrote an article about how to avoid long lines in Mexico, but this is the exception. This is the one time you want to find a long line. If that particular station is always full and bustling busy, you’ve got yourself a winner.
I have also found that going to the same station on a regular basis helps. They get to know your face and vehicle and realize if there’s a problem, they are going to have to see you again. They will avoid conflict at all costs and save their bad intentions for the next person.
Two quick notes before we head off.
One, always pay cash. Never use your debit or credit card at a Pemex, even the ones with the long lines. They are one of the most notorious places for card cloning. It’s not necessarily the store owner or manager, but the shifty temporary help they hire as gas attendants.
Two, if you do have issues, you can report them to PROFECO (Procuraduría Federal del Consumidor) in your state. Mexico has some pretty wicked consumer laws and take rip offs seriously. Our current Federal Consumer Prosecutor Francisco Sheffield, is always up for a good Pemex challenge.