Mexico Safety, Transportation

Buying Gasoline and Using Service Stations in Mexico

When you're driving your car or taking a road trip across Mexico, eventually you'll need to use a service station. This article shares helpful tips for drivers.

Gasoline service station in Mexico

If you live in Mexico and run a car or other motorized vehicle, or if you’re visiting with your car to take a road trip across Mexico, you’ll eventually have to pull in to a local service station.  This article shares helpful tips and information about buying fuel and using vehicle service stations.

Buying gasoline in Mexico

Until 2017, the Mexican government used to set a ‘maximum price’ for the cost of gasoline and diesel in Mexico.  In towns and cities along the border with the USA, prices were set to price levels across the US border for local commercial reasons.  A staggered price deregulation program started in 2015/16 which transformed Mexico’s gasoline price regime from a government-cap to a market-price system.

Before the changes took place, all gasoline in Mexico was sold exclusively by Mexico’s state-sanctioned PEMEX stations.  Today, a wide range of gasoline station ‘brands’ operate in the market and each one sets their own prices for gasoline and diesel.  Locals tend to keep an eye on the price boards in their town or city and might fill up if a station they spot a discounted rate.

When you’re on a road trip, your choices will be more limited and, like everywhere else, fuel sold at service stations situated on open highways tends to be more expensive than fuel sold in towns and cities where there is an abundance of service stations competing for trade.

Gasoline service stations in Mexico

All service stations in Mexico are “Full service.” An attendant will flag you to the pumping bay and pump the gasoline into your vehicle.

Here are some tips for using service stations in Mexico:

  • Check that the counter on the pump is set to zero before the attendant begins to dispense the fuel. Most gas station attendants make a point about showing you that the meter is reset to zero before filling.
  • Ask the attendant to fill the tank, (lleno -“YAY-noh”), or to a specified monetary amount, e.g., “Doscientos pesos.”
  • Additionally, if you ask, the attendant will provide additional services and consumable products, if you need them, for example: clean the windshield, check/fill your oil, check and if needed replace your windshield wiper blades, fill your vehicle with water or coolant, check your tire pressure, and any other minor job that may need doing that won’t take more than a few minutes at most. Ask about the price of any consumables they offer before you agree to take them.
  • The attendant or someone else may come along and clean your windshield for you. It’s optional to pay a tip, but you may consider giving them 5-10 pesos in return for their efforts if you allow them to clean your car’s windshield.

Tipping gas station attendants

Attendants at gasoline stations should be tipped, commensurate with the amount of work they do for you. 3-5% of the cost of your fuel (as well as any parts, oil, or additives) is normal, 5-10% of same for additional services like having checked the oil, replaced windshield wipers, etc.

Service station convenience stores

Most roadside service stations in Mexico have a convenient store operating alongside the fuel pumps forecourt.  These stores are similar to Mexico’s local tienditas—and many are the same national chain brands that operate in local neighborhoods.

They stock a range of convenience foods, hot and cold snacks, coffee and other beverages, plus a limited range of over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and personal hygiene products. You can also top-up your Mexican cell phone here. If you need  to use a restroom, you’ll find one either inside the store, or adjacent to it.

Security tip: We recommend you don’t leave your vehicle unattended when you park to patronize the store or to use the restrooms, especially on highway service stations.  If you’re traveling in a party, ensure one person always remains with the vehicle.  If you’re traveling solo and have to leave the vehicle unattended, take everything of value out of the car with you (cash, bank cards, passport, phone/laptop etc.) and return to the vehicle as soon as possible.

Paying for vehicle fuel

Gasoline stations in Mexico accept payment in cash and by payment cards—see ‘card safety’ below. It’s also wise to make sure you carry some cash with you on long road trips in case the (remote) station you stop to refuel at doesn’t accept cards or (more likely) their card payment system is not working when you visit.

Payment card safety at gasoline stations

Gasoline stations are one of the most usual places where ‘card skimmers’ operate: unscrupulous people who secretly copy (skim) your card’s details and then sell them to criminal organizations. We therefore have two recommendations when you use plastic to pay for your gasoline in Mexico:

  • Use a credit card instead of a debit card. It’s much harder to get your money back from a debit card if the account is compromised by a skimmer; and
  • Never let the card leave your sight.  Don’t hand the card out through the car’s window: climb out of your car, hand the card to the attendant personally, and don’t let the attendant walk away with the card.  The attendant ought to bring a portable payment machine to you where you’ll either sign the piece of paper it dispenses or enter your card’s payment PIN on the number pad in lieu of your hand-written signature.
  • Be mindful of how the card is handled. ‘Skimming’ devices often rest hidden below or alongside genuine payment terminals. Ideally, your card should use ‘chip and pin’ technology that doesn’t require a ‘swipe.’  If you have one of these ‘chip and pin’ cards, your card should not be ‘swiped’—if it is, it might be getting skimmed.
  • Card freezing. Some card apps enable you to ‘freeze’ the card and ‘unfreeze’ it when you want to purchase something, by using the app on your smartphone.  If your card/app offers this feature, you may want to use one credit card for all your card payment purchases on the road trip and keep it ‘frozen’ until you want to use it each time.  This will prevent others from making charges to the card if they do ‘skim’ or ‘clone’ it while you are traveling on the road.
  • Check your account as you travel. Most people have online banking these days with apps that enable them to get current details of all transactions on a card, as they happen.  When you’re on a road trip in Mexico, check your card(s) account(s) regularly and if you see any charges that you don’t recognize, contact your bank, or credit card company at once.

Get an Auto Insurance Quote

Mexperience is pleased to refer our readers to MexPro auto insurance, which offers comprehensive coverages valid in Mexico using English-language policies backed by a fully-licensed US insurance broker.  Their insurances cover third party liability, provide legal assistance, and you can opt for medical and roadside assistance to be included.

Get a quote now: Get an online quote, review your policy details, and arrange auto insurance for your road trip in Mexico.

Quote for Auto Insurance

Learn more about driving and toll roads in Mexico

Mexperience offers a range of articles, guides, and resources to help you plan and realize your road trips in Mexico.