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8 Things That Are Surprisingly Expensive in Mexico

Updated: Apr 3

Many gringos have moved to Mexico recently for economic reasons, i.e. they’re feeling priced out of a comfortable life in the States (or Canada) and decide that the grass has to be greener south of the border. But is stuff cheaper in Mexico?


Wine is not cheaper in Mexico

While the overall cost of living in here is much lower compared to the U.S. or Canada, that doesn't mean everything is cheaper in Mexico.


To put it bluntly, some products are shockingly expensive in Mexico.


In this post, I'll discuss eight consumer items that can drain your wallet, and share some of the reasons why they cost so much more in Mexico.


Before we dive in, I admit that many of these things aren't essential purchases. Yet they may be desirable to live a comfortable life here.


As such, please do not think of this as a "what not to buy in Mexico" post...


Eight Surprisingly Expensive Things In Mexico


1.      Laptop computers.


When my Lenovo Ideapad laptop started overheating earlier this year for no reason, I contemplated buying another computer locally but quickly decided against it.

 

When shopping for laptops in Mexico, you quickly discover that it's predominantly older inventory from big manufacturers like Lenovo, Dell, HP, and Apple. And even if you do locate your desired model at a retail store or online in Mexico, it will cost you significantly more than in the U.S.


computers are not cheaper in Mexico

Besides the high import taxes on imported electronics (19% is typical), the other key reason computer equipment is so costly in Mexico is reduced competition. With fewer retail outlets selling these products, Mexican retailers have a lot more pricing power.


When I bought my Lenovo laptop in Northern California in late 2022 it cost me $699 USD. The retail price of the same model in Mexico was $17,458 pesos or $1,012 USD, a 45% premium.


Deflation in computer equipment is the norm worldwide as new models continually replace older ones. True to this maxim, my laptop's price had dropped to $13,000 pesos ($754 USD) as of this month, but this "deal" is only available during the holiday season.

 

2.      Pet food & accessories.


According to the Wall Street Journal, imported pet food was declared a "luxury item" by the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto back in 2013. This means my dog's kibble gets hit with a luxury tax of 16% (“impuesto especial de productos y servicios” or IEPS) on top of the regular value-added tax of 16%.


pet food is not cheaper in Mexico

Luxury taxes on consumer products get applied at the retail store level in Mexico. It helps to explain why imported pet food is so freakin' expensive at my local pet food store.


To illustrate, one can of Fancy Feast cat food costs $30 pesos ($1.75 USD) at Petco, while a 12 lb. bag of Blue Buffalo cat kibble costs $1,526 on Amazon Mexico (~ $89 USD).


A 14 lb. bag of Royal Canin small dog kibble costs $972 pesos on sale this week at Petco ($56.50). It regularly costs $1,495 pesos (~ $87 USD)! Sheesh.

 

For whatever reason, Peña Nieto was no fan of animals. He also shut down all of the public wild animal rescue centers during his presidency. As a pet owner and an animal lover, I don't like this guy.

 

Despite the inconvenience, we now feed our pup a decent amount of human-grade food like beef and rice as it's often less expensive, and healthier. Our cats still eat imported pet food -- I guess they don't like my cooking. :)


Pet accessories like leashes, collars, and harnesses also carry steep prices compared to the U.S. Importing these things directly from abroad is also no solution. They'll be hit by a 19% import tax and 10% duty if you go this route.

 

3.      Smartphones.


I lost my iPhone one afternoon while bicycling in downtown Guadalajara. Since it was not returned, I was faced with a dilemma of how to replace it.


While I didn't have one of the latest models, that didn't spare me from sticker shock. My iPhone SE 2 with 128 GB of memory goes for about $351 USD plus tax in the States, but costs $9,820 pesos here, and only if you bargain hunt. This equates to ~ $570 USD, a 62% premium.


As with computer laptops, high prices for mobile phones are driven by a 19% tax on imported electronics equipment, plus the retailer's fat margin.


Not willing to pay the premium, I used an old phone for a few months until I was back in the States and could pick up a replacement.

 

4.      Athletic sneakers.


It would be easy to buy a pair of cheap, counterfeit "athleisure" sneakers at a local tianguis. But for those of us who use athletic shoes for sports and value performance and comfort, this is not an option.

 

Athletic sneakers are not cheaper in Mexico

Maybe you just have old feet and/or a medical condition such as plantar fasciitis, and consider highly supportive sneakers like Hokas an essential wardrobe item. 


If this sounds like you, I recommend buying sneakers on your next trip north of the border, as technical athletic shoes will seriously dent your wallet if bought in Mexico.


Replacing my worn-out Hokas would cost approximately $4,000 pesos in Guadalajara. (more than $230 USD)


5.      Kitchen appliances.

 

If you love to blend, broil, bake, or grill, this is another area to plan for. We hauled a ton of kitchen tools and gadgets with us from the States, and I'm glad we did.


However, one item we use often -- a Breville countertop convection oven -- is on its last legs. The start button is sticking when using certain cook functions.


Kitchen appliances are not cheaper in Mexico

That said I've been dreading buying a replacement because kitchen electrics carry a steep premium in Mexico, whether you shop online at Amazon or in a nice department store like Liverpool. These appliances are hit with a 19% tax plus 15% duty when imported into Mexico.


Another reason for the steep prices is that modern appliances like these aren't very common in Mexican kitchens, so the handful of retailers that carry them can charge practically whatever they want.


6.      Bed & Bath Linens.


Linens are bulky and something I contemplated scrapping when we moved to save on space. But I'm grateful I decided to reduce instead of replace them all upon arrival.


We also bought a new bed in Mexico and because sizing is different here, had to buy new sheets. I ended up buying a good quality (not luxurious) king-size set of cotton sheets from Liverpool (brand: Haus) during their January home goods promotion. Even on sale the set cost around $100, with limited selection.


Sheets are not cheaper in Mexico

Now of course you can go to Walmart and buy scratchy, poly-blend sheets or towels for much less. But that doesn't work for many.


Shopping for these items in local stores like Bed Bath & Beyond (yes they still operate in Mexico) or online at Amazon Mexico is not much better than Liverpool.


Steep pricing on linens is one reason you sometimes see Mexican families flying back from the States hauling bulky bed linens in their luggage (which I never understood before living here).

 

7.      Wine.


Wine is yet another item the Mexican government considers a luxury, despite expanding local production and growing popularity of wine drinking in urban areas.


In addition to the 16% VAT tax, wines get hit with a 26.5%+ luxury tax. This means that when you buy a bottle of wine in Mexico, more than 40% of the cost goes to taxes! 


Stuff that is not cheaper in Mexico

This is why buying a bottle of wine in Mexico that costs the equivalent of $15 USD at retail often tastes pretty bad. It’s akin to buying a bottle that costs ~ $9 in California, i.e. not generally a formula for success.


These prices are enough to have a lifelong wine drinker experimenting with mocktails and imagining an expat life in Spain!

 

8.      Tennis (or golf) equipment

 

There is nothing democratic about playing tennis (or golf) in Mexico. As a sport embraced by Mexico's elite, everything a person needs to play tennis -- racquets, balls, clothing, and court access -- is priced to the hilt.


Tennis is very expensive in Mexico

A can of tennis balls costs more than $10 each. Newer racquet models are more than $250 apiece.


Then there's the tennis club down the street from us (no golf!) that costs roughly $10,000 pesos per month (almost $600 USD) after initiation fees.


I know what you're thinking, cue the tiny violins. This is decadent and unnecessary! Yes, but ... whatever.


While I've come up with no workarounds for high club fees, if you have dreams of living in Mexico and playing lots of tennis (or golf), at least bring your equipment.


 

Below is a table comparing prices in the U.S. and Mexico on identical items for sale in the categories discussed above. Whenever possible, Amazon pricing was used for comparisons as it operates in both countries.


Price Comparisons in 8 Expensive Product Categories


Expensive stuff in Mexico

Conversion rate of 17.24 pesos per USD.


While discounting in either country can occasionally narrow or widen the spreads, price premiums in Mexico for the items above are fairly typical.

 

To wrap up, if any of these things are important to your lifestyle in Mexico, I strongly suggest you bring them with you when you relocate, or stock up when you travel outside the country.


 

P.S. While researching this piece I stumbled across an interesting factoid.


The Mexican government considered feminine care products, i.e. stuff for menstruation, to be luxury items until 2022. Yes, you read that right -- up until 2022.


Femcare products were taxed more heavily than other consumer products deemed “essential.” After a sustained citizen movement pressuring for change, this ludicrous tax was finally sent to the trash bin last year.


It sure will be cool when Mexico has a female president.


 

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1,115 views5 comments

5 Comments


Guest
May 04

I live in Tlaquepaque, a suburb of Guadalajara. I'm retired on a fixed income. I'm visiting Canada right now and am shocked at the prices I'm seeing. I could not afford to live in Canada now, without going back to work at 72. I live a comfortable affordable lifestyle here. Cost of living is 30% less than in Canada. 40% or more if you shop with care. Great climate, great economy for retirees. Great people, Mexicans call us Canadians the white Mexicans from the north. We are so similar.

I bought a hovel for $16,000 can. Sunk another $40,000 into fixing it up. And now have a beautiful 2 storie,2 bedroom 2 bathroom house, rent and mortgage free. It only…

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Guest
Mar 17

The subject we really need to learn about is a guide to how to lower the Fideicomiso cost as much as legally possible. If you're buying low priced real estate it really hurts. As in you would probably just write off Mexico completely. It could be 25% of the initial price!

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Guest
Mar 17

Good article. People need to keep in mind that these import taxes hugely increase the prices of most all electronics in Mexico. It really pays to do a buying trip to the US once in a while. Cameras also used to be much more in Mexico.

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Joe Gotshall
Joe Gotshall
Dec 31, 2023

I have found that beer is often priced cheaper than water in Mexico…. And tacos are amazingly affordable and tasty almost everywhere!


This is a shameless request for articles on the best beer and tacos in Guadalajara! That post might raise some contentious comments, but with sooo many great taco spots out there - I’m ready for the Live Well México community comments!

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Replying to

Ha ha. I agree that trying to identify "the best tacos" in Guadalajara would be a minefield.

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