Pemex is the name of almost all gas station here. It is the Mexican state-owned petroleum company, created in 1938 by nationalized petroleum. The good thing is, all the Pemex have the same price (in each area), so no having to shop around for the best deal. However there are some crafty scams at Pemex gas stations in Mexico. Here are some of the most common ones. Hopefully this will prepare you so you can avoid the scams in Mexico at the pump.
Pemex Gas Stations in Mexico
Here are a few basic things that make Pemex gas stations different.
- Prices often are not even listed on signs, only at the pump.
- There are attendants that pump the gas for you.
- There are not always gas stations on long stretches of highway. It is always good to fill up when you see a Pemex gas station. We try to make a note in some article where there are no gas stations.
- Some attendants will wash your windshield and if asked, will check you fluid levels.
- A small tip is appreciated for the attendants service. Depending on what they do, 5-10 pesos is good.
The bad thing is there are some scams that pump workers pull on foreigners and unsuspecting locals. Scams are more common than most would hope for and something that frustrates drivers because of having to think about it every time they fill up.
We have complied the top scams in Mexico at the pump and how you can avoid them. Here is helpful advice to keep from getting ripped off at the pump.
First scam at Pemex gas station in Mexico
The old money switch-a-roo. You go to pay with a 500 peso note and the attendant switches it fast in his hand and shows you a 50 peso note or even a 20. This happens so fast that at first you might think that you actually gave a 50 and you need to pay more. Both notes have the numbers five and zero and are similar color.
It is a big profit scam and that is why it is so popular. Even if you give a green 200 bill note some unscrupulous attendants will switch it in their hand for a blue 20 note. Crazy isn’t it? How do you avoid this? You can say how much you are giving the attendant. If you cannot say it in Spanish, hold it up and look at the attendant and keep your eyes on your money and change. Don’t leave without the correct change. Try to have exact change to pay for your gas.
Some people prefer to pay with a credit card, but there are issues there that can arise.
Older 500 notes and 50 notes can be switched by dishonest attendants at Pemex.
Second scam at the gas station in Mexico
Not zeroing the pump. If you ask for 200 pesos and the pump is not zeroed from the last transaction of lets say 100 pesos, they will add 100 pesos and the pump will read 200 peso charge but you actually only got 100 pesos of gas. How do you avoid this scam? When you pull up, notice the pump and watch them zero it.
Sometimes they even point to it and show you it is zeroed only to pull another scam, so still look out.
Third scam at the gas station in Mexico
Pumping from the other side of the pump. You will not see the reading of your service and you will not get to check if it truly started at zero. How to avoid this scam, when you pull up, just be observant and if they reach for the other side, get out to check the pump numbers. This scam is not that common but can happen.
Fourth scam at the gas station in Mexico
You pull up and are in the car with friends or family, you ask for gas and then pay and go. Without checking the pump to actually see if they added the amount you asked for. If you asked for 400 pesos worth and then they added 300 pesos and you drive off, you just got scammed for 100 pesos. If you catch them doing this, they may pretend that they not understand you and then add the other 100 pesos even if your Spanish is good.
How to avoid this scam? Pay attention when the pumping is done. All of these scams are done more easily if you are distracted or in a hurry. Take you time, it can save you money.
Fifth scam at the gas station in Mexico
You go to pay and the attendant walks away. Another new attendant comes and ask for you to pay. How to avoid this scam? Watch the attendant, take note of what he looks like, ask where he is going, even go with him for your change. This scam does not happen often but still be on the look out.
Sixth scam at the gas station in Mexico
Attendant is behind your car filling it up but also has container that they out some gas into. This makes you pay for more gas then you get. This scam does not happen often because it is hard to be out of mirrors view. To avoid this scam (especially if your tank lid is in the back of your car) get out of the car to watch or pretend to stretch to keep an eye on things.
Seventh scam at the gas station in Mexico
The attendant ask if you want some oil or other specialty liquid for your engine. If your levels are low they might sell you a bottle of something. They show you the bottle and then start pouring it in. You might even see them do this through the gap in the hood of the car. So what is the scam? They show you a new bottle but switch it out and only pretend to pour in a new bottle or anything at all. You just got scammed out of some pesos.
You can avoid this scam by not having them check levels or if they do, get out and watch them.
Eighth scam at the gas station
You go to pay with a credit card and they say they don’t accept them. They offer to take US dollars but will then just exchange it at the rate they give you.
You can avoid this scam because you know that they do take cards. You can also make sure you have pesos on hand and use them.
Attendants will also say the credit card machine is not working. This is the most common scam now. Then they will ask for cash. You leave and find out the charge went through and you paid twice. To Avoid this scam there are two things you can do. Ask for the receipt of the credit card machine. If you need to fight the charge you need a receipt. Second, always pay in cash.
How to avoid issues at Pemex gas stations
One way to avoid some scams is ask for how many liters of gas you want. If you know your car and the capacity of the tank then you can tell how much you need to fill the tank.
Always being attentive while filling up is good and keep this list in mind when you fill up.
What Pemex gas stations are the worst offenders?
Most scams at the pump happen at gas stations where tourist fill up more often. We find stations on the edge of Playa Del Carmen on the highway and in Tulum to be the worst culprits.
If you have a local station and you fill up often, it is nice to go there often. They will recognize you and you have a much better chance of not getting a scam tried on you.
Don’t feel bad taking your time, even getting out of the car and watching. Never pay before the gas is pumped. Since you cannot pump your own gas, you have to be mindful of those that do. Educated tourist are the worst enemy of Pemex scams.
Tip: Gas stations where taxis fill up are often known to be better stations.
The one thing that is not a scam is the extra service they offer. Most will offer or already start to wash your windshield and check your oil or fluids for you. This is a way for them to honestly earn tips. Most of these attendants work hard and in the heat all day. Usually a tip for washing the windows or good care grants a 5-10 peso tip.
Remember that as a consumer you have rights in Mexico. You can report scams to Profeco. Profeco is the Mexican consumer agency. This agency also visits Pemex gas stations and makes sure they are measuring the gas correctly that goes into your car. For more about Profeco you can see our article here.
Happy motering and scam free travel.
Do you have a Pemex gas station story? We would love to hear about it. Let us know in the comments below.
Other scams in Mexico to watch out for
You might also want to read our article about scams related to timeshares and vacation clubs in our article here. Also our article on how to avoid tourist traps and scams in Playa Del Carmen article might interest you.
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