Whenever a reader from the United States or Canada asks me for advice about moving to Mexico, I always start with the the most paramount piece of advice in my opinion: Don’t bring your vehicle.
The reason is simple. When it comes to permanently importing vehicles, Mexico is much stricter than their neighbors to the north.
Many foreigners bring their vehicle down with the intention of getting Mexican tags for it, only to discover that their vehicle is ineligible. Depending on their particular circumstances, their only option may be to remove the vehicle from Mexico by a particular date.
Some of them share their plight with others via social media and that’s when they’re contacted by a kind soul offering a simple solution.
The police often refer to these kind souls as criminals, fraudsters and/or counterfeiters. For the purpose of this post, I’ll be using fraudster.
Fraudsters usually find their customers through word-of-mouth or social media sites like Facebook. In some cases, the fraudsters will even use an official-sounding business name to give the whole illegal transaction some appearance of legitimacy:
Here are some of the most common frauds involving vehicles:
Sale of Counterfeit Plates: The counterfeit plates normally come with a counterfeit registration (tarjeta de circulación).
In June of this year, one such operation was shut down in the state of Chihuahua . The counterfeiters were selling counterfeit plates via the Internet for $2,500 pesos.
Sale of Counterfeit/Fraudulent Documents: These documents provide a false background for the vehicle and are used to unlawfully register the vehicle with the local authorities and obtain real tags.
An example of this would be a fraudulent factura showing that the vehicle was purchased through a dealership in Mexico. These are printed on security paper and are the equivalent of a car title.
Corrupt Officials: Corruption is a problem in Mexico and some officials will provide you with license plates, licenses and supporting documentation for a fee. The information will even be entered into the official database.
Make no mistake, this one is still 100% illegal. If the corrupt official is ever caught, a check of their files and past computer entries will lead right back to their former customers.
Permanently Importing a Vehicle…Legally
By law, you must contract the services of a licensed agente aduanal (customs agent) to handle the process. To avoid frauds, you should deal directly with the agente aduanal yourself and never go through a third party.
Let’s Wrap This Up
These types of frauds are well known to the police in Mexico and it’s not unusual to see articles in the newspapers about people being arrested and vehicles being seized as a result.
The latest story that I read comes from the state of Coahuila. On September 21, the newspaper Vanguardia reported that the state prosecutor’s office (La Fiscalía General de Estado) was actively investigating a ring selling counterfeit tags and their former customers.
According to the article, they had already identified 10 vehicles with counterfeit tags and that the majority of the vehicles are owned by Americans. My guess is that the authorities have found even more vehicles by now.
As a former law enforcement officer, my advice is to avoid getting involved in these types of illegal activities because they can have serious consequences that include, but are not limited to, your incarceration and/or deportation. I don’t care how much you love your old car, it just isn’t worth the risk.