How to Permanently Import a Used Vehicle to Mexico

Source: Q-Roo Paul

Readers often ask me how they can permanently import their foreign plated vehicle to Mexico. When I say “permanently import”, I’m talking about getting Mexican license plates for it.

For the purpose of this article, I’ll be referring to the process as nationalizing the vehicle. Hopefully, that will help to avoid any confusion between temporarily and permanently importing the vehicle.

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to nationalizing vehicles because the requirements vary depending on geography. To keep this simple, I’m going to break the geographic regions down into two categories:

Designated Northern “Border Areas”

The requirements are more lenient and the import tax is lower if you’re a resident of one of the following locations AND the vehicle is going to remain in that part of Mexico. Proof of residency is required:

The northern border area which extends 20 KM into the interior of the country. The states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, and a portion of the state of Sonora.

Types of Vehicles:

Vehicles with capacity for up to 15 passengers (cars, SUV, pickup, van) manufactured in North America. The first digit of the vehicle identification number (VIN) indicates where the vehicle was manufactured, it must be 1,2,3,4, or 5.

Age of Vehicles:

5-10 years old

Fees/Taxes:

  • If the vehicle is 5-9 years old, there will be a 1% import tax (arancel) on the value. If the vehicle is 10 years old, there will be a 10% import tax on the value. If you have a certificate of origin (certificado de origen) the import tax is 0%.
  • 16% value added tax (IVA)
  • 0.8% derecho de trámite aduanal (DTA)
  • Agent’s fee (varies)

The Rest of Mexico

Outside of the designated border areas, the requirements get much stricter and the import tax goes up.

Types of Vehicles:

Vehicles with capacity for up to 15 passengers (cars, SUV, pickup, van) manufactured in North America. The first digit of the vehicle identification number (VIN) indicates where the vehicle was manufactured, it must be 1,2,3,4, or 5.

Age of Vehicles:

8-9 years old

Fees/Taxes:

  • If the vehicle is 8-9 years old, there will be a 10% import tax (arancel) on the value. If you have a certificate of origin (certificado de origen) the import tax is 0%.
  • 16% value added tax (IVA)
  • 0.8% derecho de trámite aduanal (DTA)
  • Agent’s fee (varies)

Getting it Done

This is not one of those types of tasks that you can do yourself. By law, you have to hire a custom’s agent (called an agente aduanal) to handle the whole process for you. You should contact the agent 7-15 days prior to the date that you want to import the vehicle.

Just to be very clear: the only way that you can legally nationalize your car is through an agente aduanal. If someone tells you that they have another way to get it done, make no mistake about it — it’s illegal and you risking more than just losing your car.

Let’s Wrap This Up

The purpose of this article is only to give you an idea if your vehicle would be eligible to be nationalized in Mexico. Since you can’t do it on your own anyway, I didn’t get into the paperwork involved or the details of the importation process.

If you have questions related to those or any other part of the process, you should direct them to a licensed agente aduanal.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) to share their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

5 Comments on "How to Permanently Import a Used Vehicle to Mexico"

  1. How do you get hold of customs agent? Is it safe to drive all the way to Qroo?

    • There are thousands of licensed customs agents in Mexico. There are several in this directory:

      http://tuagenteaduanal.mx/directorio/

      You can also do a seach for “agente aduanal” to find more. Many are located along the border — for obvious reasons.

      • As far as driving here, several of our neighbors have done it and they said it’s not a problem if you stick to the main highways and don’t drive at night. We’ve never attempted the trip ourselves.

  2. Your work has been quoted on another site, https://weexpats.com/taking-car-mexico-permanently-import-car-mexico/ where they state (and this is the ONLY website I have found that does so) that you cannot nationalize a car to Mexico if it has been registered in Canada. Searching Aduana (difficult), I have been unable to confirm or refute this restriction. Is it true?

    I am looking at getting my PR visa in a couple of years and driving down with my Canadian vehicle with the intent of settling in Yucatan for my retirement. If I an unable to bring my car, it complicates things quite a bit as shipping even a small amount of my effects is cost prohibitive. What is the truth of the situation?

    The vehicle I will be bringing down will be a NAFTA manufactured vehicle , 8 to 9 years old at the time of import.

    Am i screwed or am I OK?

    Tim Thurmeier, JSPS. A fan.

    • Hi Tim,

      Unless the import laws change between now and the time you actually move down, you’ll be fine.

      There is nothing in the current laws, regulations or procedures that excludes a vehicle that was manufactured in North America from being nationalized in Mexico simply because it was once registered in Canada.

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