8 Things to Consider Before Taking Your Car to Mexico

Source: Q-Roo Paul

Readers often ask me whether or not they should take their car with them when they move to Mexico. Although I normally recommend against it, I do recognize that it might be the best option for some people.

To assist people in their decision making process, I’ve created a list of eight things to consider before packing up the car with all your belongings and heading across the border.

1. Destination

If you plan to drive beyond the 21 Km “free zone” which is located along the border, you will have to get a Temporary Import Permit (commonly called a TIP).

Exceptions: You do not need a TIP to bring your vehicle anywhere in the Mexican states of Baja California or Baja California Sur.

In the Mexican state of Sonora, you do not need a TIP to enter the “free zone” (shown in green on the map below)

2. Car Insurance

Check your car insurance policy before coming to see if it covers you in Mexico. In most cases, you will have to get a supplemental policy that provides coverage in Mexico.

3. Lien Status

If your car is not paid off, you will need to get permission from the lien holder before removing it from the country. Failure to do so may result in a breach of contract or even a criminal charge – depending on jurisdiction.

In order to get a TIP, you may be asked to provide written authorization from the lien holder to remove it from the country .

4. Renewal Procedures (TIP)

The Temporary Import Permit can only be obtained and renewed at a border location. This requirement can become a real pain if you are far from a land border.

In case you were wondering, if you do not renew the TIP and continue to drive around, the car can be seized by the authorities. We know expats who lost their cars that way.

5. Immigration Status

When deciding whether or not to bring your car, it is important to consider which visa you plan on entering with.

Tourist card (FMM) – The TIP expires when your visa does. That means that you will have to plan a road trip to the border every six months.

Special Note: If you only have a tourist card, you may have difficulty buying and registering a car in Mexico.

Temporary Resident Card – You can obtain a TIP that expires when your visa does. This is the best option if you want to hang onto your foreign plated car for a little while. However, after four years you will have to change to a Permanent Resident Card (see below).

Permanent Resident Card – You are not permitted to get a TIP. Your only option is to either nationalize the vehicle (see Section 6) or sell it. This is an important consideration when determining which visa is best for you.

6. Vehicle Requirements for Permanent Importation

Although it is possible to permanently import (nationalize) a vehicle and get Mexican tags on it, it is sometimes easier said than done. Mexico has very requirements regarding the vehicle itself and many vehicles will not qualify.

To learn more about the requirements, check out: How to Permanently Import a Vehicle to Mexico.

7. Theft of the Vehicle (TIP)

If you have a Temporary Import Permit and the vehicle is stolen in Mexico, you may be required to pay a tax to the Mexican government equal to 40% of the value of the vehicle.

Mexico created this requirement to discourage people from dumping cars in Mexico and later reporting them stolen.

8. Vehicle Warranty

Even if your car is still under warranty in the U.S. and Canada, that may not cover you when you take it to a dealership in Mexico. I have spoken to several expats who had to pay out of pocket for repairs that would have been covered by their warranty if they had been in the U.S.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Immigrating to a new country is more difficult than simply packing up your things and moving to a new house across town. There are legal hoops to jump through and the choices that you make before immigrating will have a huge impact on how easy and stress-free your transition will be.

That’s why I always recommend that, if possible, people sell their car back home and buy one once they arrive in Mexico. It just makes life much easier and you can help out the local economy in the process.

By the way, the car in the main photo was my wife’s ¨pride and joy¨. She hated to part with it but she knew it was necessary to our move to Mexico as simple as possible.

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About the Author

Qroo 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.

18 Comments on "8 Things to Consider Before Taking Your Car to Mexico"

  1. Bob and Patti Parigini | November 25, 2016 at 2:07 pm |

    Excellant article Paul! So much confusion about the rules here in PV on our local FB page. You made each point concise according to residency and car requirements. A cautionary article for sure. Gracias!

  2. I’ve been pondering this question for a while so I appreciate your post. We came to the same conclusion…buy one in Mexico. Looking on line, the new car prices look pretty reasonable.

  3. Something to consider when buying a car in Mexico is that they are cheaply made, thus the price. No airbags, flimsier construction. Just information.

  4. Thanks for the information. Question – we have a temporary residency visas and drove our car down. The TIP that we originally received when entering the country expired. How and where do we get a new one to cover our car with our temp residency We live on the Mayan Rivera same as you.

    • You need to head down to Belize to do it. If you leave Quintana Roo, you will risk have the car confiscated.

  5. Teresa Schmidt | January 7, 2017 at 5:30 pm |

    I have a large dog so I will have to drive my car down. I will have a RT who knows if I will stay beyond 4 years and I am not in a financial position to buy a other car if. I decide to return to the US.

  6. Marie Sonnenberg | March 5, 2017 at 5:59 pm |

    Hi, we have been in QR for the winter and are at TAO in Akumal until April. we have already rented a place for next winter and plan to drive down from Canada. as we are not here permanently, do we need to get TIP? I have been told to get Mexican insurance-the price I got from mexinsurance.com is $2000 for a 2011 Dodge Caravan. hope I can find a better price!

    • Q-Roo Paul | March 5, 2017 at 9:26 pm |

      Yes, you will have to get the TIP. Check the insurance link on the page, I think you can do better than that through them.

  7. Loving your blog, so informative, thank you. My husband and I plan to move to Mexico from Canada in the next 3-5 years. He wants to take a car, I don’t. If we do end up taking a vehicle, am I correct in assuming that we would only have to return to the border location when our TIP expires? Meaning the south side of the Mexico/U.S. border? We don’t actually have to leave Mexico completely, correct? Thanks!

  8. Can you be on a tourist visa (FMM) and buy a car in Mexico? I believe that you need to have at least a temporary resident visa.

    • You’re required to have at least a temporary resident visa; however, it really depends on where you are registering the vehicle. Some government offices don’t ask foreigners for their status. I’m guessing that it is a training issue on their part.

  9. William Morrow | January 28, 2018 at 7:27 pm |

    Hi Paul
    We have a 2011 Hyundai Nafta car in San Miguel de Allende that We need to Nationalize in 2019.Can You recommend who and where to go to start this process.Other wise we will have to drive it back Canada and sell it

  10. Hélène G. De Souza | February 8, 2018 at 5:28 pm |

    After reading all the info , correct me if I am wrong….We want to drive from Canada to Playa del Carmen with our car and stay for 180 days on a tourist visa—leave Mexico by air to come back to Canada for a short visit , maybe one month and fly back to Playa for another 180 days on tourist visa. I would leave my car in Mexico , do I need aTip and need to drive out of Mexico after 180 days? Would driving to Belize would be ok….. We want to try one year before we make the big move for different reasons…
    Thank you I really appreciate

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