Why Paying Your Car Registration Late in Mexico Can Sometimes Cost You Hundreds of Dollars More

First of all, if you have a vehicle registered anywhere in Mexico, I want you to burn the following date into your brain — or at least put it in your phone calendar:

March 31st

That’s the cutoff date to renew your vehicle registration each year. It’s also the cutoff date to pay your property taxes.

And don’t wait around for the government to send you a tax bill or some type of reminder to pay because they don’t do that.

Paying Late Can Be Costly

Last year, I paid my car registration in Quintana Roo before March 31st and it cost me $349 pesos (about $18 USD).

One of our friends missed the due date and his registration renewal cost him $7,856 pesos (about $404 USD).

The disparity between the two numbers is not due to a late fee –although a small one is added — it’s because he missed the deadline to participate in a program that waives a special tax on vehicles called a tenencia.

Explaining the Tenencia

The tenencia is a special tax assessed on vehicles that are less than 10 years old.

This is not a flat tax based on the estimated value — because that would be way too easy — but rather it’s calculated using a variety of vehicle factors such as type, age, purpose, and estimated value (Blue Book).

The tenencia dates back to 1962 when it was created under the premise of being a temporary tax to raise money for the 1968 Olympic Games. So much for that idea. Over 50 years later this thing is still hanging around.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Mexico has 31 states and one federal district. Each one of those entities determines if the tenencia will be assessed in their jurisdiction and under what conditions. In some states, like Coahuila and Sonora, the tenencia has evolved into a tax known as el refrendo vehicular. 

In Quintana Roo, the program that gives a 100% discount on the tenencia for on-time payment is called Cero Tenencia.

Well, that’s it for today. It’s too nice a day to spend any more of it sitting in front of this laptop teaching folks how to save money. Hasta luego.

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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.

16 Comments on "Why Paying Your Car Registration Late in Mexico Can Sometimes Cost You Hundreds of Dollars More"

  1. Indispensable info. Thank you!

  2. Grant Andrew Allen | November 21, 2019 at 9:47 am |

    Great advice. Unfortunately it came too late for us. I think it dawned on me in August that registration might be due! Doh! Our fine was only twice the fee so not as stiff as your friend’s. We learned our lesson. The good news is that renewal online is easy as is visiting the office to submit your paperwork and receive new stickers. We’re in Mazatlán.

    • They sound a lot more forgiving for late payment there…lol. We always pay online and then just head down to get the new registration and/or tags. They replace every tag in the state every three years. It becomes a chaotic mess.

  3. JERZY Przybylko | November 21, 2019 at 10:20 am |

    So we got close to this ever elusive subject of cost of owning a car in Mexico.There are three constant elements that I’m trying to crack: registration, insurance,and price of gas. We finally cleared the registration so I’m holding it for the other two. Cheers!

  4. Barbara Ransehousen | November 21, 2019 at 10:34 am |

    In Chapala, Jalisco, we get a descending discount. More discount in January, a bit less in Feb, and less yet in March.

  5. Mark in Merida | November 21, 2019 at 11:51 am |

    Is the Car Registration fee specific to Q.Roo? Because I checked in the Yucatan and “around with the folks” here and no one has a clue about an annual car registration….

  6. Thank for your always helpful and valuable information Paul. I did pay on time last year but did not actually realize the consequences of not doing it on time.

  7. We live full time in Merida and yes Mark you are correct the state of Yucatan does not reneiw each yr, only when they come out with new plates. We used a very profestional group here calle the Yucatan Expatriate Services they know their stuff and we asked that quetion 2 1/2 yrs ago when we bought a car and had them help us register it.


  8. 8 years ago i decided in oaxaca to not keep up with my car registration, or insurance for 3 years! boy oh boy, had to pay. 10,000 pesos. not that bad unless you live on pesos! can’t sell the car without the receipt. insurance is cheap. 3,500 a year. i went
    to chiapas for plates because i had a house there. 300 pesos a year, still have them. i bet roo is worse.

  9. I like the idea that everyone’s registration is renewed by a certain date instead of a person’s birthday & month. It seems like it would be easier for enforcement, but do they give the tags for the license plates with the year? Just curious? Fran

  10. Erin Threlkeld | January 11, 2020 at 8:35 pm |

    What about scooters?

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