How to Permanently Import a Used Car to Mexico

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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