Can I bring a car to Mexico?

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While it may seem simple to bring a car to Mexico, it is more complicated and expensive than expected. Taking public transportation or a ride platform such as Uber may work quite well. Comparatively, you may want more freedom to explore outside the city. You may decide to sell your car and purchase one in Mérida. Let’s look at different options and then you can decide. Before you bring your car to Mexico, it’s important to understand the requirements and restrictions set by the Mexican government. Depending upon the age and type of vehicle, it may not be eligible. Understanding these requirements and restrictions beforehand can save you time, money, and potential legal issues down the line. While this article provides information as well as answers to frequently asked questions, it’s recommended, and in some cases mandatory, to hire a professional customs broker or import agency to assist with the process of importing a car. One small mistake can jeopardize the entire application.

What are the steps to bring a car to Mexico?

  • Step 1: Research Mexican regulations on car importation
  • Step 2: Check to see if your car is eligible for importation
  • Step 3: Gather the required documentation
  • Step 4: Complete the importation paperwork
  • Step 5: Prepare the car for inspection
  • Step 6: Submit required documents
  • Step 7: Pay importation fees (permit cost, refundable warranty deposit based on age/make/model of car, etc.)
  • Step 8: Receive Temporary Import Permit (TIP)

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What are the regulations to bring a car to Mexico?

Strict regulations that govern bringing a car to Mexico. Failure to comply can lead to heavy fines and even confiscation of the car. Cars more than eight years old cannot be imported. However, some exceptions exist, such as classic cars and those with specialized equipment. Some cars are eligible for importation by the original owner. Others are eligible only by Mexican nationals. This prevents the illegal entry of stolen vehicles into the country. Additionally, cars must comply with certain emissions standards to ensure that they don’t contribute to environmental pollution. Hence, the car must meet the EPA standards or have an emissions certification from a recognized environmental organization.

Mexican regulations also mandate that cars entering the country undergo a strict inspection process before they can be legally driven. This inspection aims to verify the car is in good condition and meets the requirements of the country’s standards. Furthermore, you can only import a car into the country if you are a tourist OR temporary resident. Permanent residents are not allowed to import cars into Mexico.

  • Foreign-plated vehicles can be driven beyond the 25km border zone and outside of the defined Free Zones by visitors and temporary residents for a defined period by using a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) that is associated with the vehicle. The vehicle must be driven out of Mexico before this permit expires.
  • Permanent residents cannot apply for a TIP and cannot bring a foreign-plated car to Mexico, except within the Free Zone, where a TIP is not required.
  • If you drive your vehicle outside of one of the defined Free Zones without a TIP, the vehicle will become subject to confiscation.

Temporary Import Permit (TIP)

If you intend to drive your vehicle beyond the 25km border zone (checkpoints exist), or anywhere outside of a defined Free Zone, you MUST obtain a TIP before you cross into Mexico. They are not available inside Mexico, nor at any checkpoints. Once you have a TIP, you do not need to exit Mexico through the same port you entered.  For example, if Nogales was your entry point, you could exit through Laredo.

Bring a Car to Mexico as a Visitor

  • If you are visiting Mexico on a tourist/visitor permit, you can import your foreign-plated vehicle to Mexico using a Temporary Import Permit (TIP).
  • Entering as a visitor, your TIP is valid for the same number of days as indicated on your tourist permit and cannot be renewed or extended beyond this time period.
  • You must drive the vehicle out of Mexico before the TIP expires. If you don’t, you run the risk of losing your deposit as well as possible confiscation of the vehicle.

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Bring a Car to Mexico as a Temporary Resident

  • Holders of Temporary Residency (Residente Temporal) may import their car to Mexico using a Temporary Import Permit (TIP).
  • The expiration of the TIP is aligned with the expiration of your temporary residency. If you bring your vehicle to Mexico using a temporary residency sticker (as a new temporary resident prior to changing your status), your vehicle TIP lasts for only 30 days. You’ll need to visit the local customs office to get your residency card as well as update the TIP.
  • You must drive the vehicle out of Mexico before the vehicle’s temporary import permit expires OR update it along with the renewal of your temporary residency. If you don’t, you’ll lose your deposit and the vehicle could be confiscated. Once you become a permanent resident, you are required to drive the car out of Mexico.

Bring a Car to Mexico as a Permanent Resident 

  • This is a little more complicated if you are a Permanent Resident. Permanent residents are not allowed apply for a TIP. However, it is allowed to drive a foreign-plated car to Mexico without a TIP AS LONG AS the vehicle remains in one of the defined Free Zones.
  • In order to drive the car outside the Free Zones, you must go through a process to permanently import the car and obtain Mexican license plates. BUT the import rules are extremely complex; only certain types of vehicles, manufacturing locations, and ages are allowed. If this is what you’re considering, it is recommended, and sometimes mandatory, to hire a Customs Broker or an attorney.

If your vehicle is stolen or in an accident where it is considered totaled, proper documentation is required in order to cancel the TIP.
You’ll need to file a police report and fill out special forms to file at the Mexican Customs office.
You’ll also need to hire a Notario (Notary Public) to formalize all the paperwork for the cancellation.


Bring a Car to Mexico Frequently Asked Questions

Can I bring a car that is leased or still being financed?

Approval from the lien holder is required allowing your vehicle to be brought into and driven in Mexico. In Mexico, you’ll need a new insurance policy provided by a Mexican insurance provider. In my experience, it is extremely difficult to obtain permission to bring a leased or financed car into Mexico.

Are there weight limits?

You may NOT request a permit for a vehicle weighing more than 3.5 metric tons or 7,716 lbs. GVRW (the maximum amount of weight that can be placed on an individual axle).

Can I bring a salvaged vehicle into Mexico?

Salvaged vehicles are not allowed a TIP. It’s common for customs (Aduana) to check Carfax for structural damage. If you bring the car into Mexico anyway and have an accident, your insurance is voided. No insurance = jail. If you’re stopped at a road check, your vehicle may be confiscated and a large fine applied.

Can I sell a foreign plated car in Mexico?

No, you cannot sell a foreign plated car in Mexico.

Can I extend my TIP?

The TIP can be extended as long as the condition and time allowance of the foreigner complies. As long as you are legal, your vehicle remains legal. For example, when renewing your temporary resident visa, then the TIP will need to be extended as well.

Additionally, the renewal of your temporary visa can begin up to 30 days prior to expiration. Therefore, you need to renew your visa AND extend your TIP at Customs (Aduana) before they expire. If you don’t renew in a timely manner, you’ll forfeit your deposit although your vehicle is still legal. As you can see, it’s a complicated process where professional help is necessary.

Can I sell or donate a foreign plated vehicle in Mexico?
No – this is not allowed. Also, if a foreign plated car is unable to be driven, it must be towed to the border.

Final Thoughts on Can I Bring a Car to Mexico

It is highly recommended and sometimes mandatory to hire profesional assistance to help bring a car to Mexico. It is essential to have all the required documents. Any missing documentation may result in delays or even the rejection of the request. Something to consider: at times, a foreign plated vehicle can be the target of scammers, especially when traveling through other parts of the country. Therefore, take everything you learned from this article, research, and if you need more clarification, see:  mexperience.com or hire a local customs broker in your area. You may also need a few driving lessons once you begin or need a driving guide to learn about rules and regulations after you arrive in Mérida.

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