How to Bring Your Car Into Mexico

June 4, 2008

So, you want to bring your car into Mexico. Here's How ! Every foreigner is allowed to enter Mexico with a vehicle, which is not Mexican plated (e.g. US or Canadian), as long as you have the following: 1) Mexican Insurance, 2) FMT (Tourist Visa), FM2 or FM3, registration/ownership in your name, and 3) a credit card or cash to cover a bond for the vehicle. The Mexican government will charge your credit card for approx. $40 (costs subject to change), or you have to put up the cash for a percentage of what the car is worth, and the type of car it is. Note: (Much more paper work to do it this way.) The government will then provide you with a temporary importation permit, and a sticker for the windshield. Remember to turn this registration and sticker into customs when leaving Mexico with your vehicle. If you enter Mexico by vehicle on a Tourist Visa (FMT), you must drive the vehicle that you entered with back out of Mexico. It is illegal to leave the vehicle in Mexico that you entered with unless you obtain an FM2 or FM3 while you're here. According to Mexican custom officials, you are not allowed to have more than one foreign plated car registered in Mexico per person (A husband and wife could bring two cars in for example if the names on the title were in both names or one in his name and one in her name only.) Not everyone follows the rules of course, but your illegal car could be confiscated. Also, it is illegal to sell your foreign plated vehicle in Mexico. The only legal way to do this is to legalize it in Mexico (e.g. get Mexican plates for it), which is a complicated process and may not be possible at all. If you do sell your vehicle here you will be fined the next time you enter Mexico with another vehicle. Also, if the vehicle you've sold here is in an accident 2 years down the road, and the person you sold it to walks away, you can be held liable for damages caused in that accident. If your car is stolen, and reported to the police, and to your insurance company, and even if you have gotten a return from your insurance company, you may still be fined once you return to Mexico with another vehicle. I recommend you do not mention the stolen vehicle when entering Mexico with a replacement vehicle. If they do notice, you will have to pay the fine if you want to bring the new vehicle in. You can petition the government later for the fine and get your money back, but you will have to put up the money to begin with. You are no doubt wondering, "Why would I have to pay a fine?" Well, it's actually quite simple. In the past couple of years the Mexican government has found out that a number of imported vehicles had actually been reported stolen in the States and Canada, but really had not been stolen. The cars were then driven to Mexico, the owners would then fly back to the USA or Canada and collect the proceeds from their insurance companies for their car being stolen. Then, they return to Mexico and either sell the car or drive it in Mexico and just never exit Mexico with it. Cars With a lien If your car has a lien on it you must get a Notarized letter from the lien holder which authorizes you to bring the car into Mexico. Bring the title in your name and your proof of Mexican Insurance. INSURANCE:  Liability insurance to cover the other car is required. Check the rates at several places as the rates vary considerably. You can also buy your policy on line and print it out before leaving home. California License # OC24601 3819 Saint Austell Way Perris, CA 92571 Tel: 888-800-9988 951-657-4220 Fax: 626-638-3255 Right at the border inside the building where you get your permission to enter Mexico is of course the most expensive place to buy car insurance. Also you may want to check the rates for six months or a year especially if you plan on being in Mexico again within the policy period. Sometimes for just a few dollars more you can double the covered period. Once you live here you can find very competitive rates in our area. I just paid approximately $150.00 USD for a year's coverage of liability only. Be sure you policy has bail bond protection. In serious accident without this coverage you might spend the night in a Mexican jail until they can sort out just who should pay damages to whom. Crossing the Laredo Bridge at Night This is a NOT A GOOD IDEA What If I'm already in Mexico on a tourist permit and I decide to stay and get an FM3 residency permit ? Must I drive to the border to re-register my vehicle? I already have my car windshield sticker where I registered it as I entered Mexico on my FMT (Tourist Permit)? The simple answer is "No" . Your car permit is good as is as long as your personal legal status in Mexico is valid. So there you have it.

  • Sid Grosvenor

    HI Ben, Thanks for your question.

    Not sure of the correct answer but let me tell you what I think.

    You might get an answer from a Mexican Consulate in the USA, but might not. You may get different answers if you talk to different people by calling at different times or if you call a different consulate.

    You might try writing a letter as President of the firm giving you permission to enter Mexico with the vehicle. If you already have a car in Mexico in your name as the owner driver with US or Canadian plates you will not be allowed to bring in another car.

    But, since you mentioned that cr is a luxury car you may be asking of you can convert the car to Mexican plates.

    The basic rule is that the car can not be a luxury car, and the last time i knew it had to be exactly 10 years old.

    I was recently told that that you could convert a 2002 model year car to Mexican plates. The car can’t be a Luxury car (unsure of what cars are considered luxury cars other than a Caddy or the like.)

    The rules change a little each year for converting US or Canadian made vehicles to Mexican plates.

    If the Acura was not made in the USA or Canada you will not be able to convert to Mexican registration (plates).

    I hope this helps some more than it confuses.

    Good luck. Let us know here if you find better information.

    Tu amigo, Sid

  • http://planningvacationandmayberetirement dan meyers

    hi sid no questions just want to say hello enjoy all your info. istill dont know how you are able to do all this work not complaining,enjoying. thankyou again your friend danny

  • Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Danny, Thanks for the nice words. Hope you guys can make it back to Lake Chapala real soon. Tu amigo, Sid

  • Chip F.

    Hi Sid,

    We bought a home in Chapala in January 2011. We are coming down for a brief visit in January 2012 and want to drive our 2009 Chevy Malibu down and leave it. We will be returning in March driving a 1999 Ford Expedition for an extended stay of 6 months. We are probably going to have to do only an FM3 as we will be going back & forth to US every 6 months for a few years. I guess we will have to put the vehicles in both our names (me & spouse) so we can bring in the Expedition in March. This is the vehicle that will be going back and forth. Should we try and do an FM3 status before coming in January or is it ok if we just do it before bringing the Ford in March?
    Is there any other issues to be aware of in this scenario? On the Chevy that stays in Mexico, is it necessary to continue to carry US insurance on it? I understand that a vehicle can be registered in South Dakota based on just having Mexican Insurance. Do you know anything about that? Is it necessary to keep both US as well as Mexican insurance on the Expedition going back and forth if it is registered in South Dakota?

    Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks Sid. Chip

  • Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Chip, Congratulations on buying your home here at Lake Chapala.

    Getting an FM3 in the USA has proven very frustrating for my clients recently. The Mexican government has made a lot of changes in immigration law and the consulates in the USA are having difficulty understanding the new law.

    Not sure which Consulate you would use in the USA (the quality of service varies significantly from consulate to consulate at the moment.

    Even if you get an FM3 at a consulate in the USA you will still have to register it here in Jalisco, Better to do it all here.

    I would recommend entering Mexico on a tourist permit and getting your car permit at the border. They are now charging a $400 USD deposit. Get the car permit in just one name of course.

    Then get your FM3 status while at Lake Chapala. I can recommend 4 good firms to use. If you have the needed documents this should take about two weeks, but figure three to be safe.

    Then fly home and drive the other vehicle down and get your car permit at the border for it.

    US Car Insurance is worthless in Mexico. Mexico car insurance is worthless in the USA.

    I don;t think you have to prove that you have insurance to register in South Dakota.

    You should have Mexican car insurance on both vehicles valid for the time they will be in Mexico. Jalisco has a mandatory car insurance law.

    I think by now all US States require valid liability car insurance to drive in their state.

    To see a step by step process for registering your car in South Dakota see my article at the following link

    Hope this helps Chip. Tu amigo, Sid

  • Angie Meza

    My mother and father-in-law are now in Puerto Vallarta but lived in the U.S. for a while illegally. They had a 2003 Dodge minivan in their name that we would like to take to them at the border and leave it in Mexico. What do we need to do to get it across the border legally?

  • Sid Grosvenor

    HI Angie, Thanks for your comment/question.

    For the sake of answering your questions let me make a few assumptions. I assume the vehicle has US plates on it.

    I assume they can enter the USA OK. The problem is that if it has USA plates on it I don;t think the Mexican authorities will allow them as Mexican CItizens to bring in the USA plated car.

    Depending upon the make, model and where the car was made they may be able to convert it to Mexican plates.

    The rules change from time to time on this. The last I knew the car had to be made in the USA, Canada, or Mexico, it has to be currently a year model12001 0r 2002.
    But, you can ask about a 2003 year model or just wait until the car is 10 years old to make the conversion.

    There will be a fee to change the registration to Mexico. I’ve rationalized 2 Ford Explorers in years past. I was charged about $400 USD (in pesos) at the time.

    I changed my registration at the Colombia bridge in Texas. They were very helpful, polite, and efficient on both occasions.

    I hope my information has helped some. The rules seem to change each year. Good Luck. Tu amigo, Sid

  • cappy

    I purchased a vehicle in Mexico that has expired California plates. The party I purchased it from is Mexicana with permanent status in the US; she didn’t have an import permit and told me as long as I drove the vehicle in Mexico with the expired California plates that I wouldn’t have any issues. This seems to be the case, as I have driven it extensively without issue for two years. I would like to drive this vehicle to the states and title/register it there. I am here on a tourist visa but my wife is Mexicana. What is the best way for me to proceed?
    Thanks in advance.

  • Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Cappy,

    I’m not an immigration specialist nor a Mexican vehicle specialist, but I will tell you what I think.

    You’ve given me a good fact history, but left out if the vehicle was legally imported into Mexico. Did the
    Mexican lady you bought it from bring the car into Mexico by obtaining a Temporary Import permission
    (import sticker on the windshield) ?

    If not the vehicle is in Mexico I suspect illegally and subject to seizure by the Mexican government. If there’s no temporary import sticker and you’v not had problems you’ve been very lucky.

    If it has the sticker you could still get in trouble I because the sticker was not issued to you as the owner or it could show expired on it’s face.

    All that being said you probably can drive it to the USA and register it OK, if you get out of Mexico OK without incident.

    You did not mention how the transfer took place to you. I mean, what sort of paper work was involved? I’m not familiar with what a California title looks like. If the transfer was properly handled you should have no problem registering the vehicle in the USA.

    If you register it in Texas to avoid paying a penalty for the expired registration you can fill out a simple form swearing that the vehicle was out of the USA and that’s the reason for the expired registration and avoid paying a late registration fee,

    Not sure what the rules are in other US States. In Texas you will also have to show proof of insurance, have a Texas address. After registration in Texas you would need to have the safety inspection done at an official state inspection station. The Inspection station will want to to see your Texas registration and proof of liability insurance.

    I hope this information helps you some and that you don;t have problems. Let us know how it turns out, as your experience may help others.

    Tu amigo, Sid

  • cappy

    Thanks Sid for the quick response.
    The person I purchased from never gave me the sticker, nor was it on the vehicle so like you, I am assuming that either it is here illegally or the sticker was put on a different vehicle.

    I have a legal, signed clear California title and bill of sale.

    My concern is that I was considering taking the ferry from Mazatlan to La Paz, then drive up and through Tijuana. Then I can get a trip permit in Cali, and once in Idaho I will do the title transfer and inspection.

    I have been told that they won’t let me onto the ferry without the temp. permit?? My other option of course is to just drive north and cross at Nogales. I’m a bit concerned about the safety issues driving north on the mainland.

    Do you have an opinion on driving north from PV to Nogales compared to driving north on the Baja?
    Thanks again.

  • Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Again Cappy,

    Well, I hope they don’t confiscate your car or charge you a big fine.

    I would drive North ASAP. I’ve used the Nogales crossing a number of times without incident. Never used any crossing points in Baja.

    Don’t drive at night. The military is less interested I think in the car permit, but the all the various police agencies would be interested.

    Again, we wish you a safe trip to the USA. After you’re there let us all know how things worked out, Tu amigo, Sid

  • Derek Rogerson

    Sounds great.

  • Norval Park

    Hi Dennis We want to bring [drive] into Mex from Nicaragua and enter Mexico through Belize. It is a SUV 2005 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, Diesel. Made in Japan.We have our FM3′s for four years and are also Canadian Citizens. We have a house in Playa Del Carmen [South of Cancun] We want to move to Vista Del Lago near Chapala, as all our friends are there.Can you tell me can we bring the truck in?? We have been told Yes by some anf No by others.Trying to get a answer from Mexican Embassy is crazy. We intend to have a driver drive it to the Belize- Mexican border and we will cross with the truck.. Any help would be great….Cheers Norm Park

  • Anonymous

     We want to bring [drive] into Mex from Nicaragua and enter Mexico
    through Belize. It is a SUV 2005 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, Diesel. Made
    in Japan.We have our FM3′s for four years and are also Canadian
    Citizens. We have a house in Playa Del Carmen [South of Cancun] We want
    to move to Vista Del Lago near Chapala, as all our friends are there.Can
    you tell me can we bring the truck in?? We have been told Yes by some
    anf No by others.Trying to get a answer from Mexican Embassy is crazy.
    We intend to have a driver drive it to the Belize- Mexican border and we
    will cross with the truck.. Any help would be great….Cheers Norm Park

  • Anonymous

     Hi Norm,

    I posted your question to me here on our forum to see if anyone reading it may  have had experience bringing a car in through Belize.

    As far as I know t would be the same as entering from the USA. Have libility insurance. Have the title documents. The driver should be the same as the Titled owner.

    If there are liens you will need the permission of the lein holder. You can only have one foreign plated (USA for example) car in Mexico at a time in your name.

    Let us know how you make out.

    Tu amigo, Sid Grosvenor

  • Christine Hernandez

    Hi Sid I have been reading all of the info you have been giving people. You are very helpful but now I would like to ask you a question.  My husband ia a Mexican citizen and I am an American. He is already living in Mexico and I will be going there this year but my question is this. If I buy a 2002 small truck to take to Mexico and put the title in both of our names will I be able to drive it to Mexico and leave it there so my husband can plate it with Mexican plates? Thanks!

  • Deyareece

    Hi Sid,
    I have been reading your excellent posts but still have a few questions.  My husband and I are considering moving to Sayulita, Mexico (outside of Puerto Vallarta) this fall.   We have been visiting there for years and finally feel like it might be possible to move there on a more longterm basis with our kids. We would like to bring down our 1987 Toyota Landcruiser with us.  We want to stay in Sayulita for the school year and will more than likely fly out (rather than drive) for the summer, returning again the following  fall if we felt like our first year there was successful.  Is it possible to just drive our Landcruiser into Mexico with a regular tourist visa and then change to an FM3 if and when we are ready?  As I understand from reading up on the matter here, the car will be legal as long as our tourist visa is legal, even with US plates, and we can start with a regular tourist visa and then change to FM3 eventually, without having to recross the border with the car.  Is this correct?   Also, what about the ease of getting work done on an old land cruiser and the fact that the car, being 25 years old this year, will be considered “classic”?  Does the “classic” designation change anything?  Also, should we keep the Landcruiser registered at our home in California as well and do we cancel our US insurance once we cross the boarder with our Mexican insurance?Thanks so much for any info.  We have heard so many conflicting things and are grateful to find this intelligent site!


    I am wondering about bringing down a truck and rv toy hauler with my Harley motorcycle to ride when I am there for the winter. Is this possible for one person to do or only one vehicle permitted per person still applies

  • Sid

     Hi Tetecarre,

    Short answer is as far as I know the law has not changed and one foreign plated vehicle per foreigner.

    I’ve heard that some folks have managed to get a car with a towed motorcycle on a trailer in as one unit.

    We will soon have new laws, nit this is unlikely to change. The car makers here are trying to protect their market.

  • Ant7hony

    Need some help. We drove to mex in 2006 and drove back in 2007 nobody said anything bout taking the sticker off before leaving mex. Was this before the law changed? We want to drive back in diff vehicle are we going to have problems? My husband is Mexican but permanent residence of USA. Please help

  • Sid Grosvenor

     Hi Ant7hony,

    They should have told you when you got the sticker in 2006 that you would need to return and have the sticker removed before exiting Mexico. Your question did not mention just whose name they entered as the owner of the car is 2006. Not sure just how good they were at computer record keeping back then.

    If you can get the new car registered in the name other than the name used in 2006 even if the computer records go back to 2006 you would be bringing in the car under a different nbame than used in 2006 and I doubt if there would be any problem/

    The driver (at least while at the car permit station) and the owner should be the same
    person that applies for the sticker. The title should have the name of the person on it
    that is applying for the sticker.

    Different car, different applicant, No problem.

    Hope this helps. Note: The fees are higher now and based on the value of the car.
    You should get a refund of some or all of the fee when you leave Mexico and have the
    sticker removed.

    There’s a website you can use to get the sticker while you’re still in the USA and do it all by internet and mail. Sorry, I don;t have the web address, but you could likely find it in Google. Good Luck. Let us know here how you make out.

    Tu amigo, Sid

  • Ant7hony

    I am not sure who’s name they put on the first one and both of our names are on the tittle. They stopped us at the red light when going out but didn’t say anything about the sticker. Where do they take it off at? Is there a number I can call to see who’s name the first vehicle is reg. Under? And if we drove the old vehicle back would that be better or more problems? My husband already removed the sticker too.

  • Sid Grosvenor

     Hi Ant7hony, You’re supposed to return to the location where you obtained the sticker, remove it and take it inside. Sorry, I have no idea who you could call to see which name the first vehicle was admitted under.

    You mentioned your husband removed the sticker. You could re-enter Mexico with the same car AND the sticker. Go to the same location
    where you obtained the sticker. They’re not looking for a sticker as
    you first cross into Mexico.

    Go inside with the sticker in hand and “check the car out of Mexico”
    as if it was the first time you were leaving.

    The only problem you might run into is if they wanted to see your
    tourist visa. You likely would have a new one as I suspect the old one has expired or you gave it uo when you left Mexico on your prior trip.

    Good luck and let us know here how you make out. I hope they do not
    impose a fine of any kind. Some petty bureaucrats loo for any reason to impose a “penalty” or “fine” which may go directly into their pocket.

    Tu amigo, Sid

  • Ant7hony

    Thanks for your help our visas are still good but he threw the sticker away like 3yrs ago think I’ll look for any papers I might still have hopefully I got something. The new car is in both our names if say he put the first under my name. Could we put this one under his if both of us on tittle?

  • Sid Grosvenor

     Hi Again Ant7hony,

    The designated driver and a name on the title needs to be the same person.

    When they put the name you choose into the computer I hope it’s not already there. That could spell trouble. They could say, “You already have a car in Mexico. You have to check the other one out first.”

    Here a safer idea. I understand that you can now apply on line for your car sticker before leaving home.

    If they reject the application because the name you chose to use was already in the system from the prior registration you might be able to just use the other name on a second attempt to register the new car.

    Please don’t ask about the specifics of registering on
    line because I do not have that information.

    I suspect you could just Google it and get some good
    answers. Hope this helps. Tu amigo, Sid

  • Jetplt31

    Hello there. I have an FM3 visa. I want to bring my truck, a street bike and a dirt bike. Is this possible? Or only one plated vehicle allowed. Or can you have a vehicle and ONE street bike. Thanks!.

  • Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Jetplt31,

    I know people have driven in with a car or pickup truck pulling their trailer with a licensed motorcycle. They Car/Pickup and the trailer come in as one unit.

    Not sure about the dirt bike. It might come in as personal property, but I don; think I’d risk it.

    Chgeck other forums before you make a decision. Good Luck. Tu amigo, Sid


  • Josecs30

    Hi sid I have a small truck that i want to to take  to mexico and leave it there. but I got told that if my licens pletes start with a letter wont be able to take it unless it start with a number and my licens pletes start with (A) what do I need to do? My truck is a MAZDA 1996 This my first time. Thanks for all you Help SID.

  • Sid Grosvenor

     HI Josecs30,

    The car import rules are always changing if you’re talking about bringing a car or truck in and changing it to Mexican plates from the USA>

    The constant rule is that the vehicle must have been made in a NAFTA
    Country (Canada, USA or Mexico).

    I’ve heard, but do not know for sure that they are no allowing 10 year old cars that otherwise qualify to enter.

    Hope this helps. If you find authoritative info at another site, Please return here and post for all to know. Tu amigo, Sid

  • Robandlydia

    Hi Sid,
    I am in Mexico on a tourist visa and unfortunately have to go back to the US to apply for my temporary resident card since the laws just changed.  My question is:  I plan on driving my car over the border and applying for the temporary resident card in the US.  I may not be able to return with the card and have to return with a tourist visa again.  Regardless of what I return with, when I cross the border into the US do I have to turn in my temporary importation permit and window sticker and get my refund?  or can I just keep what I have and when I return use that?  And if I can keep what I have, if I ever leave Mexico for good, will I still be able to get my $300 refund?

  • Sid Grosvenor

     Hi Robandlydia,

    Unfortunately your situation is quite complex and my know currently is not great enough to answer it. The rules are always changing and even when asking various officials you can get different answers.

    I’m sorry, but I just don’t have the answer to your questions. If you do find the answers please do our other readers a good turn and post what you find out that works here to helps others.

    Thanks in advance, Tu amigo, Sid

  • steve

    Sid, My mother is a US citizen that owns a home in Mexico and has been living there part time for over ten years. Recently she became ill and was forced for medical reasons to permanently move back to the states. She has a US licensed car there and she cannot possibly drive it back herself. What are her options? Thanks, Steve

  • zoilo

    I am a Mexican citizen living in the US with a permanent resident visa. I spend a lot of time in Mexico and want to buy a car in the US and drive it to Mexico and have it kept there legally. what is the process

  • Sid Grosvenor

    You will need to nationalize the car using an customs broker at the border, The car must have been made in a NAFTA country. The fees usually to about $2000 USD, Then, once in Mexico you will go to the Mexican State of choice and register it within that state. Due to the costs more North American residents are just buying a second car in Mexico. Hope this helps. Sid

  • Brandi

    If my husband used to be an American citizen but was deported to Mexico and I brought him his vehicle (in both of our names). Can he drive it with a Mexican driver license or do we have to worry about it be getting pulled over and confiscated when he drives it? It is very expensive to get it imported at the moment or we would get it nationalized to Mexico.

  • Anita

    When I became a permanent resident in November last year I have to bring my non-left the car back to the US because they would not nationalise it. I fought another car which is a 1998 NAFTA car. I was told I would be able to bring a NAFTA car of this age into Mexico and have it nationalised . Today I called banjercito and sat to ask what it would cost to nationalise it, and was told my car was too old to bring back into the country and nationalise. Sat told me that even though I was a permanent resident I could just bring it into the country and get a six-month permit I don’t know what to do does anyone have any answers?

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