Mexican Plated Car or US/Canadian Plated Car: Which is Better?

June 1, 2011

Almost everyone has an opinion on this subject. The answer bottom line is that “It depends”.
Check out this short video and then continue on to the article below.

So, in this article l’ll try and give the advantages and disadvantages. You have to weigh these and determine which is best for you.
I personally have both a USA plated car and two Mexican plated cars.
Advantages of a Mexican-Plated Car
  • Unlike a foreign-plated vehicle, anyone can drive a Mexican-plated vehicle as long as they have a valid driver’s license and permission, and no extra insurance is required.
  • You can sell your Mexican-plated vehicle, but a foreign-plated vehicle must leave the country to have the ownership legally transferred.
  • Although there is a cost for the annual renewal fees, this could be offset by having to maintain insurance and registration costs of keeping a foreign-plated vehicle here in Mexico. (But many foreign plated car owners do not keep them properly registered in the USA or Canada… but that’s another story all together.
  • If you work in Mexico, you may be able to take the cost of buying a Mexican plated car as a tax deduction again your Mexican income tax if you use the car for your work here in Mexico.
  • There are warranty issues with some manufacturers, as they will not honor the warranty of a foreign-plated vehicle in Mexico. Be sure to check that before you bring your car down.
  • If you buy a new Mexican plated car that comes with a Warranty you should not have problems with warranty service and you may have trouble getting warranty coverage for a foreign plated car.
  • Parts may be easier to obtain for a Mexican-plated vehicle
Advantages of a US or Canadian Plated Vehicle
You probably already own one and would not need to sell which usually means you take a loss.
If you’re planning on buying a car in the USA to drive here in Mexico most people will advise you to buy a really good used car.
The advantage of buying a used car in the USA is that you can track the vehicle before you buy it, know where it’s been, reported wrecks, etc. all on line.
You may even be able to contact the last owner.
And now the big reason for buying a good used car to dring with you from the USA or Canada is that typically you can save 25 to 30% over buying the same car in Mexico.
Many of the cars sold here with Mexican plates were originally US or Canadian plated and have been nationalized by people who make a living buying cars at auctions or where ever in the USA or Canada and then Nationalizing them so they can be sold in Mexico.
So, you may be buying such a car if you buy one with Mexican plates and of course would have the same potential problem as if it were  a US or Canadian plated car as far as finding parts.
If you’re the adventuresome type you may want to find a car you like in the USA or Canada that would be a good make for Mexico and then Nationalize it yourself winding up with the best of both worlds. Note: Nationalization is not an easy process and not all makes and model years can be nationalized and it's not inexpensive.
Note: Nationalizing a car is not something for the faint of heart. There are lots of hoops to jump through, but of course there are businesses in US border towns like Laredo, Texas that for a fee will help you jump through all the hoops.
Now assuming you’ve decided a Mexican Plated car makes the best sense for you then here’s some more helpful information.
Documents needed to Purchase a Vehicle in Mexico:
  • photo identification (passport)
  • tourist document (FMT, FM2 or FM3) foreigners only
  • proof of address (telephone, electric receipt or bank statement)
    • must be no older than 60 days
    • must show full address (postal box is not accepted)
    • if proof of address is not in the name of the buyer, then copy ofrental or purchase agreement must accompany proof of address.
Registration – Tenencia & Refrendo
There are two mandatory taxes payable for all Mexican-plated vehicles, due the first quarter of every year.
The first, Refrendo, is a municipal tax, and is payable for all vehicles no matter what model year it is. The cost runs approximately $25 USD.
The second, Tenencia, is a federal tax and is a percentage based on the commercial value of the vehicle. This tax is on a sliding scale down to zero for the first ten years only.
Both taxes are paid to the license office (Secretaria de Finanzas), if not paid by March 31, you’ll have a late fee to pay (fine).
With every receipt they will issue a sticker and a circulation card (Tarjeta de Circulacion), you must carry the original circulation card in the vehicle when driving, if not, you could receive a fine.
When purchasing a used car, if the above taxes have not been paid, the license office will charge any outstanding annual taxes along with a Buy/Sell tax to the buyer.
Keep Original Receipts
It is important to keep all original receipts, especially if selling the vehicle to someone in another Mexican State, as they will request the originals for the last five years.
If originals are lost, than certified copies can be requested from the license office in the jurisdiction the car is currently registered.
A final Note: Please don’t ask for additional information on this topic. To use a country expression,
I told you all I know.


  • Yvonne

    Hi Sid; Thanks for the latest articles. The one about cars is sure helpful info and the article about the lake is really encouraging. Please keep up all the good work! Yvonne
    PS: My computer is still too slow to open the videos but the article explains the subject so well don’t really need to see it.

  • Sid Grosvenor

    HI Yvonne,Thanks for your kind words. The video was set up incorrectly and would not play for everyone. I friend alerted me and now it plays properly.

    If you connect speed is slow it may take longer to load.

    Thanks again for your nice comments. Tu amigo, Sid

    P.S. Will be off line for about 5 days, but the software will continue to send out the articles to everyone.

    So, if you post a comment it may be several days before you see it. I sift through comments to keep out offense comments. off topic comments and SPAM.

Email for more information:

Featured Video

Latest Club Posts

Recent Club Comments

  • Catherine Ibarra: Does Handy Mail, provide FAX service? if not does anyone else"…
  • The real and only Toedeladoki: Hello and have a good day! We are a Dutch couple living for more than 11 years in Barra De Navidad. We…
  • douglas brown: How do I get more info. on assisted living or retirement homes . I have tried to find info. but…
  • Mopussyplease: But could you answer on question? If it's so safe down there, why do all of the homes have bars…
  • Mopussyplease: But if you look at the whole country of Mexico and their murder rate vs America's murder rate. Mexico's murder…
  • John: Sid, please do not write about how great the Chapala area is as there are too many Americans and Canadians…
  • Marco Duran: My name is Sofia Huerta 37 y/o and I speak english, italian and spanish I've wroked in UK and Italy…

Chapala Webboard

Chapala Club Archives

See all Chapala Club Posts

Chapala Club Topics

Friends of Chapala Club