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Importing Your Car from U.S. to Mexico

After moving from the United States to Mexico and living here for two years, I needed to bring my truck to Mexico with me from the United States so I can take care of it. I couldn’t leave it in the hands of others and trust it was being driven, washed, and cared for so I did the research necessary for driving/importing my truck to San Luis Potosí, MX.

You cannot permanently import your vehicle unless you are a permanent resident or Mexican citizen. If you do not have a temporary resident card, then you can only have a permit for your vehicle for as much as six months. After that, you have to drive back up to the border and get a new permit. However, if you have a temporary resident card, you can get your permit to expire on the date of your temporary resident card. This is what I did.

My initial experience in getting a permit was not good. I called SAT, Servicio de Administración Tributaria, and was able to speak to someone in English. He gave me good information, but also gave me inaccurate information and I am going to share that experience and also share what you actually have to do.

SAT can ship your temporary vehicle permit to your U.S. home address (which I had done) or your Mexico home address, if you are just needing the six month permit. All information about temporary importing of your vehicle and applying for it (six months only) can be seen here. See below for documents needed (also instructed at the link online).

My issue was that I needed it for as long as my resident card was good for and the guy told me on the phone that when I cross the border I can get them to extend it beyond the six months. This is not true. Basically, I wasted $52 USD on the permit and had to get a completely new one at the CIITEV – Temporary Importation of Vehicles office on the Mexico border.

There is no way to get your permit online for more than six months. If you are needing your permit to expire when your residency card expires, you must bring all the proper information/paperwork to the office at the border and do not apply for it online. When you cross the border, ask where the CIITEV – Temporary Importation of Vehicles office is to get a temporary import permit for your vehicle. They should be able to direct you. In Nuevo Laredo, just passed the Laredo, TX entry location, it is located here on Google Maps:

Here is what happens when you go for your permit at the Mexico border:

  • The cost for me was $52 for the permit. That could change, but that is what I paid.
  • There needs to be a deposit of $200-$400 on your credit card, depending on the year of your vehicle. Mine was $300.
    • The credit card has to have YOUR name on it or they will reject it. When I say “your name,” this is also the owner of the vehicle.
    • The deposit is only fully refunded back to the same credit card if you get back to the CIITEV office at the border and cancel your permit BEFORE it expires.
  • Bring your passport, Mexico temporary resident card, registration information of vehicle from your U.S. state, and your Title for your vehicle. BUT ALSO, you have to make copies on a copier of all of them and bring the copies with you. They will NOT copy the items for you. You must bring the copies yourself. Bring two copies of each item required. They won’t even ask you for the originals, at least they didn’t ask me. But you should have your originals with you just in case.
  • When you cancel your permit, you go to the same location with your vehicle and there will be a drive-up booth in the parking lot where they will scan your permit on your vehicle and cancel it through their system. Your credit card will be refunded the deposit within a few days… that is if you cancel it before it expires.
  • No one spoke English at the office, but it also happened to be a holiday so there were less employees working. Fortunately for me, I had someone with me that spoke Spanish.

To drive in Mexico, here are some points to understand:

  • You do not need a Mexico driver’s license to drive your imported vehicle. You just use your United States driver’s license.
  • You have to keep your U.S. tags on your vehicle. Mexico will not issue placas (tags) on temporary imported vehicles.
    • In order to keep my tags from my state, I had to keep insurance on the vehicle because when you discontinue insurance from my state, the insurance company notifies the state and you have 30 days to turn in your tags or receive a fine.
    • Your US insurance company will not insure your vehicle in Mexico, but in order to keep your tags you have to keep your insurance going. After I arrived in Mexico I removed all insurance from my truck except for what was legally required in my state. When I drive back to the US, I will add the full coverage back on using the online tools the insurance company provides.
    • DO NOT TELL YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY YOU ARE MOVING TO MEXICO. They will tell you they cannot insure your vehicle anymore. This happened to me. I had to get new insurance with a new company. Then I used the tools online to remove all coverage except what was legally necessary once I arrive back in Mexico. They are still getting paid with me knowing they can’t cover me in Mexico so I don’t know what the big deal is.
    • You have to secure car insurance in Mexico. For me, I was already in Mexico so I secured it before I came back to the US to drive my truck. I use AXA Seguros as I have found them to be the best price and was referred to them by some friends in Mexico. I secured it by going to their local office and not by going online. Full coverage on my truck is about $300/yr… Not bad.

I hope this information is of good use to you. I know the struggle getting answers about all of this because I went through it, so I wanted to make sure that others get the right information so their experience is less stressful. Have fun in Mexico!