Rules for Your Car
Rules of the Road
Insurance in México:
Automobile labiality insurance is not required, but it
is VERY important to have it. I have devoted a separate
page to this vital subject at
registration back in the old country:
Your car in México must
have the license plates that were issued with your
registration that you had when you arrived in México.
(Or new plates if you change your registration.) From
that time on, México has no interest in whether you keep
that out-of-country registration up to date. Likewise
they don't care what you do with your non-Mexican
insurance. They are only interested in your plates for
identification. Your "registration" in México is the
permit you were issued at the border.
Unless you need to drive
back to the old country from time to time, you can
probably save a goodly sum by letting registration lapse
and canceling the insurance.
If you return to the old
country to live, all insurance companies will charge you
a penalty for being uninsured for some period of time.
Before you leave, talk with your insurance agent. He
may be able to offer you a non-operating or storage
policy that will keep you on the rolls for only a few
dollars per year. Some of these holding policies also
allow for short term re-activations when you want to
return north for a visit.
There are some states
(NY, FL, perhaps others) that will suspend your driver's
license if you do not maintain insurance on your car.
This can cause you great problems if you want to drive
in the USA at any time. (Unless you get a Mexican
driver's license; it is recognized in the USA just as
your USA license is OK in México.) In those states you
need to arrange non-operating registration and insurance
to save you driver's license. Or you need to register
your car in another state with easier rules.
A few years ago, if one
wanted to drive back NoB with expired plates, it was
possible to get a temporary permit to cover your expired
license plates and to buy trip insurance. Those days
are gone. It is no longer possible to work around
expired plates or to get trip insurance. So if you are
living in México with expired plates, forget about ever
driving north again. If your plates are still good, and
if you can reactivated your insurance, you can still
make the trip
Personally, you couldn't
pay me to drive back. Fly and rent a car, it's cheaper
and a lot less painful.
Some Rules for Your
Who can drive my car?
Anyone with a valid driver's license can drive your car
IF YOU ARE IN THE CAR. If you are not present, the car
can only be driven by family members and other
Article 106. No matter how pressing the
circumstances, don't loan your car to your Mexican
friend, or gardener, or maid. etc. What is the penalty
for breaking this rule? -- the confiscation of your
Can I use my car to
make money? No. Any for-hire use of the car is a
violation of the permit. Consequence of cheating? --
confiscation of your car.
Do I need a Mexican
driver's license? No, if you have a valid license
from the old country, it is OK in México. However, as
the lady in my local license office explained to me,
while the law says you don't need a Mexican license,
some cops don't understand that and having a Mexican
license may save a hassle. I have one. It was very
easy to get. Since my California license was still
valid, I did not have to take a written or driving
test. Nor a vision test. All I had to do was fill out
an application, have my picture taken in the office, pay
some money, and, strangely, go to a local clinic to have
a blood type test. My blood type appears on my
license. Actually I think that is a good idea.
Driver's licensing is a state matter, so the rules vary
about what tests you may have to take and how much it
The states of Morelos,
Puebla and Guerrero require only a tourist visa (Visitante).
The states of Durango and Coahuila will issue a license
only to a Residente Permanente. All the other states require an
Residente Temporal or Permanente
Can I own a Mexican
plated car? Yes.
In addition to my foreign plated car? Yes.
What if my car is
stolen? If it is recovered, you only need to deal
with the local police and your insurance company. If it
is not recovered, you will also need to deal with the
Aduana/Banjercito. The basic view of the government is
that an un-recovered stolen car could also be a car that
you sold and then reported stolen. Unless they have a
real reason to suspect you of the crime, they won't make
a point of it, but you will have to pay a "tax" on the
car that you cannot account for. Often the tax can be
settled for 40% of what you get from your insurance
company. You will have to pay this tax before you can
clear the stolen car from the computer and thus be
allowed to bring another car. If bringing in another is
not an issue, then I guess you could just let the car
ride on the records. I hope I don't ever have any
first-hand experience with this.
What if my car is
destroyed in a wreck? There is a procedure for
removing it from the records. Go to you local Aduana
office for the forms and instructions.
What if my car is
broken down and not worth repairing? There is a
procedure where by you can give the car to the Mexican
government, and that gets it off the records.. Go see
The Mexican government is
very gung-ho about their car rules. Don't mess with
them; you'll loose.
Some Rules of the
If you hit a bicycle,
it's your fault no matter what.
All states allow a right
turn on red. But not all cities allow it, so inquire
Seat belts are required
by most states, but not all, so ask. Or use them to live
You will find that street
signs and stop signs are not in great supply in Mexican
towns and cities. This makes using a map a real chore.
It also requires that you understand the local customs
in regard to "implied" stop signs. For example, in
Lerdo (my city) all north/south streets have the
right-of-way, and all traffic on east/west streets must
stop at every intersection whether there is a stop sign
or not. There are a few streets that are exceptions to
this rule. They are well marked with stop signs, thank
goodness. In many larger cities the rules for implied
stops are different in different parts of town. When in
doubt, give the other guy the right-of-way -- you'll
Where there are street
signs, they are often on the side of a building rather
than on a pole by the side of the street. The sign is
typically a single line with the name of the street, and
an arrow indicating the direction of traffic. The color
of the sign acts as a traffic sign -- red=stop,
Sometimes you will see a
stop sign and a traffic light at the same intersection.
Go by the light. Of course, when there is a policeman
directing traffic, obey him.
Railroad crossings are
often without any signal device; sometimes there is not
even a sign warning that tracks cross the highway. In
my town a warning signal was recently installed at a
crossing. The red lights flash all the time, 24/7.
They are not connected to a sensor that turns them on
when the train approaches. (I hope this is not going to
become common practice at crossings. Ugh)
The sign says Deje Piedras Sobre el Pavimento.
Don’t leave stones on the pavement. It is customary when
someone suffers a breakdown on a highway to pick up
rocks and put them to the rear of the broken-down car to
signal the hazard. Then when the car has been repaired
or the tire changed, the driver usually drives away
without clearing the rocks away.
and certainly not least, are the left turn and the left
turn blinker problems.
has been my experience that commercial vehicles are
pretty good about using turn signals, but most ordinary
drivers are not. But what does the left turn blinker
really mean? In town it most likely means the vehicle
is going to turn left. On the open highway it may mean
a turn is coming; but very often when it comes from a
truck or bus, it is a courtesy signal indicating that is
it safe to pass. Be very careful that you understand
which it is before you start to pass.
of the left turn rules are different from NoB. Lets
consider several situations:
there is a left turn lane and an arrow light, no
problem. If there is a left turn lane without a light
(unlikely), turn when it is safe just like NoB.
you are on a one-way street, turning left is just like
you are on a two-way street without a light, turn from
the left lane when it is safe just like NoB. But be
careful to watch the car behind you that might mistake
your left turn blinker as an OK-to-pass signal. If
there is a traffic light with a left turn arrow, you can
turn only on the arrow. Sometimes there will be a sign
Vuelta con Flecha which means turn on the
signal. In most cities if there is no left turn arrow
with the traffic light, you are not allowed to turn left
at that intersection even though there may not be a sign
forbidding a turn. Inquire locally about the rule, or
just go around the block.
on the open highway, the situation is different and more
dangerous. Here your left turn signal is more likely is
be interpreted as an OK-to-pass signal, so be very
careful. The rule says that you should pull to the far
right and allow any following cars to pass before
you make a left turn. In many places where the road to
the left does not cross the highway (a "T"
intersection), there will be a circular turn-out that
allows you to swing around and face the highway as
thought it were a true "X" intersection. Unfortunately,
there are many highways were there is no space to pull
to the right, so you just have to be very careful that
you don't get overrun by the car behind. I usually pull
a little over the center line to discourage the car
behind from passing.
Good luck finding a place
Go to this website for a
lot of detailed information about driving in México: