You can take your vehicle,
but there are rules
Last Update 6 May 2014
The following information applies only to mainland México. The rules for Baja are different. Vehicle permits are not required in Baja. Foreign license plates must be kept current in Baja.
Before we talk about the paperwork requirements, lets consider a frequently asked question: Should I bring my USA car or should I buy a Mexican car after I arrive? There is no universal answer to the question, so here are some pros and cons to consider:
Vehicle means car, pickup, motor home and trailer.
You can import only one vehicle in your name. If you have a spouse, or of-age children, each of them can register a car. The car does not have to be in the name of the person registering it, but the actual owner must be present or you must have a letter of permission from the owner -- more about this in item #1 below.
There is an exception to the one vehicle rule. If you are driving an RV motor home and towing a car, you will be allowed to register both in the same name; you no longer will need a second person to register the car. You can also get a 10-year permit for the motor home. This new rule does not apply to pickup campers.
A trailer does not count as a vehicle, but you will need ownership papers. The trailer will be listed on your vehicle permit which means that it must be taken out of the country when you take your car out. You cannot sell it or leave it behind in México.
If you have motorcycles, ATVs, and other types of single passenger vehicles being carried in your truck or being towed, these may be registered as part of the vehicle carrying/towing them. There are restrictions, look here.
The permit that you will get is for the temporary importation of the vehicle. You must remove the vehicle when you leave permanently. You cannot sell it in México. If you leave México permanently, or when the permit expires (Visitante), be sure to stop at the car office at the border to turn in your permit and to allow them (not you!) to scrape the sticker off your windshield. Be damn sure to get a receipt showing that you turned in your permit. Keep that receipt, and bring it with you if you ever bring another car back to México, because if their computer says you still have a car in México, you will not be allowed to bring in another, and you will be in trouble for having a car in country with an expired permit. Show them the receipt if you have a problem. If you really do have a car still in México, you'll be in a bunch of trouble. The Mexican government is very gung-ho on the car thing. Imported car tracking is completely computerized across the country and connected to a central data base. See note #9 below for more on returning the car permit.
It is now possible to get your registration/permit papers and windshield sticker sent to you by express before you make your trip. This allows you to skip the car registration process at the border. You must allow at least 15 days for the material to be sent to you by UPS (hence street address is required, no post office boxes). To learn more about this option, click here.
Here's what you'll need if you register at the border:
1. Proof of ownership: The Mexican authorities want to be sure that you own the vehicle, so bring your title or registration papers or sales invoice if you recently purchased the car and don't yet have other papers.. If the vehicle is not paid for, you must have a notarized letter from your lien-holder (bank, finance company, etc) granting you permission to bring the vehicle into México. There should be a copy of the title, or the VIN number should be included in the letter. If the car is owned by someone else, or jointly owned by you and someone else, who is not with you, you will need a notarized letter from him/her granting you permission to bring the car into México; include the VIN in the letter.
2. Drivers license: must be valid
3. A credit card or check/debit card with a Visa or MasterCard logo and non-Mexican, other cards are not accepted --: The card must be in the name of the person registering the car -- read this sentence again to be sure you understand this iron-clad rule. There will be a charge of about US$27 made to your card for the permit. If you don’t have a card, you can do it all in cash.
5. Visa card
6. You will need two Xerox copies of the ownership and license as well as the picture pages of your passport and visa.
7. If you are a married or divorced lady with some documents showing your married name and others with your unmarried name, you will need documents proving that you are all these names. Your marriage certificate is usually enough.
8. Your permit is for temporary use of your car in México. The permit is good as long as your visa is valid. That includes renewals of your Residente Temporal.
A Visitante is good for no more than 180 days. After that time, you must return to the border to get a new one along with a new vehicle permit.
Look here to see the actual law that says your registration permit is valid so long as your visa is valid. Article 106 It also tells who can drive your car.
9. Liability insurance is required in some states and not in others. You’d be crazy to drive in México without it. If you have an accident in México without insurance, the damage to your car is likely to be the least of your problems as you and/or your car sit in jail – no matter who was at fault – while the authorities sort out what happened, and until you and the other party come to an agreement on damages and injuries. This could take days. Get insurance!! There is more on this subject on the Automobile Insurance page.
10. There has been a rule change effective in November 2006. You can no longer drive your car in and out of México without changing your permit. Under the new rule, any time you drive out of México, you must stop at the car office at the border to turn in your car permit and to allow them to scrape the sticker off your windshield. DO NOT remove the sticker yourself! Be very sure to get a receipt showing that you turned in the permit, and bring it with you when you return in case the computer doesn't show that you turned it in.
Remember, if you brought in a trailer, it has to go out with your car.
You will need to get a new permit when you return, so be sure to take the ownership papers with you.
If, for whatever reason, you fail to turn in the permit when you exit the country, you will have to return to the border in that car with the sticker still in place to get it off the computer record. You don't have to do it right away; it can be the next time you visit México. There is, at this time in 2010, no fine or other hassle. But you must return in the same car with the sticker still on the windshield. If you cannot return with that car, there is a procedure for getting it out of the computer. Details here.