Nationalizing a Foreign Vehicle

Last update 18 December 2014

"Nationalizing" a car or pickup is the process by which a foreign vehicle can acquire a Mexican title and license plates.  Until now, I have avoided writing about this subject because the rules are complicated and change often and are hard to pin down. From what I have been able to discern, there seems to be several ways to skin this cat.  Since I can't be sure of the facts, I have chosen to avoid the specifics of nationalization beyond a few general observations.

In December 2014, SAT issued a slide show outlining the importation requirements.

  • The process is costly.  Reports I have read vary from US$1,500 to over $2,500.   The cost of importation is ten percent of the value of the vehicle plus taxes.  And the broker's fee.

  • A USA vehicle is supposed to be exported from the USA before it is imported to México.  This is a little known and often overlooked USA law. It requires the services of a customs broker on the USA side, and the vehicle must be present.  This requirement has been widely ignored, but not anymore. 

    Sept. 1, 2014,   The Mexican government has issued new rules for permanently importing used cars from the United States.   The biggest change is that the individual importing the used NAFTA car into Mexico must first prove that the car has been formally EXPORTED from the USA following US CBP laws.

    This means that the US title on every used car permanently imported into Mexico must be first stamped “EXPORTED” by US CBP.     This stamp can only be applied after the car has been inspected by the US CBP.  No more importing a car without going to the border.

  • For the import to México, the use of a customs broker is  required.

  • When you are told your vehicle has been nationalized, check the VIN on REPUVE. If car is not there, it has not been nationalized. REPUVE is the Mexican national database of legal vehicles.

  • If a broker offers plates with nationalizing, be very suspicious.  The process does not work that way.  The plates are probably fake or stolen.  Find another broker because this one is a scammer.

  • It can only be done at the some border crossings.  Laredo and Nogales for sure, perhaps others that I am not aware of.

  • Some brokers will offer to do the nationalization without your having to drive the vehicle to the border.  Be suspicious because this is contrary to the new law. Nationalizing without driving to the border cannot include exporting from the USA as both USA and Mexican law requires.  Find another broker because this one is a scammer.

  • Only certain types of vehicles of certain model years made in North America can be nationalized. The VIN will tell you if it is eligible for nationalizing.  If the VIN starts with a letter, it can not be nationalized.  An initial number indicates a North American manufacture.

  • The type and vintage rules have changed many time in the past.  Only a broker can tell you for sure if your vehicle is eligible. Don't expect to get a correct answer from your local Aduana office; they won't know the latest rules.

  • I have information on a broker in Nogales: 

    Lic, Oscar Anguilo, AnCo Comercializadora


    Mexican cell: 045 631 120 1015

    US cell: 520 988 1936

    He is highly recommended as a caring, efficient broker.

    And two in Laredo

    Grupo MCA
    5112 Tesoro Plaza
    Laredo TX 78041
    956-722-5373 (FAX)bbb

    Grupo Cuevas - Nuevo Laredo/Laredo
    956-729-7004    956-729-7415


  • After you are successful at the border, you will need to go to your local transito office to do more paperwork and pay more money for your state registration and plates.  If the broker say this is included in his service, be careful; it is probably a scam.

  • Read the Voice of Experience at the bottom of this page.

Some advantages to nationalization:

  • Some believe the Mexican plates make the car less obvious to mordida-hungry cops.

  • Driving back to the USA with expired USA plates is a big problem while driving in the USA with Mexican plates is simple, and insurance is readily available.

  • You can reenter México without any paperwork or paying a bond.

  • With Mexican plates, the car can be sold in México.

  • Anyone can drive the car without the owner's presence.

  • Holders of permanent residency visas can own and drive Mexican plated cars.

Some disadvantages to nationalization

  • Mexican plates, you are limited to having the car in the USA for no more than one year; and you cannot sell the car or leave it in the USA.

  • Many insurance companies will not insure a nationalized car, and those who will insure it will charge a higher fee than for the same car with foreign plates.

  • You'll have to pay annual registration fees and taxes which a foreign car is not subject to.

Voice of Experience reported by a cyber friend, Tom Whitmore.

14 March 2012, I was in Nogales to Nationalize (make Mexican) my 2004 Honda Odessey. The importation or conversion has to be done at a border town. I had to have a Mexican drivers license. A vehicle that is 8 years old can be nationalized. By the way, Aduana (customs) is on a fiscal year beginning November 1, so my 2004 was "eight years old customwise" last Nov 1, 2011 when I could have nationalized it.

The customs agent met us at 9 a.m. Went to Km 21 to cancel the 2004 permit. Then the agent directed us through an incredible maze of streets behind the vehicle crossing area just before the border. At the first place a young woman went over all the details and then affixed a brand new type of sticker to the windshield ($40 USD worth!) that must stay in the car. If the windshield is broken, I am supposed to stick it to a piece of paper and keep it in the glove compartment.

Then through the maze the agent directed us to the final customs office where I had to show my Mexican drivers license, sign a form, and receive the last rubber stamp. And that was it.....all in about 40 minutes. I was given a paper with which I can go directly to Transito here to get the Sinaloa plates for the Honda.

By the way, last weekend I emailed the agent with attachments: copies of the Illinois title, my no inmigrante visa, my driver’s license, the permit to bring the car in in 2004. So, he had the info to fill out all the forms ahead of time.

We really lucked out in finding a customs agent, Óscar Angulo, who was bright, personable and effective (cell: 631-99-9-5024 email:

Our cost was $1,540.00 (varies with make and model, I guess) for the "conversion" plus whatever the plates cost (and of course, the cost of going to a border town which is the only place this can be done). Customs wants the payment in US Dollars not Mexican Pesos....which I found very odd.

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