There are very strict rules regarding the nationalization of a vehicle in Mexico, and if the standards are not met you won’t be able to import it. You can take your car into Mexico for 180 days (as long as you have the proper insurance. Mexico only allows for a person to import one car. If you plan on becoming a permanent resident, you are not allowed to drive a car that is registered in another country. Local police might overlook this, but federal police will impound your car. Permanently importing a car as a permanent resident means you will have to register your car in Mexico and acquire local licence plates.
If you plan on importing a vehicle from the United States, keep in mind that rules are different depending on where you’re importing from. If you are within 35 km of the border, you have to pay 1% of the value of the car in taxes. The rest of the country has to pay 10% of the value of the car in import tax. On top of that, you are required to pay the Value Added Tax (IVA, in Spanish), which is 16% of the value of the car.
If you have a certificate of origin you might be able to import it without paying taxes. It is a long process, but if you want to save money, it might be worth the effort. Whatever you choose to do, it is advisable to hire a customs agent beforehand to help you with the process.
If you want to import a car for the 180 days your Forma Migratoria Multiple (tourist visa) lasts, you can do so. As long as you export it again before the 180 days are up and your visa expires. If you hold a resident visa, you can import your car using a Temporary Import Permit (TIP). The permit will last the same duration of time as your residency visa. If the car has not been exported by the time your permit ends, you will be charged 40% of the car’s value.
Licence plates in Mexico
An individual is only permitted to have one foreign-registered car in Mexico. Obtaining a Mexican licence plate for a foreign vehicle is possible. This process can be complicated and expensive, so many people decide that it is simply not worth it.
Buying a car in Mexico
In most cases, buying a car in Mexico is an easier way to get access to a vehicle, especially when taking into account the administrative requirements and costs involved with the importation process. You can find ads for used cars in local newspapers and websites. Visiting car dealerships is a quick way to get an idea of what’s on offer and the prices being asked, although – like anywhere – this will be more expensive than buying privately.
Before buying a car in Mexico, it is advisable to find a good mechanic to check the car over and ensure that it is in good condition. Accident history in Mexico does not exist so a mechanic will be able to check for signs of serious damage and advise you on whether the car is safe to drive.
When choosing a car in Mexico, take the size of some Mexican roads into consideration. Streets in some areas are small and narrow, so get familiar with your local area if you can before deciding on a car. Roads are also not always in great condition, so a 4X4 or Jeep with high road clearance might be a good idea depending on where you expect to drive. Petrol in Mexico is expensive, so more efficient cars will help your bank balance. In cities, parking can be a challenge so a smaller car may well make life easier. Car taxes (tenencia) in Mexico are very high for newer cars, so an older vehicle will save you money.