There are two ways to import your foreign-plated vehicle into Mexico.
For the sake of clarity, this article is referring to the procedures required for all of the areas south of the border areas. Special rules apply to those areas. Check your Mexican consulate for details.
You may temporarily import your vehicle to Mexico or permanently import your vehicle to Mexico. Which of these procedures you decide to do will depend on your immigration status.
If you are a tourist looking to stay 180 days or less in Mexico OR if you are a temporary resident, residente temporal, you will want to temporarily import your vehicle to Mexico
If you are a permanent resident, residente permanente, you will want to either permanently import your vehicle to Mexico or buy a vehicle in Mexico.
How to Permanently Import Your Vehicle to Mexico
If you plan on permanently importing your car, you may import a vehicle with a capacity for up to 15 passengers. Requirements and custom duties will depend on the age, model and paperwork available for your car. Generally, the vehicle must have been manufactured in North America. The first digit of the VIN, Vehicle Registration Number, must be somewhere between 1 and 5. You will pay an import tax depending on the age of the vehicle. For example, if the vehicle is between 8 and 9 years old, it is subject to a 10% import tax, (if you can get a certificate of origin, the import tax will be 0%), you will pay 16% IVA or value-added tax, 0.8% customs fee and an agent’s fee. We recommend contacting the agent well in advance to check on the requirements for your vehicle’s specifications.
You are required to hire a licensed customs agent or agente aduanal to handle this process for you.
However, if you have switched from Temporary to Permanent Resident status while in Mexico, you may not just change over your vehicle’s status. You must export the car and go through the procedure above to import it again with the proper import status.
If your car is illegally in Mexico or will be once you switch from residente temporal to permanente, you can opt for a “Safe Return” procedure. You can get a “Retorno Seguro” from the SAT. This permit will give you 5 days to drive the car out of the country.
It can be difficult to permanently import your car because only some cars can be imported. The customs agent will give you the current specifications of vehicles that can be imported. If your car cannot be imported, know that it is easy to buy a car in Mexico. And easy to get plates for your new car in Mexico. To find out all about How to Buy a Car in Mexico, read our article here.
How to Temporarily Import Your Vehicle to Mexico
If you are a tourist or a temporary resident and you want to bring your car to Mexico, you will need to get a TIP, or Temporary Import Permit. This permit will then be valid for the duration of the tourist visa (maximum of 180 days) or up to 4 years for the Temporary Resident Permit.
Before coming to Mexico, you will get a TIP which will cost approximately $50 USD. You can get it online, at a Mexican consulate or at the banjercito office at a border crossing. However, check the border crossing you plan on traveling through. Not all have the banjercito office.
You will pay a deposit, depending on the age of the car. You will get this deposit back when you leave the country with the car by visiting the banjercito office again by the expiry date of your TIP. The same person who imported the car must export the car. This can also be your spouse with official documentation. Consult the banjercito website here.
In order to obtain a TIP, you will need your passport, your photo driver’s license (foreign), FMM tourist visa or temporary resident card, Mexican auto insurance for the duration of the import, title and vehicle registration certificate issued outside of Mexico in your name.
If you need to leave Mexico, you can leave without the car and the TIP remains valid as long as it is has not expired. If you let the TIP expire, you will lose your deposit and your car will then be in Mexico illegally. You will be subject to fines if you are stopped. There is no way to extend the TIP in Mexico so you need to be vigilant about the TIP expiration date to get the car out of Mexico before this date.
You may see on some sites that you do not require a TIP to take your car into Mexico. Be careful. This refers ONLY to the free zone which includes: 25 miles within Mexican land borders, Baja California peninsula, Quintana Roo state, and a small area in Sonora. Everywhere else in Mexico, meaning almost all of Mexico, requires a TIP.
You do not have to use the same entry port for your exit. You can enter through the States and exit through Belize or use another exit port to enter the States.
If you lose or abandon your car in Mexico, you will pay a 40% tax of the value of the car to Mexican Customs. If your car has been stolen, you will need to file a police report, fill out forms at Customs, and have a Mexican notary assist you to get the TIP canceled.
As NAFTA conditions change and rules and requirements are always changing, we encourage you to check with your consulate for the latest regulations. Also, if you plan on buying a car, you will find that some details for purchasing can change from state to state in Mexico. But all in all, if you are planning on staying in Mexico, the purchase process is easy enough and allows you a wider range of choice of vehicle than being restricted to the age and other import specifications allowed through the permanent import process.
If you’re ready to buy your dream home in Mexico, get in touch. Our agents have also gone through the process of moving, buying a home and some have imported vehicles as well. They understand what you are going through.