Importing Vehicles

Disclaimer: The information contained in this section may contain errors due to changes in legislation or policy since the information was compiled. Readers are advised to read insurance policy contracts and seek legal opinions concerning Mexico customs legislation and other laws in the applicable jurisdictions. Information has been gathered from sources including YucaLandia/Surviving Yucatan © Steven M. Fry with permission.

Update: April 26, 2015

The importing of vehicles into Mexico is reportedly suspended for an undetermined period of time. The entire issue of importing vehicles has become a nightmare for expats, apparently precipitated by the new 2012 immigration rules which suddenly made it illegal for permanent residents to keep foreign-plated vehicles in Mexico (Canadian & USA plates). TioCorp does not assist in importing vehicles but provides the following overview about how importing vehicles is impacted by your Mexican Visa status for general information only.

Foreign Vehicle Importation - Overview

Importing a vehicle permanently into Mexico can be confusing, frustrating and, in some cases, impossible.  The rules are fairly restrictive so if you are interested in permanently importing your vehicle into Mexico, and getting Mexican plates, then you need to understand the process and plan ahead.  It isn't something you can do when you arrive at your crossing point.

Importing a vehicle into Mexico has become a hot topic as a result of the new immigration rules which require that FM3 and Residenté Temporal holders convert to "permanent" residency (Residenté Permanenté) status after 4 years, which will result in the loss of their Temporary Import Permit (TIP). These folks will have to import their vehicle, or remove it from Mexico. At the time of this writing, there are questions about the time that might be allowed for someone going Residenté Permanenté to accomplish one of these options. Having said that, there is no question that conversion to Residenté Permanenté status means that a vehicle that is in Mexico on a TIP must leave or be permanently imported.

An important change that has been made as part of the new immigration rules is that FM3 holders can no longer import their vehicle into Mexico.

If your car becomes illegal due to visa changes, visa’s expiring, or whatever reason, you can apply for a free temporary permit that gives you 3-5 days to remove the vehicle from Mexico.

Some snowbirds may be tempted to let their visas expire so that they can simply re-apply for a new temporary resident's visa. However, that creates a couple of problems:

  1. First of all, Mexican capital gains could become an issue should they own a residence in Mexico; and
  2. Those who want to re-apply for Residenté Temporal must do so from their home country. New applications can no longer be initiated while you are in Mexico.

These issues are complicated topics on their own. For the purposes of this discussion, we will stick with the question of vehicle import permits.

What Vehicles Qualify for Importation?

Cars and non-dually pickups, 8-10 years old, qualify for a Permanent Import Permit, but the expat must be a citizen or resident (FM2, or Immigrado), and the vehicle must be manufactured or assembled in a NAFTA country (USA, Canada or Mexico). Check your VIN to see if your vehicle was made in a NAFTA country and to determine its manufacture date. If the VIN starts with a number (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) then it is a NAFTA vehicle.  REMINDER: The rules surrounding importation are a moving target, so information can quickly become out of date.

Importing a Classic Vehicle into Mexico

Importing a Classic Vehicle into Mexico is possible for Cars 29+ years old. Classic vehicles qualify for free importation as “classics”.  These vehicle must be presented at the border for importation. However, if you simply show up, you can expect the process to take up to 3 or more days. You should apply ahead of time for the importation permit, and once it is ready, you can arrive at the border and expect to get processed in a few hours. Insuring a classic vehicle is difficult in Mexico and is only done by exception.  Contact TioCorp about Insurance for your Classic vehicle.

Other Exceptions and Exempted Areas

Commercial vehicles that are 8-9 years old vehicles and designed to haul more than 16 people, cement mixers and other heavy vehicles are allowed to be permanently imported at 10% taxes.

There are special rules for importing 5-9 year old vehicles into the Baja California y California Sur, and special zones of Sonora, but these categories affect few expats, so, we will not discuss these exceptions. There are also special exemptions from requirements to get a vehicle import permit, if the vehicle remains in special “Free Zones” along the border, parts of Sonora, Baja California, and Quintana Roo. The vehicle can enter Mexico without a Temporary Import Permit, but must stay within these zones. We offer Lowest-Cost-Guaranteed Auto Insurance for the Free Zones.

With a Mexico Permanent Importation Permit
  • You can sell the car here in Mexico.
  • You can keep the car in Mexico as long as you want, regardless of INM status.
  • Mexican drivers can drive your car, without you or another expat being in the car; anyone can drive your car.
  • You must license the car here, and renew your State registration every year.
  • You do not have to go to a (non-airport) Aduana’s office every year to register your new INM permit expiration date.

Temporary Import Permits (TIP)

If you have Residenté Permanenté, you cannot have a foreign plated car. As soon as you are issued Permanenté status, your TIP becomes void and you must remove the car from Mexico at once. There is no grace period at all. If you have not removed your car before you received your Permanenté card, you will need to apply for a Safe Passage permit to allow you 3 to 5 days to drive the car out of Mexico.

You apply for the Retorno Seguro (Safe Passage) permit at your local SAT office. You will need

  • Valid driver's licence
  • Vehicle title
  • Your Permanenté Visa
  • Your original TIP paperwork

Foreign cars and pickups (no dually’s) can be temporarily imported by expats with FMM’s (Visitor and Tourist Visas), and Residenté Temporal INM permits (what used to be called FM3′s No Inmigranté Rentista & No Inmigranté Lucrativo) by getting a Temporary Import Permit (permiso de importación temporal de vehículos) from Aduana/Banjercito.

For more information on Temporary Import Permits, see "Who Can Drive Your Car".

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