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Bringing a vehicle to Mexico

Here are a couple of steps you need to take when you decide to drive across the border into Mexico. If you abide by these rules, you’ll be making sure you can legally take your trip to Mexico by car. This information was last checked on November, 2004. We expect that not much has changed but it is always a good idea to check with the official agencies for the latest applicable information before beginning your journey.

If your travel is within the Border Zone (usually up to 20 kilometers south of the U.S.-Mexico Border) or the Free Trade Zone (including the Baja California Peninsula and the Sonora Free Trade Zone) there are no procedures to comply with. However, if you wish to pass these zones, the following procedures will apply. You must secure a permit by following the next few steps.

Step One: Collect your documents

Bring the original plus two(2) copies of the following documents:

  • Valid proof of citizenship (passport or birth certificate).
  • The appropriate immigration form (tourist card),  learn about visa options
  • The valid vehicle registration certificate, or a document, such as the original title that certifies the legal ownership of the vehicle. It must be in the driver’s name.
  • The leasing contract (if the vehicle is leased or rented) which must be in the name of the person importing the car. If the vehicle belongs to a company, present the document that certifies the employee works for the company.
  • A valid driver’s license, issued outside Mexico.
  • An international credit card, also issued outside Mexico (American Express, MasterCard or Visa), in the name of the driver of the vehicle.

Step Two: Go to the Customs Office at the border

To acquire a permit drive your vehicle (including RV’s) to a Mexican customs office at the border: at the border crossing, go through the Declarations Lane. Look for the “Modulo de Control Vehicular” where you will present your documents. All documents and the credit card must be in the name of the owner, who must also be in the vehicle when crossing the border.

The process will be much simpler if you use a credit card to post the required “return guarantee” bond. If you do not have a credit card (or a Visa/Mastercard check card) you must get your temporary permit at the border module by leaving a guarantee deposit, total amount is based on the model year of the vehicle, see below.

ALTERNATIVE PROCESS: You may also opt to pay this fee and obtain the certificate in advance at certain authorized Consulates of Mexico for US$35.20, currently listed as the following – CALIFORNIA: Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Bernadino, San Francisco; TEXAS: Dallas, Houston, Austin; ILLINOIS: Chicago. Please check with the specific Consular office to make sure the they do have the necessary Banjercito Module/Desk. The filing of the documents at these locations needs to be done well in advance of your plans to drive into Mexico.

Step Three: Pay the certificate fee and bond deposit

Pay the certificate fee (not returnable). At the border, your international credit card will be charged an amount in national currency equivalent to US$27.00 to the Banco Nacional del Ejercito. (check with the Banco Nacional for current fees)

Pay the “guarantee return of the vehicle to USA territory” bond via credit card, according to the schedule below.

Model Year Bond Amount

  • 1999 to present US $400
  • From 1994 to 1998 US $300
  • Models older than 1994 US $200

You’ll be issued your documents, which completes the process for acquiring the certificate. Keep in mind the full process is not completed until you return the certificate upon heading back into the United States, see below.

Step Four: Returning the certificate

Upon your departure from Mexico back to the U.S., and if the vehicle is not going to be driven back into Mexico, the permit for temporary importation must be canceled at Customs. The original bond posted for the return guarantee will be returned to you at this time. That’s all there is to it. Follow these simple steps and you shouldn’t have any problems.

However, please remember, if your car is found in Mexico beyond the authorized time, or without the appropriate documents, it will be immediately confiscated. You will also forfeit the posted bond.

Answers To Commonly Asked Questions

  1. The temporary authorization for the importation of vehicles is valid for any type of vehicle weighing under three tons for periods up to six months (180 days).
  2. The temporarily imported vehicle may be driven across the border multiple times during the authorized period.
  3. Always carry with you the importation permit when driving your car in Mexico. Do not leave this document in the vehicle; it is indispensable in the case of damage, theft, or accident.
  4. The sale, abandonment, or use of the vehicle for financial gain will result in its confiscation.
  5. The vehicle temporarily imported by the owner may be driven in Mexico by the spouse or adult children, as long as they have the same immigration status. Other persons may drive the vehicle as long as the owner is in the vehicle.

Hours of Operation for the Banco del Ejército banking module at the following border points:

Arizona Border Points

  • Agua Prieta……All week, 24 hrs.
  • Naco……All week, 8:00 am to midnight
  • Nogales……All week, 24 hrs.
  • San Luis Rio Colorado……All week, 24 hrs.
  • Sonoyta……All week, 24 hrs.

California Border Points

  • Mexicali……All week, 24 hrs.
  • Otay Mesa……10:00 am to 6:00 pm
  • Tecate……All week, 8:00 am to 4:00 pm
  • Tijuana……Mon-Fri, 8:00am to 10:00 pm, Sat, 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, Sun, 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm

Texas Border Points

  • Ciudad Acuña……All week, 24 hrs.
  • Ciudad Juarez……All week, 24 hrs.
  • Ciudad Miguel Alemán……All week, 24 hrs.
  • Columbia……Mon-Fri, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
  • General Rodrigo M. Quevedo……All week, 24 hrs.
  • Matamoros……All week, 24 hrs.
  • Nuevo Laredo……All week, 24 hrs.
  • Ojinaga……Mon-Fri, 7:30 am to 9:00 pm, Sat, 7:30 am to 4:00 pm, Sun, 8:00 am to 4:00 pm
  • Piedras Negras……All week, 24 hrs.
  • Reynosa……All week, 24 hrs.
  • Sonora Only

The state of Sonora operates a program known as “Sonora Only”. Designed for visitors staying in the state of Sonora, the program eliminates the need for a credit card and waives the $11.50 fee. In addition to normal proof of citizenship documents (needed by all visitors to Mexico’s interior) “Sonora Only” visitors need only present a valid drivers’ license and proof of ownership or legal possession by the driver. Legal possession can be proven with one or more of the following documents:

  • Vehicle registration (in the name of the driver) or original title
  • Lease contract (for leased vehicles)
  • Proof of labor relationship between driver and car owners (for company-owned vehicles)
  • Notarized permission from the leasing company or bank (if money is still owed on the car) giving owner permission to take the vehicle to Mexico.
  • Permits are valid for 180 days and may be obtained at the check point at Kilometer 21, south of Nogales on Highway 15. If you are entering from another order crossing, please call 1-800-4-SONORA. Permits must be returned to this check point within the allotted six-month period.


US and Canadian auto insurance is not valid in Mexico. While Mexican auto insurance is not mandatory, it is highly recommended. If you are in an accident or other vehicle-related problems and you do not have insurance, you may be arrested and your vehicle impounded until the authorities can figure out the situation. Here are some insurance companies which allow you to buy insurance over the phone, fax or internet.

Be sure to ask that your policy cover the accident if the other driver is not insured and causes the accident. If you were to get into an accident in Mexico, it is possible that the other party will not have insurance.

Official site in Mexico (Customs) in Spanish

List of Insurance Companies

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