Every December for the past 3 years, I have spent a few weeks kitesurfing in the tiny town of La Ventana, in Baja, Mexico. The wind is fantastic, the food and drink are good and cheap, and the community is awesome.
Every time I visit, I am floored by the number of American- and Canadian-plated vehicles. Driving your US-registered vehicle in Mexico is easy - this blog post will tell you everything you need to know.
Inside Free Zones - No Permit Required
Non-Mexican vehicles can be driven without permit through large chunks of Mexico:
As long as the vehicle’s registration remains current, your American-plated vehicle can remain indefinitely in:
the entire Baja Peninsula
nearly half of the state of Sonora, and/or
a strip of land just south of the border.
My kitesurfing spot in La Ventana is squarely in the Baja free zone, which explains all the American and Canadian license plates around.
Outside Free Zones - Temporary Import Permit Required
If you want to explore Mexico beyond the free zones, you will need a Temporary Import Permit (TIP). Costing about US$ 50 (depending on exchange rates), a TIP will allow you to bring your vehicle into Mexico for up to 180 days. The permit also requires a deposit ranging from US$ 200 to $500, which will be returned to you upon exiting Mexico.
You can obtain a Mexican Temporary Import Permit at the US/Mexico border, at a Mexican consulate, or online.
In order to discourage dumping American and Canadian vehicles on the local market, the Mexican authorities impose a stiff customs duty (40% of the value of the vehicle - and they decide how much your vehicle is worth) on those abandoning their vehicles or overstaying their TIP’s - so keep an eye on your dates!
Insurance in Mexico
Liability insurance is mandatory in Mexico. It’s reasonably priced, and a policy can be obtained online. We recommend Lewis and Lewis, and have also heard good things about MexInsurance.
I love Mexico - it’s full of adventures, inexpensive, warm and exploding with culture. If you want to buy a car, van, motorcycle, or RV in America and explore Mexico, even if you’re just visiting, get in touch with visitor.us today!