How to Get Your Mexican Vehicle Permit To Drive In Mexico
Mexican Car, Motorhome, Motorcycle Permit Regulations
You need a Mexican car permit to drive your car in Mexico
Mexican Vehicle Permit Requirements
For 2015, these are the Banjercito regulations for fees for car, RV or motorcycle permits to drive in Mexico except for Baja California and parts of Sonora. See below for those states. For mainland Mexico these are the rules.
You have to pay the Mexican Treasury department (Hacienda) by credit card (VI, MC) or debit card with a VI or MC logo. You need the title or registration for your car or RV (title only for motorcycles) and are supposed to have a notarized letter of permission to take your vehicle into Mexico if it is financed (if you can't get one, you'll probably get your Mexican car permit -- I have never been asked for one -- but don't blame me if you run into a Hacienda official who is a sticker for rules and refuses to give you a Mexico driving car permit for not having it). Actually, I have never thought it was a Mexican government rule. I think it was something made up by the US companies selling Mexican insurance to make the lien-holders feel safer. .
The car permit fee (it changes & varies with the peso/dollar exchange rate) is about $50. Motorhome permits costs about $60. If you are worried about the exact figure to the penny, you probably shouldn't be going to Mexico. Motorhomes have the option of getting a 10-year permit.
You must pay a deposit on your vehicle by cash or credit card (MC, VI only - though oddly enough, they say they accept debit cards if they have the MC, VI logo). The deposits for your car, RV, pickup truck or motorcycle permit vary by the year model of your vehicle.
For 2007 and newer vehicles, deposit is $400. 2001-2006 - $300. 2000 and older - $200. This is charged to your credit card immediately. If you cancel the permit on time you get your deposit back. It is refunded to your credit card two to three business days after you cancel your permit. Cash deposits are returned when you cancel the permit. These figures (so far) don't change each year, so you don't drop down in rank each year. A 2001 vehicle will pay $400 this year just like last year.
If you return your vehicle permit even a few hours late, you lose your deposit, though you can still cancel the permit. If the permit is issued at 9:00 AM on day 1, it expires at 9:00 AM on day 180. Be sure to check the expiration date of your permit, in case they figured the number of days on your permit differently. It happens.
Don't Get Your Vehicle Permit Online
While you can get your car, truck, RV or motorcycle permit online, I don't recommend you do so. You still have to stop at the border to get your immigration permit, so what's the benefit?
Getting your vehicle permit at the border takes about thirty minutes (after you get your immigration permit). The officials are scrupulously honest these days. In the past, they were less so, which is why the government started the online program.
Below are a couple of exceptions to this rule. Otherwise, I would not waste my time or money getting my vehicle permit online.
I put my money where my mouth is (on everything on this site). I get my car permit at the border. And, yeah, you may be one of the lucky ones where getting your vehicle permit could take an hour or so. So? Enjoy the flavor of Mexico while you wait. I would still rather get my vehicle permit on the border.
Substandard Insurance Offered
If you do decide to get your permit online, please DO NOT check the box to order the auto insurance they offer. There is nothing wrong with the insurance, it is legitimate, it's just that it is substandard. If you get "named peril" (the equivalent of full coverage, though there are differences), you will only be allowed to have your vehicle fixed in Mexico. With any better grade of insurance (like the ones on my site, of course - but there are others), you have the choice of getting repairs done in the USA or Mexico, in addition to getting emergency repairs done in Mexico to get you back on the road. If you have an RV or motorcycle, there is no way in hell you will get it repaired to your satisfaction in Mexico, if only because of the lack of parts.
Can You Enter Mexico At A Different Border Crossing If You Get Your Permit Online?
I have gotten a rash of people asking me if they can cross at a different border crossing than the one they chose when they ordered their permit. The answer is, "Yes, BUT ...."
Often people come to me for trip-planning advice after they got their online permit. After we talk, they often change their route, based on my knowledge and suggestions. Then they get in a panic.
Sometimes you will encounter an official at the 21 Kilometer checkpoint who will give you extra scrutiny. I have never heard of anyone being turned back, but still, why chance a hassle to mar the beginning of your great driving adventure?
One official told me privately that if you cross in the same region, you will be okay. That means if you chose any crossing in Reynosa or Matamoros, you will be okay, as they all are all in the same region. If you chose Nogales and change your mind to Matamoros, I really don't know what would happen. However, I have had people cross at Reynosa who said they were going to cross at N. Laredo.
Sometimes It Makes Sense To Get Your Vehicle Permit Online If You Want
Nothing written about Mexico should be black and white. There are always exceptions. Some motorcyclists find it of great value, however. It eliminates the need for them to carry the title to their ride, which is necessary (for them only) to get a vehicle permit.
If you are driving to Mexico during the Christmas or Easter vacation time, yeah, go ahead. It is definitely worth it because the lines will be long at the border.
You Can Cancel (Return) Your Vehicle Permit At Any Border Crossing
It does not matter where you got the permit for your car, truck, RV or motorcycle. Canceling your permit means showing up at the Banjercito kiosk with your vehicle and all the documentation you received when you got your permit. If you lost that big, official paper your permit was attached to, you will get a scolding and be asked to sign a form indicating you are a forgetful, disorganized klutz and didn't mean violate the laws permitting foreigners to temporarily import their vehicles into Mexico. Once signed, all will be smiles and you can cancel your permit. I speak from sad experience on this. It is officially on record that I am a forgetful, disorganized klutz.
Car & Trailer Permits
Now, a car and trailer get two permits. The car gets a six-month permit to allow it to be driven in Mexico. The trailer gets a ten-year permit. The trailer permit costs (this could change tomorrow) 644 pesos. Thanks to Gary W. for this information.
Those 10-year trailer permits are a dangerous thing. So often people don't cancel them, leave them in Mexico and come home, or bring them back and end up selling the trailer in the USA or Canada. Then, when they expire, they will be barred from driving in Mexico.
Please note: If the border official wants to put your car and trailer on the same permit, don't let him. If he does, you won't be able to cancel your car permit if you don't also cancel your trailer permit. In other words, you would have to bring them both back to the border. If you are getting a Residente Temporal (not permanente) visa, your car and trailer should be good as long as your immigration visa is good.
This changes all the time, but often RV's are inspected when crossing at most border crossings, even at some Baja crossings.
Exceptions to Needing A Vehicle Permit
You must obtain a Mexican car permit if you are driving in Mexico beyond the Mexican border - except for Baja California and parts of Sonora. No permits are required to drive to Rocky Point (Puerto Peñasco) or as far south and west in Sonora as Guaymas, San Carlos and Empalme. A special "Sonora Only" permit is required if you drive farther south or east, but still only in Sonora. Should you cross at Agua Prieta, you need the federal car permit that is good for the whole country. You can get either the Sonora only or all-Mexico car permit at the Banjercito kiosk right on MEX-15 at Empalme, SE of Guaymas. Thanks to alert reader, Maralan, who corrected an earlier mistake of mine. Last I checked you could not cancel the permit here, but things change so ask them.
You Can Lose Your Deposit If ...
If you cancel your car, RV or motorcycle permit after expiration, you do not get your deposit back, but will be able to obtain a new permit after you cancel the old permit, no matter when. Let me be perfectly clear about this. You MUST 'cancel' or return your permit before you can get another permit. That pretty much means you have to drive the permitted car BACK to the border. If you cannot drive it back to the border because it was lost, stolen or broken, go to see my information on what to do.
Special Rules for Residents
For Temporary residents (old FM3) and permanent residents (old FM2) things are a bit different. AND they could change tomorrow. They changed often enough last year. Double-check all this stuff while you are at the consulate, don't wait until you get to the border!
Since you have to get your residency visas validated in-country, you should have gotten a temporary travel permit stamped in your passport by the consulate. It is good for 30 days and is validated at the border. However, some border officials want to issue you an FMM. You should make sure you got a travel permit and use that. Your car permit is good as long as your immigration permit is good.
When you get your permanent or temporary permit validated, things change. For temporary resident holders, your permit is good for 2 years and so is your car permit. I honestly do not know if you will get your deposit back.
For permanent residents, you have to import your vehicle to Mexico and pay taxes on it. It becomes "regularized" or registered in Mexico. The government began cracking down on residents (impounding vehicles) who didn't pay annual taxes so make sure you do this right - if you want to keep your vehicle. You could also take it back the the USA and sell it, then buy a new vehicle in Mexico.
Can you take a towed vehicle to Mexico? A motorcycle? ATV?
These are the official rules from Hacienda.
a) A temporary import is only possible for one vehicle at a time.
b) The maximum load capacity for a temporary vehicle import is 3.5 tons, not including the weight of the vehicle.
c) You may tow with your vehicle one to three motorcycles, beach cars or dune buggies, or four-wheel motorcycles or ATVs, equivalent to the number of people traveling inside the vehicle. They CANNOT be street-legal. You must be able to provide proof of ownership for the vehicles being transported and they must be returned along with the towing or transporting vehicle. You get one permit for all.
d) It is not permitted to sell the temporarily imported vehicles on Mexican territory or use them for commercial activities.
e) The vehicle must be returned to the country of origin within the authorized time-frame as stated in the Temporary Import Permit.
Be darn sure to turn this permit in before leaving Mexico. Otherwise, you will not be able to drive to Mexico. Period. Hacienda (the treasury department) keeps really good track of these car permits.
You can't just pass them to the toll-taker at the bridge or border crossing. You must find the Banjercito / Migracíon complex and get the car permit recorded, scanned and scrapped off your windshield by a polite Banjercito employee. He or she will give you a computer-printed receipt showing you canceled your permit. There is no other way to do it.
Sonora makes it easy to cancel the permits, with kiosks at KM 21 on MEX-15 (just south of Nogales, Sonora). You pull in, someone scans your permit, does the required checking and you are done. I wish all border crossings were that simple. During Christmas and Easter vacations temporary kiosks are always rumored to be put up near Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, but so far, they are not permanent. See finding customs / immigration offices on my immigration permits page for how to find these kiosks.
For detailed questions about RV permits and other FAQ's, see my advanced RV permit page.
What If I Don't Cancel My Car Permit?
I have been told often enough by Hacienda officials that there is no fine that I believe that to be true. I have talked to plenty of gringos who canceled permits months or even years old. You can turn in a permit no matter how old - you just have to have the car and the permit. If you did not turn your car permit in, I can provide you with the only official way to cancel them. I charge for this service. But read on.
You have to pay the Mexican Treasury department (Hacienda) by credit card or debit card with a VI, MC logo. Discover card is not accepted by them. (It has limited acceptance in Mexico in general).
That said, some people have told me that they didn’t turn their Mexico car permit in and got back into Mexico anyway. Others have told me that they were detained at the Mexican border.
If you did not turn in your Mexican car permit, you MAY still be able to get it canceled - if you did not sell your car in Mexico and can prove it made it back to the USA. If you cannot do that, do not write me. I have the correct information on how to do this and I charge for it.
But please, don't write if you aren't willing to pay for the information it took me a lot of asking to get. How much is your peace of mind worth?