How to own a car in Mexico

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If you decide to own a car in Mexico, you have two basic routes to follow:

1. Bring your car from back home
2. Buy a car in Mexico

In each case, the process will be connected to your residency status in Mexico and somewhat tied into that process; this makes it easier since you know exactly when you need to renew your permits.

Hundreds of Americans and Canadians have gone through the simple process for either approach and happily enjoy use of their car in Mexico. If you want to own a car in Mexico, the following guideline will help you plan and see how easy it really is.

driving in mexico

Note: This information is deemed to be reliable, as per information gained from the website and offices of the Secretary of the Treasury in the State of Quintana Roo (Cancun, Playa del Carmen, etc.) It is possible that there are different requirements in different states, and that the processes listed here has changed. Generally speaking, when there are differences from the official process, they actually make things easier (i.e. they ask you for less documentation, etc.). The following information can be used as a general guide on how to approach vehicle ownership in Mexico.

1. Bringing Your Car to Mexico
If you bring an American or Canadian car to Mexico, its validity is basically the same as your residency status. This makes sense, since you will always have a valid residency status, meaning that you will always have a valid car permit. Basically, if you enter as tourist, your car will have a temporary permit to operate your car in Mexico that’s valid as long as your tourist visa. If you are a permanent resident, you will be able to gain Mexican plates for your car and keep it here permanently. In all cases, your car will be valid in Mexico as long as your residency status is valid.

You can arrange this temporary importation permit ahead of time; for example with Banjercito . This same site offers you a simple and easy option to gain Mexican insurance for your vehicle online ahead of time. If you don’t buy Mexican insurance ahead of time online, you can buy it at the border or at a bank or insurance broker in the first city you arrive to in Mexico.

A. Tourist Visa (FMM)

When you enter Mexico as a tourist, you will be given a tourist visa (FMM) at the point entry, which will be the U.S. border in most cases. This visa is valid for staying in Mexico for up to 6 months. Similarly, you will be given a temporary permit for your car, valid for up to 6 months. The permit is given in the form of a sticker for your windshield and a document, which you should keep in the car with you. This document is called a temporary importation permit and you will need it if you choose to extend your car’s permit.

Before the six months expires, you’ll either be heading back home or, if you choose to stay in Mexico longer, you’ll start the process of gaining Mexican residency (see section “B” below) which will also provide you with a longer-term permit for your car. If you have chosen not to seek residency in Mexico, you can “renew” both your tourist visa and the permit for your car by leaving Mexico and re-entering immediately.

If you are planning to live near the U.S. border, you could simply make a trip to the U.S. border twice a year. Those living in the south of the country – mostly the state of Quintana Roo, i.e. Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum – sometimes make trips to the border with Belize about 3 to 4 hours away to renew their tourist visa and car permit. People who choose this option simply see it as another little road-trip outing.

When you leave the country, be sure to register with Mexican customs (at the border crossing) that you have taken the car out of the country before the required time. This is required in order to gain a new vehicle permit when you re-enter.

This option is especially ideal for anyone who plans to live in Mexico only part of the year; however, most people who choose to live in Mexico full-time and at least semi-permanently will also gain longer-term residency in Mexico, and a longer-term car permit.

B. Temporary Resident (FM3)

If you plan to gain residency in Mexico, you should start the process within 3 months of arriving. After your tourist visa, the first residency status you will gain is Temporary Resident or FM3. This status is usually held for 4 years before moving to Permanent Residency, and it is renewed every year. Gaining this status is usually a straight-forward and simple process.

Your car’s permit will be granted on the same basis – valid for one year periods, renewed every year along with FM3. The process becomes an easy and simple routine.

Each process is completed at a separate office; your FM3 and all residency paperwork will be taken care of the National Institute for Immigration (INM – Instituto Nacional de Migracion) and your car permits and registration will be taken care of with the state treasury (Hacienda in Spanish). See Appendix below for locations of these offices in some major expat communities.

C. Permanent Resident (FM2)

Permanent residency is usually gained after 4-5 years of living in Mexico with temporary residency, although it can be gained much sooner sometimes. By this time you will be well familiar with the offices and their requirements, and, as mentioned above, it will be a simple routine. At this point, you actually gain Mexican plates for your car.

It doesn’t matter how long your car has or hasn’t been in Mexico, what matters is your residency status. So if you don’t have a car when you gain your FM2, you can go back to your home country, buy a car and bring it to Mexico; you will be able to register it and gain Mexican plates.

D. Required Documents
When you register a car from your home country, you will need a few documents. You should bring both the originals and photocopy of each. The following will be documents you’ll bring from back home:

Ownership certificate from your home country (in your name)
Official identification (passport)
Last 5 registration payment receipts (for the registration sticker on the plates)

In addition, during the beginning of your stay in Mexico, you will easily gain the following documents to bring with you:
Importation document (given at the border)
Proof of address – phone, water or electric bill in your name; if you don’t have these yet, you can use a rental contract, a copy of the deed for your home, or the property tax registration from city hall
Proof of insurance (for the first registration only)

2. Buying a Car in Mexico
There are very well-priced options for new cars and used cars in excellent condition in Mexico. Both can be obtained with a FM3 Visa, which is Temporary Residency status. Gaining this status is a fairly simple and straight-forward process and can be gained within a couple of months of arriving to Mexico. When you register the car you buy, you will need the following documents – an original and photocopy of each:

Ownership certificate, signed over to the new owner on the back, or invoice (factura in Spanish)
Official identification (passport)
Proof of address – phone, water or electric bill in your name; if you don’t have these yet, you can use a rental contract, a copy of the deed for your home, or the property tax registration from city hall

If the car is used, a copy of the last 5 annual automobile tax receipts – tenencia. This also protects you, ensuring that there are no outstanding taxes on the vehicle.
Vehicle registration card –tarjeta de circulacion
Proof of insurance (for the first registration only)
The vehicle itself for inspection
If you are paying the registration fee by credit card, another photocopy of your ID (the photo page of the passport)

Vehicle Licensing Modulo
Central de Emplacamiento (Mundo Maya) Región 98, Manzana 53 Lote 1, #22, 23 & 24
Tel. (998) 886-8464
Office Hours: 8:30 AM to 3:30

PM Immigration Office (INM)
Av. Carlos J. Nader, at Av. Uxmal, Supermanzana 5 Lote 1, Colonia Centro
Tel. (998) 881-3560
Office Hours: 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM

PLAYA DEL CARMEN Vehicle Licensing
Módulo de Recaudación y Emplacamiento 15th Ave., at 1 st St., State Government Building
Tel. (984) 873-0323
Office Hours: 8:30 AM to 15:30

PM Vehicle Licensing (CANACO)
Módulo de Recaudación y Emplacamiento CANACO Carretera Federal, between 22nd y 26th Streets, Col. Gonzalo Guerrero
Tel. (984) 803-0873
Office Hours: 8:30 AM to 3:30

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