Importing a Car to Mexico

Reprinted from the blog Living Mexico. Click here to see the original post.



So you’re here and you’ve decided to stay. One can only assume that by this point, you’re a permanent resident and do not want to part with your non-Mexican vehicle. If you drove your Canada or US vehicle across the border as a temporary import during the duration of your temporary resident years, you will have two choices when your status changes to permanent.

First you can sell it. You will need to return to the border to make the sale and can only do so to a non-Mexican buyer. Mexicans cannot legally buy (or even drive) non-Mexican vehicles for the same reason you, as a permanent resident, cannot keep it. Local residents must drive local vehicles.

Your second option is to legalize your non-Mexican vehicle. A lot of expats refer to this process as nationalizing, which is incorrect. The proper term is called legalizing and is something you can do if you do not want to sell your vehicle. While possible, it’s a bit tedious and expensive, but if you want to search it out, here is the process that has been generally translated from the government website How to Import Used Cars Permanently.

Before you begin, it’s important to understand that not all vehicles from Canada or the United States can be imported and / or legalized into Mexico. In order to import a used car from the United States or Canada, the car must be a maximum of ten years old and manufactured in Canada, the United States or Mexico and must have a VIN number that begins with 1,2,3,4, or 5. If you pass these initial requirements, then you can likely import your vehicle.

Important Tips to Safely Legalizing Your Car in Mexico

First, it is important not to confuse temporary importation with definitive importation or legalization. For the definitive importation it is necessary to hire an authorized customs broker in Mexico. You can consult the directory at

In the context in the fight against smuggling and fraud in the importation of vehicles, the Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago in combination with the Paisano Program, suggest you take into account the following recommendations:

  • By law you must hire the services of an authorized customs agent. They will recommend how and where to import your vehicle since this can only be done at some borders. The agent customs office needs to belong to an Association such as the CLAA (Confederation of Latin American Association of Customs Agents) and CAAAREM (Confederation of Associations of Customs Agents of the Mexican Republic).
  • Get to know personally the customs agent, who is a private agent but must have a patent granted by the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit to perform this function. Enter the pages and or call (55) 11 07 8515 and (55) 33 00 7500 or to the Paisano Program toll-free numbers below.
  • The average range, currently, of the fees of a Customs Broker for the definitive importation of a vehicle is between 1,200 and 1,600 pesos. He must give you an import document called the “tax” to be paid, it will be presented in the border to Customs and pay the corresponding taxes.
  • According to the current decree, the definitive importation age of vehicles is 10 years. In addition to the age of the vehicle, you will have to verify that the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) begins with 1,2,3,4 or 5. This will indicate that it is a vehicle manufactured or assembled in one of the NAFTA countries (Mexico, USA and Canada) and therefore it is allowed to be imported.


Check our website to calculate the taxes. In the upper left margin of this site you will find a which will let you know how much tax you will have to pay to import a vehicle to Mexico. You need to have the VIN and the certificate of the vehicle.

Models exactly 10 years old have a rate preferential tariff of 10% and not 50% as applied to previous models.

  • You have 15 business days to get your plates once you legalize your vehicle. It is illegal to be awarded Mexican plates from the US. That is fraud and the driver or owner can be punished with jail in Mexico for traveling with false license plates or traffic card.
  • You do not need to hire an intermediary to import a vehicle. It is a process that you can do. If you need guidance from the Paisano Program we can offer you the necessary information free of charge.
  • If you already have the import request and hired a intermediary (there have been cases of false agents), we recommend that before crossing the border make sure that their final import request is valid by consulting SOIA (Sistema Of Integral Customs Operation) or by calling 1 877 448 8728 of INFOSAT.
  • You can contact a Paisano Program official during the opening hours of your office and the module that is in the Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago is from Monday to Friday from 8 to 17 hrs or by fax 312 491 9048, your direct telephone number 312 491 8948 and your email

Toll-free 24 hours 1 877 210 9469 from USA and 01 800 201 8542 from Mexico.

Note: If you were a victim of fraud by an alleged “legalization agency” in the Protection area of the Consulate 312 738 2383 and / or in the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Illinois, asks for Nettie Leon Lasko (speaks Spanish) Tel: 312 814 2831 or email

Here is the directory of approved agents (Confederation of Associations of Customs Agents of the Mexican Republic):

To make sure your non-Mexican vehicle has actually been legalized, you can check the government’s REPUVE website:

Once you’re done, you can head to your Mexico destination to finish the paperwork including plates. If a custom’s broker offers you plates at the border, be wary. It’s not legal.