Home How To Guide How to Permanently Import Your Vehicle to Mexico

How to Permanently Import Your Vehicle to Mexico

Sometimes called "nationalizing," it is really "legalizing"

by Brent May

This article covers how to permanently import your vehicle to Mexico.

For the sake of clarity, this article is referring to the procedures required for all of the areas south of the border areas. Special rules apply to those areas. Check your Mexican consulate for details.

Provided your vehicle is 8-9 years old, you have permanent resident status in Mexico and you want to get Mexican plates for your car, you may be able to permanently import your car. Here’s how.


Temporarily or Permanently Import? Which is for you?

There are two ways to import your foreign-plated vehicle into Mexico.

You may temporarily import your vehicle to Mexico or permanently import your vehicle to Mexico. Which of these procedures you decide to do will depend on your immigration status.

If you are a permanent resident, residente permanente, you will want to either permanently import your vehicle to Mexico or buy a vehicle in Mexico. To read more about temporarily importing your vehicle, check out our article here: How to Import Your Car to Mexico.


How to Permanently Import Your Vehicle to Mexico

If you plan on permanently importing your car, you may import a vehicle with a capacity for up to 15 passengers. Requirements and custom duties will depend on the age, model and paperwork available for your car. Generally, the vehicle must have been manufactured in North America. You know this with the VIN. The first digit of the VIN, Vehicle Registration Number, must be somewhere between 1 and 5. 1, 4 and 5 signifies a vehicle made in the U.S., 2 in Canada and 3 in Mexico.


How much does it cost to import a vehicle?

You will pay an import tax depending on the age of the vehicle. For example, if the vehicle is between 8 and 9 years old, it is subject to a 10% import tax on the value, (if you can get a certificate of origin, the import tax will be 0%), you will pay 16% VAT or IVA in Spanish, 0.8% customs fee and an additional custom agent’s fee. We recommend contacting the agent well in advance to check on the requirements for your vehicle’s specifications.


Who is an agente aduanal?

You are required by law to hire a licensed customs agent or agente aduanal to handle this process for you. You can find an agent by searching online for “agencia aduanal importación de autos” or “agente aduanal import car Mexico.” We recommend consulting with your customs agent before starting the process. Since used cars are significantly cheaper in the U.S. than in Mexico, we might imagine that it is cost-efficient to import a used car.  This may not always be the case. The customs agent can give you an estimated cost because taxes and other costs vary depending on the vehicle. Call or email them for a price quote. Ask several agencies, compare costs and response times. Then, the agent will give you the list of common paperwork you will provide for the procedure.

Once you’ve gone through the process and entered Mexico with your paperwork, you can get your new plates at your Mexico destination. You may be proposed plates in the U.S. or at the border by a customs agent. Know that this is an illegal shortcut. If you’ve gotten this far, go to your destination and get your plates the proper way through el Departamento de Transporte y Vialidad.

What if I’ve changed from temporary to permanent residency?

If you have switched from Temporary to Permanent Resident status while in Mexico, you may not just change over your vehicle’s status. You must export the car and go through the procedure above to import it again with the proper import status.

If your car is illegally in Mexico or will be once you switch from residente temporal to permanente, you can opt for a “Safe Return” procedure. You can get a “Retorno Seguro” from the SAT. This permit will give you 5 days to drive the car out of the country.

It can be difficult to permanently import your car because only some cars can be imported. The customs agent will give you the current specifications of vehicles that can be imported. If your car cannot be imported, know that it is easy to buy a car in Mexico. And easy to get plates for your new car in Mexico. To find out all about  How to Buy a Car in Mexico, read our article here.

Know that rules and regulations can change frequently for this process. Also, regulations around buying a new car can change from one state to another. Do your homework for your geographic area. As always, patience, politeness and a smile are part of what you will need to furnish with your paperwork to make your experience successful.


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