Two Expats In Mexico: Permanently Importing a Used Vehicle to Mexico

Readers often ask me how they can permanently import their foreign plated vehicle to Mexico. When I say, “permanently import”, I’m talking about getting Mexican license plates for it.

For the purpose of this article, I’ll be referring to the process as nationalizing the vehicle. Hopefully, that will help to avoid any confusion between temporarily and permanently importing the vehicle.

Just to be very clear…my first piece of advice to anyone who is thinking of making Mexico their permanent home is to leave their old vehicle behind.

There is a very strict criteria for nationalizing vehicles in Mexico and there is a good chance that your old car — the one that you love so much because the driver’s seat is perfectly formed to your backside — won’t even be eligible. There is a lot of confusion when it comes to nationalizing vehicles because the requirements vary depending on geography. To keep this simple, I’m going to break the geographic regions down into two categories:

Northern Border Area of Mexico, Baja California, Baja California Sur and a Region of Sonora

The requirements and the import tax is lower if you’re a resident of one of the above locations AND the vehicle is going to remain in that part of Mexico. Proof of resi- dency is required.

Types of Vehicles: Vehicles with capacity for up to 15 passengers (cars, SUV, pickup, van) manufactured in North America. The first digit of the vehicle identification number (VIN) indicates where the vehicle was manufactured, it must be 1,2,3,4, or 5.

Age of Vehicles: 5-10 years old.

Fees/Taxes: If the vehicle is 5-9 years old, there will be a 1% import tax (arancel) on the value. If the vehicle is 10 years old, there will be a 10% import tax on the value. If you have a certificate of origin (certifi- cado de origen) the import tax is 0%. 16% value added tax (IVA). 0.8% derecho de trámite aduanal (DTA). Agent’s fee (varies).

The Rest of Mexico

Once you leave the border area, the requirements get much stricter and the import tax goes up.

Types of Vehicles: Vehicles with capacity for up to 15 passengers (cars, SUV, pickup, van) manufactured in North America. The first digit of the vehicle identification number (VIN) indicates where the vehicle was manufactured, it must be 1,2,3,4, or 5.

Age of Vehicles: 8-9 years old

Fees/Taxes: If the vehicle is 8-9 years old, there will be a 10% import tax (arancel) on the value. If you have a certificate of origin (certificado de origen) the import tax is 0%. 16% value added tax (IVA). 0.8% derecho de trámite aduanal (DTA). Agent’s fee (varies).

Getting it Done

This is not one of those types of tasks that you can do yourself. By law, you have to hire a custom’s agent (called an agente aduanal) to handle the whole process for you. You should contact the agent 7-15 days prior to the date that you want to import the vehicle.

Just to be very clear: the only way that you can legally nationa- lize your car is through an agente aduanal.

If someone tells you that they have another way to get it done, make no mistake about it — it’s illegal and you risking more than just losing your car.

Let’s Wrap This Up

The purpose of this article is only to give you an idea if your vehicle would be eligible to be nationalized in Mexico. Since you can’t do it on your own anyway, I didn’t get into the paperwork involved or the details of the importation process. If you have questions related to those or any other part of the process, you should direct them to a licensed agente aduanal.