What do I need to travel to Mexico by car?
Along with the essential steps facing anyone crossing an international border, here's what you need to drive your car into Mexico as a U.S. citizen, as advised by the U.S. State Department:
- Your U.S. passport or U.S. passport card
- Your state-issued driver's license
- A Mexico entry permit (Forma Migratoria Multiple or FMM), obtained at a National Migration Institute (Instituto Nacional de Migración or INM) office after crossing the border
- Your vehicle's proof of registration
- A temporary vehicle importation permit (except in the hassle-free zone), which can be obtained through Mexican government authority Banjercito online, at the border, or at certain Mexican consulates in the U.S.
- A letter of permission from your vehicle lender if your car is financed
- Proper insurance for driving in Mexico
To get your temporary vehicle permit, the Mexican government requires a deposit (they generally accept major credit cards), which is returned when the vehicle re-enters the United States. Nonrefundable permit fees are also required.
What is the hassle-free zone for cars in Mexico?
The hassle free zone, or the Sonora free zone, includes an approximate 12-mile (or 20 kilometer) wide stretch south of the Mexican border, the western half of Sonora, and the entirety of the Baja Peninsula, including Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur.
The zone has relaxed rules for U.S. citizens driving to Mexico who will be staying within the immediate border zone. Mexico waives the temporary vehicle importation permit requirement within the defined zone. Remember that while this eases the burden of getting a permit for your vehicle, you'll still need to stop for a tourist entry permit at a National Migration Institute (Instituto Nacional de Migración or INM) office after you cross the border into Mexico.
Can I take my financed car to Mexico?
Yes, you can venture into Mexico with your own financed car, if you get a letter of permission from your auto lender and the appropriate insurance coverage (in addition to the other required documents).
What's the importance of a letter of permission?
When driving into Mexico, the letter of permission from your auto lender shows that you have permission to drive the car in Mexico, even though you don't own it outright. While you may not need a vehicle importation permit within the hassle-free zone, you'll still need your lender's permission to drive it across the border, and you could be required to provide the letter to authorities at any time.
Note that it could take some time for your lender to provide a letter of permission, and they'll likely require you to show that you have insurance for driving in Mexico before they provide the letter. Progressive offers Mexico auto insurance through MexPro.