Getting Mexican auto insurance from an agent or a third party source, and other documents needed to drive in Mexico.
Yes, you can drive your car in Mexico. Seriously.
But before you strike out south of the border, you should understand how to get car insurance in Mexico.
While its infrastructure doesn’t have the best of reputations, there have been significant improvements made to Mexican highways in recent years, particularly around the major cities. While back roads can still be scary, many major routes are as well-maintained as anything north of the border.
If you have business or family in Mexico, it’s not at all that far-fetched to drive down there. You just need to make sure you have the right paperwork.
Getting Mexican Auto Insurance
Unlike in Canada, American auto insurance is not recognized in Mexico. Indeed, many American auto insurance policies specifically exclude coverage in Mexico. You may be able to get away with U.S. car insurance it if you stay near the “border zone,” but even that’s subject to interpretation. If you drive more than 15 miles or so into Mexico, Mexican auto insurance is an absolute must. There’s no debate there.
It’s best to plan ahead.
Contact your agent to see if he can find you a plan. Although virtually no American insurance company writes auto insurance in Mexico, American agents may have access to Mexican auto insurance companies through brokerages. Insurance agents often use brokerages to fill high-risk or unusual insurance needs. Chances are your agent has access at least one.
Other Methods to Obtain Mexican Auto Insurance
If your agent strikes out, you can purchase Mexican auto insurance coverage online. Failing that, it is possible to purchase Mexican auto insurance near the border. The closer you get to the border, the more ubiquitous these agencies become. But be careful. If you go this route, make sure you’re working with a reputable firm and actually buying Mexican auto insurance.
As in the U.S., Mexican insurance companies are independently rated by A. M. Best, a neutral insurance rating company. Major, respected Mexican insurance companies with good A. M. Best ratings include Grupo Nacional Provincial, ACE Seguros and HDI Seguros (“seguros” is the Spanish word for insurance).
Whatever you do, don’t try to drive in Mexico without at least liability auto insurance underwritten by a Mexican company. According to the State Department, if you’re in an accident and found without insurance you’ll be detained until financial responsibility can be resolved, even if you’re seriously injured. The State Department also says your chances of jail time in such a scenario are “almost certain.”
In addition if you’re found driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your Mexican auto insurance is effectively invalidated. Obviously, don’t do that either.
Other Required Mexican Travel Documents
In addition to a valid passport or other approved travel document such as a passport card (which you’ll need to get back into the U.S.), there are several other documents you need to obtain before you legally drive in Mexico.
You and all adults in your party must obtain a Mexican tourist visa at a Mexican consulate or at a port of entry after you cross the border. The application for this visa is pretty straightforward, but you will need to go to a nearby Mexican Army Bank (“Banjercito”) branch to pay the necessary fee, which is currently in the neighborhood of $20 each. Mexican tourist visas are good for up to six months.
Remember, You’re Importing a Vehicle Into Mexico
Mexican authorities also require a “Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit” for every foreign vehicle driven in Mexico. Although there are some exemptions if you stay in the northwestern states of Baja California and parts of Sonora, these permits are required everywhere else. Getting caught without one is no joke. You may be arrested and your vehicle may be confiscated.
This permit can generally be obtained at the same place you get your tourist visa. At the customs port of entry or Mexican consulate, you will need to show the authorities at the Banjercito branch your passport, a valid driver’s license and your vehicle registration or title. Banjercito offers an English-language online application for the permit at its web site, which can expedite the process considerably.
The fee for the permit itself is around $30, while the required bond deposit can be up to $400 depending on the age of your vehicle. A credit card can be used for the bond deposit, which is given back to you once you surrender the permit upon leaving Mexico assuming there were no problems.
Don’t forget to surrender the permit before you head home. If you leave Mexico without doing so you lose your bond deposit and any future vehicle importation permit applications will be denied.
It can be a confusing situation, but it’s not impossible getting auto insurance in Mexico. Just understand the process before leaving the US.
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