When it comes to transportation to Mexico, driving is the best way to get there and get around once you arrive. If you are planning a trip south of the border any time soon, whether in your own vehicle or a rental vehicle, you may have some questions about what is needed to get on your way with confidence.
Do I Need My Driver’s License?
Yes, if you have a US or Canadian driver’s license, you will be permitted to drive in Mexico. You must keep your driver’s license with you at all times while driving in Mexico.
If you are not a US or Canadian citizen, and your domestic driver’s license is not in English, you will need to obtain an International Driving Permit (also called an International Driver’s License), which provides the translation of your license in English.
I Want to Drive to Mexico But My Car is Financed
If your vehicle is financed and you are still making payments on it, the lender still has a financial interest in your vehicle. To drive a financed car in Mexico, you will need to obtain a letter of permission from the lender.
Before granting you permission, your lender will need to see proof that you have arranged sufficient insurance to cover the vehicle while in Mexico.
Can I Drive a Rental Car in Mexico?
If you wish to rent a vehicle in the US or Canada, you will need to obtain a letter of permission from the rental car company. They will likely require you purchase Mexican auto insurance before they offer a permission letter.
In general, you can purchase insurance through the rental company, but it will likely be less expensive if you purchase from an A-rated Mexican insurer online. Keep all documentation relating to the rental vehicle with you at all times.
Do I Need an Importation Permit for My Vehicle?
You will need to obtain a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit (TIP) to drive your own vehicle into Mexico if you plan to drive outside the Mexico Free Zone. You can obtain a TIP at the border or you can apply online.
You will need your driver’s license, proof of ownership, proof of Mexican car insurance, a tourist visa or FMM, and a letter of permission if your vehicle is financed or rented. There is a fee of approximately $50 and a deposit (returned upon your return to the US) is required to get a TIP. Visit our TIP page to learn more.
Can I Drive in Mexico if I am Under 21?
You are permitted to drive your own vehicle in Mexico as long as you have a valid US or Canadian driver’s license and are over the age of 18. Rental cars and financed cars may be different, and you should discuss the stipulations with the company.
Do I Need Insurance to Drive in Mexico?
Yes. Liability coverage from a Mexican insurer is mandatory for all vehicles driving in Mexico. The amount of liability coverage you need will depend on the laws of the Mexican state in which you are driving. Purchasing online is quick and easy. Be sure you buy from an A-rated company. And if you don’t speak Spanish, be sure insurance adjusters are bilingual and your terms and conditions are provided in English.
Is it Safe to Drive in Mexico?
Driving in Mexico is generally safe, but like in the US or Canada, there are ways to make it safer. It is recommended to ONLY drive during the daytime hours, preferably on maintained highways or toll roads. While there is more traffic on the road at this time, you will be in a better position to get help if you have difficulties.
Before heading to any destination outside the US, check the Department of State website for any Level 4 warnings, so you avoid dangerous areas.
Plan your trip beforehand and make sure your phone is fully charged, you have a charger, and that you have enough gas to get you from A to B.
Public intoxication is an offense that is punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. The purchase and use of drugs in Mexico are also a criminal offense with convictions carrying jail sentences up to 25 years.
Possessing guns, knives or ammunition is also a serious offense resulting in arrest, hefty fines and sentences up to five years in a Mexican jail.
What You Need When Crossing the Mexico Border by Car
Yes! You can drive a car in Mexico! But when you reach the Mexican border be sure you have and/or obtain the following:
- A passport, pass card or green card is legally required to cross the border into Mexico and back into the US.
- A visitor’s visa or FMM for each person (non-Mexican citizens) in your party if staying less than 180 days. This is your proof of legal entry. Obtain an FMM at the border or online. The cost as of January 2020 is approximately $30 per person or free if your trip is 7 days or less and you cross by land. Stays longer than 180 days require a resident visa.
- TIP if traveling outside the Free Zone
- Driver’s license
- Mexican liability insurance
Now Can Relax and Enjoy Your Trip
Driving into Mexico doesn’t have to be a daunting experience if you prepare yourself well ahead for the journey. If you have the proper information in hand, you should have no worries while having your car available to you to explore wherever you’d like while in Mexico.