Posted February 14, 2014 by & filed under Baja, Driving to Mexico, Free Zone, Sonora, Vehicle Import Permit.

Mexico’s Hassle Free Vehicle Zone or “Free Zone

The Hassle Free Vehicle Zone, which is also sometimes referred to as the Perimeter Zone, the Liberated Zone or the Free Trade Zone, are areas along the international border that have been designated by the Mexican government to have reduced customs requirements. The free zone initiative was begun to help promote Mexico tourism and create greater economic growth for the areas along the U.S. border. Within the free zone, customs importation requirements are essentially removed, allowing goods from other countries to enter Mexico duty free. The Mexican customs checkpoints have been moved further into the interior of Mexico, typically 20 to 26 kilometers, to create a zone that extends along the entire northern border of Mexico.

Mexico Hassle Free Zone sign


A few Mexican states have extended free zones

All of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, including the states Baja California and Baja California Sur are inside the free zone. Also, the northwest portion of the state of Sonora, where the zone Mexico Federal Highway 15 is delineated by a couple of Mexican Federal Highways. The Free Zone includes the portion of the state of Sonora that lies to the northwest of Mexico Federal Highway Number 2, starting at Agua Prieta, extending through Cananea, up to where it intersects with Mexican Federal Highway Number 15 in Imuris. From Imuris, the free zone is again all of the areas to the north and/or west of Mexico Federal Highway Number 15, which runs south through Magdalena, Santa Ana, Casa Blanca, Benjamin Hill and Hemosillo.

Just north of Guaymas, Highway 15 splits with the Libramiento Guaymas portion extending towards the southeast. Here the free zone encompasses the areas to the south and to the west of Highway 15, to include the areas of Santa Clara, Hacienda El Pardo, Guaymas, and Empalme. The end of the free zone is marked on Mexican Federal Highway Number 15 at kilometer 98, southeast of Empalme.

Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit not required

Within the free zone, the temporary import permit is not required. However, if you travel outside of the free zone, you will have to pass through the customs checkpoint, and will need to pay a deposit to obtain a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit Sticker, which you will need to display on your windshield. Temporary vehicle import stickers must be returned at the border. If you do not return the sticker, not only will you forfeit your deposit, but you also will not be allowed to apply for any future Temporary Vehicle Importation Permits. So, until you return the sticker, you won’t be able to bring any other vehicles into Mexico.

Once you return the importation sticker, then your deposit can be returned. For more information about obtaining Temporary Vehicle Importation Permits, you can contact the Banco Nacional del  Ejército, Fuerza Aérea y Armada, a.k.a. the Banjercito.

Even in the free zone, you still need to purchase insurance

If plan to drive your car, truck, van, SUV, motorcycle or motorhome across the border, even if you will be staying inside the free zone the entire time, you will need to have a valid in-force policy that includes Mexican liability insurance coverage.

It does not matter if you are only driving a few feet across the border, you are required to have Mexican liability coverage anywhere inside of Mexico. It is also important to remember that by Mexico law, no U.S. insurer can sell Mexican liability insurance, and the mandatory coverage may only be obtained from an actual Mexican insurance company.

So, even if your U.S. insurance includes an extension of physical damage coverage for Mexico, you still must purchase a separate policy that includes liability coverage from a Mexico insurance carrier. If you would like to learn more about what is included in Mexico Liability insurance policy, as well as the other coverage items that are available, please visit the Mexico Insurance Professionals website at: The page also has links to an online form where you can get quick and easy comparative quotes for Mexico Tourist Auto Insurance from all “A rated” Mexican Insurance Carriers. You can even purchase and print your policy, right from your own computer, anytime, day or night.

If you have other questions about the Mexico free zone, temporary vehicle importation permit requirements or about Mexico Tourist Auto Insurance in general, you can call to speak with a Mexico insurance specialist agent at 888-467-4639.

35 Responses to “Mexico Hassle Free Vehicle Zone”

  1. Alberto Garcia

    can an African or Europe plated car be in the free hassle zone?
    for how long can be in Mexico?

    thank you.

    • Roxanna Brock McDade

      Hi Jerry. According to Explore-Sonora Agua Prieta is one of the these major cities that are all in the Free Zone: Major cities and towns within the Sonora Free Zone include: Nogales, Naco, Agua Prieta, Cananea, Imuris, Magdalena de Kino, Santa Ana, Altar, Caborca, Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point), Sonoyta, San Luis Rio Colorado, Hermosillo, Guaymas, Kino Bay and San Carlos.

      • Jerry

        Thanks Roxanna! It seems route 2 cuts through the middle of the city and the wording surrounding the boundaries and where they begin/end is a bit confusing when you consider Agua Prieta. The other towns towns and cities within the free zone? – no question, but the whole city of Agua Prieta straddles the start and end of the free zone.Thanks again!

  2. Tom Robertson

    Hello, I have a question regarding driving a US plated car in Mexico that I can’t seem to get a definitive answer on. I hold a Permanent Resident card and I realize that I can no longer get a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for my US plated car. For this reason only, my wife continues to enter Mexico on a tourist visa so she can get the TIP when we drive to Mexico for the Winter.’

    I have read that a holder of a Residente Permanente card is not allowed to get a TIP for a foreign plated car, and I understand why. But, can I drive a foreign plated car that is brought in by my wife? I realize that if stopped by a cop I don’t have to show him my green card, which he probably wouldn’t expect me to have, but would I be legal driving that car brought in by my wife?



  3. Amei Binns

    I dońt know if you are the correct place to ask this question. I apologise if you are not.
    This is my problem: I am a German tourist travelling in my own car( shipped from Germany to Uruguay) through South America and soon through Central America. I then want to sell my car somewhere in Mexico and fly home.
    Is this easier in the free zone? Where can I get information on the necessary procedure? Can I only sell to tourists from abroad? Would it be easier in the States?
    Thank you for your patiece
    Yours sincerely
    Amei Binns

  4. Robert McDonald

    Can a Permanent Resident of Quintana Roo have a U.S. plated vehicle to drive ONLY in Quintana Roo?

  5. Matt

    You are the only website that says you must return to the exact same Banjercito office when you exit the country. All other sites say you can exit at any Banjercito office. Are you saying the rules have changed and the other 20 websites I’ve visited are wrong?

    Also, are you allowed to exit and return to Mexico multiple times during your 180 days as long as you don’t cancel the import permit until your final exit?

    • Roxanna McDade

      We checked the Banjercito website, and found your complaint is correct. You do not have to go back out the same port. The paragraph from the Banjercito temporary vehicle import rules are listed below.

      “In the case of vehicles and mobile homes, The ‘IMPORTER’ must show the actual vehicle or mobile home to ‘BANJERCITO’ personnel at the modules located at the border, in order to register its return to the country of origin. If he/she fails to do so, the ‘IMPORTER’ WILL NOT BE ABLE to apply for future Temporary Import Permits for vehicles. Boats leaving the country by sea, that wish to cancel the Temporary Import Permit, may do so by presenting a copy of the boats Port Clearance papers and original temporary import permit to the Banjercito personnel at the modules located at the port of departure or submitting the petition for cancellation by mail to Banjercito´s main office along with above mentioned documentation.”

      More information about exit and re-entry can be at the following website:

      Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We will correct the article promptly.

    • Tom

      Matt, you do not need to turn your TIP into the same Banjercito Office from where it originated. I have had several over the last few years and I have never canceled it at the same office. My first was issued at the Mexican Consulate in Phoenix, and I cancelled it in Caborca, which is the nearest office to Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco). The other two TIP’s I have had were originated in Reynosa, at the TX Border, and then canceled 6 months later in Chetumal, at the Belize Border. Hope this helps

  6. Keihon

    Hi There,

    Thanks for the article- this is very helpful. I am still very confused though after reading numerous different responses and posts:

    Am I allowed to bring my speakers/tv/subwoofer and a few other higher priced equipment to mexico without paying duties? And do I have to still declare them at the border? Thanks in advance for your response 🙂

  7. sophie


    i Hope that maybe you can help me! i’m french and i bought a car in florida few years ago. Now i live in mazatlan, mexico, with a temporary resident permit and a temporary import permit for my car. last week i learned that now it’s not possible to nationalise my car here in mexico because he’s too old 1999)…very bad news…! because i’m french it’s seems to be very dificult to go back to the states for sale it (no longer avaiable adress in the states, expired vehicule registration…)
    so my question is: Is it possible to go to the border office, return my importation sticker, get back my deposit and after sale my car in the free zone? (maybe it’s easier for a dealer to sale it in the state or nationalize it??…i don’t know…)
    Thank you very much for your help.
    Have a good day

    • Mike Mercer

      Hello Sophie,

      Unfortunately, Mexico has changed their importation policies, in efforts to reduce the overall number of imported vehicles inside Mexico, and thus bolster the sales of Mexico vehicles, which helps the Mexican economy. The Secretaria de Hacienda y Crédito Público de México, currently requires vehicles to be specifically eight to nine years old, in order to be eligible for permanent importation and Mexico nationalization of the vehicle.

      Yes, you should be able to return your temporary vehicle importation sticker, by driving the vehicle back to the same border crossing, where you originally brought it into Mexico. However, to get your deposit back, the border officials will require the vehicle to immediately leave Mexico. So, you would not be able to drive or sell the vehicle inside Mexico’s free zone in Mexico, but would instead have to sell the car, back in the U.S.

  8. Paul

    I’m looking everywhere for help with my case with no luck so maybe you can help. We are a Canadian family from Calgary and we were planning to take a trip to Yucatan by car this spring. We obtained an temporary import permit on line which expires August 25th, 2015. Due to family issues we will not be able to make this trip this year. Saying that we need to cancel import permit. We’ve contacted Banjercito and Aduana. Aduana Mexico advised to take a car to Mexican Consulate in US which in our case the closest would be Denver (well over 1000miles one way) After contacting Consulate in Denver we were directed to Aduana in Denver. Response from Aduana in Denver was to take a car to the border. Another option they sugessted was to bring the car to Denver on October 8th when they can take cancellation. That is the only day that will take cancellation. That would be way after permit expires in August. Is there any other way to cancel this permit before it expires without showing at the border? Driving to the border is out of question as it is almost 2500 miles one way.
    Any advice is greatly appreciated.

  9. Lu

    I’m looking for the straight answer concerning taking my ATVs into “free zone” Rocky Point, we will only be there 4 days but I’ve heard conflicting stories. Do I or do I not need a permit to take them to rocky point? I leave in a week and have been trying to get an answer for a few months now.

    • Mike Mercer

      Rocky Point (Puerto Peñasco) is definitely located inside Mexico’s free zone, so you will not be required to obtain a temporary vehicle importation permit from Mexico’s Banjercito authority for any of your vehicles. However, be sure to have each vehicle’s current registration ready as you cross the border, as the Mexican authorities often check to be sure you are the legal owner of the vehicles, and also to verify that the Vehicle Identification Numbers all match your paperwork. You might also find the following article useful, as it describes the process of crossing the border, on the way to Rocky Point:

  10. rich

    Just curios if you need to have your title in you are only travelling in the free trade zone. We are heading to Rocky Point in 3 weeks and I cant seem to find a straight answer. I still owe on my vehicle. Can you shed some light onto this?


    • Mike Mercer

      All tourist vehicles entering Mexico (including the Free Zone) must have current vehicle registrations from their country of origin. Vehicles that do not have current registration documents, can be confiscated and impounded by the Mexican authorities. You do not need to take your vehicle’s title with you to Mexico, but you must always have the vehicle’s registration, ready to show to the authorities. On my last trip to Rocky Point, a uniformed official from the Servicio de Administración Tributaria (SAT), at the border crossing, checked my vehicle registration, to make sure it matched my Vehicle’s Identification Number (VIN), before letting me drive into Mexico.

      Since you are still paying off a loan, the lending institution still maintains some ownership in your vehicle, so you will need to obtain a written letter of permission, from the lienholder, before taking your financed vehicle into Mexico. You can learn more about Permission Letters for Vehicles Being Driven into Mexico, in the following blog article:

  11. Celie Rupe

    All I want to know is since Baja is a Free Zone and there are so many tourists, are we required to nationalize our cars. We own property in California as well, so I don’t get why I have to nationalize my car. Am I reading this wrong. If I am in a free zone, I am exempt from nationalizing my car?

    • Roxanna McDade

      Tourist vehicles do not stay in Mexico. Visitors, temporary student residents, and temporary residents are allowed to bring one vehicle into Mexico temporarily. If you have a temporary resident visa that expires (after four years) and then have to get a permanent resident visa, you also have to nationalize your vehicle. It is illegal for Mexican permanent residents to operate vehicles with foreign license plates. Thank you.

      • Nidza Busse

        Hello, can you please quote where in the laws it states what you are saying regarding the car importation requirements, while permanent? And the free zone specifications? Thanks.


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