How to Import Your Car from the USA

In addition to their sentimental and economic value, there are many reasons to bring a car into Mexico from the United States. And since then-President of Mexico Carlos Salinas de Gortari signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1992, authorizing the importation of cars from 2009, and the Vicente Fox administration published a decree in 2005 allowing their entry into our territory without major restrictions, the importation process has been further simplified. However, for a beginner or someone who does not fully dedicate himself to the task, it could be very complicated.

To learn about importation’s implications and the most efficient way to do it, we visited Javier Cortés, an independent bilingual lawyer graduated from the Centro de Estudios Universitarios Arkos, who has worked in the civil, labor, agrarian and business fields. He has personally imported cars more than five times.

To begin, our expert points out that there are two ways to bring vehicles into Mexico:

· Temporary Importation

“This type of import means that the vehicle will be brought into Mexico for a limited period, and once it has ended, it must be returned to its country of origin. It is used when visitors wish to stay in our country for periods from one week to no more than six months.”

· Permanent Importation

“When imported in this way, the car will be able to circulate in Mexican territory permanently. The car’s year, model and weight must be taken into account, since they determine the amount of taxes due and whether it can be accepted for entry into the country. In addition, you can only import vehicles with a model year eight or nine years prior to the year of import. For example, for 2018 only model years 2009/2010 or earlier can be imported.”

Javier Cortés, How to Import Your Car from the USA, Vallarta Real Estate Guide

Importation of vehicles can be done by customs at the northern border or the maritime customs to which the customs broker who performs the procedure is attached.


Noting that any person with the economic capacity can carry out the process, Cortés says that the first step is to hire a customs broker, a person authorized by SAT (Tax Administration Service), who will be responsible for the permanent importation of the vehicle. “Once an appointment is scheduled with the broker, he must be given the title of the car, the owner’s official ID and proof of a Mexican address. The broker is given the car’s license plates and is in charge of canceling them in the system.”

In the second step, still in US territory, the customs broker will verify that the car complies with the required physical-mechanical conditions and environmental protections, that it is not reported stolen (if it has not been acquired from an agency), that the vehicle identification number (VIN) matches the title, that the pedimento (proof of legal importation) is drawn up and that the required taxes are paid (at Banjercito).

“The third step, with the paid pedimento in hand, is presenting the vehicle at the Mexican customs module, so it can be checked one more time. If everything is fine, they will affix a hologram sticker indicating that the car has been legally authorized to be in the country.”

When leaving the customs premises, the car owner has two options for getting the car to their destination: drive it from the border or send it on a trailer called the Madrina. “If they choose the Madrina, all they need to do is contract the service, agree with the provider on the date of arrival in the destination city and pay. On the other hand, if they decide to drive, they must get a federal road permit, good for only 72 hours. That means you only have three days to get to your destination. The disadvantage of this permit is that it can only be given once.”

When asked whether it is worth going through this whole process or whether it is better to buy a car in Mexico, Cortés replied that in addition to taking into account the economic and sentimental value of the vehicle, other general issues would have to be analyzed, such as whether it meets a specific need (cars with adaptations to transport people with special abilities) or entails other benefits both personal and for the community.

Before concluding our interview, our expert emphasized the length of time this process takes. “Far from what you might think, it takes an estimated three to five working days to obtain the pedimento. From that point, the other procedures are only a matter of hours.”

If you need more information about the process to import cars from the United States, you can contact Javier Cortés at