Mexican Car, Motorhome, Motorcycle Permit Regulations
You need a Mexican car permit to drive your car in Mexico
Mexican Vehicle Permit Requirements
For 2014, these are the Banjercito regulations for fees for car permits to drive in Mexico. You must pay a DEPOSIT based on the age of your vehicle. You get the deposit back when you cancel the permit - If you cancel the permit on time. If you are even a day late, you lose it, though you can still cancel the permit. The car permit fee (it changes) is about $50. Motorhome permits costs about $60.
In addition, you must put a deposit on your credit card (MC, VI only - though oddly enough, they say they accept debit cards if they have the MC, VI logo). Cash is also accepted. The deposits for your car permit vary by the year model of your vehicle. For 2007 and newer vehicles, deposit is $400. 2001-2006 - $300. 2000 and older - $200. This is charged to your credit card immediately. It is refunded two to three business days after you cancel your permit.
Car & Trailer Permits
Now, a car and trailer get two permits. The car gets a six-month permit to allow it to be driven in Mexico. The trailer gets a ten-year permit. The trailer permit costs (this could change tomorrow) 644 pesos.
Those 10-year trailer permits are a dangerous thing. So often people don't cancel them, leave them in Mexico and come home, or bring them back and end up selling the trailer in the USA or Canada. Then, when they expire, they will be barred from driving in Mexico.
Please note: If the border official wants to put your car and trailer on the same permit, don't let him. If he does, you won't be able to cancel your car permit if you don't also cancel your trailer permit. In other words, you would have to bring them both back to the border. If you are getting a Residente Temporal (not permanente) visa, your car and trailer should be good as long as your immigration visa is good.
Exceptions to Needing A Vehicle Permit
You must obtain a Mexican car permit if you are driving in Mexico beyond the Mexican border - except for Baja California. No permits are required to drive to Rocky Point or Puerto Peñasco. A special "Sonora Only" permit is required if you drive only in NW Sonora, specifically north and west of Guaymas. Should you cross at Agua Prieta, you need the federal car permit that is good for the whole country. Should your travels take you south or east of Guaymas at all, you need the all-Mexico vehicle permit.
You Can Lose Your Deposit If ...
If you cancel your car, RV or motorcycle permit after expiration, you do not get your deposit back, but will be able to obtain a new permit after you cancel the old permit, no matter when. Let me be perfectly clear about this. You MUST 'cancel' or return your permit before you can get another permit. That pretty much means you have to drive the permitted car BACK to the border.
Special Rules for Residents
For Temporary residents (old FM3) and permanent residents (old FM2) things are a bit different. AND they could change tomorrow. They changed often enough last year.Double-check all this stuff while you are at the consulate, don't wait until you get to the border!
Since you have to get your residency visas validated in-country, you should have gotten a temporary travel permit stamped in your passport by the consulate. It is good for 30 days and is validated at the border. However, some border officials want to issue you an FMM. You should make sure you got a travel permit and use that. Your car permit is good as long as your immigration permit is good.
When you get your permanent or temporary permit validated, things change. For temporary resident holders, your permit is good for 2 years and so is your car permit. I honestly do not know if you will get your deposit back.
For permanent residents, you have to import your vehicle to Mexico and pay taxes on it. It becomes "regularized" or registered in Mexico. The government began cracking down on residents (impounding vehicles) who didn't pay annual taxes so make sure you do this right - if you want to keep your vehicle. You could also take it back the the USA and sell it, then buy a new vehicle in Mexico.
Yeah, You Can Get Your Vehicle Permit Online If You Want
Sometimes the link for the online Mexican car permit works and sometimes it doesn't (try different browsers, it makes a difference - you MUST allow pop-ups). When it works, it saves you a little time but costs more money. If you are driving to Mexico during the Christmas or Easter vacation time, it is definitely worth it. Otherwise, I would not waste my time or money. You still have to stop at the border to get your immigration permit, so what's the benefit?
Some motorcyclists find it of great value, however. It eliminates the need for them to carry the title to their ride, which is necessary (for them only) to get a vehicle permit.
You have to pay the Mexican Treasury department (Hacienda) by credit card (VI, MC) or debit card with a VI or MC logo. You need the title or registration for your car or RV (title only for motorcycles) and are supposed to have a notarized letter of permission to take it into Mexico if it is financed (if you can't get one, you'll probablyget your Mexican car permit -- I have never been asked for one -- but don't blame me if you run into a Hacienda official who is a sticker for rules and refuses to give you a Mexico driving car permit for not having it). Actually, I have never thought it was a Mexican government rule. I think it was something made up by the US companies selling Mexican insurance.
Can you take a towed vehicle to Mexico? A motorcycle? ATV?
These are the official rules from Hacienda.
a) A temporary import is only possible for one vehicle at a time.
b) The maximum load capacity for a temporary vehicle import is 3.5 tons, not including the weight of the vehicle.
c) You may tow with your vehicle one to three motorcycles, beach cars or dune buggies, or four-wheel motorcycles or ATVs, equivalent to the number of people traveling inside the vehicle. They CANNOT be street-legal. You must be able to provide proof of ownership for the vehicles being transported and they must be returned along with the towing or transporting vehicle. You get one permit for all.
d) It is not permitted to sell the temporarily imported vehicles on Mexican territory or use them for commercial activities.
e) The vehicle must be returned to the country of origin within the authorized time-frame as stated in the Temporary Import Permit.
Be darn sure to turn this permit in before leaving Mexico. Otherwise, you will not be able to drive to Mexico. Period. Hacienda (the treasury department) keeps really good track of these car permits.
You can't just pass them to the toll-taker at the bridge or border crossing. You must find the Banjercito / Migracíon complex and get the car permit recorded, scanned and scrapped off your windshield by a polite Banjercito employee. He or she will give you a computer-printed receipt showing you canceled your permit. There is no other way to do it.
Sonora makes it easy to cancel the permits, with kiosks at KM 21 on MEX-15 (just south of Nogales, Sonora). You pull in, someone scans your permit, does the required checking and you are done. I wish all border crossings were that simple. During Christmas and Easter vacations temporary kiosks are always rumored to be put up near Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, but so far, they are not permanent.
What If I Don't Cancel My Car Permit?
I have been told often enough by Hacienda officials that there is no fine that I believe that to be true. You can turn in a permit no matter how old - you just have to have the car and the permit.
You have to pay the Mexican Treasury department (Hacienda) by credit card or debit card with a VI, MC logo. Discover card is not accepted by them.
However, Discover is accepted on a limited basis throughout the country at some hotels, Walmart and even hospitals. This is a big change from the past. An alert reader let me know of this. So take your Discover and ask if you can use it. I found it to be accepted about 15% of the time on my trips, so don't get your hopes up.