Driving to Mexico
November 23, 2004 3:10 PM   Subscribe

Driving to Mexico. I read that when driving into Mexico as a tourist one must post a cash bond, or provide a credit card to ensure that the vehicle is not sold inside Mexico. Does anyone have experience doing this, and is there a way around it? How much will the deposit/credit charge be?
posted by NorthCoastCafe to Travel & Transportation around Mexico (10 answers total)
I certainly didn't have to do this when I drove from San Diego into Tijuana a couple of years ago. There are all sorts of places on the border where you can buy temporary car insurance for the duration of your trip (some/many/most? U.S. auto policies don't cover you if you drive into Mexico), but nothing like what you're describing.
posted by scody at 3:45 PM on November 23, 2004

I don't know about that, but I do know that prior to crossing the border you need to stop and buy "Mexican insurance" which costs about ten bucks a day. I would assume that if there is some bond involved, it's all wrapped up in the fine print of the contract you are given and that I've never done anything more than fire in the glovebox. Although, it's not like you have to go back to the insurance company on your way out of the country, so I really don't know.

On preview, Scody, I beleive Mexico has a no fault insurance system, ie. you're automatically at fault, regardless of who's at fault, thus the insurance is mandatory, otherwise you are driving uninsured.
posted by Keith Talent at 3:50 PM on November 23, 2004

What Keith Talent said. I was there in mid-2000 and all I needed was special insurance. They did check my registration on leaving Mexico, though.
posted by tracicle at 4:21 PM on November 23, 2004

You need to buy Mexican insurance and carry some other documents when you are driving there; if there is a serious accident you can be detained until they can determine that you are not at fault or until you can post bond to cover your potential liability. However, you can still be put in jail even if you bought insurance, so make sure you've got either good coverage or quick access to cash.
posted by stefanie at 4:23 PM on November 23, 2004

yeesh, I'm glad nothing untoward happened to me... I just drove straight in!
posted by scody at 4:25 PM on November 23, 2004

Probably not exactly what you're considering, but...

...whenever I've rented a car in San Antonio, I've gotten what sounded like a very well-practiced spiel about how "You can't take the rental car into Mexico." I think it's a fairly standard restriction among the various companies.
posted by gimonca at 4:47 PM on November 23, 2004

Are you sure you want to drive? It is not just the insurance, by driving a car you expose yourself to lot of potential ripoffs and shakedowns, including from the police. Mexican buses are cheap and plentiful, and a good way to meet Mexican people. There are also different classes of buses, from luxurious coaches that are way nicer than anything in the U.S., on down to the "chicken buses" which are a great cultural experience.
posted by LarryC at 6:53 PM on November 23, 2004

I've done this on more than one occassion. There are a couple things you have to consider. If you are travelling more than ~30 miles into the interior of Mexico, then there are multiple things you need to know. If not, then you are probably fine just driving across the border.

If you are travelling into the interior, you need to have the title on your car (car paid outright). If you do not own the title, you must call the bank that holds the lien on your car, and there is a certificate that you need to get to take your car into Mexico. You also need to call your insurance company, and get insurance to take it into Mexico. USAA took care of both things for us, but they give above average care to their customers.

You will also need your Driver's license and an immigration form for travelling into the Mexican interior.

The EASIEST way about doing this is to go to a Mexican consulate before your trip. There is one here in Austin, TX, but not knowing where you are crossing, or are from might make this a logistical problem. If you can't go to the consulate, you are going to be waiting in line at the border for a while (I've seen over 2 hours on a Friday night).

If you decide to go to the border to take care of the documents, you can get the importation permit you will need there. ANd the immigration form. Again, I'll stress that doing this at the Consulate is much much quicker and easier.

You will need a credit card in the name of the vehicles owner to get the bond. If you don't have a credit card (Visa/Mastercard/AMEX), then you will have to pay a cash bond equal to the cars value. This can range anywhere from about 1000 to 20,000 dollars.You could also get a bond from a Mexican Car Bonding company. This will be much cheaper, but I don't know how much they charge.

Make sure to check back in when you are leaving through customs (coming back into the US) to make sure everything is square. If you plan on driving into and out of Mexico more than once, you should look at buying the six month importation sticker.

Be very careful to keep all of the documents you need. If the car is found without this, it can be confiscated.

If you have questions, call the Mexican consulate in the city nearest you, and they can tell you all the rules and steps you need to follow. The forms are on their website too (I think).

Do plan in advance for this, and if you follow the laws, it's no big deal.

One last thing. It is really much much easier if you do get all your paperwork done beforehand at the consulate (if one is near you). Trust me from experience.
posted by stovenator at 9:49 PM on November 23, 2004

Also, I think there's a special permit for driving into Sonora that is different/cheaper/doesn't require a bond. You'll have to check on that.

Also, I've never had any problems with police, shakedowns, whatever. The windshield washer guys can be a little scary, but tip them a buck, and they'll leave you alone. Maybe.

The people past the border towns are really very nice, and good people. The border towns are really a different breed. All of this is the opinion my gringo self.
posted by stovenator at 9:54 PM on November 23, 2004

Some colege buddies and I drove from Bend, Oregon to a few hundred miles down Baja about four years ago. We were in Mexico about a week and I seem to remember only paying about $20 for "Mexican insurance" just over the other side of the border from Mexicali.

We had no problems while we were there... then again I think Baja might be a little more friendly toward American tourists than the rest of Mexico. ehandy trick for avoiding trouble is simple bribery. Not anything that will get you in trouble mind you, but just make sure you have a couple of cases of cheap beer in the trunk.

That way when you get stopped on a dark highway by the Federales, start tossing out beers and they'll soon be in too good a mood to spend too much time rummaging through your bags or asking for papers. Anyway, worked for us.
posted by Heminator at 2:53 PM on November 26, 2004

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