Legalizing a Car for and Driving to Mexico

Check in with Aeromar is easy, and the new Austin to Mexico City service began only a couple of months ago. I am waiting for the flight.  A K-9 unit is trolling the seating areas. The dog is sniffing everywhere. We are only five hours from the border.

Justo told me he got the call last night.  The paperwork is ready.  Once the papers are ready, you have only three days to cross the border. It happened faster than he expected.  Muy rapido. He will leave early Thursday (tomorrow) morning and plans to arrive in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, by nightfall on Saturday. His brother Federico, who lives in the village, will meet him at the border and they will make the trip together.

The last two days have been filled with logistical details for La Tuga to continue on without me.

I bought MAPFRE Mexican car insurance for one year ($312USD) from Allstate agent Roger Morse after extensive online research about coverages.  U.S. car insurance does not offer coverage.  Legally, only a Mexican auto insurance policy will protect you, your vehicle, and keep you out of jail!  You can read a lot about people who didn’t heed this.

I had the car checked out once again for a telltale front left end rattle.  The Round Rock, TX, Honda dealer, after a thorough evaluation, said La Tuga is safe to drive and they couldn’t hear anything, repeating what Cary (NC) Honda told me last week.

I met with Justo to go over the route, the process of bringing a car into Mexico, to give him the insurance policy, and pay him another installment for services to legalize the car and drive.

The Process to Legalize a Car for Mexico 

This is the busy season when U.S. citizens of Mexican origin make a little extra money to buy a car, legalize it, drive it to Mexico and sell it for a profit.  Justo asked me a couple of weeks ago for the copy of the title, photos of the VIN number on the car’s dashboard and doors, and other documentation to give to a private customs broker he has worked with for the past 10 years.

 It usually takes three days for the process to get the paperwork approved in the Mexican system, but this time of year it can take a couple of weeks or more.  The customs broker, called an agente aduanale, does the legal work and applies for the permits.  The cost is $1,500.  I pay half in advance and the final payment before I leave.  I also give Justo $750 and will pay the other half when he delivers the car.  $500 of that will cover expenses (gas, motel, return bus ticket, and any gratuities to local police) along the way.

The VIN number of the vehicle is then deleted from the U.S. system and added to Mexico’s system, registering the car as a legal vehicle there. They check to make sure the vehicle is not stolen or salvaged and that the title is clean.

At the Nuevo Laredo border where Justo will cross, he will collect the pedimento (paperwork) and get the holograma, a sticker that goes on the windshield.  He will attach the pedimento to the title and give these to me in Oaxaca, where the car can then be presented for Oaxaca license plates. He will also present a list of what is packed in the car along with the value. Each of passenger is allowed $500USD worth of goods without paying duty.  He will declare any excess and pay what is asked.

Let me add, that this process only works for permanent residents and for citizens of Mexico.  If you are in the country on a tourist visa, you can’t do this.  Someone else will need to own the car!

This morning, when I picked Justo up at his house in South Austin, he told me he will be leaving at 2 a.m. tomorrow morning.  He will drive from Nuevo Laredo to Saltillo, south of Monterrey on day one, and spend the night someplace safe.  He will pass through San Luis Potosi, Mexico City, Puebla, and then arrive in Oaxaca.  Federico, his brother, is a taxista in the village, and will travel with him.  Muy rapido, he tells me this morning!

We will see each other in Oaxaca.  He drives away with La Tuga,  I wait for the Aeromar flight, and tell you about this last leg of the journey.

P.S.  If you are interested in the services of Justo Lorenzo Martinez, please contact him.  He is a personal friend, competent, reliable, and knows the process.   I have turned my car and its title over to him and trust that both he and La Tuga will arrive safely in Oaxaca.  Hasta Sabado.

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