Driving To Mexico? You’ll Need Extra Insurance
By Aaron Crowe
Whether driving to Mexico for a weekend trip to the beach, an extended holiday trip to see family, or a six-month winter stay in retirement, having auto insurance specifically for driving in Mexico is mandatory.
Navigating the country’s insurance laws can be difficult, but it basically comes down to two things you’ll need and one you won’t. You’ll need a permit to drive beyond most border towns inside Mexico, and you’ll need auto insurance from an insurance company based in Mexico.
What you won’t need is your U.S. auto insurance policy, because it has no effect in Mexico and won’t provide any coverage there.
The days of “self-negotiating” your way out of trouble with some cash after a car accident there are long over, says Jim Labelle, president of International Insurance Group, a U.S. company based in Flagstaff, Ariz., that sells auto insurance for Mexico-based insurers.
Insurance rates vary based on the vehicle’s value and coverage, but most policies that Labelle’s group sells cost $15 to $20 a day for most buyers, he says. “Snowbirds” or others going there for six months or so would pay $400 to $500 a year for a policy, he says.
What type of coverage is needed?
Comprehensive and collision coverage aren’t mandatory in Mexico, but drivers will probably want to buy enough such coverage so they can be reimbursed if their vehicle is damaged, Labelle says.
“Whatever level of insurance coverage you’re getting in the U.S., we recommend you still get it in Mexico,” he says.
In January, liability insurance will be mandatory for drivers in Mexico. It can cost $300,000, for example, to settle an insurance claim if a U.S. driver negligently killed someone in an accident in Mexico, Labelle says.
Liability insurance will cover you for property damage caused by your vehicle, legal liability for injuries or death of people not in your vehicle, and medical expenses for you or other people in your vehicle.
Mexican auto insurance is needed from border to border in the country, a change from a few years ago when most border cities within Mexico were exempt.
All vehicles must have such insurance, whether the cars are leased, rented or privately owned. If car payments are still being made and you don’t own the car outright, your lender may require you to get its permission before driving in Mexico.
Temporary import permit also required
If you’re planning to drive 20 kilometers beyond the border into Mexico, a temporary import permit is required by Mexico. This law is partly meant to prevent stolen vehicles from entering the country.
A permit costs about $50 and can only be bought from the Mexico government vehicle import website. A credit card deposit of $200 to $400, depending on the age of the vehicle, is also required, and is refunded when the permit is canceled. The permit is valid for up to six months for multiple border crossings.
To get a permit, you’ll be required to show proof of citizenship with a passport or birth certificate, an immigration form for your trip, vehicle registration or other document certifying legal ownership of the car, a valid driver’s license, and an international credit card issued outside of Mexico.
Whatever type of auto insurance policy you buy for a trip to Mexico, Labelle says having a few copies on hand in case police ask to see it is a good idea. Keep a copy in the car and one with your passport, he recommends.
Having an extra insurance policy in hand to show authorities after an accident is a lot less hassle than spending a night in jail while they sort out the details of if you have Mexican auto insurance or not.
Aaron Crowe is a journalist who covers the auto industry for CheapCarInsurance.net.