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If you’re thinking about driving to Mexico with an American rental car, there are several things that you should know. Driving a rental car across the US/Mexico border is possible, but the level of difficulty depends on your particular plans. However, once you have the rental car across the border, you can go wherever, whether it’s seeing the hottest sights, or just picking up groceries. To help you learn what you need to know, WeExpats has put together some helpful tips on how to drive a rental car into Mexico.
CROSSING INTO THE BORDER ZONE FOR 72 HOURS OR LESS:
If you’re planning to cross into Mexico within the Border Zone—which is defined as 12 – 20 miles on the Mexican side of the border (parts of Baja California and Sonora also count; for more information, click here)—then there are special dispensations made for Americans and other tourists that would like to see a bit of Mexico on their vacation. There are no special dispensations to be taken care of. You just have to make sure that the rental company allows you to cross into the Border Zone—check with them first—and that you have car insurance that is valid in Mexico. American car insurance is not valid in Mexico. You will need traveler’s car insurance. To get a valid temporary car insurance policy, click here.
DRIVING DEEPER INTO MEXICO:
If you are driving beyond the Border Zone (which is within 12 – 20 miles, and also parts of Baja California and Sonora; for more information, click here), the first thing you must do is obtain is a tourist FMM visa and a temporary import permit for your rental vehicle. To do this, you have to pay a bond of a few hundred dollars to an official bank in Mexico. Your price will vary depending on the model of your vehicle, and your age. A bond will be issued to you, and this bond is fully-refundable when you cross back into the United States.
If you are staying for longer than 72 hours, be sure that your temporary import permit will cover the entire period that you plan on staying in Mexico. If you decide to stay longer, you will likely have to apply for another permit for the rental car, or apply for an extension of the last temporary import permit.
You must also have car insurance that is valid within Mexico—and car insurance from the United States will not work. To get a valid temporary car insurance policy, click here.
CHECKING WITH YOUR RENTAL CAR AGENCY:
All rental car company’s policies vary. It is important that you call with them to check first. Some companies will not permit you to cross the border at all. Other companies only allow you to cross the border in certain cities, American states, or specific border crossings. Many companies charge an extra fee or require that you place an addition credit card hold before you drive a rental car into Mexico. Always check with your rental car company as you are renting the car to make sure that you fully understand the rental car’s policy because policies change often.
The rental company will then issue you a written permission to drive the car into Mexico. If you have the time, it is a good idea to have this letter notarized. Be sure that the letter is addressed to “Officer in Charge of Customs and Border Protection at the U.S. – Mexico Border. Ensure that the car’s make, model, year, and VIN number are included in the letter.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT CAR INSURANCE:
The most important thing is that American car insurance is not valid in Mexico. You must secure a temporary policy before you cross into Mexico. If you cross regularly, some U.S. car insurance companies will sell you low-cost policies valid in Mexico. Some car rental companies only allow customers to buy their car insurance, so check with them first. However, if you are allowed to buy external car insurance, click here to get a valid temporary car insurance policy.
– Liability Coverage –
You will need liability coverage so that others are covered in case the accident is your fault. In Mexico, you are considered guilty until proven innocent. Without this insurance, you could be fined or even jailed by the Mexican authorities if you are at fault in an accident. For more information, click here.
– Physical Damage Coverage –
Many rental agencies will require you to get Physical Damage Coverage which protects the car in case of anything ranging from small dings or scratches, to protecting you in case the car is completely totaled. For more information, click here.
– Medical Travel Insurance –
Medical Travel Insurance is never a bad idea when you are traveling to a different country. This coverage will protect you in the event of illness, injury, or even medical evacuation back to the United States if you are unable to operate your rental car back to the United States. For more information, click here.
– Managing General Agency Insurance –
A Managing General Agency (MGA) is a company that sells insurance coverage for other insurers. These carry with them several advantages, namely that they alter or improve policies depending on the needs of their customers. For example, an MGA can negotiate for adjusters who speak English, or they can improve the online presence of the insurance brokers—which can make getting your temporary policy easier. WeExpats is an MGA. For more information, click here.
CROSSING THE BORDER INTO MEXICO FROM THE UNITED STATES:
There are typical restrictions that you must consider when you drive a rental car into Mexico. Most importantly, make sure that you have a valid passport when you cross the border into Mexico. Any minors unaccompanied by at least one of their parents must carry a notarized permission to travel document from their parent or guardian.
Mexico has limits as to what is allowed to be brought into the country. For example, Mexico only allows each individual person to bring 20 CDs or cassette tapes, 5 DVDs, and 12 unused rolls. All electronics are limited to one per person by type. That means each person can only bring in one camera, one laptop, one cell phone. . . etc. Musical instruments also follow this policy. This is to prevent unauthorized imports and tax evasion.
*Bringing firearms into Mexico is also extremely difficult. To learn more, click here.
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