Expats Keep their American Car in Mexico with this Loophole in South Dakota

American Car in Mexico

This article concerns the American government. (This is not an article concerning the Mexican government and the legal registration of that vehicle in Mexico. For answers to how to import your car to Mexico, click here.) When you move south of the border, and you decide to keep your American car in Mexico, after some time, your state registration may need to be renewed. Letters from your home state will likely arrive requesting a safety or smog inspection to re-register your vehicle. If you live along the border, perhaps re-registering your vehicle is only a day’s drive—a short trip home—however the drive back to your home state is likely farther, and thus logistically unfeasible.

Other warning letters are sure to arrive. We have heard of temporary exemptions such as submitting a copy of your Mexican proof of insurance, which can lead to a temporary solution to registration. However, in roughly three months, the American government will inevitably begin its search anew. There is another way to keep your American car in Mexico.


It is possible to register your car in Clay County, South Dakota. It’s a small county, that discovered a great opportunity to register a non-resident American car in Mexico (as well as other countries). They do not require South Dakota residency, insurance coverage, or smog safety registration. The entire process can be done via telephone and mail. This loophole allows you to legally keep your car registered in Mexico and avoid the DMV hassles, all while providing revenue for a small county in rural Dakota.

Clay County released a memo that states:

Once again, an applicant need not have a South Dakota address to apply for South Dakota title and registration. Under current law, out-of-state residential post office addresses will suffice.

The Department understands that certain counties handle number of mail forwarding services whose customers are, in fact, true “nomads” without abodes in this or any other state. Applicants wishing only to list a mail forwarding address will be required to indicate, under the penalties of perjury already present on current applications, that he or she claims no residential post office address in this or any other state. This will allow true nomads to provide their mail forwarding address information without requiring a traditional residential post office address. However, if the person does claim residence in another state, they are required to list that address, even if it is outside South Dakota.

For further information, contact the helpful employees at the DMV Treasurer in Clay County, South Dakota: +1-605-677-7123.

Here is a document about the official statement of non-residence registering in South Dakota:

South Dakota Official Statement



The DMV for Clay County, South Dakota has a very informative website, with the details of the loophole on this page: http://dor.sd.gov/Motor_Vehicles/Non_Resident_Information/

Or you can visit a more specific title:

Policy on Non-Residence:


Affidavit in Support of Non-Residency:


Non-Residency Letter:


ATV Information:


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Comments (9)

  • Kathleen Taomina

    it’s not a loophole, it’s their law. it’s also not the american government pursuing car registration renewal, it’s the state government.

    • Cathy Harmon

      Thank you for your comment stating the correct laws.

  • Howard Glenn Livick

    Kathleen…all true, but other states have complained of South Dakota’s sanction and there is no guarantee of it’s continuance. We have 3 cars with S D. plates…huge convenience!

    • lorinda doty

      is this something I can do by myself? needing a little help we live in baja

      • Justin Barsketis

        Yes, very easy to do. Call the DMV in Clay County, South Dakota and they can help you get started

  • George Bradley

    We live in California and are considering this. Is it still an active alternative. Suggestions on the best way to legally proceed?

    • Justin Barsketis

      Call the south dakota office linked above and switch your registration to them. it is 100% legal and the office is well aware of the situation.

  • George Bradley

    Do you have to to own clear title on the vehicle in your name?

    • Justin Barsketis

      I would guess that you would have to get the banks approval if you have a lien but I am uncertain of your bank contract and what they limit.


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