Moving to Mexico: The One Thing that Many People Wish They Had Done Differently

We’ve received tons of emails from our readers, many of whom are fellow expats living in Mexico. The expats normally write me to share their personal experiences or ask for advice.

Those emails have definitely accelerated my learning curve when it comes to Mexico and they have also been the inspiration for many of my articles.

Here are two very interesting facts about those emails:

  1. I’ve never corresponded with a single person who regretted their decision to move to Mexico.
  2. Of the people who say they wish they had done something differently, more than 80% name the same thing.

So, what was that one thing? The majority wishes that they had not brought their car to Mexico.

The border crossing into Mexico at Tijuana sees an enormous amount of traffic from the USA. Border of USA and Mexico, Tijuana, Mexico

A Common Problem

Importing a vehicle into Mexico is not as simple as merely driving it across the border. Mexico has strict regulations when it comes to importing a vehicle, especially when it comes to importing one permanently.

Many expats from the United States or Canada begin their new lives within Mexico with a temporary resident visa, which allows them to temporarily import their vehicle into Mexico for the duration of that visa.

Depending where you go in Mexico, you may be required to get a Temporary Import Permit (known commonly as a TIP). The TIP decal is attached to your windshield and it clearly shows the date the expiration. This makes it easy for the police at the checkpoints to see if your vehicle has been in Mexico too long.

For the next four years, they happily motor around Mexico with a car that still bears the tags from their former home.

This is where the headaches and legal problems begin for many of them.

You are only permitted to have a temporary resident visa for a maximum of four years, after which, you have to apply for a permanent resident visa — or leave. The problem is that Mexican law prohibits you from continuing to “temporarily import” a car once you get a permanent resident visa (Ley Aduanera, Art.106).

This leaves most expats with only two options: 1) remove their car from Mexico prior to obtaining the permanent resident visa, or 2) permanently import the vehicle, also known as nationalizing it.

The second option sounds great, right? Well, that one may not even be an option for you, depending on the age of the vehicle and where it was manufactured. I told you Mexico was strict when it came to permanently importing a vehicle.

By now, I think you can see why many expats say they would have done this one thing differently.


My advice for anyone who wants to permanently move to Mexico is to sell your old car and buy a car in Mexico. It will make your life so much simpler in the long run.


**Additional notes: 1) the import rules are different for RVs; 2) a temporary import permit (TIP) is nor required to drive in the baja peninsula, the free zone of Sonora or within 25 km of the border.