Our guide to the temporary vehicle permit for Mexico is intended to simplify the process. For your average foreign driver, the temporary import permit or TIP, is very simple. Some folks with varying degrees of residency will have special rules however. Also, the laws regarding and other drivers under the TIP are notable.
Where You Can Drive without a TIP in Mexico
Before you jump into the vehicle import process, make sure you actually need the document. The border is considered a “Free Zone” and you won’t need to import the vehicle while driving inside a 25km distance. The free zone creates a buffer along the border for day trippers and commerce. This is nice, especially when you want to cross over but only for a short time period in the immediate border area.
Northern Sonora and Baja also fall within the free zone. The entirety of these regions do not require a Mexican temporary import permit. You will still require an FMM visa to travel within these zones however. If you plan on driving anywhere else in Mexico, a permit is required.
Is car insurance exempt as well?
While the free zone has some liberties in terms of import permit requirements, Mexican car insurance remains a mandatory legal requirement. You can obtain this online before crossing the border to ensure your trip is covered. Liability is the minimum requirement but full coverage is also an option. Adding a travel policy never hurts either.
Getting a Temporary Import Permit Online vs In-Person
You will find mixed advice regarding the online option. We recommend that everyone completes the TIP in-person, at the border crossing. By completing the initial TIP online, you really are not saving much time as you will still need to present it at the border.
If you choose the online route however, make sure to complete the FMM first. Be extremely diligent about getting every detail correct on both the FMM and TIP documents. If you misrepresent a single digit on your car VIN number or anything else, it can cause issues at the border.
Also, your stated entry date is set in stone when using the online system. If you have an emergency and don’t make the trip, you still must reach the border, in your vehicle to cancel the permit. You also might be denied entry for attempting to enter on a date later than you initially anticipated. We really urge everyone to get their FMM and TIP at the border. It’s just more reliable.
Wondering where to get your temporary vehicle permit for Mexico online? Visit the Online Banjercito to complete the process. You can do this at any Mexican consulate in-person as an alternative.
Don’t forget to grab your FMM visa online first as well. The entry/exit dates must also match on these documents. You can’t get the vehicle permit without an FMM.
In-Person Process at the Banjercito:
- Visit the Aduana office at the border (or the nearest aduana station).
- Present your passport and ask for the number of days desired (up to 180).
- You will fill out a card for the visa and they will issue the FMM visa. This is for your person, not the vehicle.
- Proceed to the Banjercito office with your FMM, vehicle title/registration, passport, Mexican insurance and credit card.
- They will match your FMM dates, record your personal/vehicle information and charge your card the fee + a hold until the TIP is returned.
- With your FMM and TIP in hand, you can proceed into Mexico and drive outside of the free zone. They used to have a window permit but everything is on printed documents now. Keep them handy while driving.
Who can drive the vehicle in Mexico?
After crossing the border, it’s good to know who can legally drive the vehicle. You may have family and friends around but not everyone is legally allowed to drive under your permit. The TIP holder’s spouse is eligible along with direct family members like brothers, sisters, parents and children. This is stated in the paperwork you receive.
The drivers should carry proof of the relationship. They also must be non-resident foreigners. Permanent Mexican residents cannot drive on your permit however. If the owner/permit holder is present, other drivers can control the vehicle. It’s wise to limit avoid conflict by limited other drivers however.
How Much Does a TIP Cost in Mexico?
In 2023, the Mexican temporary import permit cost just over $59 USD. This number is always subject to change but it has remained reasonably steady for a number of years. When you purchase the permit, they also place a hold (deposit) on your credit card. The hold is lifted after you return the TIP and exit Mexico.
The hold amount depends on your vehicle’s age. Vehicles pre-2000’s are subject to $200 USD while those from 2001-2006 are $300 USD. Finally, vehicles 2007 onward are $400 USD. We don’t know why they divide the rates this way and they can change moving forward but those are the current costs.
What about towed units?
Towed trailers are not vehicles but they will be noted as attached to your vehicle. If you bring one down, plan on crossing back over with the same trailer. While you can only get a TIP for a single driven vehicle, you can tow a vehicle. This includes RV’s towing a car or a towed ATV or motorcycle. You must prove ownership for each one and can have up to three (one for each passenger).
You MUST Return the Permit before Exiting the Country!
The deposit is a strong incentive for returning your Mexican temporary import permit. If you fail to stop at the border and return your permit, the charge will remain on your credit card. More importantly, you will enter the system as having violated the conditions of the TIP and the vehicle will show as remaining in Mexico.
You will not be allowed to drive back into Mexico and can have issues returning down the road. Just stop at the Banjercito before leaving Mexico and you can cross back into the USA. I typically see the charges refunded within hours of crossing over.