Adventures in Bringing & Keeping Cars in Mexico

Nov. 18, 2013
Want a respite from our typical dry articles on Mexican Immigration law, and Aduana Law, normally chock-full-o’ internet website facts and dry citations of Mexican law? As a nice change of pace, we are happy to offer you the first hand story of a fine reader – who just (successfully?) went through the hoops of dealing with that wicked combination of older-but-much-loved TIP vehicle plus Residente Permanente …. With no further ado, here is one Yucatecan ex-pat’s story:

We came to Mexico to stay in the first part of October 2011. We drove on down to Yucatan and managed to make a lot of mistakes over the years.

This story is about just one of the errors we made, our car, a 2005 Dodge Caravan.2005 Dodge_Grand_Caravan

I made the silly assumption that once the car was 8 years old it would be easy to Nationalize.   Well, the first error was to not know all of the rules and fail to enter Mexico with an Emissions Certificate.

Next? I took the opportunity to become Residente Permanente but … delayed applying for the RP until my FM3 was about to expire.

At the same time I went to the local (Progreso) customs broker and inquired about Nationalizing the car.    He told me that he could not help me because ~ I did not have an Emissions Certificate, ~ the car had not been in Mexico for more than 5 years, ~ I did not have a current visa,  ~ and ~  my permission from Aduana to keep the car here … had expired.

It seemed to me to be little more than a bunch of “Catch-22” rules, but this is Mexico (TIM), and I am a guest, and I made the errors. Dog-the-Bounty-Hunter

Anyway, after driving the old car illegally for a period of time, we went and bought a new car from the Chevrolet dealer. We are happy with it.

The next issue: Disposal of the old car.
I thought about taking our plates off and running it out of oil, adding yet another roadside muerte out on the Carreatera, but mechanics in Mexico are geniuses and it would not surprise me if they had the thing delivering bread in Chelem within the week after I “disposed” of it. (“Plan A”)

So, I dropped that Plan A,   did some reading on the internet,   and instead decided to sell the car in Belize.    This meant going to SAT in Merida to get the “Returno Seguro” letter to take the orphaned car out of Mexico – making it legal for the first time in months.

Funny thing, that dang cure-all-that-ails permit specified that it was good for return only to my place of entry, Matamoros, MX, a 3 day, 1200 mile drive away.     I asked about taking the car out in Belize and was told that that was not possible under the R/S program. This was pretty frustrating.

We chose to drive to Belize anyway, with friends who are here on “Residente Temporal” status.    We were not stopped at any point (avoiding scrutiny of the Matamoros R/S permit), and discreetly entered the INM/Aduana area at the border with Belize at St. Elena.

Even though my old Temporary Import Permit (TIP) was long expired, the lady from Banjercito asked no questions aside from determining what we wanted to do. She issued the certificate that I had removed the car from Mexico, cancelled my old TIP, and processed the reimportation of the vehicle on a TIP for our friends.

The errors we made at the point of transfer included failure to have multiple copies of passports, visas and drivers licenses and also to have a copy of the title with the transfer portion filled in.   The generosity of a Mexican Federal employee resolved the situation for us.  border crossing


The other thing that nearly killed the deal ~ I did not have a razor blade to scrape the old sticker off the windshield.


Though I miss the van, it is nice to have the space in the driveway.

ps. We did not sign the title over to the new US expat-in-Yucatan owner until after Aduana had cancelled my old Temporary Import Permit.

* * * *
Feel free to copy while giving proper attribution: YucaLandia/Surviving Yucatan.
© Steven M. Fry

Read-on MacDuff . . .

31 Responses to Adventures in Bringing & Keeping Cars in Mexico

  1. Pingback: Adventures in Bringing and Keeping Cars in Mexico | Surviving Yucatan

  2. Kirk A Moody says:

    Here is my mess and I don’t know what to do about it. I crossed the boarder with my 07′ FJ Cruiser in Nogales with a utility trailer. I received a permit for the car and trailer three years ago. At the time I had an FM3. Now I have Permanent Residence status. At present my car is in the US, the trailer is in Alamos, Sonora. I’m told that it is illegal to drive my car in Mexico with Calif. plates and Permanent Residence status. Since the car’s vin starts with J (Japan), I can’t import it. I want to keep the car and trailer and would like to be legal. Does anyone have any ideas, advise? I am willing to give up my Permanent Residence status but am told that that is impossible to do. I can get a letter from the Chief of Police in Alamos stating that the trailer is inoperable. Does anyone have any idea’s or advise? Thanks, Kirk

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi Kirk,
      You might contact Sonia Diaz on ‘s forums. Sonia is advertising a money-back guarantee paper-only import process for 6 year old and older NAFTA and NON-NAFTA vehicles.
      ” SMAcoolist: Mon Dec 9, 2013 7:36 am (PST) . Posted by: soniangel32
      This week we received several pedimentos and facturas of cars we nationalized from as far away as Ixtapa and Manzanillo. All were done without the cars leaving their property and no driving to the border.

      Please note if you want to nationalize a non-NAFTA vehicle this is the last week to do so as after this week the cost will likely rule out doing so. A non-NAFTA vehicle is one made outside of North America and the VIN starts with a letter.

      Some pedimentos are slow and others are coming in 3 weeks. Hopefully, in the future they will all be faster.

      Happy Holidays

      cell: 044-415-106- 1499 ”

  3. Kirk A Moody says:

    Thank You Steve, I’ll check it out.

  4. Paul Lackey says:

    ********PLEASE POINT ME IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION!! ********* (sorry for the clickbait)

    Hello good people,

    I’m looking for the procedure explaining the process of driving across the border – In-and-out of Mexico into the states with an UPDATED TIP and UPDATED Temporal Residente cards.

    Many articles I read are based on people not meeting deadlines or whatnot, but that’s not our case. We’re good on everything. We have our renewed Residente Temporal for years 2-4, updated our TIP to match our R/T card at Aduana in Vallarta…..blah, blah……we’re good.

    My questions focuse directly on the procedure to exit and reenter Mexico driving our TIP truck. I much prefer the correct legal answer, versus what someone thinks, heard, or thinks you can get away with. Not looking for speculation.

    1.) Do we need to stop at aduana at the border? If yes, why?

    2.) Do we need to stop at INM before crossing the border? If yes, why?

    Thank you greatly in advance!



    • yucalandia says:

      There are no definitive single fits-all-situations answers.

      We have answered these questions in our main article on cars in Mexico at:

      Driving out of Mexico without stopping can be fine for many people.

      But… note that if you wreck~total your TIP vehicle when outside Mexico, without notifying Aduana when you leave … It can be dang difficult to get Aduana/Banjercito to cancel the TIP … and Aduana/Banjercito can legally charge you 45% if the total value of the vehicle when you brought it into Mexico … because you cannot prove to them that you did not illegally sell the vehicle while in Mexico.

      See this subsection for details: Mexico with the Vehicle and Returning Later

      and here Mexico with the Vehicle

      and here Mexico with the Vehicle

      and then note that if your TIP vehicle is stolen while you are in the USA .. without notifying Aduana & Banjercito that you are leaving Mexico, it gets really ugly and expensive very fast: Happens if Your Foreign Plated Car is Stolen

      …. so … 10,000’s of gringos drive in and out of Mexico willy-nilly without ever checking out with no problems … but it really hurts a few people.

      Finally, if you ever think you want to get Mexican Citizenship, then leaving Mexico without checking out with INM creates open unexplained gaps in your INM records… and INM and SRE just assume that you were outside Mexico the entire (undocumented) time … which can make it impossible to meet SRE’s requirements for being outside Mexico for limited times to qualify for becoming a Mexican Citizen.


      What’s your answer to your questions now? ??

      Finally, for people who cross frequently, INM and Aduana agents often legitimately tell them to not worry about checking out when they leave.

      Happy Trails,

      • Paul Lackey says:

        Thank you very much Steve!

        Follow-up questions: Let’s say we don’t stop at the border, and our car get’s in a wreck, or is stolen NOB. I understand the possibility of not being able to cancel the TIP, and/or being fined 45% of the total value of the vehicle, but what if that doesn’t concern me? I would fly back and purchase a vehicle in Mexico. I should mention, our current vehicle is only legal in Mexico for another 3 years, and it’s an old truck that doesn’t have a ton of value. NOW! Would I still be liable for the 45%? Could they still try to collect somehow? What enforcement do they have to collect those monies?

        Thanks again and best regards!


      • yucalandia says:

        Hi Paul,
        Good questions.

        The answers take us into the Land of a Few Gringo Past Experiences – which means they might or might not happen to you:

        ~ A few Gringos have found that Mexican Consulates deny their Residente Temporal visa application due to unpaid bills to Banjercito~Aduana … This could happen to you when your current RT visa expires after 4 total years. Since your computerized records get flagged, you are unable to enter Mexico until you pay the amount you agreed when you signed the TIP contract.

        ~ A few Gringos have found that when they later attempt to enter Mexico, searches of their computer records in Aduana’s national database & INM’s national database contain comments~orders to not allow them to enter until they pay the 40% valuation owed … These Gringos wheedled, whined & begged and were allowed in 1 additional time .. but were then denied future entry until they resolved the issue that they (potentially) illegally sold their TIP vehicle in Mexico. … It took these Gringos over 2 years to un-ball that mess – unable to enter Mexico by air or land.

        ~ You willingly signed a legal contract agreeing to take your vehicle out of Mexico before your TIP expires.

        … Do you advise your children ? … your daughter ? … your Mom ? … to break their promises … to break their contracts … to break the law ?

        I’m not scolding nor judging.

        I simply reflect back the realities of what you are proposing … “It doesn’t concern me” to break your public written promises,

        It doesn’t concern me” to break the law … just to save a few $$.


        It’s your choice… and driving out without checking out almost always works out fine .

        Happy Trails,

      • Paul Lackey says:

        Good notes Steve, and I appreciate you taking your time to comment, but I think you misunderstood my motivations. This isn’t about breaking or not breaking laws, or keeping or not keeping promises. I’m simply trying to learn the facts.
        I’m unsure how you think this is about saving money – not sure where that came from. I’ve already paid my TIP upon entering Mexico, and renewed our TIP paperwork with Aduana to correspond with our new RT for years 2-4.
        I fully plan to remove our truck from Mexico prior to becoming Permanent Residents in keeping with that promise. I never mentioned keeping our vehicle in Mexico after our TIP expires.
        I’ll attempt to more fully explain…..We plan on driving to-and-from the States twice a year for the next 3 years in our TIP registered truck(Approx 12 border crossings). I’m simply trying to figure out if I’ll need to stop at the border every time to cancel(and have them return our deposit and remove our TIP sticker), and conversely, having to go through the process of getting a new TIP and paying the same deposit on the way back. From what I hear your saying, is yes, I will need to stop each time at Aduana at border coming and going and complete the TIP process. If that’s the process – I’m good and will make it happen. Do you agree?
        In regards to INM, we don’t intend on becoming Citizens, so sounds like we don’t need to complete the process at the border. Do you agree?

        Thanks again! And lastly, if someone say’s their not “scolding or judging”, their scolding and judging.




      • yucalandia says:

        HI Paul,
        My bad. My mistake.

        I mistakenly thought you were the person (earlier) with dead older vehicle who was trying to figure out how to deal with their TIP without taking the car out of the county.

        I apologize…

        The better answer I should have given is that YES, you can check out when you exit Mexico but keep the same TIP. Aduana used to offer a ‘multiple exit & re-entry letter’ for people in your situation. We have not heard from anyone these past 2 years if they still offer this option for people coming & going frequently.

        I would stop at the crossing you plan to use most often, and ask them what the best way to handle it. Friends of ours have done this, and their corssing told them that if they were exiting just a few times a year, to stop every time, to register their exits with INM. They were told if they crossed more frequently, like a few times a month, then just exit without stopping.


      • yucalandia says:

        Post Script re me supposedly being judgmental: There are realities that too many people forget or ignore.** The description I gave about the choice of honoring our promises & our signed contracts is a standard one I have used for the last 9 years … and I deliver it without any emotion or judgment about you personally …

        I do note that in the past 9 years of pointing out those realities, many Gringo-individuals who openly said they planned to break Mexican law, because following the law was inconvenient or cost them some $$, were, ironically, the same people who had written prior harangues about Mexicans in the USA breaking US rules.

        **I offer the insights about our signing contracts, because many other people in the past ALSO had not thought of it that way … and had not realized they signed a contract.

        **… A few others even thought that Mexico was like Disneyland … a magical place where they did not have to follow the govt rules, especially if the Mex. Gob. had no prior way of finding out they broke the law (due to antiquated paper systems).

        Since June 2010, it’s been a different game, as the Mex. Gob. has added a nationwide network of computer databases that electronically share all the information, and too many Gringos think that they can keep breaking the law in Mexico, because they got away with it in the past. The Mex. Gobierno’s abilities to track & their willingness to prosecute & fine have changed dramatically during the last 9 years …

        Happy Trails,

      • Paul Lackey says:

        All good information Steve…..thanks again.
        I’ll let you know what happens and report back!

  5. Mark Lambert says:

    Hi Steve

    Do I understand that expired Tip letters are back to the local offices; no longer requiring everyone to apply through Mexico City only?
    I need to know where I can do this, from Cancun. Is there any on-line forms I can fill out to expedite the process?

    Thank you

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi Mark,
      SAT has a web-list of Aduana locations, by state. Here’s the Cancun entry:

      Av. Bonampak Esq. Nichupté
      S/N Supermanzana 8, manzana
      1 Lotes 4 y 5 3°Piso Centro
      Comercial y de Negocios Plaza
      Vivendi Américas, C.P. 77500
      Cancún, Q. Roo.

      Basically, you write a letter describing what you want to do, describing the new fecha de caducidad, VIN, TIP #, etc.
      = = = = = = =
      Your Location and Today’s Date
      Lic. ______ _______
      (For Progreso Aduana Office: use Mariano Bueno Guerrero)

      Administrador de la Aduana
      de _______ (city of your Aduana office), _____________, (your State)

      For Progreso, use:
      Administrador de la Aduana de Progreso

      Por este medio la gue suscribe _______ (your last name), ____ _____ (first and middle names), pasaporte no. __________________ (enter passport number), notifico a esa autoridad aduanera mi: “cambio migratorio de ingreso a Mexico” (for changes in visa status) or “cambio de fecha de caucidad a _______ (enter your new visa expiration date) de mi Residente Temporal de NUT ______ (your NUT number from your RT application), esto a fin de esa autoridad esta notificada y se me de una extension de permanencia de mi vehiculo.

      Mi dirección es:
      (enter your address and official postal code)

      Mi número de teléfono es: (enter your telephone number)

      Mi información de coche es:
      Con VIN:

      Entrego para constancia copias de:
      1. Permiso temporal de vehiculo
      2. Pasaporte (first 2 pages)
      3. Cambio migratorio nuevo (or) Renovación de mi permiso INM
      4. Comprobante domiciliario

      _____ _____ (Your Signature)
      _____ _____ (Your Printed Name)

      = = = = = = =
      There was a SAT website form you requested. As happens with so many Mex. Gob websites, it no longer works.

      Happy Trails,

      • Mark Lambert says:

        Everything after the first paragraph is Greek to me; I don’t read Spanish.

      • yucalandia says:

        Apparently, English is also a challenge, because the whole article is in English.

      • Mark says:

        Trust me when I say I have no trouble with the English language, your reply with only the information I asked for in English only would have sufficed; sarcasm isn’t necessary or appreciated.
        Happy Trails

      • yucalandia says:

        Notice that this article has just 3 words in Spanish:
        Residente” , “Temporal” , and “Permanente” … Everything else is written in English.

        Residente” = Resident
        Temporal” = Temporary , and
        Permanente” = Permanent.

        Why complain about the article supposedly being in Spanish??

        With all of today’s hair-trigger divisiveness, bitterness, & less-than-thought-out impulsive reactions,
        I mistakenly tried to inject a little humor.

      • sdibaja says:

        Mark are you trying to read this with a cell phone?
        To me, Steve’s reply seems ultra clear, and very complete. Served on a silver platter. Copy his response into a word processing program of your choice, edit as needed and print. Delivery address in included.
        The terms and phrases in Spanish are followed by (English in Parentheses) that you obviously need to delete.
        I know woordpress pages are hard to read, so maybe you need some computer help.

      • Mark says:

        Hello again Steve – I was trying to get a Tip Retorno letter to remove my vehicle. In the meantime, my wife just passed away on the 22nd here in Cancun.
        A friend here was told I can only file a request via the Internet. I didn’t see any internet address to apply with in your previous correspondence. I need to leave Mexico asap; I am also
        very sick. Please advise me on the quickest way to do this from Cancun. Mark

      • yucalandia says:

        Hi Mark,
        Contact your local Aduana~SAT (Hacienda) office, (not at the airport), and ask which location handles them now.

      • Mark Lambert says:

        I am told by a friend tonight that Merida is the closest from Cancun and you have to go there? 

        Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

      • yucalandia says:

        Have you checked whether the Aduana port offices in Cancun … ?

      • Mark says:

        Ya, I got nothing from the website? I cannot believe that nobody seems to know how to get a Tip Retorno Letter? I’ve been stuck in Mexico for 2-1/2 years because of an expired Tip

      • Mark says:

        Hello Steve – still in Cancun after losing my wife in August and having an attorney pursue my Returno Suguro Letter; which I may be receiving soon. Today I was told by a life long friend who’s lived here many years traveling only by air. He said I couldn’t pay him to make that drive. I’m told things have gotten much worse in the last 3 years; even along the Northwest coast. Should I be traveling alone, 2 dogs in the car past middle-age American.

      • yucalandia says:

        Hi Mark,
        The odds are heavily in your favor if you take one of the central-routes … Villahermosa to Puebla – Arco Norte – Queretaro – then to either Laredo or McAllen TX.

        … Definitely not the Coast route – esp. NOT Tampico – Vera Cruz – Tamaulipas – Matamoros.
        Best of luck,

      • Mark says:

        Hello Steve
        After 3 months I had to dismiss the so-called lawyer who should have had my Return letter within 8 weeks max.
        If I took my Mexican friend with me to Belize to turn in my expired Tip from (March 2016), do you foresee any issues getting a new Tip & Visa; after I’ve surrendered my Visa & expired Tip. With all the border issues right now; I’m worried about being stuck there after I’ve already surrendered my current Visa, which is good until February.
        Finding an attorney who understands the procedure for getting this Returno letter is a futile effort at best. Been trying to go home for almost 3 years because of an expired Tip. My wife dieing here in Cancun in August has made this my last mission?

      • Mark says:

        The route you advising me not to take (Northwest Coast) is how I got here. I wouldn’t think the caravans would be anywhere near that route. Has something else changed since Sept.2015 that makes these area’s unsafe now. Someone told me the route your telling me to take is not safe either?
        Confused. I found a law firm today that can get my Returno Seguro letter. With only 5 business days to get to the boarder, I can’t afford to get lost, or to have any issues that would delay me.

  6. Mark says:

    Does anyone know where to obtain a Tip Retorno letter in Cancun. I am told you have to do it online; then I’m told I’d have to physically go to Merida. Does anyone know how to get this done?

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