In our continuing tradition of inviting talented guest authors to explain the details of complex issues that commonly affect people living in Mexico, we invite Mark E. of Patzcuaro to tell us about his recent trip to the USA. Mark had a Mexican-plated car that he needed to use in the USA. Following his bent for typically very-thorough research, Mark explored the common options, and worked out all the kinks that most of us encounter when driving our Mexican car back North of the Border (NOB). Here is Mark’s account – replete with lots of useful tips on how to make the process work very smoothly – avoiding common mistakes:
“Having just concluded a 6 week visit to the US with our Mexican-plated car, I offer this recap of what I learned about car insurance for driving a Mexican car back NOB. A fairly straightforward process led to us carrying a stack of fresh new insurance documents with us on our trip. Since there were no accidents or traffic stops, fortunately I had no opportunity to test the stack of papers.
Key Notes on Insuring Mexican Cars for Driving in the US & Canada:
- We drive a Mexican vehicle, originally sold new in Mexico. It was not imported from the US and so it does not have a lingering trail of a US-registered VIN info, or US plates.
- We have liability and collision/theft/physical damage in Mexico with ANA Seguros.
- The Territory clause of the ANA policy says that collision/theft/physical damage coverages extend to the US and Canada without any time limits. Liability, however, does not extend outside of Mexico for our policy.
- In the original packet of papers from ANA, they provided a special $100K liability policy that was good in the US, issued by National Unity Insurance of Texas. This coverage is valid for up to 28 consecutive days in the U.S., and meets the minimum liability requirements of all US states. The National Unity paper (it’s in English) is what you would show US police if asked for proof of insurance.
- We stopped at Mexican immigration in Piedras Negras just before crossing the bridge, to obtain exit FMMs and to have our passports stamped. I wanted physical proof of the date and time when the 28-day clock started ticking. (Editor’s note: This is a particularly wise detail, especially if you ever think you want to apply for Mexican Citizenship in the future, or if you might want to apply for a Homeowner’s exemption from Mexican gains taxes on a future property sale.)
- The National Unity policy is only valid for residents of Mexico, including some Residente Permanentes and some Residente Temporales. Speaking with the company’s underwriter by phone, that does not mean a “Residente Permanente” visa card is sufficient, but rather that you have a Mexican driver’s license and live full time in Mexico. Having a home in the US and splitting time between residences may jeopardize this classification. Check with the National Unity underwriter if in doubt.
- US companies likes Geico, Progressive, State Farm, USAA, etc. will not write policies on Mexican-plated cars.
- National Unity seems to write the majority of US liability policies for Mexican cars. Note that they don’t write collision, theft, or physical damage coverage. Their coverage is for liability only.
- I personally wanted a total of $300K liability for driving in the US. Many companies sell National Unity policies online. I spoke with Angela Damez who is the principal underwriting officer for National Unity. She said if I purchased an additional policy $300K of liability, it would be considered “duplicate coverage” with my $100K policy. In the event of an accident, the first written policy would be in effect, and the duplicate policy would be disallowed. She advised that I not do this.
- Instead, National Unity has an “Extension 200” policy that adds $200K liability to an underlying $100K base policy – perfect for us. We purchased it for 28 days, for US$37, from www.segurogringo.com. On the English version of their site, under Tourist, click on “Cars and Vans Extension of Coverage with Mexican plates” (nothing happens), then click on Online Quote. As you work your way through all the screens, it will ask for the underlying Mex insurance company and policy number with which the $100K National Unity policy is associated (ANA Seguros for us).
- As we planned to stay in the US more than 28 days, we purchased a regular $300K liability policy from National Unity at the same site (Tourist/Cars and Vans with Mexican Plates) for an additional 13 days. I specified that the policy would begin on the 28th day from when we entered the US. That policy costs $56 USD. The underlying ANA collision/theft/physical damage policy has no such 28 day limitation and continues in force.
- Our ANA agent asked that I send him an e-mail before departing, which I did. This email stated the policy number, the expected number of days we would be away, and the number of the $200K extension policy. I don’t know that there was any legal requirement for this since we got our passports stamped, but it was easy to comply with.
- If you take your Mexican car to the US, check for a page describing your liability coverage. Yesterday, when I picked up an ANA Seguros policy for a friend from our agent in Morelia, I noticed that she did not have the 28-day National Unity liability page in her packet. The main coverage booklet still said that the policy covered comp, collision and theft in the US and Canada. I don’t know if leaving out the liability page was an oversight by the company, or whether I got it only because I specifically discussed it with the agent before purchasing the policy. Since the friend has no intentions of driving north, it’s moot.
- When I spoke with the National Unity underwriter, she said they have this $100K liability arrangement with many (but not all) Mexican insurance companies, so folks in our situation should investigate before selecting a company for their primary coverage in Mexico.
Our circumstances may not apply to many others, but I thought I’d get all this down on paper, while the information was current. As I’ve written elsewhere, for folks who have a Mex-plated vehicle that they imported and nationalized from the US without going through the US CBP export process, I don’t know the ramifications of driving a Mex-plated car in the US whose VIN and US plates are still live in US police and insurance computer systems.
Mark E. ”
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As always, we take no responsibility for the opinions of our guest authors, but Mark E. really offers us valuable, highly-detailed insights and special tips on how to insure our Mexican cars when we drive in the US and Canada.
We now return you to your previously scheduled programming…
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In British Columbia the minimum third party liability by law is $200,000. Not sure about the rest of Canada nor about acquiring insurance there for foreign plated vehicles.
Nice work, as always, by Mark. We are proud to call him a friend.
It doesn’t get any better than this, in terms of fully informing anyone who plans such a trip.
Once I get my car imported this should prove to be useful news when I head back north for any visits. Excellent job!
We do feel lucky to have Mark author such a good report.
I am confused why the US CBP export process might impact insuring a vehicle legally registered in Mexico that will be driving legally for a temporary period of time into the US? If the US registered owner of a vehicle permanently relocates it to Mexico, or elsewhere, and advises the applicable state MVD and insurance company accordingly, my understanding is that the vehicle maintains a US history but no current record of ownership/registration, regardless of whether the export process is followed or bypassed.I recently naturalized a vehicle licensed/registered in New Mexico; NM MVD advised me to simply complete a form and return the license plate without regard or mention of CBP.
Hi! Do you know which US companies could insure a mexican plated car in US?
First, check with your Mexican insurance company: They often offer liability protection for driving in the USA.
Then check with Mexpro: http://www.mexpro.com/mexico/short-term-us-auto-insurance.html if you need additional coverage.
I agree, check with MEXPRO and also with Mexico’s large casualty ins. co.’s such as GNP Seguros which write a sizeable amount of coverage for US vehicles traveling in Mexico. They should be able to provide thorough information.
Thanks!! I’ll check with them.
I sure wish that we had bought a ANA policy instead of from Qualitas S.A.
From Qualitas, they’re the opposite – they cover Liability Insurance for repair of the other drivers car – NOT yours, and no Theft, B.I. of Medical. I will change in Oct. when back from our trip.
If one were to have a serious accident, I don’t think $300,000 in liability insurance would be adequate in the USA, or Canada for that matter
I plan to drive to Canada this spring with my Mexican plated car. I am looking for alternatives to National Unity if in fact there is one. The quote I’m getting from National Unity seems high at $527 USD for 180 days. I’m currently with Qualitas and their policy includes $100k liability for the USA and Canada, so I end up with the double coverage issue (first written) as described above. National Unity no longer seems to have the add on / top up mentioned above. I plan to be away for roughly 6 months. If you know of anyone else who provides liability coverage for Mexican plated vehicles please in the USA and Canada let me know.
speak with the people that sell you your Mexican insurance. I get additional US liability coverage for just a tiny bit more than Mx. only. Perhaps it also covers Canada.
I buy annual policies for all my cars, and I always get the US add-on, even if I don’t plan to use that car in the US. I don’t believe there is any limit to the time in the US.
Thanks Sdibaja, I have coverage thru Qualitas. Their add-on liability insurance is only $100,000. Canada requires $300,000, so it is of little value. I’ve asked my agent a couple of times and he indicates he hasn’t found anything else available. Also in Canada whatever insurance companies provide any kind of liability coverage must be registered with the associated insurance regulatory authority. So if you are stopped by police, or worse in an accident, you must be able to demonstrate your insurer is registered to provide services in Canada. I’ve used National Unity insurance before and they are registered in Canada (they give you a yellow certificate showing same), however their insurance is very expensive (more than my annual insurance in fact) for a 2011 Toyota Camry XLE). Thanks again for your prompt follow up. Terry
That sucks. I am in Ensenada, Baja so maybe we have a different menu to select from… and my needs are different.
I suggest you visit a couple other of the local sellers. Good Luck!
I will, and hopefully I’ll find some options to consider. If anything promising pops up I’ll pass it along fyi, Terry
I’m curious what happens when a mexican car is involved in an accident in usa and it is totaled, what happens?
Because the mexican vehicle is only imported temporarily to usa and the us customs expect you to take it back out of usa. What happens if vehicle is in bad accident and goes to junk yard (totaled-> cost of repair is more than vehicle is worth)
What happens? Does anyone know ? Do you tell us customs ? Or what ?
Get a copy of the police report of the accident. ??
Contact these people to ask for instructions: