Driving to Mexico and How Tourist Auto Insurance Works

If you're planning on driving in Mexico you'll likely need tourist auto insurance, as your US auto insurance policy likely won't work outside of the country. The cost of temporary auto insurance isn't too expensive. The typical six-month insurance policy comes out to about $200. If you only need coverage for a shorter period, the less you will have to pay. Many of the Mexican cities along the US-Mexico border will have places to purchase auto insurance coverage right after entering the border.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years

UPDATED: Nov 12, 2020

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If you are planning a road trip through Mexico, there are many things you need to take into consideration. Driving in Mexico can be a great way to cover lots of ground and be able to see all the tourist hotspots and resorts that they have to offer. Although it is relatively safe to drive in Mexico, if you are going to drive in another country, then you need to know how auto insurance protects you and your vehicle while you are there.

Tourist auto insurance works a little differently than the coverage that you are used to in the United States, so it is essential to know how it works, and what it covers while you are traveling. This article will take a look at what type of auto insurance you’ll need in Mexico, what it includes, and how you can purchase it.

Your US Auto Insurance Policy Probably Doesn’t Apply

Something that you will need to know about driving in Mexico is that your US auto insurance policy will likely not cover you the same way it would back home. US liability insurance policies are not valid within Mexico. Even if your insurance company tells you that you are adequately covered when driving in Mexico, you may still want to purchase local auto insurance or temporary supplemental coverage to ensure that you are covered for most situations.

Sometimes border security will stop you at the Mexican port of entry and check to see if you have adequate insurance coverage before they allow you to enter. Most of the time, however, they will let you continue without inspecting your insurance. You don’t want to end up leaving anything to chance, so it is better to pick up local auto insurance temporarily than to get stuck with expensive medical bills, repair bills, or bail charges. Because driving without insurance is a risky endeavor, even within US borders, the US State Department strongly recommends purchasing an auto insurance policy with full coverage before driving into Mexico.

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Tourist Auto Insurance Policies Are Available in Mexico

When in Mexico, you will need to purchase a civil liability policy in the minimum amount that will cover you if you are in an accident that results in bodily harm or property damage. It is also a good idea to make sure that you have personal health coverage to help financially protect you and your family from a collision caused by another driver.

The cost of temporary auto insurance isn’t too expensive. The typical six-month insurance policy comes out to about $200. If you only need coverage for a shorter period, the less you will have to pay. Many of the Mexican cities along the US-Mexico border will have places to purchase auto insurance coverage right after entering the border. Therefore, you can drive right up to an insurance agent, quickly purchase an insurance policy, and be on your way in no time.

If you are worried about the language barrier preventing you from buying auto insurance in Mexico, don’t worry! Many of these border towns and cities are filled with people who speak English. The insurance agencies, especially, cater to American tourists and will all have agents that speak English fluently.

Don’t Forget Your Vehicle Import Permit

If you want to drive your own car in Mexico outside of the designated free/border zone, then you will need to pick up a vehicle import permit when you enter the area. These permits allow you to drive freely as a guest of the country (as if you have a license issued by them). The cost of these permits come to fifteen dollars and can be obtained at the border. If you plan on purchasing a permit, however, you must make sure that you have a major credit card for payment because cash is not accepted.

To obtain a vehicle import permit, you will need to have your US driver’s license, your vehicle’s registration papers, documents that show proof of ownership, and your US passport. You will need to make sure that you secure all these documents before you head out for your trip, or you will not be able to get a permit. If you aren’t able to get a permit, then you may have to end your trip early, as driving without a permit outside of the designated zones is illegal.

As mentioned above, in specific areas of Mexico, you may not need to purchase one of these vehicle import permits. Certain areas of Baja California and Northern Mexico will be within the free/border zone. However, it is safer to get a permit anyways, even if you will be staying in those areas, because you could accidentally venture into another territory while traveling. If something happens while driving outside of that area, then it could end up costing you a lot of money in fees if you don’t have the proper permit.

Rental Car Insurance and Driving in Mexico

If you are not planning to drive your own car while traveling and will instead opt for renting a vehicle while you are there, then you will be happy to know the process of renting a car is a lot like it is in the US. The same big-name rental car companies that you are familiar with in America all do business in Mexico as well, and the vehicles available in Mexico are all similar to the vehicles available in the states.

However, rental insurance is quite different, and you need to pay attention to what you’re getting when purchasing it. First, you should see if the agreement is in English or Spanish. Read over it carefully if it is in English and get someone to translate it if it’s written in Spanish. You want to make sure that you have full coverage in case of an accident, so you aren’t paying out of pocket if something happens.

You will also want to do a walk-through of the car with the rental agent to detect any minor damages, like scratches or dents, to ensure that you will not be charged for damaging the vehicle when the damage was already there. You also won’t want to rent a car in the US and drive it into Mexico because the rental and insurance costs will be much higher than if you were to simply rent a car in Mexico.

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Without Insurance You Could End Up in Mexican Jail

If you attempt to drive in Mexico without insurance, you are risking huge fines or even jailtime. If you cause an accident, you could end up in an even worse situation. It is extremely important to make sure that you are properly covered so that you don’t end up with a headache that could’ve been easily preventable.

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