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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

Here is my dilemma. I plan to buy a car here in Pennsylvania and drive down to Mexico with my boyfriend (who is Mexican). I see myself as having two options:

- Take the car in on a tourist visa. The problem with this is that, I will have to drive to the border to renew the car permit every six months or a year. In Pennsylvania, your car must be inspected on a yearly basis to keep the registration (and thus, the insurance, valid). It is unrealistic for me to drive back to PA once a year, so I would have to let the registration expire. This would present a problem, I imagine, in re-newing the vehicle permit at the border (and I do not particularly want to drive to the border once a year either). I also run the risk of getting pulled over by the cops crossing back into the US after a year when it expired. Since I will eventually need to take the car out of the country, I could not do anything with it once I get over the border line since the registration will be expired - I can't drive it anywhere without risking getting pulled over by the cops...

- Nationalize the car at the border in my boyfriend's name. I have done research on this despite hearing commentary on here saying that they are no longer nationalizing cars. I contacted someone from this website Superimportaciones.com | Legalización y Nacionalización de Vehículos y Pick ups - Laredo, TX / legalizacion de vehiculos and they told me about the process, and costs. I understand it needs to be nationalized in a Mexican's name. Once I get my FM-3 visa, he could "sell" it back to me in my name. My question is, can I drive it in Mexico while it is still in his name?

Would it be better to import it as a tourist, keeping US plates, until I have an FM-3, then driving it back to the border, and nationalizing it directly into my name?

Any advice?

I imagine it would be hard to register my car in, say, a border state, since I do not have domicile there or nor do I know anyone who's address I could use. I could maybe get a post office box but I don't know if that would work.

Any advice would help from gringos who have kept their US plates but have had the registration expire because of a requirement like a state inspection etc and how they dealt with this issue, and also if anyone knows if I can drive a car that is in a Mexican's name, like my boyfriends car....

Thanks!
 

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It sounds to me the easiest route for you is to get your FM3 withing the first 6 months (length of a tourist visa) and that will allow you to keep the car in Mexico. The rule basically says, your vehicle permit is good as long as you have a valid visa.

Without an FM3 you would need to return to the border every six months to renew .... but trying to get a permit with expired plates and registration is probably not possible. Insurance for a US plated vehicle is also about half the price of a Mexican vehicle.

My car has been here since 2005 and plates expired in 2006. I entered on an FMT and switched to FM3
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks, Sparks! That does sound like a good option. How do you plan to deal with bringing your car back into the U.S. eventually, with the expired plates? That is my only concern with using this way of doing it. I know that sooner or later I have to get the car out of Mexico (or be charged), since I don't necessarily anticipate being there or having that same care forever. How will you get it back to the states? Can you renew the plates from far away? I would not be able to (need state inspection) which is my dilemma! Or haven't you thought that far ahead yet? :)
 

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Nope .... really haven't thought about it. I know you can get temporary transit permits thru states to get back home and temporary insurance. I really have no plans on driving back.

Letting your US insurance lapse is another issue .... since you'll go back on high risk when you reinstate without a record.

You'll probably never be charged for leaving a car in Mexico .... you just can't bring another in. If you were really worried - cancel your credit cars and get another.
 

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There are ways to register in other states, which don't require inspection and don't charge annual taxes, etc. When you are settled in Mexico, ask your expat neighbors what they do.
 

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I'm assuming taht you know the 10 year rule on nationalizing a car as you look to buy one.
If 10 year old car, it can be nationalized to Mexican national or FM3 holder. Can be done almost anywhere but quicker and faster at the border. One value of nationalized car is that anyone can drive. If car not nationalized and under a sticker, it can be confiscated if owner not in the car.
I don't have specific experience with PA but in the cases of NY, NJ, & NC, you don't have to have inspected till you return to the state. Just keep up registration & insurance. If you get stopped in the state on the way back, have lots of paperwork and plan to get inspected.
 

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Nationalization of a ten year old NAFTA produced vehicle is possible but it just isn't worth it any more. The fees are now very high; sometimes, more than the vehicle is worth. As such, it offers no advantages to an expat. You would probably be better off taking a plane or bus to Mexico, establishing your address and FM3, then buying a car in Mexico.
 

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I think pretty clear that there isn't a "one size fits all" option. We certainly have friends that have bought cars in Mexico and that have also nationalized a 10 year old car.
We just went through the decision to replace our primary Mexico SUV rather than nationalize it at it's 10 year anniversary. Key to us was reliability. Mexican repair shops are some of the best/most creative places that I have ever seen. They can do more with less. However, they will do almost everything that they can to use labor versus material for obvious cost reasons. I think that's great but makes me nervous for primary car with the amount of driving that we do in Mexico. Therefore for the same reasons that we decided to sell versus nationalize our 10 year old SUV, we decided that we really needed a new car.
Yes, I see all the roadside "resale markets" and the cars look great. If I were buying a "local vehicle" where not critical if a problem, I would take this chance. In fact we may do so for a local pick-up truck.
However, for prime car, I'm not that confident so we decided to buy new. We also did some research given both our people and goods hauling needs, and decided on a Honda Pilot, in part because there is a Honda dealer in Queretaro, 1 hour away. Difference in list prices was about 30%. However, the ability to negotiate price, use trade-in, and get almost 0% financing in the US made the cost more than 50% different so we bought in the US. Now we are lucky that we can register car on line without inspection until we return to North Carolina(in earlier note, I said I don't know PA but also true in NY, Nj so I would really call your DMV to verify that inspection some how requirement for registration) so we can get US insurance and therefore Mexico coverage. By the way, unless you get a pickup truck, annual registration in Mexico will be an eye opener versus at least what I pay in NC.
Really only drawback to a US car in Mexico is restrictions on whom can drive. We bought the new car in both names and plan to pay extra to have both names on the sticker but this can still be a problem with help although ours have own vehicle. This another reason why may buy used Mexican pick-up truck as local vehicle. Buy the way, I believe that with FM3 that US car good for 1 year and can do in Mexico.
 

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"Buy the way, I believe that with FM3 that US car good for 1 year and can do in Mexico." (Sic ???)

With an FM2 or FM2, your vehicle's 'importada temporal' remains valid as long as your immigration status is maintained. The vehicle must be registered somewhere and insurance for Mexico is required. Whenever you leave Mexico with the vehicle, be sure to have aduana remove the sticker and give you a receipt. You will re-import it when you return to Mexico. Your US vehicle may not be driven by a Mexican who is not an immediate family member unless you are in the car. Those married to Mexicans should carry a copy of marriage proof in the vehicle to avoid the possibility of vehicle confiscation.
 

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"Buy the way, I believe that with FM3 that US car good for 1 year and can do in Mexico." (Sic ???)

With an FM2 or FM2, your vehicle's 'importada temporal' remains valid as long as your immigration status is maintained. The vehicle must be registered somewhere and insurance for Mexico is required. Whenever you leave Mexico with the vehicle, be sure to have aduana remove the sticker and give you a receipt. You will re-import it when you return to Mexico. Your US vehicle may not be driven by a Mexican who is not an immediate family member unless you are in the car. Those married to Mexicans should carry a copy of marriage proof in the vehicle to avoid the possibility of vehicle confiscation.
You are right, only thing that I would add is that you can leave and return under the same temporary importation within the 180 day period. We do it often when we need go to Texas.
 

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There is no "180 day period" with an FM3 or an FM2.
You are playing with fire by leaving Mexico with your car sticker. The rules require that it be removed, in spite of the inconvenience and what some of the border agents may tell you. In the event of an accidental loss or theft of your vehicle, you will be fined up to the value of the car and will not be able to bring its replacement into Mexico, since Mexico assumes that the original car is still in the country. Many argue this point, but should read the details of the 'importada temporal' laws. Cars in the USA with the sticker on the windshield are prime targets for theft by illegals looking for a 'ride' back to Mexico. A friend had his stolen from a dealer's lot in California when he took it in for warranty service. It was eventually found in Mexico, he was trapped in the USA, couldn't bring in another car, insurance fought payment, etc., etc. You wouldn't want the headaches and expenses that he went through. There are other cases, where someone just decided to trade cars & forgot his obligations; bought a new car & couldn't bring it to Mexico, etc., etc.
So, if you insist upon taking the chance of driving out of Mexico with the sticker, be prepared to return to Mexico by bus and buy your new car there, in the event of theft, wreck, fire or unexpected breakdown requiring purchase of a new car.
 
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