Driving through Mexico can be one of the best ways to see the country, as your car can take you away from the major tourist centers and huge resorts. While driving in Mexico is relatively safe compared with some countries (and even some areas of the United States) it still pays to know a bit about how auto insurance protects you south of the border. In this article, we’ll take a look at what kind of car insurance you’ll need when driving to Mexico, and how the country’s tourist auto insurance works.
Your US Auto Insurance Probably Doesn’t Apply
The first thing you’ll need to accept when driving to Mexico is that your auto insurance policies that cover you at home most likely won’t apply to you while in a foreign country. Even if your insurance company insists that you’re adequately protected in Mexico, it’s still best to buy local auto insurance on a temporary basis.
Since there’s a good chance you won’t be stopped at the border on your way in to Mexico, you’ll need to have everything taken care of either before you arrive or shortly after you’re admitted in to the country. Don’t leave anything to chance – pick up Mexican auto insurance as soon as possible.
Tourist Auto insurance Policies are Available in Mexico
In Mexico, you’ll need to purchase a minimum amount of coverage in a ‘civil liability’ insurance policy. This policy will cover you in the event that you cause an accident which results in injury to another person or property damage. It’s best to have your own personal travel health insurance to protect you from accidents caused by other drivers. A full six months of auto insurance coverage in Mexico will cost less than $200, and shorter policies are even cheaper. Most US-Mexico border towns will have auto insurance agencies that allow you to purchase Mexican auto insurance, so you can take care of this with someone who speaks English before you leave the country. Having your insurance purchased ahead of time will also help when you get to the border with your automobile.
Don’t Forget your Temporary Import Permit
To drive your own car in Mexico legally you’ll need to pick up a temporary import permit, which can be obtained at the border. These permits cost about $15 and you’ll have to pay this fee with a major credit card; cash isn’t accepted for a variety of reasons. To get the temporary import permit, you’ll need to produce your driver’s license, your automobile registration papers, proof of ownership documents, and your passport.
There are a few border areas that do not require tourists to have a temporary import permit, including some areas of Baja California and some parts of Northern Mexico. Even if your driving will be limited to these areas, it may be worth paying for the temporary import permit anyway, just in case.
Rental Car Insurance and Driving in Mexico
Renting a car in Mexico is much like renting a car in the United States; the same major car rental brands will be available, and the automobiles are much the same. Auto insurance for rental cars, on the other hand, is a bit different and requires one to pay careful attention during the rental process.
It’s best to think of any insurance that you bring with you into Mexico as supplementary. Rental car insurance offered by credit card companies or by your insurance provider back home may apply in Mexico, but if you cause an accident you will be stuck dealing with many more issues than if you had just purchased the Mexican auto insurance in the first place. Save yourself the immense headaches you’re almost guaranteed to suffer if you are in a crash, and get whatever Mexican auto insurance the rental company recommends.
If the rental car contract is in English, make sure you read the entire thing to see what you will be liable for in the event of an accident. If the contract is in Spanish and you can’t read or speak the language, try to have a friend or someone you trust read over the rental agreement, focusing on the insurance policy section. The last think you need is to leave the rental car agency thinking you are fully covered, only to find out this is not the case if your car is stolen or damaged. Also, make sure you do a full, complete walk-through of the car with the rental agent. Any issues down to minor scratches should be documented to help prevent getting fleeced by the agency for ‘damages’ when you return the car.
If you’re renting a car in the United States, it’s not recommended to drive the car into Mexico. Few reputable car rental companies will allow their cars to be taken across international borders without having to pay very high insurance and other fees. If you need a car to drive around with in Mexico, it’s best to just rent one when you arrive.
No Insurance? You Could End Up in Mexican Jail
Traveling through Mexico without Mexican auto insurance is no joke. If you cause an accident in Mexico and aren’t covered with adequate insurance, at minimum you will have to pay a hefty fine – in cash, of course – and you could actually be thrown in jail as well. A quick search online will produce tales from all sorts of tourists who have suffered greatly after being involved in car accidents in Mexico, regardless of whether or not they actually caused the crash in the first place. It’s best to avoid any confrontation with Mexican police in general, and this holds true for driving infractions as well. Don’t drive in Mexico without the proper auto insurance, or you may suffer greatly!
By following the various tips in this article, you are much more likely to enjoy your time driving south of the border. While you may not end up involved in an accident, you will at least be able to drive comfortably knowing that you have the proper documentation if you are stopped by the police. As long as you follow the rules, you will generally be safe. Enjoy your trip!