Driving into Mexico is one of the options that some people could consider when visiting, especially those folks living in the U.S. Bringing your own car certainly has its advantages. I usually drive my own car to Mexico when traveling with family. It’s more comfortable for road trips.

You may be wondering about the requirements you must fulfill in order to drive across the border and I’d be more than glad to help. I will provide some pros and cons and shed some light on the subject based on my experience. Let’s get started!

Legal Requirements

Guy driving against the sun and wearing a hat.

The government bureau responsible for issuing temporary permits for entry into Mexico is Banjercito. They have offices at all border crossings and in some consulates in American cities like Houston, Chicago and Los Angeles.

You can request the permit either in person at one of their offices or online. Whatever option you choose, you will need to do the following:

Prove your identity. You can do this by showing your Permanent Resident card (if you’re Mexican), your passport or passport card.

Prove your ability to drive. You can do this by showing your unexpired driver license.

Prove ownership of vehicle. This can be done by showing your car title or current car registration.

Pay for a temporary permit. The permit costs 59.16 USD regardless of the car model.

Leave a deposit. You can either use a credit card or cash. The amount will vary depending on your car model. This deposit will be returned upon canceling your permit and will be reimbursed in the same form of payment you used.

Model Amount
2007 and newer 400 USD
2001-2006 300 USD
2000 and older 200 USD

You will be given a sticker that you have to place on your windshield while in Mexico. This will be removed after cancellation of your temporary permit.

Pros of Bringing Your Own Vehicle

When deciding whether you should bring your own vehicle or not, there are some things you could consider:

  • It can be more cost effective. For example, in our case, traveling to Monterrey by bus costs us around 450 USD for 3 people. By bringing our own car, we can cut that down by half or even more.
  • You’re used to driving your own car. Driving a car you’re not used to can be tricky in the beginning.
  • Checklist with four check marks to the right.

    You know the exact condition of your car. When you rent one, you don’t know if the car has received adequate maintenance or if it’s about to break down.

  • You don’t have to worry about returning on time to avoid penalty fees or excessive payments.
  • Rental car companies can be too strict about the conditions in which you return their car.
  • You don’t have to deal with the tricky practices of rental car companies.
  • You can plan a more flexible itinerary instead of adhering to public transportation/tour schedules.

Cons of Bringing Your Own Vehicle

While there are many advantages, there are other disadvantages worth mentioning:

  • If you’re not familiar with the area or you don’t have GPS, you can get lost on the road. When you hire a tour or travel by public transportation, you don’t have to worry about that since operators know the routes by heart.
  • In case you need to file an insurance claim, it can be a hassle. Dealing with your insurance carrier while abroad or a foreign insurer can be tricky.
  • No matter how well-maintained or new your car is, it can still break down or you could end up having car trouble due to an incident. When renting a car, you can usually get immediate assistance, but it can be a problem when driving your own car.
  • It can be time-consuming. Of course, it depends on where you go, but you could be looking at several hours driving. If you’re not pressed for time, then it doesn’t really matter.
  • If there’s only one driver in your group, it might be tiring. For example, if my parents travel by themselves, it’s alwayGuy extending his hand in front of him and displaying a red stop sign on his hand.s my father who drives since my mother can’t do it. When I go with them, we take turns and it’s easier, but it’s hard for just one person to drive a long way.
  • Some of your money is tied up. Since you have to leave a deposit when obtaining a permit, you won’t be able to use that money while traveling. Although to be fair, the same thing applies to renting a car.

Other Important Information and Recommendations

Traffic light with red, yellow and green from top to bottom.

Temporary permits are valid for 180 consecutive days or 180 non-consecutive days total during 1 year after issuance of the permit. You can open and close your permit for as long as you haven’t used up your 180 days.

Only Mexican citizens can obtain a permit at one of the several consulates in the U.S., previous appointment needed. Otherwise, you will have to either get the permit at the border crossing or online.

Lines at border crossings can get long, especially during peak season like November and December. You might want to consider getting your permit online.

If you decide to get your permit online, you can do so between 10-60 days before your entry into Mexico. Once approved, you will receive your permit within 11 business days by mail. That means you have to submit all paperwork at least 22 business days before planning on crossing to Mexico.

Whenever possible, pay in cash. It’s easier to get your deposit back this way. You can avoid delays because of miscommunication between the government bureau and the bank.

Have a binder ready with both originals and copies of all your documents. You don’t want to waste time looking for a place to make some copies. This happened to me the first time. Never again.

Either the vehicle owner or a direct relative can obtain the permit after proving their relationship. In this case, additional papers like birth and marriage certificates will be needed.

I can never stress enough the importance of having car insurance when traveling. Although it’s not a requirement to get a temporary permit, it’s always a good thing to have. If it’s important to have car insurance in your home country, much more when driving your vehicle abroad.

Conclusion

If you live in the U.S. or Central America and you’re looking for ways to save money, then you should definitely consider driving into Mexico. Like I stated above, there are several pros and cons of doing so. You have to consider them all and choose what is more convenient for you.

Driving into Mexico is not that hard. It can be fun and a good bonding experience. I enjoy driving with my family and spending time together. Plus, you can advance at your own pace and make adjustments as needed. This is the perfect way for road tripping.

I hope you have found this useful. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Please share with family and friends. See you soon!

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34 Replies to “Driving into Mexico – Crossing the Border by Land”

  1. Hi Enrique, this is a very helpful article! I have traveled to Mexico both by plane and in my own vehicle. I prefer my own vehicle, but it can definitely be intimidating to know how to cross the border. Our biggest concern was buying an insurance policy that covered our vehicle in Mexico, since our USA policy did not.

  2. I have never been to Mexico but I am currently in the middle of trying to obtain a passport so I can make this trip. I haven’t thought about whether or not I would like to fly there or drive, but this was very helpful.

    I never knew you had to obtain a permit and pay a deposit, this is great info to know!

    Thanks

  3. This is really good information. I’ve only crossed the border into Canada by car so that’s my only experience. But it seems like there are some different regulations for going into Mexico. I’m sure it could get overwhelming by driving yourself into a new country, but having the freedom to go at your own pace certainly adds to the overall experience. Great job, thank you for sharing your knowledge and past experiences.

    1. Hey, Dereck,

      Thanks for your comment. It’s much appreciated.

      I always drive to Mexico whenever possible. It can be a good option when traveling and looking for ways to save money. However, you have the time factor to consider as well.

      Glad you found this useful. Let me know if you ever need any tips or information regarding visiting Mexico.

  4. Nice post. Believe it or not I was recently thinking of what would be like to drive your car to Mexico. I have never been there and I think if I ever go (plan is some day for sure) I will book a flight to make it a big more easier. But, some parts of the country closer to the U.S. I think can be visited via car. Thanks for also pointing out the pros/cons and as well as what documents are required if someone decides to drive there.

    1. Hi, Yama,

      It is always good to know about this as we never know when it can come in handy. Our American friends have an advantage over other foreign travelers because of their proximity to Mexico. If you’re looking for ways to save money, driving your own car can be a viable option.

      Thanks for commenting. Hope you visit someday.

  5. Well I have never thought that driving into Mexico was a good idea but this has me thinking it wouldn’t be that bad with your own car. Just have to remember all of the little steps to getting in and out with your car and your home free. I will definitely remember this in the future. I don’t travel much but would be something fun to do with another couple and add that to the list of vacations i have taken with my wife. Thank you for all the information it was very nice to be able to read this and learn that it really wouldn’t be hard to drive right into Mexico.

    1. Hi, Douglas,

      Yes, driving could save you some money and can be fun. Although you have to consider other factors like time. However, if time is not an issue, you could seriously consider doing it.

      Glad you found this useful. Let me know if you ever need more information or tips. Thanks for commenting.

  6. Very valuable article, Enrique, thanks for that. We are considering going to Mexico next year so I will save the link of your website to my favourites.
    Can you advice me how to find affordable and safe accommodation?

    1. Hi, Sophie,

      So glad to hear you’re considering visiting!

      Answering your question, the sites I usually use to look for lodging are Expedia and Booking. You can find lots of options of different prices and filter them using different criteria. You can also read reviews from other people who have stayed there before. Finally, you can compare the prices you get on those sites against direct prices from the hotel themselves.

      Feel free to reach out if you need more help. Thanks for commenting.

  7. That’s some pretty good points that I didn’t even think to consider. I mean the thought of just traveling by land definitely does sound fun, but at the same time the risks involved sort of make me hesitate. Especially your cat breaking down, that would certainly not be fun. But are there rest stops along the journey?

    1. Hi, Jasmere,

      Yeah, driving your own car can be fun. The problem is your car can break down at the least expected moment, although the chances decrease if you give proper maintenance to it.

      Answering your question, yes, there are rest stops along the way, although there aren’t as many as in the U.S.

      Thanks for commenting.

  8. It’s such a shame that there isn’t like a giant bridge crossing the ocean. I love going on road trips, but taking my car over the ocean just isn’t possible ;). However, do you know if you can go with an American rental car across the mexican border? I’m planning a trip to the states and might sound amazing to visit Mexico as well.

    1. Hi, Virendra,

      Yes, it’s a shame. But there is an underwater bridge connecting the United Kingdom and France, if I’m not mistaken? Lol

      Answering your question, I believe you can, but it’s not that easy. Most American companies will only allow you to drive their cars in the U.S.

      Thanks for commenting.

  9. When I lived in British Columbia I did think of visiting Mexico. And I probably would have driven as there is so much of the States that I would love to see.

    However that fell by the wayside when I decided to voyage to Australia, as my mum was born there and I had never met her family.

    You have detailed the travel Mexico requirements very well and anyone visiting your site, will be well prepared. Or they certainly should be.

    As for taking my own car. I am still in Australia many years later. One state, Tasmania is an island way down south, so the ferry or plane are the options to get here. Before we did move south to Tassie, we used to drive down and visit. One huge benefit of taking our own car was we could pack and minimise what we had to buy once there. And there was always ferry deals so the cost was way less than flying and renting a car.

    We would pack our Esky (coolbox), carry staples and utensils etc. We could stop and eat anywhere and often did. It certainly saved us money.

    Now back to Mexico. Back in prehistoric university times, a friend of ours did visit Mexico. Coming back, he and fellow travelers were stopped and detained at the border. They couldn’t think of anything they had done wrong and weren’t carrying anything so were quite bewildered. Until one official mentioned a payment to allow them back into the States. Hopefully that has ceased.

    Great article.
    Ciao
    Helen

    1. Hi, Helen,

      That’s so cool! I’ve always wanted to visit the Land Down Under! Hopefully someday I will.

      Glad you found this article useful. That’s one of my main objectives.

      You elaborated very well on the benefits of driving your own vehicle. Aside from cutting down the costs, it can be a fun experience, you can advance at your own pace and you have more flexibility to adjust your plans.

      Sorry to hear about your friend. I’ve never experienced that, but it must be disconcerting.

      Thanks for dropping by. Let me know if you ever visit and you would like more tips or info.

  10. Thanks for the informative post. I used to cross into Nuevo Laredo, Mexico from Laredo, Texas many years ago. If I ever do again I now know where I can go to get the information regarding the legal requirements.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi, John,

      I used to cross over there, but lines can be really long, especially during peak season. However, if you’re just planning to stay at the border, you don’t need to get a permit. It’s only necessary when driving further inland.

      Thanks for commenting.

  11. Very informative post, I like the way you have enunciated every little detail which we must take care while traveling from Mexico. Though I have never done this but after reading your post it sounds to be an exciting journey – Are there any good restaurants on the way ? Would like to your view on the same ?

    1. Hi, Satz,

      Glad you found this useful. That motivates me to continue doing my best.

      Driving can be an exciting experience, especially with friends or family. Answering your question, there are several restaurants on the way. But keep in mind the border is quite extensive, so it’s a little complicated to give some recommendations. I recommend you use an app like Yelp or Foursquare to look for places with good reviews.

      Thanks for commenting.

  12. This article had everything you need to know if you are traveling by car to Mexico. Very thorough explanation of the process, which is important to know when traveling. While my Fiancé and I have never been to Mexico, we have had mixed experiences with rental car companies. We were in Florida at the beginning of this year and only had a vehicle for the first few days of our trip. After that, we were at the mercy of Disney and family to get us around. I think having a vehicle makes a trip more relaxed, as you can go at your own pace, like you specified in your article. Unfortunately, where we live (Newfoundland, Canada), forces us to have to fly anywhere warm and sunny like Mexico.

    Excellent post for a reference for anyone traveling by car to Mexico.

    1. Hi, Rodney,

      Yes, I’ve found some rental car companies to be hit or miss. Although in my experience, it’s been okay most of the time.

      Sorry to hear about your experience in Florida. Those situations can totally ruin a vacation.

      I’ve always wanted to visit Newfoundland! When’s the best time to go?

      Hope you visit Mexico someday. Thanks for commenting.

  13. Hi Enrique,

    Great information about driving to Mexico. You have covered all the necessary aspects of a road trip going there. I am not residing in the US at the moment, but ff I hear that any of my friends there are planning to drive to Mexico I will definitely recommend them to read this first.

    -Joonas

    1. Hi, Joonas,

      Feel free to share with family or friends or whoever might need it. It’s always good to know these things in case you need them later.

      Thanks for commenting.

  14. Great article Enrique. A while back we drove to Ensenada. We didn’t know that we needed a permit to drive in Baja California. Someone once told me that if we have a California driver’s license we were allowed to drive out of State. That person could have been wrong but we listened to him anyway. Good thing nothing bad happen.

    Now I know. Thanks for the tip. Next time we go to Mexico we’ll make sure we have the necessary paperwork.

    1. Hi, Kelyee,

      Good that you mention it. I forgot to clarify that. You only need a permit to drive further inland. If you’re only statying close to the border, you don’t need one.

      By the way, did you try seafood at Ensenada? They say it’s delicious!

      Thanks for commenting.

  15. I do one driving vacation a year. Your information will be a great help when getting close to the border, I know the cost and what documents will be needed to not stand in line for hours.
    I was in Arizona a couple of years ago, I wish I had this information then as we do things on impulse sometimes. Leaving this information with the paperwork in an envelope on the next trip south will be a great help.
    Are the lines long in the summer for those purchasing at the border.
    John

    1. Hi, John,

      Glad you found this useful.
      It’s always good to know about this as we don’t know when it can come in handy.
      Answering your question, I don’t know about the border in Arizona, but I do know that borders in Texas and California can see long lines during peak season.

      Thanks for commenting.

  16. I never would have thought that there could be so many steps to taking one’s car across the border.
    Thank you for all the information.

  17. Enrique, when I lived in BC I often thought of driving myself down to Mexico. I wanted to drive as there is so many great places in the States that I could stop at and enjoy. Instead I came to Australia. My mum was born here and I had never met her family.

    I lived on the mainland but a while ago I moved offshore to Tasmania, way down south. Two ways to get here; flying or driving. My partner and I chose to drive. This way we could stuff the car with all we needed and that really cut costs. It also allowed us to follow our nose and explore.

    So I certainly recommend people look seriously at driving their own cars when traveling. Obviously if it is manageable!

    Years ago, when I still lived in BC, one of my university friends visited Mexico. Driving back into the States he was stopped on the Mexican side of the border for carrying something he was unaware of. That confused him until the person at the border told him how much it cost to let him through. Hope this doesn’t happen anymore.

    You have written a very informative post here and anyone reading it will be fully prepared for their Mexico driving trip.

    Ciao
    Helen

    1. Hi, Helen,

      Driving can be a viable and fun option for many people. As a matter of fact, I’m on the road right now. I made a quick stop at Walmart to buy a few things, but I wanted to reply to your message as soon as possible.
      About your friend, yeah, regulations and different languages can take us aback sometimes. That’s why I always recommend to do some research about your destination. I hope there wasn’t any abuse from the authorities.
      Thanks for your comment. It’s much appreciated.

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