Portions of this article were drafted using an in-house natural language generation platform. The article was reviewed, fact-checked and edited by our editorial staff.

As summer approaches, many Americans are looking for budget-friendly vacation options. In fact, according to Bankrate’s Summer Vacation Survey, many Americans vacationing this summer would be willing to go into debt by using a credit card, as 26 percent of Americans planning on vacationing this summer plan to use a credit card paid over multiple billing cycles as their payment method. Traveling south of the border may be an affordable solution to lower the cost of an international vacation without losing out on fun. Plus, with stunning beaches, rich culture and mouth-watering cuisine, Mexico offers an unforgettable vacation that’s only a quick road trip away for some.

Tourists who have driven from the U.S. into Canada may be surprised by how the car insurance requirements differ. Canada accepts American car insurance without any additional conditions. In contrast, Mexico requires travelers to obtain a separate policy due to different coverage requirements and handling of car accidents. Like car insurance laws vary by state, insurance requirements vary drastically by country. Forgoing temporary Mexican car insurance to save money could do more than put a damper on your vacation if you are in a car accident — it could land you in jail.

American car insurance does not cover you in Mexico

U.S. auto insurance policies aren’t valid in Mexico, and Mexican authorities will consider you an uninsured driver if you do not have coverage provided by an authorized Mexican insurer. Depending on your insurance provider, you may see a limited Mexico coverage provision in your policy contract. This endorsement is typically available in California, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona policies since those states share a border with our neighbors to the south.

However, these endorsements have terms that may not meet Mexico’s coverage requirements. Typical conditions of limited Mexico coverage are:

  • Applies to accidents within certain miles of the border (typically between 20-50 miles)
  • Applies to collision coverage, not liability
  • Duration of the trip usually must be restricted to a certain number of days
  • Does not offer coverage for legal representation or bail bonds

This means if you’re involved in an accident, you could end up in legal trouble if you don’t have Mexican liability insurance. So, to be financially protected while driving in Mexico, you’ll need a separate Mexico car insurance policy.

Do I need to buy collision coverage for my car in Mexico?

Acquiring coverage for damage done to your vehicle requires you to purchase additional coverage options beyond the minimum liability coverage required by the Mexican government, just like here. But that is where the similarities stop.

Mexico car insurance has physical damage coverage, which is like a hybrid of collision and comprehensive coverage combined. Along with coverage for collision and upset, physical damage covers most types of comprehensive losses, such as fire, hail, flood, falling objects, lighting and hurricanes. However, here are some types of damage that physical damage doesn’t cover without an additional endorsement:

  • Vandalism
  • Theft
  • Flooding from tides

Each carrier offers different types of coverage packages. If you are concerned about having the same full coverage that you’re used to, speak to your agent and make sure you understand which physical perils your temporary Mexico car insurance company covers.

How do I get car insurance for Mexico?

Obtaining Mexican car insurance for your trip involves purchasing a separate policy covering you for liability while in the country. Unlike your standard auto policy, tourist car insurance is temporary, and you can usually buy it in smaller increments, such as just a few days or several weeks.

Aylea Wilkins and her husband, Dr. Rex Wilkins, went through this process of getting car insurance for a trip to Mexico, and were happy to share their experience. “We were driving through Mexico for a birthday trip to Puerto Penasco, Senora,” says Wilkins. “It was our first time buying Mexican car insurance or driving through Mexico.”

As many of us do, the Wilkins’ kicked off their vacation research by turning to Reddit for advice. “I knew from reading about Mexican car insurance on the Tucson subreddit from other people who made the same trip.”

The good news is that Aylea says getting car insurance is easy. “The process is rather simple online: fill out contact information, VIN of car, license plate, and dates of entry and exit.”

To purchase a policy, you’ll need to have the following information available:

  • Make and model of the vehicle
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • License plate number
  • Your U.S. auto insurance policy number
  • Your driver’s license number
  • Dates you will be traveling in Mexico
  • Locations you will be traveling to in Mexico

Several reputable car insurance options are available for purchase at the border, but if you want to keep this trip budget-friendly, you can save by planning ahead. You might save extra money by purchasing online or through your current insurer instead. Just like you can save money by getting multiple quotes for your standard car insurance policy, shopping your rate for temporary coverage in Mexico can help you find the best deal.

“Many years ago, the majority of folks would buy at the border, but now most customers buy it online ahead of time,” says Nate Watson, president and CEO of Mexpro. “We are seeing that travelers like to plan the trip, budget the costs, weigh their options and purchase online, especially since the process only takes a few minutes. There are some clients, mostly repeat customers, that even buy it on the way down on their smartphone.”

Insurance companies that offer Mexican car insurance policies

Mexico only recognizes auto insurance from carriers registered with the Mexican Department of Insurance. While no American or Canadian companies are registered to sell Mexican liability insurance, many American car insurance companies partner with carriers authorized in the country. This is exactly how Aylea and Rex bought their coverage.

Most of the advice we got from locals was to purchase it at the kiosks and convenience stores next to the border, but we decided to do our own research into it first. — Alyea Wilkins, Bankrate editor and travel enthusiast

“We determined that going with Progressive, our current car insurance company, was cheaper than getting it through those methods,” Aylea says. “We bought it in advance about two weeks before our trip.”

If your current carrier doesn’t offer Mexican car insurance, you can purchase coverage online from a direct carrier.

The following companies provide a variety of coverage options, from liability to full coverage, to meet your insurance needs while driving in Mexico:

Rental car insurance in Mexico

Suppose you’re planning to rent a car in Mexico. Mexico rental car agencies should be able to provide you with the temporary liability and asset protection you need to comply with Mexican law.

Most U.S. car insurance agencies will not allow you to drive a rental car into Mexico, so this may be your only option if you need to rent.

How much does temporary Mexican car insurance cost?

Watson says that Mexpro’s average policy cost is $127, but it “could be more if you are buying a six-month or annual policy and could be less if you are just going down for the weekend.”

The cost of car insurance in Mexico can vary widely, depending on several factors such as the carrier you choose, the vehicle you’re insuring, the duration of your stay and where you are driving.

According to Rex, location was a factor in their insurance cost. “Since we were traveling along the Sonoyta corridor, the rates were higher since this is a disputed zone.” Mexico isn’t just glitter-white beaches and perfect palm trees. Some areas are more dangerous than others, especially for tourists. Like most states in America, risk factors — like where you plan to drive your car — influence the cost of your car insurance in Mexico.

According to Wilkins, the coverage was relatively standard and inexpensive for them. For a four-day coverage plan on a 20-year-old car, it was about $50. This worked out to a manageable $12.50 per day, but it’s important to note that actual rates will vary based on the details of your situation.

Policy terms are available for U.S. and Canadian registered vehicles from one day to one year or longer. Experts recommend contacting an insurance advisor or requesting a quote tailored to your needs.

What kind of car insurance coverage do I need in Mexico?

Regarding car insurance coverage in Mexico, the only type of insurance you’re legally required to have is liability insurance that meets the minimum requirements of whatever state you are traveling through. Like America, each state has its own requirements, so it is important to carry at least the highest minimum limit of any state you may drive through.

Selecting the right level of coverage may be the most complicated part of buying temporary tourist insurance. “I think what surprised me about a lot of the coverage options were how many options there were. You could pick tons of different coverage options on how much liability and medical you wanted and then excess amount,” says Aylea. “Maybe we would have saved money with less coverage, but we preferred knowing we had a good policy in case anything came up.”

We asked Nate Watson if tourists should purchase higher liability limits than Mexican law requires. “We like to default our coverage limits to the best coverage option of $500,000 combined single limit, and for extra peace of mind, we are starting to offer up to $1,000,000 combined single limit,” he says.

Mexico tourist auto clients should have the same level of care in Mexico as they would in the USA or Canada. — Nate Watson, president and CEO of Mexpro (an NFP Company)

Remember that liability insurance does not pay for damage to your car caused by an at-fault accident, so consider adding physical damage coverage to account for possible comprehensive and collision losses.

Other important coverage types that may be helpful while driving around Mexico are:

  • Medical payments: Medical coverage for you and your passengers if hurt during a car accident
  • Legal assistance: Coverage for legal fees, bail bonds and access to an attorney
  • Roadside assistance: Coverage for tows, jumpstarts and flat tires

How does car insurance in Mexico work?

In Mexico, the police detain and verify car insurance for all drivers involved in a car accident. A judge will be the one who determines fault, and the police can detain the at-fault driver until they determine that the at-fault driver can pay for the damage. The legal car insurance requirements will vary depending on the state, but many states mandate at least the following coverage limits:

  • 100,000 Mexican pesos for bodily injury and death liability coverage
  • 50,000 Mexican pesos for property liability damage

Converted into American dollars, this equals about $5,400 for bodily injury and death liability and $2,700 for property damage. At first, you might get a bargain by buying just the bare minimum coverage, but you may want to purchase much higher limits for greater financial protection.

Aside from the cost of medical-related injuries and property damage, each state sets its own criminal and civil liability penalty that the at-fault driver is responsible for paying if the car accident results in a fatality. The formula for this penalty is minimum wage multiplied by 5,000 plus funeral expenses per person times five (or whatever number the judge decides).

According to data from Mexpro.com, one of the most popular Mexican car insurance companies, the average Mexican minimum wage was 172.87 pesos per day in 2022. So 172.87 pesos per day x 5,000 = 864,350 pesos or $45,492. Then, if the judge multiplies this by 5, the at-fault driver would owe $227,460. This is why carrying liability limits in the $300,000 to $500,000 range may be worth considering.

To see more examples of how this formula may play out, below are some of the top tourist destinations in Mexico reflecting the state’s minimum car insurance liability requirements compared to the potential liability amount that an at-fault driver may face. Please note that these amounts reflect minimum wage and exchange rates from 2022.

Tourist destination Minimum liability (USD) Potential liability (USD)
Cancun, Quintana Roo $8,000 $227,460
Ciudad de México (Mexico City) $13,000 $227,460
Los Cabos, Baja California Sur $41,000 $342,552
Merida, Yucatán $8,000 $227,460
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco $32,000 $227,460

Source: Mexpro.com
Please note that these amounts reflect minimum wage and exchange rates from 2022.

Tips for driving in Mexico

Driving in Mexico can be a unique experience, and being aware of local driving customs and regulations is crucial. Here are some tips to help you navigate the roads safely and efficiently:

  • Check for travel advisories from the State Department: Before you travel to a foreign country, always check the U.S. Department of State travel advisories for important safety information. For Mexico, they have a detailed list of areas that are safer to travel to and which to avoid.
  • Stick to toll roads when possible: Since U.S. officials have limited access to many parts of Mexico, you may not have access to emergency services if you are in trouble. The State Department advises tourists to stay on toll roads, not travel alone and exercise extreme caution when enjoying the nightlife.
  • Have your proof of insurance handy: Instead of relying on your phone to house your digital insurance card, keep extra paper copies of your car insurance, roadside assistance information and claims information in your vehicle at all times.
  • Get a temporary import permit (TIP): Tourists who drive vehicles with foreign plates and find themselves outside of one of Mexico’s Free Zones may receive fines and have their vehicles confiscated. To avoid this situation, plan out your road trips ahead of time and apply for a TIP either online or through the Mexican Consulate.
  • Understand the measurements: Speed and distances are measured in kilometers (not miles), and gasoline is sold by the liter (not gallon).
  • Watch for speed bumps: Known as “topes,” speed bumps can be unexpectedly tall and unmarked.
  • Refuel often: Gas stations can be scarce on long stretches of highway.

Planning a vacation can be stressful, but with the right Mexican car insurance in place, you can have an enjoyable vacation experience. With various cost-effective insurance options available online and through several national insurance carriers, you can afford to prioritize your safety and financial well-being without breaking the bank.

Frequently asked questions

  • Yes, you must purchase auto insurance through a recognized Mexican car insurance company if you plan to drive while vacationing in Mexico. Each state in Mexico has its own minimal car insurance requirements, so it is critical to know which states you plan to drive in so that you purchase the right coverage.
  • When driving in Mexico, you must carry certain insurance documents to comply with the country’s regulations. Here’s a checklist of the insurance documents you need:

    • Proof of insurance: Liability insurance is mandatory in Mexico. Your U.S. insurance is invalid, so you must purchase Mexican auto insurance before your trip.
    • Temporary import permit (TIP): If you plan to drive beyond Mexico’s border area, you’ll need this permit. It proves you’re only driving temporarily in Mexico and will take your car out of the country at the end of your trip.
    • Mexican tourist card: A Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM) is a mandatory permit for all foreign citizens to enter Mexico, and it should be kept with them at all times.

    It’s important to note that these documents are in addition to other required items, such as your driver’s license, vehicle registration and personal identification, such as a passport.

  • Yes, you can insure your car and your motorcycle or RV when traveling in Mexico. However, like car insurance, you need to purchase this coverage from a licensed insurance company to provide coverage in Mexico. For RVs, you can obtain insurance through an NFP agent who can add a Mexico endorsement to your U.S. or Canadian policy. Motorcycle coverage in Mexico includes physical damage, legal and bond assistance, roadside assistance and travel assistance, but usually does not include medical payment assistance. Policies can range from daily to annual, depending on your travel plans.