Driving to Mexico

Car vs No Car

Having and driving a car in Mexico City is a personal decision. Some teachers feel they could not live without a car while others have lived here for several years without a car and rely on public transportation and taxis. Traffic is bad here. If you drive a Mexican car you will pay an expensive car registration fee each year based on the value of the car (approximately 3% of the value stipulated on the car's invoice), you will have to take it for "smoke verifications" twice a year and, of course, pay for gas.  If you decide to live in one of the suburbs of the city, you may want to consider driving your car down or purchasing a car here. New cars in Mexico City are more expensive than they are in the United States (U.S.).

A disadvantage of driving a car from the U.S., however, is that you may not be able to drive it every day.  Cars with foreign license plates must follow the No Driving Day schedule. If your car is bought in Mexico, it is mandatory it goes through a smog check every six months to be able to drive it every day in Mexico City.

Verification for Cars with a Foreign License Plate

The process to follow in order to be able to drive a car with a foreign license plate  depends entirely on the type of permit (pedimiento de Importación) you obtain at the border when you first enter the country; it can  either be temporary or permanent.

The procedure to follow is:

1. If the vehicle has a temporary permit (pedimiento de importación temporal), the owner of the vehicle (with a foreign license plate) must submit to Mexico’s Verification Program in order to drive in the city and the surrounding areas. Cars that do not have the verification sticker cannot use their car from 5:00 a.m to 11:00 a.m.. Additionally, based upon the final digit of the license plate, they will not be able to circulate one Saturday per month.

If you are interested in verifying your vehicle to get an everyday circulating sticker (calcomanía cero) you must go to any verification center in Distrito Federal or Estado de Mexico (any day) with the car to be verified. If you wish to know the list of verification centers (Verificentros) available, please click this link.

2. If the vehicle has a permanent permit (pedimiento de importación permanente) you can only change the license plate if the car model is from 1999 or 2000.

Laws regarding vehicle verification have changed several times in the last couple of months. To avoid misinforming you with what could become outdated information, please contact the HC Office before bringing your car to Mexico.

No Driving Day Program

All cars must be taken in for verification. Cars which are issued a zero “0” or double zero “00” hologram may circulate freely unless a "environmental pre-contingency" is declared that affects the "zero" designations. If you bring down a model older than 2001 you will be issued a ‘2’ hologram. Additionally, based upon the final digit of the license plate, the car will not be allowed to circulate one Saturday per month. 

Registration stickers on license plates and the last number on your license plate determine the schedule for the No Driving Days and the emissions checks. For example, if the last number of your license plate is a 2, your registration sticker will be yellow and you will need to have your biannual emissions checks completed during January and February for the first semester and during July and August for the second one.

The schedules for weekly No Driving Days and for the biannual emissions checks (verificación vehicular) are found in the attachment called "Vehicle Circulation Chart" at the bottom of the page.

Car Insurance

If your car is Mexican you will be able to get car insurance through the school once you arrive to Mexico City. The policy can be set up on-line on CATWEB. The car is insured regardless of who drives the car.

Driver's License

Foreign licenses are valid in Mexico if you carry your work visa with you. If you want to get a Mexican driver’s license you need to go to a designated government site (normally located in the delegaciones). Additionally, you can get a license from the Asociación Mexicana Automovilística (AMA) www.ama.com.mx. They have an office at Orizaba #7, Colonia Roma. You will need the original and a copy of your passport, work visa (migratory document) and a current telephone bill as proof of address, as well as some cash to pay for the license. You can also print out the receipt for the cost of the license, which you can pay elsewhere before going into the delegación to pick up your license. The cost changes every year and can be determined on the form that you print from this link. It is not necessary to take an exam.

Driving to Mexico

If you are planning on driving to Mexico City there are several things that you must keep in mind before starting your trip.  Below, as an attachment, you will find a document with 10 important key points to remember.

10 Things to keep in mind before driving in Mexico

Vehicle Circulation Chart

Travel Between Any Two Points in Mexico

Through this site the traveler can obtain the land route which takes the shortest time for traveling between any two points in Mexico. He or she can also determine the distance to be traveled and the highway charges to take into consideration. Definitely a very helpful resource!