Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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In a nutshell...

  • In order to drive legally in Mexico, you need a car insurance policy from a Mexican licensed provider
  • Mexico does not honor insurance policies written by American car insurance companies for American registered cars
  • The worst-case scenario would see an American driver without adequate insurance is getting in a motor vehicle accident

When we speak of Mexico car insurance, our terminology technically isn’t accurate.

There really is no such thing as Mexico insurance per se, unless you’re talking about insurance purchased by Mexican drivers for use on their own vehicles.

Where Americans are concerned, Mexican insurance is travel insurance you purchase that’s only valid while you drive your own vehicle south of the border.

This type of car insurance is rather inexpensive, and it does come with certain restrictions and stipulations, but it is an absolute must if you plan to drive through Mexico.

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I don’t need special insurance for Canada, why do I need it for Mexico?

The United States and Canada have reciprocal insurance agreements so that drivers from either country can operate their vehicles in the other under most circumstances.

After six months of continued stay in Canada, the government considers you a permanent resident and requires you to buy Canadian insurance.

However, the United States and Mexico do not have reciprocal insurance arrangements. Therefore, if you take your vehicle across the border into Mexico without proper insurance, you are driving illegally.

This could result in legal trouble, anything from a stiff monetary fine to jail time.

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Is driving without car insurance considered a serious offense in Mexico?

Just like in the United States and Canada, the Mexican government is very serious about drivers who get behind the wheel without adequate insurance.

Their fines are quite substantial, to the point of being punitive in some cases, and they are unlikely to show much mercy to American drivers.

Unlike in the United States, every car accident in Mexico is automatically investigated as a criminal offense regardless of the circumstances surrounding it.

That doesn’t mean that the drivers involved will necessarily be charged and/or convicted of a crime, but the police will investigate it as a criminal offense nonetheless.

So if you are an American driving without car insurance, the ensuing criminal investigation may possibly result in charges being brought against you; charges which could very easily land you in prison.

Do I need Mexican insurance if I’m just traveling across the border to Tijuana?

Any American who drives in Mexico without adequate insurance is doing so illegally.

While it’s true that many American citizens take their chances when they’re just going for a quick trip to Tijuana and back, it’s still not a wise idea.

A trip that might have been planned for just a couple of hours could turn into an extended nightmare if you’re caught. Being Mexican car insurance is so inexpensive, is it really worth taking the risk?

Ask any driver who has suffered the consequences of driving illegally in Mexico, and he’ll probably tell you it’s not worth it.

Are there any restrictions on driving my car in Mexico?

When you purchase Mexican car insurance, it’s important that you inform the agent about the distance you’ll be driving.

That’s because there’s a strange little quirk in Mexican law that creates a buffer zone within which foreign drivers are still considered tourists.

However, if you get beyond that buffer zone the law considers you a vehicle importer and insurance that is more comprehensive is required.

The buffer zones may be different depending on the border crossing you choose, so be sure to talk with your insurance agent about it.

If you’re at all unsure about the amount of distance, you’ll be driving its best to err on the high side. At least that way you’ll have too much insurance coverage rather than too little.

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Where can I buy at Mexican car insurance?

You have two options for buying Mexican car insurance.

The first option, which is the most popular one, is to simply build an extra 45 minutes into your trip and stop at one of the many car insurance agencies located on the border.

The only stipulation with this option is that you need to make sure to get your policy documents in both Spanish and English. Without English copies, there is no real way to know what type of coverage you have.

Your second option is to use one of the few American companies approved by Mexico. You can find them online by doing an Internet search or by calling your primary insurance carrier and asking for their recommendations.

These companies tend to give you a better price, but they’re harder to find because there are so few of them.

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