How does car insurance work in Mexico?

In Mexico, car insurance is required by law. All drivers must have auto liability insurance from a Mexican insurer. If a driver isn’t covered and is involved in an accident, they’re held personally responsible for any damages to property or injuries to another person.

If the driver can’t pay for the damages, they can be subject to criminal charges and jail time.

Mexico doesn’t have reciprocal laws with the U.S. regarding auto insurance like Canada does. This means Mexico does not recognize U.S. car insurance policies as valid in case of an accident or if you’re pulled over.

“Mexico is not a natural coverage territory for U.S. insurers,” says David Lervig, the founder and main instructor at the Insurance School of Texas, based in Houston.

 “Without proper insurance, you have no protection and can be held personally liable for any damages you did to person or property. Your own U.S.-based policy is worthless without an endorsement or Mexico insurance,” Lervig says.

Even as a U.S. driver, if you don’t have the right insurance, you could incur hefty fines, criminal charges or even face jail time. 

You will need to purchase supplemental car insurance. It’s temporary insurance that covers you for a specified date range and for a specified dollar amount of liability during your time in Mexico.

Be aware of what you’re purchasing and whether or not it’s appropriate for your specific travel plans.

“There is an endorsement available through most insurers, but it is limited,” Lervig says.

“For example, the accident must occur within 25 miles of the U.S. border, and the duration of the trip must be 10 days or less. This coverage may not meet Mexican insurance requirements.”

The minimum amount of insurance required in Mexico is called civil liability insurance. 

“Liability insurance protects you against damage you did with the car you drove into Mexico to people or property. Collision and comprehensive coverages protect the car you drove into Mexico for most damages done to the vehicle,” Lervig says.

It’s a good idea to purchase collision and comprehensive in addition to the minimum liability. There are also package deals available for “full coverage” Mexico car insurance that include:

  • Roadside assistance
  • Vandalism
  • Theft
  • Uninsured motorist 

  • Medical payments

    This is a great time to review everything with your insurance company to see if you have enough coverage overall, even for domestic travel.

    Where can I buy car insurance to drive in Mexico?

    “Many insurers will offer it,” Lervig says. “If your insurer doesn’t, pursue it through an insurer that offers specialty insurance. You can do an online search to find Mexico insurance.”

    Big companies including Allstate and Progressive offer temporary Mexican car insurance through partner companies in Mexico. Progressive, for example, offers coverage through MexPro.

    Again, it’s important to purchase the right type of coverage and not just a limited endorsement. The insurance must be recognized by Mexico and cover the time you’ll be there and the distance into Mexico you will travel.

    Whenever possible, do this in advance of your trip. Some people do wait because there are last-minute options in many border towns, where you’ll find places advertising “Mexico car insurance.”

    “If you wait to buy it at the border it typically will take more time,” Lervig says.

    Waiting until the last minute can also be more costly, as you’re not given time to shop around and compare quotes.

    Please note that you can’t purchase this type of insurance at the actual border crossing; you must have insurance in place before the checkpoint.

    How much is temporary Mexican car insurance?

    The cost of car insurance for a trip to Mexico depends on the type of coverage you choose, your car and other factors. 

    Progressive’s Mexico car insurance partner, MexPro, estimates the cost at between $2 and $40 a day.

    What if I get in an accident while driving in Mexico?

    It’s not fun to think about getting into an accident while on vacation, but it’s better to be prepared. If you do get into a car accident in Mexico, there are a few things you should know.

    As with any accident, don’t leave the scene. It’s also not a good idea to move your vehicle or disturb the scene until the authorities arrive.

    Call the authorities immediately. Mexico has a 911 emergency number.

    Call the claims number on your policy right away and report the accident. Your policy will assign a bilingual claims adjuster and someone to help fill out paperwork, etc. You must do this while in Mexico or your claim will not be honored.

    Do not sign, pay or agree to anything, especially regarding who is at fault, until you hear from your insurance adjuster.

    “Driving without insurance in Mexico is serious and can lead to jail time in a Mexican jail if you are involved in an accident,” says Lauren McKenzie of A Plus Insurance in Liberty, South Carolina. “Spending time in a foreign jail can be scary, and hard to understand the legalities of the situation, so make sure to carry the appropriate insurance when traveling in foreign countries.”

    Will my rates go up if I have an accident in Mexico?

    Your rates might go up as a result of an accident in Mexico, but it depends on the situation.

    “If you use a Mexico insurance policy and have a claim it will not affect your U.S.-based policy,” Lervig says. 

    “If your U.S. insurance company is providing coverage for you to drive in Mexico, and you're involved in an accident, then your insurance premium will likely go up,” McKenzie says.

    Do I need to buy car insurance for a rental car in Mexico?

    A rental car driven in Mexico must also be covered by Mexico car insurance.

    First and foremost, make sure to ask if the rental vehicle can be taken across the border. Not all car rental agencies allow it. It’s usually rental agencies in the border states that do.

    If you already purchased Mexican car insurance ahead of time, show the policy to the car rental agency and ask if it’s sufficient. Often, the policy you already have and/or the credit card you used for the rental provide enough coverage. 

    If not, the rental company will tell you what they require.  

    Some rental agencies offer Mexican car insurance, and you can sign up for everything on the spot.

    You can rent a car once in Mexico and purchase the necessary insurance there. Bear in mind that there is one fee for the car rental, then added fees for each layer of insurance coverage. 

    Whether you rent a car in the U.S. or in Mexico, “full coverage” insurance is a good way to go. It can significantly increase the rental rate but could save you in the long run if the rental car is damaged, stolen or lost on your trip. Without this coverage, you would pay for those losses yourself. It’s a good idea to call your credit card company ahead of time since they often provide some of these benefits. Then, you can make an informed decision once you get there.

    Other things to know about driving to Mexico

    Here are a few things to keep in mind before crossing the border:

    • Bring your driver’s license, passport, valid vehicle registration and proof of the Mexican car insurance policy you purchased

    • You will need a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit Card– TVIP or TIP– if you are planning to drive beyond the “Free Zones.” The Free Zones or hassle-free zones are about 25 km into Mexico; for example the Baja peninsula, a portion of Sonora. Be aware of the distance you may travel and what is required.
    • If you don’t own the vehicle you are driving, a letter of permission may be required.
    • Check with the U.S. Department of State for any travel advisories before you depart. 

    Before leaving on any cross-border trip, check with your insurance company to make sure you are purchasing the proper amount of insurance for the distance you will be traveling into Mexico and the amount of time you will spend there.