Thursday, June 26, 2008

happy contrails to you

Oregon winters may be dark and drizzly, but our summers are near picture perfect. Especially, the length of the days. At 9:30 I am sitting in the hot tub enjoying the sounds of the evening. And it is still light enough for me to read the high jinx of our national politicians.

Of course, there is plenty of light for me to see the series of jets heading south. I see evidence of three. They are gone, but they have left behind cirrus aviaticus -- contrails, as we land-bound folk say.

There is probably a lesson to be learned here. When first formed contrails are as narrow and uptight as the passengers on the flying penitentiaries -- where penance is not cheaply purchased -- that form them. But nature will have its way. In seconds the jet stream starts widening and softening the edges -- until they are less Mondrian and more Turner, especially when they shift into rose as part of the sunset.

And what does all that have to do with Mexico?

This week I have been allowing myself to start over-thinking two issues involved with my move: car insurance and banking.

John of
Viva Veracruz is currently in the States trying to renew the Colorado registration on his vehicle. He has hit on the same problem that Bliss of 1st Mate discussed earlier this month. If you take a car, properly licensed in one of the States, south of the border, we all know that you need to buy Mexican insurance. That's the law. However, some bloggers are discovering to their literal cost that if you do not keep your insurance in place, your registration can be voided in some states. Of course, the insurance is of no value as long as the car is in Mexico.

One option is to merely decide not to return the car to the States. For years, foreigners have been driving cars in Mexico with expired American registrations. Now and then, in some areas of Mexico, people are stopped.

Some expatriates have started wondering whether those days may be over, as well. With the growing move to deny capital gains exclusions to foreigners, it is certainly not out of the realm of imagination that the Mexican authorities will expect vehicles to either have a valid registration in the country of origin -- or in Mexico. Scofflaw gringos will be a misty memory.

Most of us could accept this if there was some way for Canada, the States, and Mexico to have a reciprocal agreement on registrations and insurance. It would be a great NAFTA clause. Of course, in the current political environment, there will be no further liberalization of travel between the three countries.

As for my banking concerns, I keep forgetting that the ur-blogger, Michael Dickson, has given all of us great advice in that area. I just need to remember that I do not need to reinvent the wheel. And there is another great advantage of reading blogs.


Billie Mercer said...

Steve, it takes a while to cobble together all the details of economic life in Mexico. We certainly didn't have it all figured out when we came down but gradually we've worked it out. One of the things that a number of ex-pats in SMA have done is register their cars in Texas and gotten Texas driver's license etc. Since most figure that is the closest point to cross back over, it makes it a little easier to take care of registerations, license plates etc. especially if there is a problem. Also, a trip to Laredo or Brownsville or even a little further North to San Antonio puts you in shopping heaven so you can replenish "stuff."

Babs said...

Hey Steve - I don'tknow about Oregon, but Texas you can renew your registration online, as long as you have car insurance. So, it's simple to buy a "liability only" policy for a month for $45 and renew it then. As far as Mexican car insurance, it is NOT a law to have it. However, if you are in an accident and don't have it, you go to you want to have it. Mine only costs $310 a year! Much, much less then the USA. You can contact AIG Mexico online and get a quote. I happen to have mine with a local insurance agent....but you can do it online.
As far as banking, I have a local bank only to have oney in for the maid and gardener to go get paid every Friday - that way if I'm out of town it is all taken care of - but I keep all my other banking in the USA and just use ATM's to get money - keep it simple.........I've never had any problems with it that way in 8 years!

jennifer rose said...

Back when my cars had Texas plates, I passed off my Mexican insurance to satisfy the insurance requirement. Of course, it wasn't any good in Texas, but the trick worked for me. My Mexican car insurance runs $1725 MN annually from Inbursa.

MexicoConnect's fora,, are a good resource for you to explore.

Islagringo said...

I was going to leave a comment but it got too long. Will send you an email instead.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

On, they've written a blog entry on how to import your car (forever) into Mexico. Frankly, unless you have a special, rare car, it sounds like a hassle that is best avoided.

Personally, I'd be inclined to sell my US car and buy something in Mexico. That would save a ton of hassle all around.

The mexican (or US, or Japanese, as the case may be) car that you buy will likely be cheaper than a similar model in the states. Depending on your point of view, this is either a good thing or a bad thing. How could it be a bad thing? Mexico has much more "relaxed" regulations on cars, so they don't include U.S. safety features such as door reinforcements or airbags. On the non-regulatory side, they also aren't typically burdened down with things like electric window lifts, electric seats, 14 cup holders, and automatic transmissions, though you can probably get that last item if you want it.

Volkswagens are made in Mexico, and Hondas, Nissans, Mazdas and increasingly Toyotas are all imported there. The U.S. makes are available as well.

While I drive pretty nice cars here, if I were to live in Mexico,I think I'd buy something less noticeable, like a Mazda. The last thing you want in Mexico is a car so nice that it screams "RICH GRINGO--KIDNAP ME!!!!"

Michael Dickson thinks I'm paranoid, but I haven't been kidnapped yet. And most of my Mexico time is spent in DF.

And for what it's worth, I've never been anywhere in Mexico where my ATM card didn't provide me with the ability to get about 4,000 pesos in cash per day. While that isn't a ton by US standards, it'll get you pretty far in Mexico. Credit cards are pretty widely accepted too.

Fond Regards,

Kim G
Boston, MA
(where summer is indeed lovely, but winter is the horrid payback)

New Beginnings said...


Can you give me the URL of the blogger that discussed the banking situation?


Deb Hall ~ Zocalo de Mexican Folk Art said...

I'm with Kim G. If we had it to do all over again, we would have sold our US cars and purchased vehicles in Mexico. Something used, scratched and dented. Done. We are now starting the process of legalizing our 10-year-old vehicles. I'll let you know how that goes...

Steve Cotton said...

Wow -- What great responses. I am going to need to establish a new state residency when I leave Oregon (as soon as the house sells), and Texas is as good as anyplace. It certainly meets my tax needs. I lived almost a year in Laredo, so it is not exactly foreign territory.

But I think I may just leave my car behind and buy one in Mexico. Michael Dickson and Kim have consistently argued in favor of that position.

New Beginnings -- All of Michael Dickson's blogs are fantastic. He just edited down the blog I referred to. You can find it at:

Michael Dickson said...

If you read Gringo internet forums dealing with Mexico with any regularity you can´t help but notice the recurring theme of little nuisances dealing with foreign-plated cars down here. Mostly the nuisances are minor, but they are ongoing. Eternal.

I understand why Gringos want to bring their cars down here. They already have the dang things! Often paid off and still running fine. It is hard to ignore that part of it.

There is something I simply find annoying about foreigners moving here with the intention of living here forever, but they keep a car registered in another country! And, even worse, Mexico lets them do it.

Plenty of blame to go around here.

Not long ago, I read on the internet about a Gringo who has lived here permanently for almost 20 years. Yet he still has a pickup registered in Louisiana! Incredible. The same fellow reports that he´s been stopped by Mexico City cops numerous times.

I spent a total of about two months last year driving in Mexico City. I have Mexican plates. I never get stopped. Coincidence?

If you ever make the transition to a Mexican-registered car, you will feel better about yourself. And life will get easier.

P.S. It saddens me to see that young Kim G. still thinks he might get kidnapped!