If you're planning to drive into Mexico, you might not realize that your U.S. liability insurance policy won't cover you once you cross the border. If you get caught driving without car insurance in Mexico, you could risk serious repercussions, from steep fines to jail time.

How to buy auto insurance to travel to Mexico

You can purchase Mexican auto insurance before your vacation begins through a Mexican insurer. Shopping for multiple quotes is the best way to know whether you're getting a good price on Mexican car insurance.

You can also purchase insurance at the border. However, this is usually significantly more expensive than purchasing car insurance for Mexico ahead of time.

How much coverage do you need?

Insurance is not required in all Mexican states. However, a proof of financial responsibility is required in all Mexican states in case of an accident. Usually, buying liability insurance is the best way to meet the financial responsibility law and to make sure you're covered. Liability car insurance covers:

  • Bodily injury covers others' injuries and the costs associated with them, as well as any resulting legal fees.
  • Property damage covers repairs or replacement of vehicles or other damaged property.

Liability insurance in Mexico works differently than in the U.S. Rather than paying for bodily injury per person or per accident, the liability limit is a lump sum. The minimum liability coverage is a Mexican state's minimum wage x 5,000 days. A recommended amount of liability insurance is $500,000, made up from $200,000 in third-party liability plus $300,000 in excess death liability.

Many basic Mexican insurance packages also include roadside assistance. Insurers understand what a hassle it is to experience car troubles, especially in another country. If your car breaks down or you get a flat tire, you'll receive financial assistance. Legal assistance and bail can also be included in a Mexican car insurance policy.

Some drivers purchase additional insurance coverage types:

  • Collision insurance pays for damages following an accident with another car or object, like a tree or fence.
  • Comprehensive insurance pays for car theft and damage from natural disasters, fire, vandalism, falling objects and other problems.

How much is Mexican car insurance?

You can buy Mexican car insurance for a few days, six months or a year. Depending on the length of your stay, purchasing a daily package could cost you more than purchasing six-month coverage.

How much does Mexican auto insurance cost?
Insurance company Cost for one week in January with travel assistance, guaranteed bail and legal assistance Cost of a 6-month policy
ABA Seguros $105.63 $428.51
Grupo Nacional Provincial $112.59 $464.94
El Aguila $112.81 $456.01
Average $110.34 $449.82
Methodology: We looked at quotes for Mexican car insurance for a 2017 Honda Accord with $500,000 in liability, comprehensive and collision coverage, gap coverage, travel assistance, and bail and legal assistance. Your own rates will be different.

Tips for driving in Mexico

Just because you're a phenomenal driver in the United States doesn't mean you'll be a great driver in another country. Here are some tips for navigating Mexican streets.

  • Brush up on some basic Spanish. Learn some basic Spanish before crossing into Mexico so you can understand the street signs. Even some of the most simple signs may confuse you. To start with, alto means stop.
  • Know where to find one-way street markings. One-way signs in Mexico can be easy to miss, as they are often placed on buildings.
  • When in doubt, yield. Streets going in the direction of the green arrow have the right of way, while streets going in the direction of the red arrow must yield. Yield if you aren't sure of what to do.
  • Avoid driving at night. It's much easier to follow the rules of the road when there is greater visibility. If you can keep your driving to the daytime, you're less likely to get lost.
  • The breakdown lane isn't just for breakdowns. If you are on a two-lane road and see two vehicles coming at you from both lanes, merge to the shoulder and continue to drive, allowing them to pass.
  • Always stay alert. As someone coming from a country with different driving etiquette, always make sure you stay alert and be prepared for anything.
  • Stay on top of travel warnings. The U.S. Department of State has a list of warnings to be aware of when you're traveling to Mexico.