Your U.S. driver’s license is valid nearly anywhere in the world you might find yourself driving. However, car insurance policies don’t translate quite as easily. We’ve written about driving abroad in Europe, and what added coverage and protections drivers should set up before embarking, and here we’ll dive deep into how U.S. drivers can ensure they’re in keeping with Mexican driving laws – whether taking their own cars or renting – before leaving the U.S. and help ensure they’re covered financially in any scenario.
Planning ahead for your insurance needs while traveling in Mexico is the way to go: that way, you’ll avoid language barriers, unexpected costly bills, and even jail time. All the details on Mexico insurance you need to know:
4 Things You Need to Know About Driving in Mexico
1. U.S. auto insurance policies, on the whole, do not offer complete legal coverage in Mexico, no matter how comprehensive your policy. Even if your U.S. policy extends coverage for driving in Mexico, you need to check the fine print (or call your agent for an explanation). Many policies have mileage stipulations that restrict how far into the country you can travel, so speak with your insurance agent or seek Mexico insurance coverage before your trip. Some U.S.-based companies, like Allstate, will offer limited comprehensive and collision coverage for things like damage or theft, but to drive legally, you’ll need to purchase an auto insurance policy from an authorized Mexican insurance company.
2. A Mexico insurance policy is very similar to U.S. auto insurance in that you can purchase varying levels of coverage to suit your needs and better protect yourself in the event of an crash, theft, or other damage. You can also increase your limit of liability and medical coverage and add comprehensive and collision coverage to suit your needs.
3. If you’re planning to rent a vehicle in Mexico, plan for your insurance needs before you leave the U.S. “You could find yourself in a situation where the rental company only offers physical damage coverage without liability,” explained Neil Richardson, The Zebra’s resident insurance expert. “If that happens then you’re stuck trying to find legal coverage for the vehicle before you leave the lot, and that could prove difficult if you don’t speak Spanish.” Neil suggests contacting your insurance agent to iron out your rental insurance coverage before you make the trip south of the border. And just like they do in the U.S., many credit card companies offer Mexico insurance for rental cars as well.
4. A Mexican insurance policy is required for all drivers, even if you’re operating a rental vehicle. The U.S. State Department recommends U.S. drivers carry Mexican liability insurance because, while Mexican law doesn’t require it in all parts of the country, in the event of a collision, you could be detained or even arrested until you can prove that you can pay for any damages for which you are responsible.
Good to know: Mexico requires the insured driver either operate the vehicle or be present inside of it, and insurance policies can be invalidated if the driver is under the influence of alcohol. If you have an emergency while driving in Mexico, call 066 (the Mexican version of 911).
Mexico Coverage Options from U.S. Auto Insurance Companies
Many of the following major U.S. auto insurance companies have relationships with Mexican auto insurance companies and can therefore help you purchase your policy. Auto insurance coverage in Mexico can be obtained on a short-term or long-term basis for cars, RVs, motorcycles, and trailers. Keep in mind, though, if one of the following companies, like Esurance, helps you obtain your policy, that doesn’t mean you have a Mexico auto insurance policy with Esurance, so do your due diligence and make sure any partner you plan to purchase a policy with has an A rating or better with A.M. Best U.S. ratings.
You’ll need to call your insurer to find out what options are available to you before you take your trip because coverage varies from state to state and policy to policy:
- Allstate: Your U.S. policy may offer limited comprehensive and collision coverage in Mexico (for a maximum of 10 days of travel, no more than 75 miles into Mexico) but it will not meet Mexican liability requirements. Allstate offers no connection to Mexico insurance companies.
- American Family Insurance: Mexico insurance is offered through a partnership with the International Insurance Group (IIG).
- Esurance: Mexico insurance is offered through a partnership with the IIG and includes coverage for bail.
- Farmers Insurance: No connection to Mexico insurance partners is offered through the company.
- GEICO: Mexico insurance is offered through a partnership with the IIG. You can get a discount by entering your GEICO U.S. auto insurance policy number.
- Liberty Mutual: Your U.S. policy may offer limited coverage (depending on which state you live in) but it will not meet Mexican liability requirements.
- Nationwide: Most U.S. policies cover you 25 miles into Mexico, but they won’t meet Mexican liability requirements. Nationwide offers no connection to Mexico insurance partners through the company.
- Progressive: U.S. policies may offer limited Mexico coverage to Texas policy holders. Both short-term and long-term policies are available through international partners in 3 coverage levels that meet Mexican insurance liability requirements and offer collision, theft, and U.S. repair coverage.
- Travelers: No connection to Mexico insurance partners is offered through the company.
- State Farm: No connection to Mexico insurance partners is offered through the company.
- USAA: Limited coverage may be offered in Mexico to U.S. policy holders, but it doesn’t meet Mexican liability requirements. No connection to Mexico insurance partners is offered through the company.
Many Mexico auto insurance policies also include roadside assistance and medical bill coverage, among other perks, so be sure to ask about those.
If you aren’t already a customer with any of the above companies you may still purchase a Mexico insurance policy with through most of them. Or, you can use an authorized Mexican Insurance Broker.
Should I Add Bail Coverage?
In short, yes. The U.S. State Department recommends U.S. citizens planning to drive in Mexico have bail insurance because if you’re involved in a collision in Mexico, authorities may take you into custody, even if you have the proper Mexican liability insurance. Some companies, like the IIG (a partner to many of the U.S. companies above) include bail coverage, but do be sure to check when purchasing your policy.
What About Canada Insurance?
Canada does not require U.S. drivers to carry separate auto insurance, and U.S. auto insurance policy holders will be covered during visits to the country (if you’re changing your residency, you’ll need a Canadian policy). Your U.S. insurance company will issue you a Canadian Insurance card which will make driving in Canada seamless, so be sure you obtain one before you leave. You can also safely add rental car insurance coverage through your U.S. policy for use in Canada. Be sure to call your agent before you travel to ensure all coverage you may need is in place.
Even though crossing the borders between our northern and southern neighbors is relatively simple with the correct documentation, drivers must be proactive to ensure they have the proper legal insurance coverage before embarking.