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A Stamp from the UCD Does Not Make a Vehicle“Legal”

By Antonio De Jesús Aguado

A presidential decree states that all vehicles circulating on federal roads must have insurance to guarantee payment for civil liability in case of accident. On the other hand, the UCD, an organization that starts the legalization processes for imported cars from the United States to Mexico, has registered almost 300 vehicles as property of expats—American and Canadian. However, these cars remain in an irregular status and can be confiscated by state or federal authorities.


The Democratic Peasants Union is a nonprofit organization that began in 1994. It was registered by the Federal Secretariat of Government. According to its coordinator in San Miguel, Francisco Andrés Muñoz Rodríguez, the union was started because at that time there was a large number of Mexicans working in the American fields who returned to Mexico with cars—especially trucks—with temporary permits. “When the workers had to go back to the United States, those cars were left in Mexico with their families,” says Muñoz Rodríguez,“so they could have a vehicle to transport themselves from the rural communities to the cities and also to be used for work in country areas.”

After the temporary permit for those vehicles expired, they were no longer legal in Mexico, and the owners needed to have legal certainty of their property. For that reason, thousands of peasants gathered across Mexico and formed the UCD to put pressure on the government for a massive legalization. That had brought them results in the past. Currently, according to the coordinator of that union, located at Canal 138, there are approximately 1,600 registered vehicles waiting to be legalized—not taking into account the registration of another UCD on Calzada de la Estación which, according to Muñoz, is not legal. Among those cars, 300 belong to Canadians and Americans.

The coordinator commented that the UCD is an organization that does not discriminate, and  “all people can get a stamp for their car, as long as they can prove they have a legal status in the city,” he said. To register a vehicle, there is a one-time fee of 600 pesos and a monthly fee of 25 pesos. That money is used for operational expenses. Those enrolled in the UCD receive a sticker that must be attached to their car. Muñoz says that brings some benefits to the members because they can drive on the state or federal roads, and the transit officers will not bother them.

Regardless of what Muñoz said, the State Department of Traffic and Transportation told Atención that a vehicle without legal plates is an illegal car. It does not matter if it is registered with the UCD. It could be confiscated at any time, independently of the owner’s nationality. The State Department of Traffic and Transportation made it clear that, for driving on the country’s roads, a driver’s license is required. It does not matter if it is Mexican or from another country.

Mandatory auto insurance

On April 2013, some reforms were made to the Federal Law of Roads, Bridges and Transportation, which would be in force 180 days after being published in the Official Newspaper of the Federation. Those changes finally came into effect on Tuesday, September 23, 2014. Their purpose is to avoid expenses that could damage a family’s economy. According to the Federal Commission of Transportation, more than 49 thousand kilometers of road are federal. An article published by CNN states that according to

statistics of Axxa, an insurance company, in México there are more than 38 million vehicles in circulation, and only 28 percent of those have a car insurance.

The law states in article 66B that all vehicles circulating on federal roads ought to have insurance to guarantee the payment for damages to third parties due to car accidents. It states that “the investment to get insurance is the responsibility of the car owner.” The law is clear and assures that the federation will not force the drivers to get insurance from a specific company.

The duty of verifying that the vehicles are insured, according to the document, belongs to the Secretariat of Government through the federal police. If a federal police officer  pulls over a driver and he proves that the car owner does not have insurance, the driver can be fined for an amount that goes from 1,345 pesos to 2,641pesos.

In San Miguel, the Libramiento Manuel Zavala Zavala that starts in the Glorieta Allende—adjacent to Plaza Real del Conde—and ends in the junction with the road to Dolores, is a federal road, as well as the road to Dolores and the road to Querétaro that starts after the city hall building.

Insurance advice

Insurance agent Alejandra Garcia told Atención that several expats have gone to her office to buy insurance for their cars which are registered with the UCD. Garcia avers that people with those cars can only get basic insurance, which is civil liability insurance, and the car remains illegal. That insurance only provides coverage for damages to third parties in accidents, but not to the driver or his/her companions. She recommends buying additional insurance. Garcia says that because foreigners do not carefully read the terms of their contract (usually given in English by some companies, including hers), they sometimes do not act appropriately when they have an accident—due to nervousness and lack of language. For example, they hire services for themselves, as they do in their native countries, instead of calling their insurance agent or company. She recommends, in case of an accident, to immediately call the insurance agent or company directly, which normally has bilingual employees who can provide advice.

García also advises, in the case of buying a Mexican used car, to verify with the owner if all the taxes of the vehicle have been paid, because in case of a total loss or theft all the proof of payments—of the last five years—will be required by the companies. In addition, García commented that in the case of imported vehicles, some companies ask the drivers to have a drivers license from their country. Some companies also can deny the payment to the owners if they are not driving or traveling as a passenger in the vehicle during the accident. “It is important to read all the information provided by the company.”

Legalization of vehicles

The Paisano program of the National Institute of Migration published advice for importing vehicles to Mexico permanently in a safe way. The document states that it is mandatory to hire the services of an authorized customs agent, preferably at the border where the vehicle is going to cross. The agent ought to be part of the CLAA (Latin-American Confederation of Custom Agents) and must have a document issued by the Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público (Ministry of Finance and Public Credit). The agent fee can be from 1,200 to 1,600 pesos.

The SCHP allows the permanent importation of vehicles older than 10 years from the year of the importation. To know if a vehicle can be imported to Mexico, the owners must check whether the vehicle was manufactured or assembled in Mexico, Canada, or the United States. Those cars are allowed to be imported.

After initiating the process to get the plates for the legalized car, you have fifteen days to get them. It is illegal to get plates in the US. If somebody is offering that kind of service there, it may be illegal.


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