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Central America and Mexico Topics specific to Central America and Mexico only.
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  #1  
Old 18 Oct 2005
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Central america plans....

Hi,

I am in the early stages of planning a 3 month trip down Central America and wondered if anyone on this forum had any useful advice. What I'm thinking is to fly to the US (possibly Houston or Dallas) and buy a vehicle. I know this forum is mostly about bikes and I'm looking for a 4 wheeled vehicle, but someone may have experience? I'm British, so know very little about the regulations in America, e.g. insurance, registration etc..

We would then cross into Mexico and drive south through Central America finishing in Panama where I would sell the vehicle and fly back to the UK. Can anyone see any glaring problems with this plan? My two main worries are getting a vehicle (and the cost of it) registering and insuring it as a tourist in the US and getting out of Panama after selling it at the other end.. has anyone successfully done this?

Thanks for reading and any help would be appreciated!

George
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  #2  
Old 18 Oct 2005
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If the vehicle is on you namen you will have no problems in Guatemala and El Salvador. You can enter the vehicle with a "tourist" sticker, but must depart the country before 30 days. Call the embasies of the the Central Amercian countires in London and ask for specific details.
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  #3  
Old 21 Oct 2005
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Thanks, so I will be fine getting to panama if i can get the vehicle registered in my name in the USA without being a US citizen.. is this possible, has anyone here done it?

The second pitfall could be selling the thing in Panama 3 months later.. has anyone any experience of this?

Thanks again,
George
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  #4  
Old 23 Oct 2005
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Check outthe Texas Department Of Transport website www.dot.state.tx/us/vtrreginfo.html
which has a q&a section which may be of use to you. I keep meeting people from other continents who have bought vehicles in various parts of the US and Canada for use during their vacations here, it is still possible. When you buy a used vehicle it is of utmost importance to make sure that you will have clear title on it ( no liens) or you may be in for a lot of beurocratic paperwork and time consuming corrections. It is absolutely required that there be no question that you are the rightful registered owner when you enter Mexico with paperwork to prove it. If the car or bike you are contemplating buying does not fit these requirements pass on it.With a vehicle properly registered in your name you need only complete a Temporary Import Permit at Mexican customs ,pay the $27 fee, in addition to the usual personal tourist tax $22 .When you leave Mexico and do not plan to return with that vehicle ever, you must hand in and cancel that Temporary Import Permit, or years later on another visit you will be heavily fined for having illegally imported a vehicle into Mexico.Pretty much the same demands will be made at each of the Central American countries as you enter: enter , register, pay tax, annul when you leave.
Leaving the vehicle in Panama without following the rules may be possible, but may also get you into legal problems as you try to board a plane wihout the proper stamps in your passport where it will be marked that you came in by car.Do some web searching for Panama government sites re: import or abandonment of vehicles. Are you hoping to sell the vehicle for a profit?If so it may be advisable to stick to their rules and pay the tax owed. If your vehicle is an old wreck it may be less trouble to get some official document and passport stamp attesting to the fact that it was taken off the road as scrap.
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Old 27 Oct 2005
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Sjoerd,

Thanks for the help, your advice about Mexico and the other countries i'll be transiting through was pretty much what I was expecting.. Don't care about selling the car for profit as it will be a wreck - declaring it as scrap might be a good idea.

Do you know anything about the cost of insurance in the USA? I will obviously have to insure while i'm still there, and I worry that i might only be able to get an annual policy which would presumably be pricey...

Cheers,
George
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  #6  
Old 28 Oct 2005
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Contact MCExpress (link to them on the links page under motorcycle insurance - link on left of this page to the links page) for insurance - you can get for whatever period you want. Tell em we sent you to get a discount!


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Old 14 Nov 2005
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If you are only planning to buy a vehicle in Texas and not driving around in the states for any length of time I would suggest investigating the possibility of getting the minimal insurance required to get you to the border. Living in Canada I have little knowledge of Texas insurance rules , but you should be able to buy liability for a few days or weeks from any of the same people who sell this type of insurance to Mexicans visiting USA. Do not buy insurance for a whole year, you are throwing money away because it is of no value once you enter Mexico. Buy Mexican liability insurance only , about $5.80 per day plus a fixed policy of $10 to $15 , from any one of the sellers abundant in every Texas/USA border town and it only takes a few minutes if you are at their office. A couple of the big agencies dealing in this can easily be found on the web such as Sanborn's Insurance and Oscar Padilla or Bajamex to name only a few, and they can probably answer more of your questions. Buy Mexican insurance only for the length of time you plan on being in that country , again it is of no use beyond. Central American liability cover can also be supplied by most of these larger US based agents but it is a more convoluted process taking several days to arrange, but they can send the policy by e-mail if you are already into Mexico .In Jan.'05 it cost $184 for the minimum period of one month that they could write. Belize, Nicaragua and Costa Rica insist that you buy this insurance when you enter, the others never ask to see any proof of insurance, probably because most folks there drive un-insured. That is a possibility to think of, but risky should you prang .I have ridden there for days with no insurance ,just be very careful.
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