Thursday, July 23, 2009

Up the Creek Without a Paddle

Some lessons are learned the easy way and some the hard way. It seems our experience in Mexico so far has been mostly learning from the latter rather than the former.

Due to my procrastination and fact that I didn't really want to pay for something that was of no use to me in Mexico, I let my US insurance lapse to the point where they canceled the policy and consequently the Massachusetts registry of motor vehicles revoked my registration. I have Mexican car insurance which covers me south of the border, but my US policy covers nada. However, US coverage is a requirement to keep my US plates, registration and car loan.

Now I'm in a pickle. Since my insurance is now canceled and over 30 days revoked, to get a new insurance plan my insurer is requiring that I bring the vehicle to a US certified mechanic to have 3 pictures taken to ensure that the vehicle is in good physical condition. Considering it would take me at least 5 days of solid driving to return to the US to get those pictures taken and then another 5 days to drive back, that option is out. I thought about paying to fly a mechanic here to have the pictures taken, but reconsidered.

I cannot return my US plates because what would I put on my car? Mexico does not allow foreign cars newer than 1998 to be registered south of the border, so I can't get Mexican plates. Plus I would have to pay off my car loan, which is also not an option, because the lien holder would not allow me to register my car in Mexico.

Given my good upbringing and desire to always want to stay on the right side of the law, ignoring the DMV's demands to cease driving my vehicle and to immediately return the plates was not an option. I did move to Mexico, but that does not make me an outlaw unlike a good percentage of expats living south of the border.

Luckily I found a solution thanks to some good friends: State Farm Insurance. I was able to call State Farm and obtain an insurance policy without having any photos taken of the vehicle. Furthermore, there is a company called American Home Base (AHB) out of Florida which allows one to obtain an official US address in Florida with a mailbox, and AHB will send your mail anywhere in the county for a minimal monthly fee plus the cost of postage. On top of that Florida has no income tax, and Escambia County, where AHB is located, has no required vehicle inspections or smog inspections. Once I obtain my registration for the first time, there is no need to reregister. I can even obtain a Florida driver's license and then renew through the internet. What I am getting at is if I obtain a mailbox with AHB I can register and insure my car in Florida, get a Florida's driver's license and never have to pay states income taxes again. And there is no need for me to return to Florida because everything else I would need to do I could do online.

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