Can You Buy a Chinese Car Made in Mexico and Get It Registered in USA?

You can buy a Chinese-made car in Mexico and get it registered in USA. However, there are certain factors you need to consider. So read more here...


Sadly, the high quality inexpensive cars made by Chinese auto manufacturers are NOT yet allowed to sell cars in the USA.   The USA simply cannot afford to allow them in because they will immediately destroy the US produced car industry.   In fact, Chinese cars are about 1/3rd the price of US cars and that huge difference is simply too much for the USA to allow.

However, you can cross the border into Mexico and  buy a Chinese car. Then bring it across the border and register in your state.  It’s a process but it can be done.  Check it out…

Now each state has their own rules so you’ll need to contact your state DMV authority to double and triple confirm. But here are the basics to buy a Chinese-made car in Mexico and get it registered in USA and certain factors you need to consider:

  • Compliance with US Regulations: Ensure that the car meets all safety and emissions standards required by the United States.  For example, in California, they have very strict emissions regulations compared to other states and so you need to make sure you comply with their state agency regulations.
  • Importation Requirements: You may need to pay import duties, taxes, and fees to bring the car into the United States. Additionally, you might need to obtain specific documentation, such as the Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO), to register the vehicle.
  • Vehicle Certification: The car must comply with the US Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and also certified from your state authorities too.  For example, if you were in California, you’d need to go to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) emissions standards and get their certification. If the vehicle is not certified, it may not be eligible for registration.
  • Modification Requirements: Some modifications may be necessary to make the vehicle compliant with US regulations. These modifications could include installing different lighting systems, changing the speedometer to display miles per hour, and modifying emissions control systems.
  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP): You’ll need to go through customs procedures when bringing the vehicle into the United States. Make sure you have all the necessary paperwork and are prepared to pay any applicable duties and taxes.
  • State Vehicle Registration: Once the vehicle is in compliance with US regulations, you can register it in your state of residence. You will need to provide proof of ownership, insurance, and pass a vehicle inspection.


It’s advisable to consult with relevant authorities.  For example, if you are in Californian, contact the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and seek assistance from importation specialists or legal experts who can guide you through the process. Additionally, consider the potential costs and effort involved in importing and modifying the vehicle before proceeding with the purchase.

It is possible to wait for the USA to allow the Chinese cars into the US market but, based on the current political climate in the USA, that seems quite far off;  maybe 4-8 years?

BYD Showroom in Mexico City (Perisur)

So if you really want that car, maybe you go to Mexico and buy a BYD Seagull for $ 11,500.  And let’s say it costs you another $ 5000 to import and get it registered, its’ still far less expensive than its US equivalent car at $ 30,000.  So the question really is….“do you have the extra time on your hands to get this process done?”.  I mean, as they say TIME IS MONEY!  You decide!