Friday, January 30, 2009

Keeping U.S. Vehicle Registration Up-To-Date While Living in Baja

A new year means at some point your U.S.-licensed vehicle tabs are going to have to be renewed. When living in Baja and driving a U.S. auto, you need to have your registration and driver's license current, or are subject to a fine or worse - one American driving with false tabs in Baja Sur had his car confiscated by the Mexican Police. Not fun, don't let it happen to you!

If you want to keep U.S. registration on your auto and be legal in Baja and in the U.S., but can´t do that through your previous state of residence or it is too costly, here is a work-around that some others do. This information came from a member of LaPaz Gringo yahoo group. LaPaz Gringos is a nice low-key group for the Baja Sur area to ask questions, get info etc. You can sign-up for free here: La Paz Gringos.

The post on La Paz gringos was submitted by "The Bread Guy". Thank you Bread Guy for allowing me to reprint the below. The information was first posted on BajaNomad message board, according to the Bread Guy.

---------------- Quoted from La Paz Gringos ----------------

Rather than undergo the hassle and expense of renewing my California license plates, I successfully registered with the state of South Dakota. They do not require smog checks or proof of insurance and are much less expensive.

Just call Cathy Powell, treasurer, Clay County, SD at 605+677-7123. You must have a clear title (which you will submit along with the appllication), and a US mailing address. In the application one window asks for "South Dakota drivers license or Social Security number".

I was very honest with her about the situation and she was really great in talking me thru the process.... what a difference from the indifference of big time California.

Anyway, go to their website at: and print out an Adobe file with the application. Fill-out each page as an original (You will not fill-out the last form as it is addressed to the lienholder , not necessary for your transaction). Then these forms have to be mailed as they are originals, and you include your title. I sent mine priority mail and had my new plates and tags in about ten days. The new title took about three weeks as it is actually processed at the state level.

--------------------- End Quote -------------------

OK, hope that helps! Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula, available to order at

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