Car Travel in Mexico


Hi C. Guys,

Having just finished a road trip from Denver, CO to Cancun, I listened horror to the negative remarks about the Mexican Federales. Five of us delivered a Camry station wagon to my brothers new house and had a GREAT experience!!! (does that say something about how easy going we all are). Twice we got lost (detour signs don’t have a whole lotta follow through after the first one or two) and were LUCKY enough to run into a Federale (not literally). They were VERY helpful and went above and beyond in their efforts to help us. We followed one for 45 kms to get back on track. We found them to be professional. What WAS scary were the military road blocks that they seem to have set up every time you cross a state line. 8 pimplely teens, with uniforms that don’t fit with their shaking fingers on an M-16 pointed in your general direction. Of the 10 or so that we went through we got pulled over twice and once we were required to get out of the car while they searched it. Then we were happily on our way. Everyone needs an EXTREME adrenalin injection every once in a while!!!



I love Car Talk and always listen, whenever I am in the USA, but yesterday (Saturday Aug 18, 2007) I was really disappointed. I am an American citizen, living in Mexico and the disparaging remarks I heard made me very sad to know that Car Talk is following the line of the American media. I have driven throughout Mexico, including from the US border. It is true one should not drive after dark but it has nothing to do with federales or “banditos.” Almost all of Mexico is free range country and you could hit a cow, a horse, a pig or some other livestock and that could be very nasty. Mexico has the Green Angels, a FREE service, which also offers medical assistance. (They can be reached from any phone by calling 078.)I have known many people who have been helped by a Green Angel but I can say that I have NEVER known anyone to be harrassed, harmed or extorted by a federale. I have known people to pay bribes of their own choice but also realize that the police in Mexico make very little money compared to their counterparts in the USA. You can also go to jail for bribing an officer of the law so you are taking a big chance. And those are transitos (transit police) not federales. There are many ex-pats moving south of the border these days and the American media is doing a great job of making Mexico sound dangerous in lots of ways. It makes me feel very bad that Car Talk has joined that campaign. To say that a new car would be a target is such a horrible insult to Mexicans. The richest man in the world (Carlos Slim) lives in Mexico and there are many other people who make a very good living. They are not drug dealers and they drive brand new luxury cars, without fear of any police, federale or other. I would like to know a retraction has been made of Car Talk’s harmful statements. Please refer to for information about the Green Angels and how proud Mexico is to be safe for travelers.


I am sure that the road to Cabo has some hazards, but you have to remember that different parts of other countries aren’t identical. It varies a lot in the U.S.A. from place to place too.


I am not talking about the road to Cabo. I live on the southwest coast of Mexico, have traveled by car extensively all over Mexico and the remarks made on the show were insulting and disparaging. The listener was advised to get an older model car that would not attract the infamous federales and banditos. I own cars in the US and in Mexico, drive in both countries and can tell you that it is by far safer to drive in Mexico. For example, road rage in most cities involves honking or laying on the horn. But then that’s a different discussion all together.


My wife, Jill, and I were listening to your August 18th show, and Jill was very dissatisfied with your recommendation to you Damien, your last caller. You recommended a minivan for him, his wife, and their two dogs. Jill says that you were wrong! Jill believes that a Subaru Forester is the perfect vehicle for Damien’s family, for the following reasons: it can fit two people and multiple dogs, it comes ready for a cartop carrier, and it still gets good mileage.

We have a 2004 Forester, and we put the back seats down, pile our three dogs (two of which are Golden Retrievers, so they’re about the size of Damien’s dogs) in, and then put our luggage in a car top carrier. The car top carrier is ideal for the Forester, because the roof rack is standard equipment. This means the only extra equipment you need to buy is the actual carrier. Provided we keep our speed reasonable (65-70 mph), we generally get 25-30 miles to the gallon with the luggage carrier.

I should also point out that we have car harnesses to hook the dogs up to the rear seatbelts, so in the event of an accident, they do not become projectiles in the car.

We think you should recant your minivan suggestion, and tell Damien he can do better.

–Gary & Jill


I sent this originally as an an email to the Car Talk website…you are so correct…Other than one single incident in Alta Mira (northern suburb of Tampico), we have had nothing but assistance from everyone…we trailered a 30’ Party Hut behind our truck through areas where where should have not have tread…everyone is forgiving.

On a deeper note, please give a thought to our neighbors right now. We live 35 miles south of Dean’s eye (in the village of Consejo, Belize)and we are in Oklahima right now. I have never felt more helpless…this is a village we lived in for 15 months with no doors. The rest of the world should be this way. Sorry for the sappyness…it will be over soon, I hope.

Dear Click and Clack,

On your recommendation to the caller
requesting a vehicle for Mexico to carry
his lovely wife and two big dogs back and
forth from Baja, you recommended he
seriously consider a minivan.

What in the world were you guys thinking?I
felt compelled to write in to save this
poor guy some future grief.

I know the perfect vehicle. In fact, my
dear husband and I own one. We have
traveled numerous times back and forth
through Mexico to Belize with our two dogs.
We are headed back soon, just waiting a bit
so as not to meet Hurricane Dean on a
Mexican mountaintop.

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer.
The perfect vehicle is a 1993 Dodge D250
diesel pickup with a camper and a boot
between the camper and cab. Ours is an
automatic with cruise control and gets
about 20 mpg on the highway.

This is the perfect vehicle for many
reasons. Firstly, it’s heavy enough as to
not get knocked off the road easily. If you
ever happen to drive in MX, you’ll
appreciate the significance of this point.

Secondly, the dogs can travel in comfort in
the back, keeping the caller’s sweet wife
virtually hair-free in the cab for the
entire trip. There is also ample room for
dog boxes, which can come in handy if
either of his pets happens to have an
aversion to military uniforms or routine
searches of the vehicle. (Our little
Muttley certainly does.)

Thirdly, diesel is cheaper in Mexico than
it is in the States and available at any
Pemex station. Should he wish to go even
greener, he can always make his own fuel
out of used cooking oil.

Fourthly, the Cummins diesel engine makes a
distict rattling noise (you probably know
the old saying). This sound gives both
bicycle and donkey traffic early warning
when one is approaching them. Another
benefit of the sound is that it enables one
to dump one’s spouse out in heavy traffic
to look for groceries, hotel rooms, etc.,
circle the block and have her safely find
her way back to the vehicle without one
ever having to park. I should know as my
dear husband has done this on several
occasions, the last time being two weeks
ago in the fair mountain city of Palenque
in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

The caller might also consider installing a
bed conversion in the camper. It comes in
handy when night approaches and the only
available hotel room is the Pemex parkig
lot.(BTW, I advise not to park in the long
spaces…he may wake up early morning to be
sandwiched between cattle trucks.It isn’t a
pleasant experience.)

Please guys, I urge you forward this
information on to your caller.

Best Regards,

Consejo Village,
Corozal District,Belize,
Central America


I will never, that is NEVER, travel in Mexico with my car. If you are involved in an accident, everyone goes to the crowbar hotel until the police decide who is at fault. My understanding is that people who are in accidents in Mexico leave quickly if they can, before the police arrive.


Darn, lost this post once before…here we go again, the shortened version:

Wha Who,

Your are missing out on a great experience. I believe that you have been misinformed.

When a fatality occurs in MX, survivors of the accident can be arrested. Your MX insurance has provisions for the legal aspects.

If you have ever driven in MX, you would understand why. People drive in packs, almost like a bee hive.

I have on many occasions had the same “pack” of traffic pass me numerous times on their way to Central America over a period of days. Their driving is extremely aggresive, but not meant to be offensive.

The key to safer driving in MX is to stay back from the “hives” and use good judgement.

In MX, there is also a sense of trust assumed between drivers. Many times, a slow-moving vehicle (usually a large, heavy truck) will put on his left blinker to let you know when it is safe to pass. Whether you trust the person operating the vehicle in front of you is completely up to you; however, of you fail to trust him, there will be at least 5 cars ( and a doble remolque or two) behind you willing to take the risk at a double, triple, or quadruple pass. As Murphy would have it, it’s usually on the side of a mountain with no guardrails, in a construction zone, and with warning signs for deslaves.

As I said before, the key to driving in MX is to lay back anytime you see a danger…cruising slowly also gives you the added benefit of seeing the sights and experiencing Mexico.

Do watch out for the guys with highway vests on and flags…normally, they are trying to direct you into a cheesey restaurant or are street guys outside of Veracruz wanting a tip at the four-way stop.

One thing I must mention about Mexico…I am never afraid of road rage. I also trust that anyone that gives me directions when I am lost is not trying to blow me off. When I am in tow with something in MX and in a very wrong place, there is always someone there who recognizes the problem and helps us out.I have never been asked for compensation for this assistance…not even from the Sabancuoy police who gave us a police escort with our vehicles to a safe place and get a room for 13.50 USD for the night.

Sad to say, I cannot say this about any populated place that I have ever traveled through in the USA. Mexico could learn alot from our driver training standards. The USA could learn much more from MX about respecting our fellow man.


As you may already know, Mexico operates under Napoleonic law which presumes guilt and you are held by the police until you prove or it is decided that you are innocent of fault involving a motor vehicle accident. According to what I see, Mexican insurance will help you to get released if not at fault. Google “Mexico Napoleonic law motor vehicle” or “Mexico motor vehicle accident” for more. I have seen enough, I’m not going there.

I have been to Europe where I have felt comfortable driving.


Wha Who,
I completely agree with your decision to never drive in Mexico. It is not a good decision for you.

If you ever want pics of what you have missed, please email and I will do my best to forward.

Best Regards,