Long lines to register ‘chocolate cars’ in Tijuana

Border Report

Long lines outside a Tijuana car registration center as people wait to register their “chocolate cars.” Courtesy: Carlos Luna/El Sol de Tijuana)

TIJUANA (Border Report) — The city of Tijuana has been handing out 100 chips daily to people who want to register their so-called “chocolate cars,” vehicles purchased in the United States but not registered in Mexico.

Many people south of the border, in cities like Tijuana, keep American license plates on their cars as a way to avoid paying registration fees. And in some cases, no plates at all.

City officials have said they won’t tolerate this anymore and have threatened to impound cars with U.S. plates that aren’t registered.

Americans who live north of the border are exempt.

The drive to register these vehicles could result in the “legalization” of 250,000 of the chocolate cars believed to be driven on a daily basis in Tijuana.

As of this week, long lines could be seen outside a city office where people have been asked to register their cars. As of now, only 100 cars will be processed per day.

A man named Danilo showed up early to secure a chip granting him a slot to register a 2008 Ford Taurus he bought in San Diego two years ago.

“On Tuesday, I showed up at 8 a.m. but I couldn’t get one of the chips, so on Wednesday I got here at 6:50 in the morning and got one,” he said.

Danilo said he wants to “update” his car’s status, a vehicle used by his wife to go to work, for shopping, and before the pandemic, to take their daughters to school.

“I wouldn’t want them taking away my wife’s car and having her walk to get to important things. It cost me $2,000 and now an additional $300 to ‘import it,” it’s expensive but I want to get the new plates and avoid having it taken away,” Danilo said.

In the state of Baja California, directly south of California, there are an estimated half a million of these chocolate cars driving around, half of them in Tijuana.

To register these cars, owners like Danilo must pay $1,000 pesos, have legal title and proof of purchase, legal residence in Mexico, email, driver’s license and a vehicle registration card that can be purchase in person.

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