All Things Shipping | May 05, 2022

International Shipping 102: Shipping to Mexico From the U.S.

Hasan Nabulsi

In 2021 alone, U.S. companies exported $276.46 billion dollars worth of goods to Mexico. The country’s close proximity and positive trade relations through NAFTA make the market an appealing prospect for U.S. sellers shipping to Mexico.

But there’s a lot you need to know about Mexico shipping practices before deciding whether or not selling into the country is the right choice for your business.

With Cinco de Mayo upon us, we’ll take a closer look at everything from the items you can and can’t ship into Mexico, to the specific services you can use to get your packages delivered.

Rules to Know Before Shipping to Mexico

Before we get into more granular detail around Mexico shipping fees or Mexico shipping taxes, there are some general rules to be aware of. For instance, did you know that some items are outright prohibited from being imported to Mexico from the U.S.?

A complete list can be found on the Mexican Customs website, but it includes items such as:

  • Used tires
  • Pork lard
  • Live fish
  • Narcotics
  • Firearms and ammunition

In other instances, items are restricted—meaning that they can be imported into the country, as long as specific rules and regulations are met. For instance:

  • Books can be imported, but won’t be considered documents by Mexican customs (which you’ll want to keep in mind when assessing shipping services if you plan to sell books in the country).
  • Screws, nuts, washers, and other fasteners can be imported but must have specific information—such as the items’ names, dimensions, international identification codes, and product weights—included on the customs invoice.
  • Merchants who plan to import software valued over $1,000.00 may need an additional sectorial register (the ‘Padron Sectorial’), above and beyond standard customs forms.

FedEx and UPS maintain lists of prohibited and restricted items. Read through them to make sure your shipments qualify before going further with your Mexico shipping plans.

Tariffs, Taxes, and Fees When Shipping to Mexico

Shipping internationally comes with tariffs, taxes, fees, and customs requirements domestic sellers don’t have to worry about. A few key terms to familiarize yourself with include:

  • IVA: Mexico’s value-added tax
  • IEPS: An additional tax obligation on specific products, such as gasoline or diesel fuel
  • DDP: ‘Delivery, duty paid,’ an incoterm under which sellers cover duties, taxes, and import clearances
  • DDU: ‘Delivery duty unpaid,’ an incoterm under which buyers are responsible for import duties

Consumers tend to prefer receiving DDP shipments, as everything is taken care of for them. However, because shipping DDP comes with additional responsibilities—for example, ensuring the right Harmonized Service (HS) codes are used to calculate customs obligations—it may not be worth the extra effort if your sales volume in Mexico will be low.

How to Sell to Customers in Mexico

Demand is, understandably, a major concern for retailers who are exploring shipping into a new country. Outside of questions around costs and logistics remains a big concern: will Mexican consumers buy my products?

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to increase your odds of selling successfully in Mexico:

  • Do your research on which products sell best in the country. Market research firms and organizations like Statista make some of this information available already. Your own data can prove insightful here as well. Once you open up orders to Mexican residents, pay close attention to what does and doesn’t sell so that you can refine your offerings over time.
  • Make sure your website and checkout workflow support Mexico’s de facto national language—Spanish—as most estimates suggest that only 10-20% of Mexicans speak English fluently. Translation plugins can help, but be sure that their translations are both accurate and available. Auto-translating your website’s copy helps, but if your order emails aren’t also updated, you may find it hard to gain traction in the market.
  • Consider also that your sales tactics may need to change when you start selling to customers in Mexico. Just one example of the kinds of cultural differences that exist between Mexico and the U.S. is the way older people are addressed. As a more formal address is seen as a measure of respect, you’d want to be sure your sales and order communications use the appropriate titles and language.

Cheapest Way to Ship to Mexico

Identifying the cheapest way to ship to Mexico depends heavily on the products and the volume of orders you’re shipping. However, there are several general guidelines that can help save you money on your Mexico deliveries:

  • Minimize the weight of your packaging materials by replacing heavier, denser materials with lighter alternatives, like air pillows. If you regularly ship large numbers of the same product, you may even want to look into custom packaging that’s specific to your item and provides the ideal balance of protection and weight.
  • Opt for slower service levels to save on shipping fees.
  • To the extent that you can, pass your costs for duties, taxes, or other fees to customers upfront.
  • Consider setting up a warehouse or fulfillment center in Mexico. Not only will this allow you to take advantage of faster, cheaper domestic shipping rates, it means you’ll be able to accept returns locally, without having to pay for taxes again.

Still need to cut costs when shipping to Mexico? Don’t forget—Shippo offers discounted rates of up to 86% off UPS international services and up to 75% off DHL Express international rates. Sign up now to see how much you can save.

Carrier Services for Shipping to Mexico and International Shipping

If, after all of these considerations, shipping to Mexico still seems like the right choice for your business, one of your last steps will be to choose a specific carrier service. While there are plenty of fast international shipping services that’ll get your packages across the border, there are key considerations when shipping internationally that you’ll want to keep in mind.

Some of the most popular services for shipping to Mexico include:

Carrier Service Delivery Window
USPS Priority Mail Express International 3-5 business days
USPS Priority Mail International 6-10 business days
USPS First-Class Mail International Varies by destination
UPS Worldwide Express 1-3 business days
UPS Worldwide Expedited 2-5 business days
UPS Worldwide Standard Varies by destination
FedEx International Priority 1-3 business days
FedEx International Economy 2-5 business days
DHL Express Worldwide Next possible day
DHL Economy Select 1-3 business days

As with domestic shipping, there’s a tradeoff to be made with the international services listed above: for the most part, the faster you need your packages to arrive, the more expensive your shipping costs will be.

That said, there are a few exceptions to this general guideline:

  • Only USPS offers a flat-rate international service to Mexico. If your company sells large, bulky, or irregularly shaped items that exceed other carriers’ limitations, choosing a flat-rate solution could save you money.
  • Not all of the services listed above offer day-definite or time-definite delivery. Be sure to confirm availability for these options with the specific solutions you’re considering, if this is important to you.
  • Because USPS deliveries must be transferred into the Mexican Postal Service, packages shipped by these services—especially those being delivered to rural areas—may take longer to arrive than comparable services.

Beyond the major international carriers, regional carriers such as Asendia and OrangeDS may also be able to help deliver your shipments to Mexico.

For help choosing the right carrier or service for your needs—or to access major discounts on your international shipping—reach out to Shippo or sign up for a free account to get started.

Hasan Nabulsi is the Content Marketing Manager at Shippo.

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