Import Costs from Mexico: Overcome the Maze of Expenses

A cargo ship with the Mexican flag on the back of it
Import costs from Mexico can be a struggle for businesses to carry. With USA Customs Clearance on your side, we’ll explain the expenses you can incur and how you can save.
November 9, 2023
Last Modified: November 9, 2023
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Import costs from Mexico are more relevant now than ever before. Many U.S. businesses conduct trade with this vital partner. That said, importers can incur additional expenses when buying goods from suppliers in Mexico. Companies should know their expenses and learn how to reduce their fees. 

The World Customs Organization notes there are considerable import costs from Mexico that have to be paid. This includes:

  • Import duties
  • Import taxes
  • Customs processing fees 
  • Carrier surcharges

U.S. businesses can reduce their costs by applying for preferential treatment under the United States, Mexico, and Canada agreement (USMCA).

Import costs from Mexico may seem challenging, but with our support, you’ll be able to reduce your expenses. 

Import costs from Mexico can be expensive when cargo ships like the ones depicted are delayed

How Much Are Import Costs from Mexico?

Providing an exact amount on the cost to import from Mexico is near impossible. The details of every shipment are different, which causes expenses to fluctuate. That said, it’s helpful to know the type of costs businesses can incur when importing from this vital trading partner. 

What Are the Import Costs from Mexico?

Importing products from Mexico seems straightforward. However, there are numerous costs that inexperienced businesses and brokerage services don’t know about. 

The primary expenses businesses will encounter include:

  • Duties and tariffs
  • Customs processing fees
  • Transportation and logistics costs
  • Warehouse & storage fees
  • Terminal handling charges
  • Demurrage & detention fees

Duties and tariffs are taxes imposed on specific goods. The rates can vary depending on the type of product a company is importing. In the U.S., the average tariff rate is 2.0 percent. That said, Mexican goods can fluctuate based on the product being imported. 

Companies will have to pay a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Merchandise Processing Fee (MPF) for all formal and informal entries. Formal entries are shipments that are $2,500 in value. Therefore, informal entries apply to shipments with a value lower than $2,500. 

The MPF is charged as an ad-valorem fee of 0.3464% of the total shipment value. Keep in mind, the minimum amount for a formal entry is $31.67 and the maximum is $614.35. Therefore, if the merchandise fee is higher than the maximum, then importers will only have to pay the $614.35 to the CBP. 

A U.S. business may encounter other processing fees from different government agencies that have to be taken into account. We’ve included MPF cost ranges for each type of entry. 

MPF Fees for Formal and Informal Entries

YearFormal Entry MPFInformal Entry MPF
2023$31.67 – $614.35$2.53
2022$29.66 – $575.35$2.37
2021$22.75 – $538.40 $2.22

Provided by KPMG

Currently, MPF fees are on the rise. As we transition into the next year, be sure to check with the CBP on the new rates when estimating shipping costs. 

The exact fee will differ based on the value of the goods that have been imported from Mexico. Businesses will also face unique transportation and logistics costs when importing from this trading ally. Since Mexico is connected to the U.S., it’s possible to transport goods by rail or truck. Vessel and air transport are still viable options as well. 

Some businesses choose to store their goods before distribution. Cargo will be kept in a bonded warehouse if importers decide on this option. There will be associated fees that business have to pay when using these facilities.

Terminal charges are another cost associated with importing from Mexico. When shipments come into an airport or seaport, workers will have to unload the goods and move them throughout the facility. These services can will also inflict costs on a company.

Costs associated with terminal charges and warehouse storage may include:

  • Transload charges
  • Re-palletizing
  • Cross Docking Fees
  • Extended storage fees

Recall that despite being accessible by truck, Mexico is another country. Goods don’t just travel straight across the border. There is still an extensive inspection service conducted, one that often requires manual inspection and can take three to four days. 

This is part of an ongoing effort to reduce the amount of illicit substances from across the border. Smugglers will go to extremes in their efforts to hide products from inspection services, so border checks must be equally thorough. 

If businesses don’t transfer their Mexican imports from the terminal within the agreed time, they will face demurrage fees. The expenses will only get higher the longer goods are kept at the facility. This is a common risk of importing that every business can face

When the container leaves a terminal, importers have a limited window of time to unload the contents and send it back to the port. If the container chassis isn’t returned within the allotted time frame, businesses will incur detention charges. 

Learn more about importing products from Mexico to the U.S. with our comprehensive guide.

A palletized crate with the Mexican flag that's lifted by a forklift

How Are Import Fees from Mexico Determined?

There are many fees that importers will incur when they buy goods from Mexico. These expenses are determined in different ways. First, we’ll start with how tariffs are decided. 

Essentially, there are two variations of this cost.

  • Specific tariffs
  • Ad-valorem tariffs

Specific taxes levy a fixed fee based on the item. For example, this could include a $300 tax on an agricultural import. Ad-valorem tariffs are based on the value of the items. This could be a tax that’s 4% of the shipment’s value. As we’ve already discussed, the MPF set by the CBP is charged as an ad-valorem fee.

Transportation and logistics costs will change based on distance and the mode of shipping. Importers can expect to spend more if they use international air transport. Vessel shipping is cheaper, but takes a bit longer than plane.

When an importer uses a bonded warehouse, they sign a bonded agreement. The cost to use these facilities are typically determined by the financial capacity of the operator. Demurrage and detention fees are decided based on how long importers go over their free time. 

Calculating Import Costs from Mexico

Knowing what determines import costs from Mexico is important. That said, importers should also know how to calculate their expenses. Doing so will allow businesses to get a rough estimate on how much they’ll spend. Calculating import costs from Mexico can be broken down into a few parts.

This includes:

  • Multiplying the customs value by the duty rate
  • Multiplying the taxable value by the applicable tax or fee rate
  • Adding other miscellaneous expenses

The customs value is also known as the total value of the shipment. This amount will change with every load of imported goods. Businesses can find their tariff rate by checking the HTS code for their products. Thanks to the USMCA, imported goods from Mexico may have a reduced or eliminated tariff.

 Next, businesses will need to account for applicable taxes and fees. This could include MPFs or similar expenses. Importers should multiply the CBP’s MPF rate of 0.3464% by the customs value of their goods.

Finally, businesses will need to consider their miscellaneous costs. These can include anything from transportation to warehouse storage. Importers only have to add each expense up to figure out the total. 

To ensure that all fees are being handled properly, it’s highly recommended for you to work with a licensed customs broker. If you are a domestic carrier service looking to expand and provide cross-border deliveries for U.S. companies nearshoring their operations in Mexico, a reliable customs brokerage firm is a must to avoid mistakes.     

Another valuable trading partner that shares a border with the U.S. is Canada. Read our article on importing from Canada to learn more.

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Can USMCA Lower My Import Expenses from Mexico?

Yes, the USMCA free trade agreement (FTA) can decrease Mexican import costs. There are many facets of this FTA that help lower expenses for importers and promote trade.  

The cost saving benefits of USMCA include:

We’ll explain each of these points and how it will help importers save money on their purchases.  

Tax – Free De Minimis

De minimis is the threshold value of goods that can be imported without incurring customs duties or taxes. Thanks to the USMCA, the de minimis level for U.S. importers is $800. For many Small and Midsize Enterprises (SME), importing goods from other countries is extremely costly. 

De minimus helps cases such as:

  • SME’s operating close to the border and going daily or weekly to secure supplies
  • Businesses importing a variety of sample products before committing to large orders
  • Importing from artisanal businesses who only produce limited amounts of products

The increase of de minims makes bringing in goods from Mexico more affordable for these businesses. Shipments falling below the threshold usually face fewer regulatory hurdles, which can accelerate the importing process. This is especially advantageous for businesses that prioritize swift deliveries.

Preferential Tariff Treatment

Under USMCA, a vast majority of goods traded between the member countries can receive preferential tariff treatment. This means products imported from Mexico will have a reduced duty. For certain products like agricultural goods and textiles, tariffs will be removed completely.

Other products subject to preferential tariff treatment under USMCA include:

  • Industrial goods
  • Consumer goods
  • Technology and electronics
  • Steel and aluminum 

Before an import can receive preferential tariff treatment, the shipment must qualify under USMCA rules of origin. To do so, goods must meet a minimum of 9 elements to meet the requirements set by the FTA

These include: 

  • Certifier of the goods (importer, exporter, or producer)
  • Name and address of the certifier
  • Name and address of the exporter
  • Name and address of the producer
  • Name and address of the importer
  • Description and HTS classification to the 6-digit level
  • Specific criteria the good meets for USMCA originating requirements
  • Blanket period
  • Authorized signature and date

Certificates of origin aren’t required for importations that have a value of $2,500 or less. The exception to this rule is if multiple importations valued $2,500 or less are made repeatedly and in a short time span to evade U.S. laws and regulations. 

Thanks to the preferential treatment offered by the USMCA, Mexico is a lucrative sourcing destination. This can help U.S. businesses mitigate risks associated with over-reliance on a single import source. Preferential tariff treatment also reduces the financial burden imposed on businesses when they import from Mexico. 

Read our comprehensive guide on U.S. free trade agreements to learn how to save when importing from other countries. 

A port worker inspecting some metal parts

Are There Antidumping and Countervailing Duties On Mexican Imports?

The USMCA allows the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to impose antidumping and countervailing duties as necessary. These provisions are in place to address unfair trade practices. 

Dumping is when products are exported lower than market value. This can undercut local businesses in a domestic country. Customs authorities in the U.S. impose an antidumping duty on these products to prevent this from happening. 

Countervailing duties (CVD) are tariffs placed on imported goods to offset subsidies from the exporting country’s government. The intent is to offset negative impacts domestic producers of the same items may face. Any products from Mexico that are heavily subsidized or dumped will face these duties. 

The U.S. has the following antidumping and countervailing duties in place:

Businesses that want to import these products will need to familiarize themselves with each antidumping duty and CVD. It’s important to note the list of goods subject to these duties can change in the future. 

What Products Does the U.S. Get from Mexico?

Mexico is one of the U.S.’s most significant foreign trading partners. It plays a pivotal role in the American market by supplying a wide range of goods. 

Products the U.S. imports from Mexico include:

Mexico excels at producing commodities for various reasons. For one, the country has a diverse climate and topography that makes it a great place for producing agricultural products. 

Mexico also has a skilled and adaptable workforce in the manufacturing sectors. Coupled with cost-effective labor rates, Mexican companies offer U.S. businesses high productivity levels without the excessive overheads found in some other countries.

Top Products Imported from Mexico

Out of all the goods the U.S. imports from Mexico, there are a few that are more popular than the rest. We’ve included some data on the top five commodity categories the U.S. sources from its neighbor below the border.

Top Five Imported Goods from Mexico (2022)

ProductAmount Imported
Vehicles$111.69 Billion
Machinery, Nuclear Reactors, Boilers$86.57 Billion
Electrical, Electronic Equipment$79.66 Billion
Mineral Fuels, Oils, Distillation Products$26.66 Billion
Optical, Photo, Technical, Medical Apparatus$18.87 Billion

Provided by Trading Economics

Fortunately for importers, many of these goods will qualify for preferential tariff treatment. This means businesses that sell these products will be able to affordably source their commodities from Mexico. 

If you want to save money while importing, read our article on U.S. tariff rate quotas and how to take advantage of them.

Overcome Import Costs from Mexico with USA Customs Clearance

When it comes to understanding and managing import costs from Mexico, the journey can be intricate. At USA Customs Clearance, we pride ourselves on being your guiding hand. With decades of experience and a keen understanding of the import landscape, we ensure that your importing endeavors are both smooth and compliant.

Our services include:

  • Customs Bonds: Safeguard your imports and ensure compliance with federal regulations.
  • Manifest Confidentiality: Protect the details of your cargo and maintain confidentiality.
  • Importer Record of Registration: Ensure you’re always on the right side of the law with correct documentation and registration.

Don’t let the intricacies of import costs deter your ambitions. Choose a partner who understands the landscape and is equipped to steer you clear of potential pitfalls. Call us now at (855) 912-0406 or contact us through the site to embark on a hassle-free import journey with USA Customs Clearance.

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