How (not) to buy a car in Chile

Santiago de Chile
February 1st – 5th, 2013

Jorge with the long To-Do List

Traveling on a very tight budget with 550 lbs of gear is not an easy task. We decided that our best chance was to buy a car in Santiago and head down to Punta Arenas on our own. This fancy move would save us money on overweight luggage fees in buses and planes and will allow us to adventure in the Chilean and Argentinian roads both before and after the PER. 

The information we found on the internet was straight forward:

  1. Get a RUT # (Tax payer ID#)
  2. Find a car
  3. Buy a car

They said the process should take one or two days.  Very fast and easy!

What they failed to mentions is that none of the public employees are aware of the process of selling a car to a foreigner. And due to this lack of knowledge are unwilling to search for a solution. Ohhh and most public offices only work Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 2:00 pm!  So, our Friday arrival to Santiago was unfortunate.  

Nothing like sealing the deal with blood.

For four days we were ping-ponged from agency to agency.  Almost every place we visited told us first hand that the process was impossible.  We had to cite the internet, pretend that we know what we were talking about to have a supervisor sent to us with some willing hands. 

As I said, our budget and time frame was very limited so we bought the best car we found, for the price that we could afford, which wasn’t much!  Our new ride was a 1985 Suzuki Carry that we found advertised on the internet in Melipilla, 1hr away from Santiago. Our salesman ensure us that it will make the trip to Punta Arenas and back – no problem! We were very excited to find a car that would fit the three of us and all our gear.  

Buying the car was a long and tedious process. We had to: 

Sam in our new team van
  1. Have both buyer (we) and seller present at the moment of transaction
  2. Have both RUTs
  3. Have the Circulation Permit and the Mechanical Revision Paper for the Car
  4. Pay the Contract
  5. Pay the Car Transfer plus 1.5% in Taxes in a Bank 
  6. Have an Official Estimated Car Value (equivalent to the Blue Book in the states)
  7. Receive the Padron (proof of ownership).  This should be given immediately if done in the Public Registry.  If not, it takes between 15 to 20 days. 

It took us a day of walking from office to office to buy the car. The public sector would not help us buy it so we had to do it through a notary office. The notary group was very helpful and understanding of our needs.  They helped us expedite the process and even get a travel authorization form.  

3/4 members of Team Four Continents are headed south!

The thing is that to go to Punta Arenas (Chile) by car you have to travel through Argentina. To do so, the car must be on your name (you need the ‘Padron’) or you will need a travel authorization from the owner. The last of our bureaucratic transactions was that. Finally we can head to Punta Arenas! 

Car paid, with temporary RUT and temporary acquisition papers we were ready to head out to Santiago.  In our first short ride we realized neither the windshield wipers nor the blinkers worked. We bargained with our salesman to lowered the established priced or to fix it. He took us to a mechanic whom after seeing the car for a few minutes said it was not possible in a rush. That was a bad omen. Yet, we were determined to go on. 

At 11:00 pm, from Maipú, we said good-bye to Jorge and Catalina and with our new car featuring Fenix headlamps and Nite Ize turn signals, we started our trip down to Punta Arenas. 

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