New Vehicle or Old Vehicle

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#1 Mon, 11/01/2010 - 01:51

New Vehicle or Old Vehicle

Dear Travellers,

I am planning on driving all over Central America and am not sure if I should spend more to get a newer vehicle, about 5 years old, or go with an older vehicle of about 10 years old.

I am looking at Toyota 4Runners and it would come down to getting either about a 2000 4Runner or a 2005 4Runner. The price difference would be 6-10k.

Should I feel free to buy the newer vehicle, or should I go with the older vehicle? Is their a substantial risk of vehicle theft? Is it really unfeasible to get good collision insurance easily and comprehensively throughout Central America? Would I be a sitting target driving a vehicle that is only 5 years old?

Thanks for any thoughts.

Chris W.

Mon, 11/01/2010 - 12:16

old vs new?

Hi Chris,

We drove an almost new Honda Element all the way. There are pros and cons to new vs old. With a new car breakdowns aren't an issue, and with some basic antitheft stuff (our car can't be hot-wired, we had an alarm) and we always parked it in a watched parking lot (not hard to find almost anywhere) we didn't have any issues with breakins or theft. If you have a new car it is more of an investment so you will likely want to ship it back home at the end of your trip, which is a bit of a hassle but lots of people have done it.

That said, getting a Toyota repaired will be easy since they are very common in Latin America, so an older car wouldn't be an issue in that sense. You'd also blend in really well that way.

The insurance is another thing - we think we had good insurance in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Panama (we never had to test it but technically on paper it would have covered everything), but the insurance is much sketchier in Nicaragua and Costa Rica that run their own show and don't accept outside insurance. So if you're worried about that an older car would probably be good too. Check out our insurance pages for more details.

I would say if you're comfortable with some possible repairs due to an older car, I'd go with the 2000 4Runner and save some more money for your travels...

Mon, 11/01/2010 - 19:53

old vs new

We drove an 1991 VW Golf and it took us all the way from Calgary, Canada to the bottom of South America. We had a few things that needed repairing but to be honest no major issues.

Latin American mechanics are pretty great at making cars work with whatever they have and you'd be surprised at how ingenious they can be.

The nice thing about an older vehicle is you are less noticeable however given the fact that you will have foreign plates you will still stick out in some places.

The great thing with a new car is that for the most part you shouldn't have any problems though, if you need a part it could be a bit hard to get the parts you need. If you go with a new car, try and take a few common parts with you so you have backups if needed!

Good Luck!!

Tue, 11/02/2010 - 07:15

New Vehicle or Old Vehicle

Hi Kristin,

What does a "watched" parking lot mean? Does it mean there is a paid attendant? Does it mean pedestrians are always nearby?


Tue, 11/02/2010 - 07:19

New Vehicle or Old Vehicle

Hi Kelsey,

Did you VW Golf travel on remote and rough roads? Did you do any light off roading with the VW?

Any thoughts about theft of your vehicle?


Sun, 11/07/2010 - 16:45

Hi Chris,

I will answer for Kristin re: the watched parking lot. You are correct there is an attendant who watched the car, alternatively you will find parking stalls, garages etc with security measures (locked gates, varied depending on where you are).

As for our car, we drove it like it was a 4 x 4 ;) We crossed rivers, drove it in Guatemala's highlands, drove it on the non-existent road from Bolivia to Brazil ( not that that was one of our best ideas. However the car stood up to everything we threw at it.

That being said, if we were to do it again, we would make sure we could:

1) sleep in the vehicle
2) have higher clearance (we definitely got nailed by Mexico's brutal speedbumps!)

With regards to theft, I think there is always a concern that it could happen. that is partly why we took an old vehicle it is less flashy than a new one and doesn't call out too much attention, the one thing that did was out plates so people new we were not locals.

One thing we did in Guatemala which was a lifesaver was to tint our back and side windows really dark so you couldn't see what we had in the car or backseat. It cost us $30 on the street and was a well spent $30 for sure.

Hope this helps!