Purchasing a car in South America

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#1 Mon, 03/28/2011 - 18:41

Purchasing a car in South America

Hi All,

My name is Selina, I'm from Australia and new to DTA website. My sister and I are going to South America for 2-3 months at the end of May and are looking to travel by car which we'd need to purchase there obviously. I have a few questons about this and would appreciate any input :)

I am a little unclear about the process of buying a car in South America. Specifically, obtaining insurance there, other papers i'll need, costs involved, how can I be guaranteed I'm not being sold a dodgy car, and what are the logistics when it comes to crossing borders?

Considering the duration of our trip (2-3 months), do you think it's worth going through the motions of buying a car in the first place or should we be looking at alternate modes of transport?

As two young girls is it safe to travel like this in the event of a breakdown in the middle of nowhere?

As I said any help would be greatly appreciated!

Cheers, Selina 

Mon, 03/28/2011 - 22:40

Hi Selina, If you are set

Hi Selina,

If you are set on driving (and I totally recommend it!) your best bet is to purchase the car from a gringo - lots of non locals (tourists) try to sell their cars after driving around South America and it's easier and 'more legal' for all concerned if the transaction happens betweens foreigners. The real trick is trying to sell the vehicle when you want to leave. Lots of information on this site about getting insurance and the border crossings are quite painless if you have all your paperwork in order... again, you will find all you need to know about country specific information including border requirements here too.

It's hard to say about the safety issue ... most people I've met haven't had too many problems, definitely less than in Central America. for sure you'll probably get the odd bad cop trying to shake you down but usually it's just a bluff and there's lots of ways to avoid the scams, If you play by the rules, try not to drive at night and do your research my guess is that you should be fine, it's such a great way to explore, our motto here is 'Be Bold!'

Tue, 03/29/2011 - 11:59

2 months might be a little short...

Hey Selina - welcome to the site.  I echo what Tom says above, but have one thought - if you're really only going to be there for 2 months, be sure you're prepared to spend some time purchasing the car and selling it.  I would say a week for purchasing and a week for selling - that's kind of cutting into your 2 months of time in South America. It's the kind of thing that you'll probably have to do in person so I doubt you'll be able to cut down on the time by trying to do things before you arrive.  While I loved driving for our trip, we had a lot more time so spending time dealing with the car logistics didn't really matter to us since we had 18 months, but with just 2 months, I don't know...

Thu, 03/31/2011 - 12:57

Toyota Tacoma 4x4 Available for Purchase in Brazil


If you do decide to purchase a car from another traveler, my car is available here in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  My girlfriend and I drove it here from California.  I'll be here at least until mid-May.  The vehicle is a 1998 Toyota Tacoma 4x4with a  4-cyl 2.7 liter engine with almost 300,000 km on it.  It has a bed and storage built into the back.  I'd probably sell it for about $5,000 if you're interested.  If this matches your interest I'd be happy offer more info.  No worries if you're looking for something newer.


Thu, 03/31/2011 - 17:49

Hello, Thanks everyone for


Thanks everyone for your reply, it's all useful information.  

Pat, I'll have a chat with my sister and if we're interested in buying your car, I'll let you know :)


Mon, 03/20/2017 - 12:47

Toyota truck

Hello Pat, 


I may be interested in your truck. 


please amail or whattsapp me


[email protected]

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 15:03

Auto insurance for multiple countries


We are 2 couples that plan to buy a car and travel South America for 6 months or more. We are looking for information regarding the following:

1) Buying cars ideas we consider Panama but buying from gringos is an option too.

2) Auto insurance ideas full coverage and third party liability.

Ant information or pointing on a source of information will be much appreciated.

Thanks a lot

Dan Ezra

[email protected]

Whatsapp: +972-54-4820555 


Fri, 05/05/2017 - 03:57

Driving in Chile

Hi, It is good that you are trying to understand what is going on in South America. I have been in Chile for more than 10 months, traveled everywhere from Puerto Montt to Arica and find it is a beautiful country. The people are very helpful when there is an emergency, the police are the best in the world, I have had only two minor problems with them, buying a vehicle here can be a crap shoot. I am very knowledgeable about vehicles and it took me two months to find a suitable van for my travels. Do not try to buy a vehicle from a Chilean! They beat their vehicles to death and try to sell them for exorbitant prices. When I came here I tried to find a decent “inexpensive” van ($3,000 to $4,000) but learned that was impossible. I found only one van worth buying at a dealership and paid a premium price because I did not want to have any problems with it. I suggest you buy from a US citizen because they seem to be the most honest. I will include a description of my ad in case you are interested. Good luck in your travels.

$6,950 - 2013, Excellent, Second Owner, Chevrolet N300 van converted into a camper. I'm a mechanic and know vehicles. Anyone looking knows Chileans do not take care of their vans, most of those you find are a mess, driven to death, trashed then sold for high prices. I spent two months looking for this van, bought it from a reputable dealer and paid extra because it was well worth it. I have been in Chile for more than 10 months and eighty percent of the almost 50,000 kilometers on the meter are highway, that is about 31,000 miles. Those who know vehicles will tell you open road driving is the best for any vehicle. I normally get 13+ KM/liter in town and as much as 15 on the highway. It holds 54 liters of gas when filled to the top and will normally go more than 700 kilometers on one tank! It has an excellent 5 speed transmission and very easy to drive. I installed an extra large battery for camping and sometimes watch two or three movies a day. It has good tires, an excellent radio/CD player, fantastic heater, a cooler for food, a propane stove and tank for cooking, custom seat covers and custom bars above the seats and at the top of the rear window for hanging clothes or towels to prevent anyone seeing in side while sleeping. I installed foam on the inside walls for temperature and sound control, a bed with a very nice foam mattress, under which is storage. I recently renewed the license. If you are ready to go camping it is ready to take two people wherever you want to go. I am selling it only because I need a larger van capable of pulling a boat that I am building.