Buying a car in Chile

While in Chile, we tossed around the idea of buying a car to see more, do more and hopefully spend less. The main benefit for us was the flexibility and not having to wait around at airports and bus terminals.Here is our “how to” guide to buy a car in Chile (if you have a friend who is a Chilean resident/citizen with a valid RUT number).

  • Step 1-Decide on a price range

We found cars to be more expensive than in New Zealand so it was hard to find a good car at a reasonable price (by our standards). We have been told this is due to the local restrictions on used vehicles to entice you to buy brand new cars. We decided that we would be happy to spend a maximum of $2,500,000 pesos (approximately $5,300 NZD). Generally, cars under $1,000,000 pesos are in pretty bad shape, so if you can afford a slightly better car, buy it. At the end of the trip, you can sell it for a small loss. Note: we compared the price it costs and what we think we could sell it; then settled for the smallest loss margin.

  • Step 2-Searching for a car

We primarily used and (as advised by Chileans, other travellers and on travel blogs we found) to search for reasonably priced cars in good condition. There are a mix of private sellers and dealers on both sites and you have the option to search type, regions and maximum price. Note: most sellers have whatsapp or you can email them to view the car, but it will need to be in Spanish! If you do use email, expect a delayed reply. A phone call works best as you get an immediate response.

We settled for a 2000 Suzuki Baleno station wagon with 165,000km in pretty good nick…but needed a thorough clean inside and out!

  • Step 3-Negotiating 

Once you’ve found your dream car, in most cases, you can negotiate the price down a wee bit. We managed to get $150,000 pesos off the purchase price as well as the brake lights fixed before we bought it. Again this needs to be in Spanish, so maybe take a local friend, if possible, if your Spanish is a bit borderline. Note: the same rule applies in most countries, if you say you’ll pay in cash and within the next few days, you can get a discount.

  • Step 4-Ensuring your papers are in order

This is by far the most time consuming and mind numbing step. Having a friend in Chile is a huge help as you will need a RUT (equivalent to an IRD number in NZ) and an address in Chile. Obtaining your own RUT is possible but can take some time and only lasts 3 months, so bear that in mind. We got the car in our friends name to make the process easier for us (in most cases anyway). Next you need to visit the Registro Civil, the bank and the Notary to sort these documents out. Make sure you have everything you need from the seller before you give them the money. 

Necessary documents:

  1. Seguro Obligatorio (mandatory third party insurance that gets registered to the car, not you – around $5,000 pesos per annum (April to March)).
  2. Permiso de Circulacion (a document which states the Chilean road tax has been paid – around $23,000 pesos per annum).
  3. Revision Tecnica (assessment of whether the car is roadworthy, which must be done annually).
  4. Certificado de Anotaciones para vehìculos motorizados (indicates any unpaid infringements and is necessary to get permission if the car is not in your name).

You will then need to transfer the title of the car at the Registro Civil (with the former owner) which is around $50,000 pesos. You pay a small portion at the registry, some at the bank, and the rest back at the registry. Yes, this is necessary and time consuming as you will need to take a number and wait in sometimes long queues. 

If you do put the car in someone else’s name, you will need Autorizacion which gives you permission to use the car inside of Chile. Our document said that we could also use it within Argentina and Uruguay but we weren’t allowed access into Argentina as they said this document is only valid for Chilean citizens/residents. This was $4,000 pesos, payable at the notary. Before going to the notary, ask at the registry for the document needed for this Autorizacion. You will need to get this Autorizacion stamped and signed at a notary. It’s important to note that if you rent a car, this Autorizacion IS valid in other countries. Additionally, if you are driving outside of Chile, you will need international insurance for the car, which you can buy online. This was $32,000 pesos per month and covers most South American countries. We used Falabella, but there are many companies/banks which offer this. Note: you will need to complete a customs form to provide at the border. You can get the form at the crossing or you can fill it out online to save you some time.

In many cases, the vendor will ask for cash. Most banks have a limit of how much you can get out and ATM’s will charge you international fees each transaction (max of $200,000 pesos per transaction). So you may need to stockpile a lot of cash prior to purchase. We asked our friend to withdraw cash from their Chilean bank account and we paid her back via an international bank transfer. This was a much safer and easier option.

  • Step 5-Learning to drive on the other side of the road!

In New Zealand, we drive on the left, so transitioning to the right resulted in arguments, yelling and hazard lights in the early days. The car is manual so also the gear shift is on the other side (right) which is also problematic! Note: there are many hazards in Chile; vehicles stop at any time using hazard lights, people cross the road without looking, dogs chase cars up the streets, one way streets can be in any order, there are not always road markings, and sometimes you can turn right even if the lights are red. Make sure you’re wide awake and alert for anything! But you do get used to it all so don’t worry too much.


4 thoughts on “Buying a car in Chile

      1. This is the second time I’m seeing denied access to Argentina online in the last year. Can you go into more detail and what your suggestion would be so we could get into Argentina? We’re planning on being in South America for a couple of months in September.


      2. Hi Matt,

        I think it was mainly an issue for us because we bought the car in Chile in our friends name.
        All the blogs we had read when we were researching either bought a car and stayed in Chile or rented a car and crossed the border.
        If you rent a car or take a bus, you should have no issues crossing the border from Chile to Argentina (and vice versa). If you choose to buy a car yourself and want to cross a border we are under the impression, as told by officials at the border, that if the car is in your name and you’re a resident (having a RUT) it should be fine.
        However, because we were unsuccessful with how we did it (and no one thought we would have any problems), I can say for 100% certain having a RUT and having your car in your name will definitely work.

        All the best for your trip later in the year 😊

        Liked by 1 person

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