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Exploring Chile by Vehicle: Purchasing A Vehicle As A Tourist

Here's a photo from 2011 when my wife and I were selling our Suzuki Samurai II. This was the first of 4 vehicles that we purchased while we lived in Chile. It also taught us most of the important "don't dues", when purchasing a vehicle in Chile. When we tried to renew the "Permiso de Circulacion" on this 4x4 for the first time, we found that it had close to $400 USD worth of fines attached to it. Close to $200 USD of them we ended up having to pay in the end.   Photo Credit: Eric McGrew
In the previous articles of “Explore Chile by Vehicle” I explained my reasons for visiting Chile and exploring it’s natural beauty with a vehicle. Even more specifically, I mentioned that, if your budget allows, I highly suggest getting yourself a 4x4. A question a number of people have is, can they buy a vehicle? Or, do you need to rent one from a company or come into Chile with your own.

Why I Suggested Getting A 4x4

In case you haven’t seen the past articles, some of my reasons for suggesting the use of a 4x4/Off-Road Vehicle while exploring Chile where as follows.

One reason is. With an off-road vehicle, or 4x4, you will have access to more remote and pristine areas.

Another reason is, in Chile’s more remote areas, there are some poorly maintained roads, and there are rarely mechanics that are quality oriented to fix your vehicle. Because of this, it’s good to have a vehicle that can handle these rougher terrains.

Finally, even well maintained gravel roads can become difficult to manage without a 4x4. Often during the grading process, the grader will pull up rocks that are 8 to 14 inches in diameter. Making it difficult for lower vehicles to transit the road safely and easily. After the grading process is finished, the edges of the road become really soft and deep. I’ve seen many a tourist pull off the side of the road for a picture, only to have to ask someone to pull them out.

Buying A Vehicle In Chile

At this point, you are probably asking if purchasing a vehicle in Chile is possible on a Tourist visa. YES IT IS POSSIBLE, no matter what the local government employee’s, Chilean friends, or people at the Notaria (Notary) may say. Just keep insisting firmly, but kindly. It’s not that hard of a process either. It is a bit time consuming though, and there may be a few travel restrictions involved if you are planning to leave Chile to go to a neighboring country quickly after your purchase of the vehicle. (We’ve heard that Peru doesn’t like to let foreigners, with a vehicle purchase in Chile, cross the border.)

I could explain the whole purchasing process of a vehicle in Chile. However, it’s a bit step intensive, and it’s been a few years since I last purchased a vehicle on a tourist visa. Therefore, I will refer you to the really nicely written, and detailed (even accurately describing the Chilean cultural idiosyncrasies) article written by the folks over at to help you out.

While’s article is very accurate, I would like to add a couple of things. First, they mention “a tax” that you have to pay when buying a vehicle. This correct. There is a tax, and you will most likely have to pay it at a local bank branch where you are doing the transaction. However, mentions the tax as being around $60 AUD. My understanding is that the tax varies based on the estimated value of the vehicle. Therefore, the fee is not determined by the price paid for the vehicle, but what the government evaluates the vehicle to be worth. Most commonly, you will pay more for the vehicle that it’s estimated value.

Another thing I would like to add is, along with checking that all the papers of a vehicle are current and up to date, you will want to check and make sure there are no fines registered to the vehicle. I know... it’s the weirdest thing to me to. Still parking, toll, and traffic fines are registered to the vehicle. Not the owner. At times, someone who is trying to sell a vehicle will stop paying the fines. They’re hope is that you will purchase the vehicle. Once you purchase the vehicle, you become responsible for the fines. You won’t have to pay the fines instantly. Fines registered to the vehicle could become a problem in the future though. We’ll talk about that in the next article.

In conclusion, yes! You can buy a vehicle on tourist visa while here in Chile. Yes! It will be a bit labor intensive, and you need to be detailed oriented about making sure the papers are in order, that there are no fines registered to the vehicle, and you will probably have to spend a good 2 days to do all this. That being said, after all the cues lines are behind you, you have fuel in the tank, and you've picked up a Copec map, you will be on your way to seeing some of the worlds most beautiful scenery ever! Stay tuned for the next article where we talk about the fines and other technical details you'll want to know about owning a vehicle in Chile.

*Note: uses affiliate and ad link services to help come Off-Road Independence as well as up and running. These ad services use cookies to make this possible. This is just to let you know.  

Hey all! Don't forget to check out the guys over at Oregon Trail They are building community, and ramping up for their 40 excursion where they'll be retracing as much of the original Oregon Trail as possible Off-Road. So, stop by and check out what they've got going on!

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