One of the best ways to discover South America is by car. You might want to rent a car, but if you travel for a longer period in South America, it might be better to own a car. It is not only convenient, but it is also a cheaper option and good investment in the long run.
In this guide, we will explain you how to buy your own Chilean car. We will guide you through the process of finding a car, obtaining a RUT number and transfer the title of the car. We will also provide more information on the documents necessary to cross borders with your own car.
Where and how to look for a car
Step 1: Define what type of car you need
The first step is to decide what type of car you want/need. If you want to visit remote places, a 4WD might be necessary. If you decide to camp a lot and cook by yourself, the extra space that a van can offer is certainly added value. For example, we decided to buy a van where we could live in for four months. It was a 2WD but the car had a high clearance, so we could conquer some more challenging roads. It all depends on your own preferences. And of course the amount of money you want to spend.
Step 2: Look for a car that lives up to your expectations
If you decided on the type of car, it is time to find one. Luckily, this is fairly easy in Chile. Road tripping through South America is rather popular, so there are always travelers that are ending their trip and that are selling their car. Some popular places where cars are sold and bought are:
- drivingtheamericas.com (buying from other travelers)
- Panamerican Travelers Association facebook group (buying from other travelers)
- Overland Buy & Sell facebook group (buying from other travelers)
- chileautos.cl (buying from other travelers and Chileans)
Once you found a car that is matching your wishes make contact with the seller and agree on a price. Note that Chilean cars are often more expensive than for example cars in Europe. Even older cars tend to be higher in price, because in South America, instead of throwing a car away as they do in the consumer society in Europe, cars in South America are fixed by a mechanic. One reason for that is probably that mechanic prices are much cheaper than in Europe.
When agreeing on a price, also keep in mind the extra equipment the car comes with (gas stove, fridge, cooking gear, camping gear, second battery, solar shower, chairs …). These costs can easily add up to 1000 euros.
To make sure that you are buying a decent car, you can ask the seller to join you with the car to a mechanic to have a check-up and to see whether there are no huge mechanical costs to the car. And of course, take a test drive. Only by driving with the car, you will be able to make the correct decision.
Also make sure the paperwork of the car is up to date. These papers include
- The Padron (proof of ownership of the car)
- Certificado de Revision Technica (Safety certificate, issued yearly and must be up to date)
- Permissa de Circulation (Road tax, issued yearly and must be up to date)
- Segurado Obligatorio (Compulsary Insurance, issued yearly and must be up to date)
- Certificate de Anotaciones (to prove it is correctly registered)
- Certificado de Multas (document that proves there are no fines on the car)
And finally, buying a car is also based on trust. If you believe that the sellers are honest in their story and you have a nice contact with them, this can add to your decision making. For example, we always were interested in the history of the car (previous owners, previous use). If the sellers can tell you the story, it shows a good sense of responsibility. Of course, you can do some detective work as well, as many travelers have blogs and a Facebook profile, where they might have posted issues if there were any.
Obtaining a RUT number
What is it?
This is a 9 number digit that appears like this xx.xxx.xxx-x. Every Chilean has a RUT number, and to be able to buy a car, you will also need one. Don’t worry, obtaining a RUT number is rather easy, so this will take you less than 1 day.
How to get it?
Step 1: Find a sponsor
As a foreigner, you will need a local who is willing to ‘sponsor’ you, help you with the application. Overall, Chileans are very friendly and helpful people, so finding a sponsor should be fairly easy. The most important reason that you need a sponsor is to have some sort of domiciliation address in Chile, what will be the address of your sponsor. There are different options to find a sponsor:
- Most of the travelers ask their AirBNB or couchsurfing host for being their sponsor. Or you can ask at your hostel.
- Ask the Couchsurfing forum.
- Use a professional service. We can recommend the services of SuziSantiago. They can sponsor your RUT number for a fee and make it very easy for you, as they handle the entire process. You just have to show your ID a couple times at the different instances and that’s it. Within two and a half hours, you’re the proud owner of your RUT. We opted to work together with them, and really can recommend them. Communication and the process was very fast and straightforward.
Step 2: Get a RUT application form
You have to pick up this form at a Servicio de Impuestos Internos (SII). There are plenty of them in Santiago (check maps.me for their address). Here you have to pick up a form F4415.1.
Step 3: Go to a notaria
The next step is to go, together with your sponsor, to a notaria. Don’t worry, because there are like thousands of notarias in Santiago, so finding one is not really difficult. However, notarias can get quite busy, so the earlier you arrive in the morning, the better. We recommend notaria Camilo Valenzuela Riveros (Av. Providencia 1777). It is 200 m from the Pedro Valdivia metro station and close to a SII office. They have experience with foreigners selling a car, so getting the right documents is very convenient. At the notaria, they will help you and your sponsor with filling in the affidavit (that is attached to the form you received in the previous step). They will prepare the necessary documents you will need in the SII for the final step of getting your RUT number.
Step 4: Head back to the SII
Head back to the SII with the documents of the notaria and your filled in F4415-1 form. You can easily fill this in by yourself:
- Section A: Fill in your own information
- Section B: Leave blank
- Section C: Leave blank
- Section D: Leave blank
- Section E: Complete with your address in Santiago. The easiest is to use the address of your sponsor.
- Section F: Leave blank
- Section G: Leave blank
- Section H: Fill in the information of your sponsor.
- Section I: Fill in your name, as you are representing your own application.
- Sign in the box at the bottom of the page.
At the SII, you will get a number and have to wait your turn. When you’re called, just hand over all the documents and they’ll do the rest. You will receive a paper with your RUT number on (ours was just handwritten). They will also hand you over an instruction for their online tool where you have to change your password. Here you will be able to consult your documents and print your permanent RUT card. But for buying the car, it is sufficient to take just the number with you to the notaria.
Note that previously, the permanent RUT card was send to your address in Chile, but recently, this changed. Now you have to print the RUT card yourself via their online tool. To make it look more official it’s a good idea to laminate your permanent RUT card. This card can come in handy for crossing borders, so make sure you have this card with you.
Transfer the title of the car
You found a car and you obtained a RUT number? Then let’s buy the car!
Step 1: Signing the compraventa at the notaria
A compraventa is a contract between you and the seller of the car and it includes that you agree to buy the car in the current state. It also states the price that will be paid for the car. Furthermore, the employee at the notaria will check whether the car is correctly registered in Chile and if there are no fines left on the car.
To make the contract, the seller needs the following documents:
- The Padron
- Certificado de Revision Technica
- Permissa de Circulation
- Segurado Obligatorio
- Certificate de Anotaciones
- Certificado de Multas
- His/her RUT number
- His/her passport
You as the buyer will need your RUT number and your passport. This process will take about 2-3 hours.
As the buyer, you have to pay the notaria costs and you also have to pay a tax for buying the car. This is calculated, based on the price of the car, but expect this will cost you 250-300 euros. So make sure you have enough pesos with you to pay this in cash.
Once the contract is signed and fingerprinted by you and the seller (and the notaria) and the tax is paid, the most official part is done.
Step 2: Paying for the car
Of course, you still have to pay for the car. We recommend to pay the full amount of money after the paperwork is done. Some sellers might want to ask a cash advance, others don’t. The best option to pay, for both parties, is by a bank transfer, because there are no, or only little fees/loss on exchange rates. Keep in mind that if you have to pay cash and have to withdraw money from the bank, you can only withdraw a certain amount of pesos each time, so start the process days upfront.
Step 3: Pick up the Solicitud de Transferencia
After a week, we suggest you to pick up the Solicitud de Transferencia at the notaria. This is a document that the notaria has send to the official instances, and it is a far more official document than the compraventa when being pulled over by the carabinieros. You have to pick up this document at the same notaria where the compraventa was signed. This will take only 10 minutes of your time and is free.
This document will also help you to look up the current status of your Padron (see next step).
Step 4: Celebrate your Padron
After a couple of weeks (in our case, it took 2 weeks), your Padron will be ready. This document is the official document that you are the owner of the car. The Padron is send to your home address in Chile (most of the time, the address of your RUT sponsor). But don’t worry, you don’t need the original Padron to cross borders. You can pick up a copy of your Padron at any Registro Civil (about any town in Chili has a Registro Civil, check their website (www.registrocivil.cl) for the exact addresses) Just ask it there, and they will print a copy of your Padron. Make sure you get the correct document, as some will give you a ‘Certificado de Inscription’ but this is not sufficient to cross borders with.
Congratulations, you now are officially the owner of your car!
But hang on, how do I know when my Padron is ready to pick up? Well, here the Solicitud de Transferencia comes in handy. When clicking the ‘Estado de Solicitudes’ on the Registro Civil website, you can fill in the information you can find on your Solicitud de Transferencia. When you than get the message that you have to go to an office to terminate the process, you know your Padron is ready.
Other documents handy for crossing borders
In recent years, the Chilean aduana has become slightly paranoia about foreigners crossing borders with a Chilean car. They were afraid that the cars would never return to Chile and they started using the law that you need a permanent Chilean residence before you can leave the country with your car. But don’t worry, because a group of overlanders found a solution in the form of a ‘declaracion jurada’.
What is a declaracion jurada?
A declaracion jurada is a notarized document in which you promise you will return the car back to Chili within 180 days (the legal time a car can exit Chile). With this document, crossing the border becomes easy again. When crossing borders, make sure also to print out the Law that is about this issue (download it here). Section 17 (and more specifically Section 17.2.3) is the relevant part. We asked our notaria for the document when we headed back for the Solicitud de Transferencia.
Helpful apps and websites for the road
It is time to start the road trip of your life! Besides your own planning there are some handy websites and apps that you can use during your trip:
- Panamerican Travelers Association facebook group: This facebook group is not only useful to find a car, but you can also find a lot of information in this website about border crossings, places to visit, … Or you can launch your own question if you cannot find the information immediately.
- Maps.me: The navigation app that every traveler needs. You can navigate offline as long as you downloaded the map for that specific country and you can pin interesting places.
- Ioverlander: A user-based travel app where you can find interesting places, camping spots, warnings, mechanics and other useful tips you might need on the road.
- www.drivetheamericas.com: Full of information from likeminded travelers, blogs, …
- Registro civil Chile: here you can print all kind of documents, like certificado anotaciones vigentes for your vehicle if you want to sell your car to other travelers.
That’s it, you’re now fully ready to buy a car and start your own South American adventure. If you found this info useful feel free to share or leave a comment below. This info is up to date from july 2017, if you have any questions or remarks we’re glad to hear.