So you are looking to start your road trip adventure across South America and it’s going to be one of the best decisions of your life! Now you just need to get your head around what’s involved in buying and selling a car in Chile. It may seem like a lot to get across but once you know how it works, it’s pretty straightforward and you will run it like a pro.
So why road trip in South America?
Are you mad? How could you ask that? Being in control of your every day, going everywhere you want to go, paying for low-cost accommodation at campsites or nothing at all in the wild and on beaches. Making your own adventures, getting into every nook and cranny that a country has to offer. Living outside of the tourist bus circuit. Exploring rainforests, waterfalls, mountains and remote villages up close and personal – always travelling the road one adventure at a time!
Why not rent?
It’s crazy expensive, you know that, which is why you are here.
And why Chile out of all of South America?
As a foreigner, it is one of the easiest countries in South America to navigate from a bureaucracy perspective. They also have a thriving economy as they are rich in natural resources, which means there is a better range of quality second-hand vehicles compared to the rest of South America.
Let’s get started
Everything you are about to read is based on our own buying and selling campervan experience in Chile from 2017 to 2018. Laws and requirements can change at any time, so always check a few sources of information to make sure there’s nothing new or different in the mix. This document is correct as of April 2018.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of buying and selling a car in Chile, it’s good for you to see what it looks like in a super simplified way.
Stage 1: How do I get a RUT (tax number) so I can buy a car in Chile?
- Find a Chilean to sponsor you from a hostel or forum.
- Collect RUT application form F44515-1 with an affidavit from the SII office.
- Get your affidavit notarised at the Notaria (with your sponsor).
- Get RUT application and signed affidavit processed at the SII office (with your sponsor).
- Download your RUT identification from the SII website.
Stage 2: Where can I find a campervan in Chile?
- From travellers (campervan, road trip ready) buying and selling on:
- Drive the Americas
- Facebook Groups
- Pan-American Travelers Association (PTA)
- Overland Buy & Sell
- Overland in the Americas
- [Nationality] in Chile
- From dealers and Chileans (cars, vans, RV) selling on:
You can check the registration, paperwork validity and fine details by entering the vehicles registration number in the Portal de Servicios Municipales.
Stage 3: How do I complete the sale of a car in Chile?
- The buyer and seller need to agree how and in what order they will make payment, sign the contract and hand over the vehicle/keys.
- Go to the Notaria with the following documentation:
- The buyer brings:
- National Passport – National ID
- RUT (Rol Único Tributario) – Tax number
- The current owner brings:
- National Passport – National ID
- RUT (Rol Único Tributario) – Tax number
- Padron – Certificado de Inscripción – Proof of ownership
- Certificado de Revisión Técnica – Safety certificate
- Seguro Obligatorio (SOAP) – Compulsory insurance
- Permiso de Circulación – Road tax
- Certificado de Inscripción y Anotaciones Vigentes – Registration history & violations
- Certificado de Registro de Multas – Registered fines
- Sign and fingerprint the documentation drawn up by the Notaria:
- Compraventa – Sales contract
- Declaracion Jurada – To allow a foreigner to leave Chile with a Chilean-plated vehicle, required for some Chile border crossings
- Autorizacion – To allow the new owner to drive the vehicle across borders before he is the registered owner
- The buyer brings:
Stage 4: When do I become the new owner of the car?
It takes up to 21 days for the new owner to be registered with the vehicle in their name. This is when the original version of the Padron is sent to the given Chilean address and a duplicate version is made available for collection or download at any Registro Civil across Chile.
We completed most of the process in Santiago, at the following offices and we found these offices to be familiar with processing foreigners which does help:
Now it’s time for the juicy bit. These next sections will go into more detail about each of the steps and documents involved, as well as tell you about our own story as we went through the process.
Firstly, what is a RUT and why do you need one?
A RUT (Rol Único Tributario) is a Chilean unique tax number managed by the Chilean tax agency known as the Servicio de Impuestos Internos (SII). A RUT is either automatically issued as part of a RUN or if you are a non-resident or tourist wanting to make a large purchase like a car or house, you can apply for a standalone RUT as an extranjero (foreigner).
Just so you have some background, a RUN is the civil registry identity card (a social security card). All residents of Chile need a RUN to effectively exist in the community (open a bank account, make utility payments, have a phone or internet plan and generally buy stuff). When you are born in Chile you are issued with a RUN and as a new resident, you can also apply for one. For a resident or citizen, the RUN and RUT are the same number on one identity card. To confuse everything, it is more commonly known as and referred to as a RUT (arghhh!!).
Standalone RUT holders do not receive a card. Instead, you can either print and laminate your RUT from your online profile or download the eRUT app on your mobile phone. It’s important to know this because if an official asks you for your RUT card after you have provided them with your laminate, it’s because they are expecting a RUN card. Just remind them that you only have an extranjero RUT not residente.
Step 1: Find a Chilean to sponsor you from a hostel or forum
You need a Chilean citizen (or possibly permanent resident) with a RUN to sponsor you and provide you with an address. If you do not know anyone a lot of hostels, Airbnb or Couchsurfing hosts will help out for a small cash bonus. You can also ask in any of the Facebook forums I mention below. We met lots of people on the road who found helpful sponsors at their accommodation or in groups/forums. They are not liable for anything by doing this and they get something out of it, so it’s win-win!
Step 2: Collect and fill out the RUT application form F4415-1 from your local Servicio de Impuestos Internos (SII)
SII offices are everywhere, you can find out where your local one is from Google Maps or at the SII website. Some tax offices have a person on the floor managing the flow of people, good signage and usually always a ticket system. You shouldn’t really wait for this form, so if signage isn’t clear and you see someone standing around who looks like they work there, go to them and you should get the form pretty quickly.
You can also download directly the F4415-1 Form online but if you collect this from your local SII office, they already have the affidavit drawn up and attached for you and your sponsor to sign at the Notaria. Alternatively, the Notaria can create one for you.
- Section A: Identificacion Del Contribuyente – Tax Payers Details (that’s you). If you do not carry your mums maiden name like Chileans, just put your surname in the appelido paterno and leave the materno box blank.
- Section E: Domicilio en Chile – This is your Chilean address (assuming this is also where your sponsor lives) and you should add your email in this section too.
- Section H: Represente, Administrador o Mandatarioi – Your sponsors details.
- Section I: Persona Que Efectua El Tramite – This asks for the person carrying out the procedure and our sponsor filled his details in here.
- Signature Box – Our sponsor signed here but either the ‘contribuyente’ (you) or the ‘representante’ (your sponsor) can sign.
Step 3: Get notarised at the Notaria
Notarias legally certify people, agreements and documents. This is where you will legitimise yourself and your address for the RUT application. Pick a Notaria near your SII office so you can comfortably complete all of you RUT activities in one day. They are independent and everywhere, just search for Notaria in Google Maps. You will need your sponsor, their RUN ID card, your passport and the completed application form (possibly with the affidavit in hand).
First up, being at a Notaria is like being on the trading floor of the New York stock exchange; the air is thick with voices and debate as crowds of people are standing around, pushing through gaps or waving numbered tickets in the air. This is partly down to the Notarias interesting factory-line process.
Most run on ticket systems, so you take a number and wait for it to appear. Once up, you tell them you are applying for a RUT as a non-resident, hand them your paperwork and clarify the person next to you is your sponsor (or obviously get them to do all of the Chilean talking). The Notaria administrator will confirm the cost and direct you to go to the person in the cashier’s box to pay the amount in cash. Once complete, you return to the administrator with the receipt. At this point, you and your sponsor will check the affidavit (if drawn up at the Notaria), sign and fingerprint it (usually including lots of copies too). Everything is bundled up together and you wait whilst the paperwork gets passed onto and reviewed by a supervisor, who then passes it onto the lawyer usually sitting in the back corner of the room. Once they have signed everything off, it then gets passed back to the administrator who provides you with all of the notarised documents and confirms you are good to go!
Step 4: Complete the RUT application at the SII
Take a ticket and when called present everything you took to and received from the Notaria. They will plug your information into the system and provide you with a print out of your RUT number and the details of how to access your My SII online account, along with the password (clave).
Step 5: Make things legit
- Log into your My SII online account and download your RUT.
- Go to your local print shop, print your RUT, cut it to size and get it laminated.
- Download the eRUT app onto your mobile device.
What is the right car for your South American road trip?
Whilst we loved the idea of doing our own conversion, we were only travelling for three months so it made sense for us to go for a ready-made campervan. You can obviously buy a vehicle and make your own modifications but we were lucky enough to find a car already modified by the previous owners and their mods were pretty spot on against our requirements.
We saw a broad range of vehicles from 4×4’s to 2WD’s cars, rooftop tents to sleep-in arrangements, VW Combi’s to other self-contained vans. We did this for two reasons.
- There aren’t as many vehicles available as we thought there would be so we had to broaden our search options.
- We had a long list of everything we wanted this magic mystical pimped out #vanlife insta-van to have along with a simple travellers budget. Luckily as dreamy as we were, we were practical enough to know we had to start culling that list. Seeing different vehicle set-ups, test driving them and meeting other overlanders ultimately helped us to work out what was really important for us on our trip.
- Solid reliable brand – We met lots of people who had to replace a lot of parts on the road including major ones like the motor. Some were held up for weeks. We definitely wanted to make the most of our time exploring, so this was very important.
- 2WD – With all of our other needs and after some research, we realised high clearance on a well-made SUV would allow us to travel everywhere we needed too. We love 4×4’s but they add quite a bit extra $$$, so this was our biggest compromise but after everything, we realised wasn’t a compromise at all (although La Bestia thought she was a 4×4 by the way she acted).
- High clearance – This will save you from potential damages on the unpaved roads.
- Low range power – So we let go of the 4×4, low range power gave us ultimate control on any terrain
- Second battery system – Keeping us connected on the road and running a fridge.
- Internal sleeping set-up – This meant we could sleep anywhere and I quite literally mean anywhere! Saved cash along the way and made for some fun memories. It also made us feel more secure.
- Ready to hit the highway – Kitchen equipment, tools, table, chairs, fridge; basically everything we needed so we didn’t load on more costs.
Where can you buy and sell cars, campervans and vans in Chile?
Campervans or cars more commonly sold by other travellers with all of the right modifications, as well as including all of the gear, are mostly discovered on Drive the Americas.
If you are looking to buy a second-hand vehicle and make your own modifications, or find purpose-built (but more expensive) campervan or RV, the best websites are Chile Autos (paid listing) or Yapo (free listing). The vehicles on these sites are mainly sold by Chileans, either dealers or private sellers and with Yapo being free to list on, the vehicles may not be a good standard or they may come from a bad area. You also have the option of looking across some car dealerships and their second-hand line of vehicles, there are plenty of these in Santiago.
Just beware, there are good and bad areas of Chile and people say you never really know what you are getting from a bad area. To check the best locations, you should definitely join the Facebook groups I mention below.
From our experience, most travellers buying or selling campervans hit the same Facebook groups as well as Drive the Americas but it never hurts to join these groups as they’re a good network and source of information, plus Drive the Americas is struggling with its spam control, so not sure if people will keep using it. My favourite Facebook groups are:
- PanAmerican Travelers Association – I particularly love PanAmerican Travelers Association. These guys are passionate, experienced and ‘just starting out’ travellers across the US. It is a highly active group, not only helpful in the early search days but when you are on the road. You get updates on border crossing, issues or the best places and roads to take. They also have a search function so you can see if the content you are looking for has already been covered before having to post a message on the wall.
- Overland Buy & Sell – A great group to dedicated to buying and selling vehicles.
- Overlanding the Americas – Similar to the PanAmerican Travelers Association
- [Your-Nationality] in Chile – These are great groups to seek information on anything to do with Chile in general with some posts on vehicles being sold or needed. I was in Brits in Chile, Australians in Chile and managed to get into the Francais au Chili as these guys seem to be very active in buying and selling cars in Chile.
How do I know I’ve found the right camper?
You have seen it, poked it, prodded it, rolled around in it and you are happy it meets the description as advertised.
You have definitely test driven it and it drives like a dream, do not buy a vehicle without doing this.
And in some situations, it’s valuable getting a mechanic to look over it and give you the thumbs up or let you know if there are any mechanical issues or immediate fixes that are required (which you can factor into your negotiations). If you do this, you need to make sure you trust the mechanic you are using. iOverlander has a website and an app. It’s a reference point created, updated and followed by road trippers with recommendations for everything overlanding including trusted engineers, carpenters and danger zones.
BUT before you even go to see the vehicle, make sure the owner has all of the necessary paperwork in check. This is really important because it not only saves you from wasting your time but it also lets you know if there are likely to be any issues or additional costs you need to factor in. Ideally, the safety check certificate (Revision Tecnica) should have at least a couple of months on it before it expires. The proof of ownership (Padron) should be in their name or they have the power of attorney (Poder) to sell it on behalf of the owner. Lastly, the road tax (Permiso de Circulación) and compulsory insurance (SOAP) are paid up until 31st March.
If you get the vehicle registration number, you can validate this information yourself in this handy little tool from the Portal de Servicios Municipales. you will also see the value the vehicle was given at that time of previous sales.
It is worth noting if your seller bought the vehicle after March 31st, then you may still see the previous owner’s name listed until 31 March the following year. This is because they were the last person who registered the Permiso de Circulación which happens on the same date each year for all vehicles in Chile!
Step 1: Agreeing on the conditions around the sale of the car and when payment will be made
So you have found the car, agreed on the price, now it’s time for the awkward bit. What comes first; the money or the signing over of the car? When we found our perfect campervan, the sellers were a day away from leaving Chile. They created a Poder with a third party for us to make the sale with. A Poder is a power of attorney created at the Notaria which allows someone else to use and sell the vehicle under the authorisation of the owner of the vehicle.
In our purchase experience, we ended up carrying the risk and paid them first – eek, I know! Once the payment cleared, they gave us and the Poder holder the thumbs up from back in France and we then completed the sale at the Notaria the next day. It was certainly a nerve-racking time.
Of course, you could have the cash at the time of signing but let’s face it, the seller needs to be happy to receive a substantial wad of Chilean Pesos (CLP). This is all good if they are Chilean, and if you are happy to spend several weeks drawing out lump sums of money from an ATM (cash machine). Other factors are of course ATM fees and your own bank’s currency conversion fees on ATM withdrawals.
Obviously, if you have found a seller from your own country, it’s a bit more straightforward because it’s just a bank transfer but if you are dealing with a foreigner from another country altogether, then you need a foreign currency transfer solution. I did some comprehensive research at the time and can heavily recommend Transferwise. Not only are these guys the most competitive, it is super quick and their online user experience is extremely simple and straightforward. You shouldn’t take my word for it, pick a couple of foreign currency transfer providers and run your numbers through their online calculators. you will see that Transferwise practically offer xe.com rates and take a fee, which in total still works out cheaper than any other providers rates.
They effectively create two separate transactions. Firstly, from your bank account to their currency account that matches the currency of the person you want to pay. Then when that money appears, they process the second transaction from their account to your chosen payee. On average it takes 48 hours for both to complete but when we sold our camper, the buyer put through the transactions at about 2 pm and when we woke up at 6 am the next day the money was in our bank accounts – amazingly quick!
Step 2: Making the sale at the Notaria
It is buy or sell day, either way, an exciting moment for everyone! And it’s pretty straightforward. You are back on the floor of the New York stock exchange. Be there as the doors open, take a number and wait your turn. Both the buyer and seller go to the desk and say they wish to create a Compraventa for the sale of a car (in your best pigeon Spanish and with the help of Google Translate). Hand over the below documents, confirm who is the seller (the vendedor), who is the buyer (the comprador), and the amount in CLP the vehicle is being sold for. At this point, you should also say you wish to create a Declaracion Jurada and an Autorizacion.
- National Passport (always provide your visa entry receipt along with this)
- RUT – Don’t know what this is? You need to read Getting a RUT so I can buy a car in Chile
- National Passport (always provide your visa entry receipt along with this)
- Certificado de Inscripción – Padron
What is it? Your proof of ownership ID. It’s a print out of a double-sided card you should cut down and laminate to protect, available within 21 days of signing the compraventa.
Who issues it? Registro Civil.
Where are they? All over Chile, search registro civil in Google Maps or go to their website.
- Certificado de Revisión Técnica
What is it? A safety & roadworthiness certificate issued after a mechanical check, known as an MOT in the UK or a Pink slip in Australia and it needs to be renewed annually.
Who issues it? PRT (Planta de Revisión Técnica).
Where are they? All over Chile, search for revisión técnica in Google Maps or go to the PRT website.
- Seguro Obligatorio (SOAP)
What is it? Compulsory vehicle Insurance which needs to be paid by the same date (31st March) for all vehicles in Chile and renewed annually.
Who issues it? An insurance company.
Where are they? Wherever you want them to be! Use an online aggregator tool to compare insurers and costs like Compara Online.
- Permiso de Circulación
What is it? Road tax which needs to be paid by the same date (31st March) for all vehicles in Chile annually, after you have renewed your SOAP.
Who issues it? A Servicios Municipales Comunas Officina.
Where are they? There is one in each commune, they list them all on their website.
- Certificado de Inscripción y Anotaciones Vigentes
What is it? The vehicles current registration details and history. It also includes any violations that may be recorded. You can request this whenever you want but it is only required very close to or on the day of the sale.
Who issues it? Registro Civil.
- Certificado de registro de Multas
What is it? A record of any outstanding traffic fines like parking, speeding or tolls. You can request this whenever you want but it is only required very close to or on the day of the sale.
Who issues it? Registro Civil.
What is it? The sales contract between the seller and buyer. This is the document sent to the Registro Civil so they can create change the ownership of the vehicle and create a Padron for the new owner.
- Declaracion Jurada
What is it? It is an affidavit promising the owner will return the vehicle within an authorised period from the date you leave Chile with the vehicle. As a non-resident, this is the legally recognised agreement to return the car to Chile. This is very important in order to cross the certain Chilean borders overland with the vehicle. For more information on this, see Crossing Chile’s borders with a Chilean vehicle as a foreigner.
What is it? It is an affidavit from the current registered owner (the person who holds the active Padron) allowing the named person (new owner) to drive the vehicle, without the owner, across Chile and over borders into other parts of South America. This is required until the Padron is created by the Registro Civil. We did get one but never used it as we wanted the Padron in hand before we left Chile and organised our road trip plans with that in mind.
Same as with the RUT process, once everything is checked and looks good to process, the Notaria’s administrator will tell the buyer how much they need to pay the cashier for the Notaria fees and the sales tax (based on how much they paid for the vehicle). They go to the cashier box, pay the amount in cash and take the receipt back to the administrator. The paperwork then gets drawn up and both the buyer and seller sign and fingerprint the Compraventa, whilst only the buyer signs and fingerprints the Declaracion Jurada. You then wait whilst the paperwork is reviewed by a supervisor, then reviewed and signed by the lawyer.
And that’s it, you are done! Hooray!!! It’s happening on both sides; someone gets to hit the road and start an adventure of a lifetime and the other person reaps the rewards of their sale – well nearly, depending on the sale arrangement agreed.
I’d like to call out at this point that some blogs have mentioned the Impuesto Transferencias Vehiculos Particulares or Solicitud de Transferencia to prove the transfer of ownership was registered and in process. It relies on you staying local or returning to Santiago 10 days after signing the Compraventa; and no offence to Santiago but by this point, we had already been there for 1.5 weeks and were desperate to go into the wild. Consequently, we didn’t get this or need it and we also didn’t have any issues with the Carabineros.
Step 3: Getting the official proof of ownership (Padron)
Well assuming all the money is sorted, the seller is now gone and has no further responsibilities but the new owner does need to lock down one more thing.
The Compraventa is only a sale agreement sent to the Registro Civil where the actual Padron is created. This can take up to 21 days to be processed and a card gets sent to your Chilean address when it’s completed. The good news is, you can collect a duplicate of this card from any Registro Civil in Chile or maybe even online. For a small fee, you go into the Registro Civil and ask for a copy of your Padron. They will look this up and if it’s registered, print a copy off for you to cut down and laminate at the local print shop. We collected ours on day 17 but that was purely based on us leaving it until the last minute before we were planning to cross the border.
We do not know what the original Padron looks like (the one sent to your Chilean address), as we never checked but our duplicate has got ‘Certificado de Inscripcion’ written on it. We were confused by some blogs that mentioned you have received the wrong document if you are handed the ‘Certificado de Inscripcion’. I can only assume it’s because this term is also printed on the Anotaciones Vigentes certificate. You should know you have the Padron because it will be in the design layout of a card, not a listed document. We never had an issue with our duplicate Padron with any officials.
Take a photo of every document you fill in, sign or receive when you are getting set up and throughout your overlanding adventures. It always makes sense to have digital back-ups of all of your official documentation. If you would like to see any of our copies to check out what they should look like, just ask in the comments!
No doubt you will be crossing borders from Chile to other parts of South America. Make sure you are prepared for a successful border crossing by reading Crossing Chile’s borders with a Chilean vehicle as a foreigner.
So that’s it! We would love to know if you found this information useful or if you have any questions, so please leave us a comment below.