You want to buy a car, a truck, or a van in Chile, and you wonder how to proceed? In this article we describe the steps to follow, and we give you some tips.
Choosing a car: new or used?
In Chile, the discount on vehicles is more related to its age than the number of kilometers traveled. Main roads and highways are of good quality, but country roads are much less maintained, so that cars are damaged quickly, especially chassis and dampers. This is why the prices of used cars are not necessarily advantageous compared to the quality of the vehicles. Be aware that environmental restrictions exist, which limit the traffic of vehicles over 8 years old. (read our dedicated article on pollution).
The Autos Online website may help you get an idea of market prices for new cars.
If you are looking for a used car, below are some resources to help you:
- Chile Autos : most Chileans use this website to find a car, which is rather reliable and of good quality. This site may also give you an idea of market prices.
- Yapo : it is the equivalent of Craiglist, where you can find much more than only cars.
- ‘Garage Sales’ Facebook group or expatriate Facebook / WhatsApp groups. We do not put the links because these groups change regularly. Ask your colleagues or friends when you arrive in Chile. For those of you who want to buy a van, this is the best solution because there are specific groups dedicated to this type of vehicle.
- Dealers: you can go directly to dealers, who often also sell used cars. Whether you buy a new or used vehicle, you can go to a dealer and ask to try out a car. It is simple and free!
Where and who to buy a car in Chile?
You have three options:
- Buying to an individual: this is often the most economical solution because you can negotiate prices, especially if you are not looking for a particular model. However, make sure to check all the information regarding the owner and the condition of the car. The seller may indeed seek to hide some defects. It is recommended to make a control visit at a garage before buying the car.
- Buying to a dealer: this is the most reliable solution. Dealers are subject to laws and regulations, so technical control is often well done. It is also the simplest solution because dealers often take care of the registration process as a commercial gesture.
- Buying at auction: you can buy a car at auction at a (much) better price, but the procedure takes more time. Also, in some types of auctions, you cannot check the mechanical condition of the vehicle, and you will have to check whether the vehicle is up-to-date from an administrative point of view. We only recommend it if you speak Spanish and are not afraid of paperwork.
Transfer of ownership of a vehicle in Chile: documents required
You (or the seller) must collect different documents before going to the Registro Civil or a notary to make the transfer of ownership, which allows you to legally become the owner of the car.
As a buyer, you must bring:
- Your Chilean identity card or your passport.
- If you do not have a Chilean ID card, you need a temporary RUT from the Servicio de Impuestos Internos (SII). A RUT is necessary for the purchase of a car. If you do not have a visa yet, or are in Chile as a tourist, it is good to know that a temporary RUT is sufficient for this process. For more information on how to get a RUT, you can check out our dedicated article in the Expat.cl guide.
The seller brings the same identity documents, as well as the documents of the vehicle, namely:
- The padrón (car registration document) of the vehicle.
- Permiso de Circulación (circulation permit): it is renewed every year in March by the municipality in which the seller first got it (not necessarily the one where he lives).
- Certificado de revisión técnica (certificate of technical control): the current owner must have this document.
- Seguro Obligatorio (SOAP): SOAP is an insurance that every car owner must have. It covers personal injury and hospital expenses but not property damage. The SOAP is obtained from an insurance company and is necessary to get the circulation permit. The cost is relative and varies from one year to another.
- Certificado de Inscripción y Anotaciones Vigentes (CAV): this certificate is issued by the civil register. It contains all the information about the vehicle (type, brand, model, year of manufacture, registration number, former and current owners, restriction on ownership title, etc.). To obtain this certificate, you just need to know the license plate number and pay $840. You can get it online here.
- Certificado de Multas Impagas: this document is also issued by the Registro Civil and lists all the fines registered and those still to be paid. The certificate costs $770. You can get it here using the license plate number.
- Declaración consensual de transferencia de vehículos: this document is issued by the civil register and the cost varies from one year to another. To obtain it, the buyer and the seller go to the civil register. After having entered all the information, the official calculates the value of the impuesto to the transferencia that you must then go to pay to the bank or to an authorized institution. Once paid, the buyer returns to the civil register and the official makes the transfer. The document is then sent by post and a copy is available online. You must have an address in Chile or a guarantor.
Procedures for transfer of ownership of a vehicle in Chile
Let’s look at the transfer procedure for a used car, which is the most common case.
To be noted: When you buy a new vehicle, the process is almost the same. The only difference is that you need to register the vehicle. Indeed, in Chile, when you buy a new car, it does not have a license plate. The dealer usually takes care of the administrative process to register the car and get the plate. You can also negotiate with the dealer for him to cover registration fees.
If you buy a car from an individual, you have two options to transfer ownership:
- Make a consensus statement at the civil register: this option is only possible when both parties are individuals. You must do this directly at any registration office. The transaction is instantly registered in the motor vehicle register database. You will immediately receive the padrón (car registration document) of the vehicle at your name (unless one of the two persons is represented by a proxy, in which case the authorization must be verified by the civil register central office, which lengthens the procedure).
- Use a purchase / sale contract: you have to go to a notary and sign the purchase-sale document (which can be escritura publica or a contract signed before a notary). Some notaries have templates and can help you write it. This solution avoids waiting in the civil register (as in option 1), but the process takes a little more time because you do not receive the padrón of the vehicle until several weeks later, once the notary has completed the registration steps at the civil register.
Transfer of ownership in the civil register
This solution is the least expensive (about $25,000) and is recommended for a transfer between individuals. You immediately get the padrón of the vehicle. However, both parties must be present, arrive early and wait several hours, so be sure to have all the documents with you.
Transfer of ownership via a notarized purchase / sale contract
This solution is faster, and each party (buyer/seller) can sign separately at the notary. Yet, it is more expensive because notary fees are added to the expenses of the civil register.
The notary draws up the purchase / sale contract (compraventa), which the buyer and the seller sign.
You can drive the vehicle legally with this document, while waiting for the padrón. The notary then sends the contract to the civil register, in order to start the transfer of ownership process. A week later, you go back to the notary to get the Impuesto Transferencias Vehiculos Particulares, which is much more official than the compraventa under the law and proves that the transfer is underway.
About three weeks after your first visit to the notary, the padrón is sent to you by mail and you can then pick up copies in any civil register. Once you have this document, you are officially the owner of the vehicle!
Furthermore, if you buy the vehicle to leave the country and travel in the continent, you will need one or two additional documents depending on the case:
1) An authorization signed by the previous owner if you want to leave the country before getting the padrón. You can ask the notary to draw up this document, allowing you to cross the border with a car that is not in your name yet.
2) A declaración jurada (declaration on honor), signed by yourself, in which you declare that you will return the car to Chile within 180 days. This document is necessary to leave the country if you are in Chile with a tourist visa and bought a car with a temporary RUT, to make a trip in the Latin America. This document allows foreigners to cross a border with a Chilean vehicle.
You should have at least two originals and several photocopies of these documents because some customs officers ask to keep a copy. You may also need a copy of the law ( the relevant section is 17.2. 3), which you can show at the border if there is a problem.
However, these authorizations do not apply to Peru because the authorities want to prevent cars stolen in Chile from being brought to Peru, which has long been the case. If you want to go to Peru, you will have to go through Bolivia first.
If you want to leave the country, you also need a compulsory international liability insurance (Seguro Internacional de Responsabilidad Civil). It does not cost much and can be contracted from small brokers in cities near the border.
Make sure you have a picture of each document or a digital copy in your mailbox or any online space, so as not to be blocked if you ever lose your papers.
Things to check before buying a vehicle
Before buying a car, make sure you do a thorough technical control, to avoid any unpleasant surprises later.
Furthermore, you should check the administrative documents of the vehicle before any purchase. Indeed, in Chile:
1) All debts and fines remain linked to the vehicle. It is therefore necessary to ensure that the vehicle does not have unpaid fines or motorway tolls. Otherwise you will have to pay them yourself, or the car may be seized.
2) A vehicle may be subject to a restriction on ownership title, which prevents its transfer to another person.
A restriction on ownership title (limitación al dominio) is a registration made in the vehicles’ register, which removes the right of the owner to sell his vehicle. In general, it happens when the owner has taken out a credit to buy his vehicle. The bank mortgages the vehicle to be able to recuperate the bank loan in case of the owner does not pay. As long as the credit is not paid, the restriction applies. If the owner has other debts to pay, a court may have put an embargo on the vehicle.
In both cases, the vehicle cannot be officially transferred to another owner at the civil register level, which means you can’t get the padrón stating you are the new owner. However, it may very well be sold to you using a buy/sell contract signed at the notary. If you are not aware of this, you may find yourself having to pay the seller’s car loan balance after having already paid for the car…
If you are in this situation, but still want to buy the car, you must negotiate with the seller on how to resolve the problem: either the seller pays its loan before making the transfer of ownership and the bank lifts the restriction (normal case), or you can pay the debt in exchange for a discount on the price of the car. Be aware that the vehicle will not be in your name until the restriction is lifted. In this case, you must make a contract before a notary to formalize the transaction, and then contact the bank to pay the balance.
Check that the car is in good condition and the papers are up to date. Autofact has a test of 19 questions that reviews all the aspects to check (click here for the checklist).
Buying a car in Chile: payment
Regarding the payment of your car, talk to the seller to find an agreement. You have several options:
- International bank transfer if you do not have a Chilean bank account. Be careful though to check the exchange rate. This is not recommended because a transfer takes several days. Hence you cannot use the civil register option. Moreover, it is unlikely that a seller will sign before a notary without having the funds. On your side, you do not want to make a transfer without having a signed contract.
- Local transfer, if you have a Chilean bank account.
- In cash: for foreigners, a common solution is to pay in cash, although it is more risky to carry so much money.
- If you (or the seller) want to avoid carrying cash, you can issue a vale vista: this is one of the safest and most used methods. You go to a bank and ask to issue a vale vista. You use your bank account balance, you can deposit the cash amount of money at the bank counter, or use the account of a friend or colleague to whom you have previously transferred the funds. Be aware that you will need a RUT to use this solution.
Once you own the car, you must update the vehicle documents once a year. Make sure you do it because it is illegal to drive a car whose documents papers are not up to date and you may have problems if you want to sell it later. To do so, follow these three steps:
1) Technical control (revisión técnica): you can make an appointment here. Technical control costs between $5,000 and $25,000 depending on the type of vehicle you have and the garage you choose. The last digit of your license plate number indicates the month during which you have priority for technical control. If you have forgotten it, you can do it in December or March, which are the months allowing all vehicles to do their technical control.
2) Insurance: you must renew your seguro obligatorio (SOAP). You can compare prices online on insurance and bank sites, because for the same vehicle, it varies a lot. Search “comprar SOAP” in Google.
3) Circulation permit: you must renew your circulation permit every year in March. You can do it online by following this link, or on the website of most municipalities. Otherwise, you will see small tents popping up all over the city in March, where you can go and pay for the permit (take your padrón with you and the certificates of technical control and insurance).
If you have general questions about the purchase / sale of a vehicle that we did not address in this article, or if you have suggestions or comments to improve it, do not hesitate to contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Likewise, if you need assistance in obtaining a temporary RUT from the Servicio de Impuestos Internos, have specific questions regarding your situation, or if you need to check the vehicle documents before buying it, we can help you. However, please note that these are paid services.