Buying a Car in Chile
Updated 9 March 2017, with new info about documents required to leave Chile
This info is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of publishing. Right click this page and save it to your device - you will need to read it a few times as you go through the process 🙂
So, you want to buy a car in Chile? Awesome! We did too! We've documented the process to make it easier for you. So grab a beer, pull up a chair and read on.
1.: Get a RUT number
Time Required: 1 day
Cost: Approx $10 for the notorized papers. Free for the RUT number.
What is it?
A RUT number is basically a social security/tax/government identifier number for Chile. It is an essential part of Chilean life and every local knows their number by heart. It is on their ID card and is asked for at supermarkets and retail stores. You cannot buy anything of substance (eg. A car) without a RUT number.
The RUT number for foreigners is a little different to a citizens. It gives you slightly less freedom (for example, it cannot be used get a bank cheque at Banco Estado), but you can purchase a car, house, insurance, etc with it. It is perfectly sufficient for most foreigners travelling through Chile.
The RUT is a 9 digit number that appears like this: xx.xxx.xxx-x
In April 2015 travellers arriving in Chile found the process to obtain a RUT had become more difficult. It now requires a local Chilean to ‘sponsor’, or support the application. This does not make the local person liable for anything. It is essentially for the tax office to have an additional means of finding you should they have a need to speak to you – since foreigners tend not to be available at the address they provide on their original application. In the ultra-rare case when they might want to talk to you the local Chilean who sponsored your application can just say they “don’t know where you are”.
Don’t panic – plenty of friendly Chileans exist and you will find someone to help you. Read on 🙂
How to get it?
1: Pick up RUT application form
The Servicio de Impuestos Internos (SII) office in Santiago is the corner of Padro Alonso de Ovalle and Av. Santa Rosa (entrance is on Ovalle). It is marked on iOverlander.
Line up at the Information desk and ask for form F4415.1 - They get a lot of foreigners in this office and will know what you need. On it will be a stapled letter of explanation saying you need to attach a notorised affidavit and copy of ID card of your sponsor to your application.
2. Find a sponsor
Ok, most people don’t know a local Chilean. Here are options you can try:
- Ask for assistance on the Couchsurfing forum – this is what we used. I asked a question to the community and several people offered to assist us that same day. Other overlanders have found this just as successful. Our sponsor, Nick, met us the same day at our apartment. We didn’t pay him, but took him out to lunch at the fish market to say thankyou. We are still friends and still keep in touch.
- Ask at your hostel, or ask your AirBnB host
- Use a professional service – SpencerGlobal will sponsor your RUT for a fee (250,000 CLP in Sep 2015). You can start this process before you arrive in Chile if preferred. Visit http://www.spencerglobal.com
- Ask on Facebook - “The Chile Experience” is full of locals and expats who may offer to help
Note – they must be a Chilean citizen, not just a resident, to sponsor you.
3: Go to a Notaria
A notaria is an office permitted to certify documents. Notarias are EVERYWHERE. Chileans need to get basically everything notorized, and it is a booming business. Your local sponsor no doubt knows of one or two nearby. Just look for them when walking down any street. Some are more expensive than others, but I wouldn’t fuss too much trying to find a cheap one as it isn’t that expensive to get what you need. Most are open until 6pm.
Your Chilean sponsor needs to fill in the affidavit the SII gave you, and you also need to copy and certify your passport and their ID card. Get two copies of each. You will put your signature and thumbprint on the affidavit with your sponsor.
That’s it. Pay and leave. Give your sponsor a big hug.
4. Fill in the F4415.1 form
You can fill in the form F4515.1 yourself.
- Section A: Complete with your information. Note: In Chile most people have 2 surnames – one from their father and one from their mother. If you only have one surname (we did), just leave the maternal name section blank.
- Section B: leave blank
- Section C: leave blank
- Section D: leave blank
- Section E: Complete with your address in Santiago. Use any address as your home... your permanent RUT card will be sent there but you won’t need it.
- Section F: leave blank
- Section G: leave blank
- Section H: Put your sponsors name and ID number in this section
- Section I: Put your own name in this section as you are ‘representing’ your own application.
- Sign in the box at the bottom.
5: Go back to the SII office
Note – office is open 9am-2pm Monday to Friday
Take your papers to the information counter and they will give you a number. Wait to be called, hand over the application form, affidavit and copies of your sponsors ID card and your passport.
Cross your fingers. Smile a lot.
They will process your form and give you a temporary RUT. This is all you need to buy your car.
6. What does it look like?
The temporary paper you get from the SII has your RUT number at the top. You can use this for 3 months. If you need longer then make sure you arrange to pick up your permanent card (from the mailing address on your application form) at a later date.
That is step 1 = Done. Congrats. Have a celebratory cerveza.
Additional note: When we exited Chile 2 months after buying our car the Chilean border police asked to see our RUT – so keep your temporary paper somewhere safe in case you need to present it in the future. We keep ours with our other car paperwork.
2) Find a Car
Time: Difficult to say – it took us 3.5 weeks, but for some people they find the perfect car on the first day.
Cost: Metro and bus tickets (to get around the city).
What is it?
Santiago has a healthy used vehicle market. Travellers also routinely buy and sell in Santiago – so it is a good place to start your hunt.
Depending on how picky you are about quality, you should be able to find something to fit most budgets. Cars tend to be priced on the higher side (in comparison to say, the USA) and quality varies. It is absolutely essential to have any car checked by a mechanic you trust before purchasing – Cars in Chile can have a hard life and it is common to try to hide flaws and crashes from a new buyer. Be careful.
We recommend Martin at Santiago-R to review your potential purchase. For 35,000 pesos he will do a full inspection and give a report. He checked two cars for us. He speaks great English and is one of the few mechanics in the world I actually trust J His workshop is in Providencia and the details are in iOverlander.
How to do it?
Not all suburbs are created equal. The better quality cars can be found in Viticura and Los Condes. There are also a collection of ok dealerships on Av. Irarrazaval in the city. Beware of shonky dealers and ‘chop shops’ scattered on the fringes of the city – most of what they sell is junk.
Dealers tend to cost a bit more, but if you trust them then you get peace of mind (and they will do all the paperwork). You can negotiate more with a private seller. Regardless of who you buy from, they list on the same internet sites.
- www.chileautos.cl is the website locals use to buy and sell cars. The cars seemed to be of better quality on here.
- www.yapo.cl is a free listing site that is also popular, but since it is free to use some cars seemed cheaper and not as good.
To buy from another traveller try:
- PanAmerican Travellers Association Facebook Page
Don’t speak spanish? Don’t fret. Most people communicate through the Whatsapp messaging service. We used google translate to speak to them in Spanish, and we muddled through with the rest.
3) Find a Notaria and transfer the vehicle
Time: approx. 2 hours – try to get there early in the day.
Cost: depends on price of the car – anticipate anything up to US$400 for paperwork and taxes. It will probably be less.
What is it?
Found the car you want? Had it checked and got the mechanics ok? Great! Lets buy it!
How do I do it?
Head to the Notaria with your seller. They are going to need to provide the following documents:
- Padron (Certificate of Ownership)
- Certificado de Revision Technica (Safety Certificate – issued yearly and must be in date)
- Permiso de Circulation (Road tax – issued yearly and must be in date. Usually it matches the Revision Technica)
- Segurado Obligatorio (Compulsary Insurance – issued yearly and must be in date).
- Certificate de Anotaciones (to prove it is correctly registered)
- Certificado de Multas (displays any outstanding fines on the car – if there are any you become liable so make sure it is clear)
- Your passport
- Your RUT number
- Money to pay for the car and the notaria fees
- A local mailing address to provide on the forms.
The notaria will draw up a contract, which you both sign and fingerprint. This is called a Compraventa (Contract). They will give you a copy. You can drive the car legally with this contract until the ‘Impuesto Transferencias Vehiculos Particulares’ (transfer document – step 5) is issued.
Hang on, how do I pay for the vehicle?
We bought from a private Chilean seller and paid in Chilean pesos (cash). It took us several days to withdraw the 6,500,000 pesos we needed from ATMs and it was quite the stack of cash! After completing the paperwork at the Notaria we went with the seller to his bank and deposited it straight into his account. It isn’t ideal, but most locals are not going to accept any other currencies, and it is difficult to get a bank cheque without a local account.
Buying from another traveller? They may accept your home currency, or a bank transfer may be possible depending on your location. Use common sense and NEVER pay for anything until you are certain it is all legit.
You can now leave Santiago. We recommend the north campground of La Campana National Park for your first night… its gorgeous and only a few hours away. Take more beer to celebrate.
Pro tip: Get permission from the previous owner to leave the country.
It is going to take several weeks for the documents to process. In this time you cannot leave the country with your car, as the padron you carry does not display your name. The contract you have is not enough, as other countries will not recognize its legitimacy.
Many travellers therefore ask the notaria to draw up a ‘permission’ document that the previous owner signs, giving you authority to take a car in their name over a border. It’s quick and simple. Get a few copies, as some travellers have had the Argentinian border police keep an original.
4) Return to collect Transfer papers
Time: A week to issue, and 10 minutes to pick up
How to do it
You are going to hate this – you have to go back to the urban jungle that is Santiago…. Sorry!
After filling in the documents the Notaria will send the contract to the Registro Civil office to begin the transfer.
A week after you complete the contract you will need to return to this same notaria to collect your ‘Impuesto Transferencias Vehiculos Particulares’, which shows that the transfer has been logged at the Registro Civil and is in progress. This is a far more official document and is better to have if police pull you over.
5) Collect your Padron
Time: up to 6 weeks to issue - 10 minutes to collect.
Cost: approx. 150 pesos for a copy
What is it?
The Padron is your title, and you are going to be so excited when you get it!
Your padron is a small 'card' printed on the bottom of regular white paper. You cut it out. I have recently been informed by another overlander that all new Padrons are provided this way, and ARE NOT a yellow plastic card (they used to be like this, and the pervious owner of your vehicle may provide you with theirs). It is called the nuevo formato de padron. There may be confusion at some borders, since many customs officers are used to the plastic padrons - but we have never been refused entry to another country by using our paper padron.
How do I get it?
The Registro Civil is the office you want. There is one in every town and you can go to any to get your Padron – just ask and a local will point it out. They also have a good website with the addresses listed – www.registrocivil.cl.
The original copy of your Padron will be mailed to your Santiago address. As soon as it has issued you can go into any Registro Civil office and get a copy.
You don’t need the original. A copy is fine to cross borders with.
NOTE: Foreigners cannot get a copy of their padron online. You MUST visit an office to collect a copy.
When you get the copy let them know you want to use it to cross into another country – some offices will give you a ‘Certificado de Inscription’ which is good for in Chile, but isn’t the exact thing you need. The padron is a little card that you cut out and fit in your wallet. Laminating it is a smart idea 😉
Got any beer left? Its time to celebrate again… the car is officially yours!!
Pro tip – check on the progress of your transfer by clicking the ‘Estado de Solictudes’ button on the left menu of www.registrocivil.cl, and inputting the details on your compraventa into the form. When the notice says you must visit an office to determine its progress you know your Padron is ready to collect.
6) Additional documents required to leave Chile (NEW)
Note: I have never personally done this, as it was not required when we bought our car in 2015. This information has been provided by Overlanders who have been through this step.
Time: a few hours
Cost: price of the notary to complete the document.
What is it?
In late 2016 the Chilean Aduana started getting funny about foreigners leaving the country with Chilean cars into Argentina and Bolivia. They feared the cars would never return, and started cracking down on people exiting. The law they provided Overlanders for this stated that a foreigner 'must prove temporary or permanent residency in Chile'.
After a lot of debate and conversation amongst overlanders a solution was found in the form of a declaracion jurada which is a notorized document you sign which promises you will return the car to Chile within 180 days. (this is the legal maximum time a car can exit Chile).
Overlanders have successfully exited Chile after providing this document.
How do I get it?
1. You need to get the certificado anotaciones vigentes for your vehicle. Get this online here, or visit a Registro Civil and ask for a copy.
2. Print out the Law pertaining to this issue. You can get it from this link. Section 17 is the relevant part.
3. Head to a Notary. Tell them you need a Declaracion Jurada and show them the Law - Section 17.2.3 is the part they need to see. Tell them you need to exit Chile for 180 days. Wait. Sign. Pay. You've got this!
4. Get at least 2 originals of your Declaracion Jurada. You may be required to surrender an original at the border. Make several additional photocopies in case you need more.
Head to the border my friend, its time to go! Some overlanders have encountered resistence at the borders, as more border officials have become aware of the 'residency requirement'. But by showing them the relevant section of the law, 17.2 for Argentina and 17.3 for Bolivia, (always keep a copy of it with you) and your declaration you should have no issues.
Take that Chile - Overlanders 1, Aduana 0!
A bit of background, in case you are interested: The law they are making a fuss about is designed to apply to the Peruvian border, but does not outright state this (thats not 'politically correct', after all!). For many years you have had to be a Chilean resident to cross direct from Chile to Peru. As an overlander you CANNOT cross this border - we tried. Many have. We all failed. This is because a lot of Chilean cars were stolen and taken across here in the past. Overlanders must cross into Peru via Bolivia. Sorry - its the only way. But its very scenic, I promise!
Somehow an Aduana officer out there has gotten it into their heads that this 'law' applies to ALL borders, not just Peru. They spread the word and it got messy for poor overlanders caught in the crosshairs. But if you read the law its VERY CLEAR that there are sections for both Argentina (17.2) and Bolivia (17.3), that detail what a foreigner must provide in order to leave the country. Residency isn't required, except in section 17.1 - which relates to the only border without its own 'section'... Peru.
The law is still on our side, my friend 🙂
7) Keep your papers up-to-date
Time: Half a day, once per year
Cost: Aprox. 12,000 pesos for the PRT, 15,000 for Insurance and 200,000 for Circulation.
What is it?
Every year (in March) all Chilean vehicles must pass inspection and have their papers renewed. Failure to do so will cause issues when it comes to selling - and it is also illegal to drive a car without current doccumentation... so don't even try it!
How do I get it?
You need to do three steps:
1) Visit the PRT for your Revision Technica (www.revisionestecnicas.cl). This is a formal process whereby your car is inspected for faults or issues. Go into the office, hand over your Padron, and pay for the service (12,000 pesos for us in Punta Arenas). Put the number they give you in the windshield. When they come to collect your vehicle give them the keys. It will be checked for brakes, alignment, emissions and a few other things. When complete they will call your name, give you your new papers and they will stick a new sticker in the front window. Simples 🙂
2) Buy new Insurance. You need to buy your new Seguro Obligatorio. Most insurers offer it, and it is cheap. Often you can find someone outside the office where youget your Permiso de Circulation - Or just ask around. It only takes a few minutes to issue.
3) Get new Circulation Permission. Your 'Permiso de Circulacion' is issued by the local municipality. You can renew it anywhere in Chile - it doesn't have to be issued from the same municipality every year. Because every municipality is different you will need to ask around to find out where the office is (the local tourism office in Punta Arenas pointed us in the right direction when we needed ours). Go in, show them your old Certificate and ask for a new one. Pay the fee and go. So easy!
7) Other Very Useful Overlander things to know and have
Where to buy ‘International’ Insurance
We purchased online from Magallanes Insurance. Requires a Chilean RUT number. We paid US$236 for 1 year of SOAT (mandatory insurance) which covers all countries south of Ecuador. Visit www.magallanes.cl and click the ‘Responsibilidad Civil Internacional’ button under the ‘Seguro Vehiculo’ tab.
Download these apps to your phone or tablet
Whatsapp – a free messaging service Chileans use to communicate (requires internet or a phone service to use).
iOverlander – This relatively new overlanding app is going to change your life! Be a good community member and contribute as you go.
Maps.me – downloadable maps that can be used offline. Very good!
Forums and groups to join
PanAmerican Travellers Association facebook page – Past, present and future overlanders gather here to chat. Join us!
The Chile Experience – A facebook page just for Chile
Allchile.net forum – expats and locals always happy to assist with all things Chilean
Places to find useful info
WikiOverland – Dan moderates this very useful website which is always up to date with the latest info. We use it a lot.
Wiki travel – Get info about the places you plan to go
DriveTheAmericas.org – Find likeminded travellers, read blogs, get info.