Buying a car in Chile

ContactChile is here to help you with the process

For longer stays in Chile and the surrounding countries it often is cheaper - in comparison to a pricey long-term rental - to buy a car and resell it after the trip. There are a few basic things to keep in mind and some paperwork to do – but we will be happy to help you out!

Here is a basic guide to buying a car in Chile:

  1. First of all, you need a Chilean tax number, the so-called RUT (Rol Único Tributario) which is issued by the tax authority (SII, Servicio de Impuestos Internos). Tourists (i.e. foreigners without a visa) are only entitled to a RUT if they indicate a legal representative (representante legal) through a notarized power of attorney. The representative can be a Chilean citizen or a foreigner with a valid visa in Chile. ContactChile offers this service in Santiago; completing the RUT process (which includes notary and tax office) can be done in 48 hours. Once the RUT is granted, it can be used for business transactions.
  2. Next you have to find a suitable car. Most direct sellers and retailers publish their offers in portals such as Chileautos, DeMotores or Facebook Marketplace. Foreigners who are travelling in South America also frequently offer vehicles in relevant travel platforms such as the Panamericana Forum. However, you should ensure that the car is registered in Chile, as vehicles with foreign license plates cannot be re-registered in Chile.
  3. For anyone who is neither proficient in Spanish nor a hobby mechanic we recommend that they limit their search to established retailers in order to guarantee a certain seriousness. Some traders even offer the prospect of a repurchase. Another advantage is that retailers usually handle the entire car purchase process, i.e. draw up the purchase contract, have it notarized and apply for the re-registration. In the process, taxes (1.5% of the vehicle value) and fees are to be paid by the customer in addition to the purchase price.
  4. When purchasing the vehicle, the following documents must be presented: the vehicle registration document (padrón), the valid municipal tax (permiso de circulación, due annually in March and valid for one year), the compulsory liability insurance (seguro obligatorio, as well due each March), the technical inspection (revisión técnica, due annually in a calendar month depending on the last digit of the registration plate) and the exhaust emission test (certificado de gases, due annually like revisión técnica). In addition, the seller has to provide two up-to-date certificates confirming that the car has no open tickets (certificado de multas), that it actually belongs to the salesperson and is not wanted by the police (certificado de anotaciones).
  5. At this point a question may arise: How do I pay for the car? Not all merchants accept credit cards, plus they would require a corresponding credit limit. As a rule, vendors only accept cash or an international bank transfer; the bank transfer takes a few days and involves extra costs. The ATMs in Chile have a maximum withdraw amount of 200.000 Pesos (approx. 220 USD) per day... A practicable but certainly risky option is to bring Euros/Dollar in bills and exchange them on the spot in an exchange office. Alternatively you may check out wire transfer platforms as Wise, Global66 or Western Union.
  6. A copy of the sales contract or the retailer's invoice together with the previous vehicle registration document are considered provisional documents of ownership so that the car can be used immediately. The definitive padrón in the name of the purchaser will be issued by the registration office Registro Civil after approx. 4 weeks and will then be available online or at any branch of the Registro Civil in any municipality (submit RUT).
  7. If you want to leave the country with your car, you can only do so with the definitive vehicle registration certificate in your own name, i.e. after 4 weeks at the earliest, or with a notarial power of attorney from the previous owner. In both cases, a sworn declaration (declaración jurada) must be signed in advance at a notary's office that the car will be returned to Chile within the legal period (6 months). For trips to Argentina, a liability insurance for the neighbouring country must also be purchased in advance.
  8. Anyone travelling by car in the capital region should take care of the so-called TAG immediately after purchase. This is a chip attached to the windshield of the car that enables electronic tolls to be paid for urban motorways. The TAG can be obtained free of charge at a branch of one of the motorway concessionaires, e.g. at Costanera Norte in the metro station Universidad de Chile; a credit card has to be deposited. Those who only plan on staying in Santiago for a short time can instead pay online for the usage of the highways on a specific date afterwards.
  9. We highly recommend insuring the car in addition to the obligatory insurance, which only covers damage to third parties. The price of the fully comprehensive insurance depends on the value of the vehicle. If required, ContactChile can recommend English-speaking insurance brokers.

ContactChile supports you in all aspects of buying and selling your car.

Our services include:

  • the procurement of the RUT, with one of our employees acting as legal representative
  • English-speaking advice concerning the whole purchase process
  • Assistance with purchase negotiations
  • The mediation of a serious insurance

If you wish, we can also assist you with the resale process, so you can use your vehicle right up to the end of your stay and without having to be in a hurry to sell it below value.

Interested? Please use the quick inquiry on the right to contact us!