how to buy a car in chile

How buy a car in Chile

How to buy a car in chile!

One of the best ways to explore South America is by car. Having your own vehicle has many advantages ( you can read more about that here). Throughout this post we’ll go over getting a RUT number, transferring the title and options for paying toll roads to get you on your way as quick, easy and straight forward as possible. We’ll cover everything that you need to know as a foreigner to be able to purchase your own vehicle.

If you want to buy a car in South America, you have two options to consider first:

Buy a Chilean plated car in Chile

Buying a local car in any country apart from Chile is not an option we have listed. It is either more complicated or expensive and most of the time it’s impossible for foreigners to leave the country with the vehicle. However it is still possible for foreigners to purchase cars in Brazil and Colombia.

buy a foreign plated car in any country

Buying a foreign plated car in South America is done using a poder (power of attorney) giving the new ‘owners’ permission to drive the vehicle but not ownership. Unless you can gain legal possession back in the Country where the car was originally registered the new ‘owners’ will never officially own the vehicle or have the title in their name. With all the potential problems this may cause we would not recommend this. Overland Title and Vehicle Services is a company based in the United States that will help transfer US vehicle titles to travellers legally.

For us the most logical option was to buy a Car in Chile and we can recommend this process. We never had any trouble at a single border crossing.

When you buy a Chilean car the only option you have to sell it out of the country is to use the services of Suzi Santiago.


Looking for something in Particular? Head Straight there

RUT Number  –  Finding a Car  –  Payment  –  Title Transfer  –  Padron  –  The Last Few Things


The first step to buying a car in Chile is to get a RUT Number.

What is a RUT Number? Do i need one to buy a car?

A RUT number or “rol unico tributario” it’s like a social security number that every Chilean has. If you are a couple or group only one of you will need to get this. It should only take a couple of hours to complete once at the notaria.

First of all, you will need a “legal representative” to sponsor you. This person needs to be either a Chilean citizen or resident with a permanent address within the country.

There are a couple of options to find a legal representative or ‘sponsor’. Most travellers will ask their Airbnb or couch surfing host or someone from their hostel to be their sponsor.

Once you have a sponsor you will need to get a RUT application form (F4415.1) with the affidavit attached for use later on at the notaria. You can pick these up from any internal revenue service of Chile (service de impuestos internos or SII) – this is who will eventually issue your RUT number. There are plenty around Santiago, so you should be able to find one close to where you are staying.

The next step is to go to a notaria with your sponsor.

Again, there are lots all over Santiago. We used notaria Camilo Valenzuela Riveros as it is close to an SII office and only a couple of hundred metres from the Pedro Valdivia metro station.

At the notaria you will need to fill out the affidavit with your sponsor that is attached to your RUT application form. You will need to have your passport and 4000 CLP in cash for fees.

Next head to the SII with all of your documentation from the notaria and the completed F4415-1 form. It can be a little confusing but leave sections B, C, D, F and G blank. Once you’ve handed over all of your documentation you will receive your RUT number.

There is an eRUT app but it’s not recognised or accepted at most places.

Once you have your RUT number print the document and have it laminated into a small card. Some border crossings require you to have this.

Sound like a nightmare?

If all of this sounds like too much of a head ache for you or your Spanish isn’t as fluent as you had hoped it would be. Suzi Santiago is a company that was started by two overland travellers. For a fee they will handle your RUT number application. Suzi also buy and sell cars and can help more with the entire process if needed.

a guide to buying a car in south america

Finding the perfect car for travel

When looking for a car you will need to decide on what features are important to you. Do you want one that is already converted into a camper? Or are happy to do this yourself? Do you want a 4WD to be able access more remote places? Or would you prefer a van with more living space?

Some that we would recommend you consider are:


Toyota 4 Runner, Toyota Prado, Nissan Pathfinder, Nissan X-trail or Suzuki Grand Nomad


Mitsubishi L300, Toyota Hiace or Mercedes Sprinter

Some great places to start looking for your vehicle are:

Handy tip – When looking at Spanish websites use google chrome to have it automatically translated into your language! 


Once you have found a car we would strongly recommend you do a check on the revision technica to ensure that there are no outstanding fines and the kilometres are genuine. We found a lot of cars we were interested in had false kilometres! This will cost around 10000 CLP but rewinding the odometer on cars seems to be common practice in Chile.

For peace of mind and to ensure the car is in good mechanical condition have a mechanic check over the vehicle – There are some recommendations of good mechanics from other travellers on I-Overlander it’s also available as an app and is essential for travelling South America by car.

You will need to check the owner has all of the following documentation. These are needed to transfer the car into your name:
  • The Padron (Proof of ownership of the car)
  • Certificado de Revision Technica (Safety certificate)
  • Permiso de Circulation (Road tax, issued yearly)
  • Segurado Obligatorio (Compulsory Insurance, issued yearly)
  • Certificado de Anotaciones (proof of registration)
  • Certificado de Multas (document that proves there are no fines)

paying for the vehicle

To avoid the ludicrous fees involved with transferring money internationally. We recommend using one of two options to pay for your new vehicle. TransferWise or Cash. Transferwise is an online money changing site that often has the lowest fees available. If you plan on paying with cash start withdrawing money early enough in advance as ATM limits can be low.

how to buy a car in chile

transferring the car title into your name

You will need to sign the compraventa at the Notaria. This is a contract between you and the seller.

  • The seller will need to have the documentation as listed above in finding the perfect car.
  • RUT number
  • Passport / identification card.
  • You will need your RUT number and passport.

There is a tax involved in purchasing any vehicle in Chile. It’s 1.5% of the price of the vehicle, plus there is a fee of 50,000 CLP for taxes. All of this needs to be paid in cash when transferring the title at the Notaria.

other things to note.

After 7 – 10 days you can pick up your Impuesto Transferencias Vehiculos Particulares from the same Notaria. This form proves that the ownership was registered and transferred. Plenty of travellers don’t collect this and never have any issues. The Padron replaces the Impuesto Transferencias Vehiculos Particulares anyway.

We also got an authorizacion from the owner. This gives you permission to leave Chile whilst waiting for the Padron. It costs around 20000 CLP. It may not be necessary depending on your itinerary. 

a guide to buying a car in chile

padron – officially owning a car in Chile

In around 2 – 4 weeks you will have your Padron and officially be the owner of your new car!

The Padron will be sent to the address on your RUT number application form. You are able to print a copy of your Padron at any Registro Civil – almost every town has one.

You can log on to the Registo Civil website and check the process of your padron. Using the information on the Solicitud de Transferencia, click the ‘Estado de Solicitudes’ and enter your information. Your padron is ready when you are told you need visit an office to terminate the process.

Once printed, have the padron laminated into a card (like the RUT number). It looks official and makes border crossings easier.

how to buy a car in chile

the last few things of buying a car

Unfortunately, you can’t get very far without entering a toll road in Santiago. In Santiago all tolls are electronic.

You have two options for driving on toll roads:

  • You can buy day passes here, at copec gas stations or at a servipag pay station (just remember to get another day pass before returning to Santiago).
  • The other option is to get the free electronic tag for your car from Costanera Norte. A tag is an electronic chip that is registered to your vehicle. 

The Costanera Norte office that is recommended travellers use is Sta Maria 5621 Vitacura – The office is located in the Copec gas station. You will need your RUT number and vehicle ownership papers with you.

This office is located on a toll road so to avoid getting a fine we took an Uber here for around 4000 CLP. It took us around 10 minutes to process the paper work and receive our tag.

Once out of Santiago you are able to pay for tolls using cash.

Handy Tip: Often the more expensive tolls will last for 12-24 hours so you DON’T have to pay at every booth!


Finally take photos of all your documentation. Try using an app like CamScanner to make the documents look official and convert them to pdfs.

We hope this has helped clear a few things up on how to buy a car in Chile. If you have any questions please let us know.

Buying a car has really helped us to save a lot of money while travelling South America. You can read all about how much we have saved / spent here.


Ruby & Josh

Two Lost Feet

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. daniel

    thanks for the support guys, great blog

    1. Ruby Hodgetts

      No worries. Keep up the good work, looks like you have been building some awesome vans!

  2. Matt Bouch

    Thanks so much for the write up. I’ll be heading across to Chile in the next few weeks and to start looking for a van! Amped.

    1. Ruby Hodgetts

      No worries Matt! Good luck with finding a car and enjoy the adventure 😊

  3. Bill Kramer

    Hey Guys, Awesome information! Question: we are planning on doing something similar within the year, we are wondering what happens when registration is needed again? What if we were to travel north, potentially staying there (Mexico) how would getting the Permiso de Circulation, and Segurado Obligatorio yearly work? Is registration permanent, or do you need to be in Chile once a year to have all papers in order?

    Thanks for any info!

    1. Ruby Hodgetts

      Hey Bill,

      Thanks for the comment.

      These documents need to renewed every year and you have to be in Chile to do this. Ours expired while we were out of Chile and there were no problems while driving through other countries. Once you cross back into to Chile they need to be renewed ASAP and will be backdated to when they expired. If you don’t plan on returning to Chile and want to stay in Mexico indefinitely you might have to look at importing the vehicle as I think you only get a 6-month temporary import permit (I’m not 100% sure on this though).

      Good Luck with everything!

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