So…we bought a car.

One topic of discussion that we had continuously put off when doing our planning was determining what we’d do for transportation while we’re in Temuco. We knew that Temuco had public bus transportation, including a route that stopped right at the Chol-Chol Foundation, but we weren’t entirely sure of options that would help us explore the outskirts of town and surrounding cities. We had flirted with the idea of buying a car in Chile but hadn’t gotten around to doing much of the research. We figured we’d head to Chile, spend a couple thousand on a used car and then plan to sell at the end of our trip.

Finally, on November 3rd, I had some free time and started to research options for buying a car in Chile. I came across this article—which I thought did a great job of explaining the process. The problem was (if you’ve opened the article) that the process for buying a Chilean car as a visitor is a very detailed and long process (I was hoping you could show up with cash and drive off with a car, silly me). However, I scrolled to the bottom of the article in which it discussed purchasing a US-plated vehicle and recommended working with Overland Title and Vehicle Services. Given my lack of motivation to follow the process of buying a Chilean-plated car, I reached out to Overland Title and spoke with their owner for about 45 minutes and he explained the process. The process—which I’ll detail below —was still pretty intensive, but felt easier primarily because I was dealing with English-speaking counterparts and that much of the work could be done ahead of leaving for Chile.

In a nutshell, here is how things went down (and hopefully will go down):

  1. We spoke with Alex Smith (owner of Overland Title and Vehicle Services), and we explained to him what we were looking for (e.g., a semi-dependable vehicle in which we could commute daily as well as use for weekend excursions; also important to note that we did not plan to “live” in the vehicle—as many travelers are looking for trucks, vans, RVs, etc.)
  2. He advised that we join a couple Facebook pages in which people post ads to either sell or what they are looking for. As we were joining these groups, Alex pointed us in the direction of a post in which a couple was moving back to the US and they were trying to get ride of their car in the timeframe and location that matched our needs.
  3. This is where it gets good. I very excitedly clicked on the link to the post… low and behold… they were selling a … 2004 PT CRUISER, named Lemmy. Hell yes.
  4. After talking with Alex (who had transferred this car to the couple that was currently selling it), we decided to pull the trigger. Ultimately, we agreed upon a price and terms with the couple, transferred the cost of the car to Alex to hold in escrow until we picked up the car, and then worked on transferring the title with Alex through his organization, for a relatively minor service fee. A couple weeks later, we were in possession of the vehicle title, registration, and two new Washington state plates.

Steps 1-4 are complete. They have happened. No concerns. However, we’re now entering Step 5 and Step 6, which I’ll title “How we hope the rest of the process will work”:

5. In terms of getting the car, it’s currently parked in Santiago at an agreed upon secured parking garage, in which we’ll grab the keys/information from a friend of the previous owners, and then head to the car. We agreed to take the car to a mechanic to get things checked out on the same day we got the car out of the garage. Depending on the mechanic’s assessment of the vehicle, we will get any necessary items fixed on the car, which would then be subtracted from the amount that’s currently held in escrow. After everything is good to go and fixed on the car, then the “transaction” is completed (at least between the previous owners and us).

6. All that being said, we still need to complete a couple steps to finalize the transfer – which is primarily to leave Chile with the vehicle, cancelling what is called a “TIP” (temporary import permit) that is currently in the other owner’s names. We need to leave Chile by Jan 17th (when the TIP expires). We have a bunch of paperwork from the prior owners authorizing us to drive their vehicle in case border control has any questions. After leaving the country, we need to swap the plates (which we have in our possession), and then we will re-enter Chile, showing the title/registration in our names, with the new US plates, triggering a new “TIP” that will be in our names. In theory, this completes the process and then we can drive freely in Chile with our new PT Cruiser for the duration of the “TIP” (at which time we’ll need to leave the country again – approximately 90 days).

We will be sure to update everyone on progress for Steps 5 & 6 in early January. We hope everything goes well.

What everyone thinks when we told them we bought a PT Cruiser.
What we actually bought.

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