Alright folks, after all of the hassle we went through to buy the lovely Camilla the Galloper, I would like to share with you step by step how it happened. Please note, that in all of my research beforehand, no one person had the exact same process – as with most things while traveling, expect the unexpected, and do what works best for yourself. Without further ado, here we go!
Step one: Get a Chilean RUT
The RUT is your tax ID. Unless you have a work visa, or are applying for residency, you will be looking to get the one designated for foreigners (extranjeros). We went to the nearest Servicios de Impuestos Internos (SII) office, and asked the help desk for the RUT application, and he handed us a packet of 4 sheets:
- The half sheet of instructions
- The “Poder Mandatario Administrador o Representante” – this is the form that you will need to have a local Chilean sign with you in front of a notary
- Two copies of the application form, titled “Inscripción al role único tributario y/o declaración jurada de inicio de actividades para extranjeros sin residencia” – This seemingly long form looks intimidating, but as far as we know it, only the top section actually mattered in the end. But to be safe, fill it out as much as possible.
Of course, you can’t do all of this in one step, that would just be too easy. After picking up this packet, find your Chilean “poder.” If you know a local Chilean that has an extra few hours to spare between the hours of 9:00 am – 2:00 pm on a weekday, you are in luck. Take this Chilean and your paperwork, along with your passport, photocopies of your passport, the Chilean’s carnet, and a photocopy of their carnet, and anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours of free time to the nearest notario. There are notaries all over Santiago, but especially in Centro – almost an entire street of them, just ask around.
The notary will probably not know what to do with all of your paperwork, as this is a fairly new process, but in the end you will need to be walking out of there with 4 sheets of paper notarized: The original and photocopy of the “Poder” sheet (wait to sign this until you are in front of the notary. They should also have you put a fingerprint next to your signature), and photocopies of both your passport and the Chilean carnet.
Bring all of this, plus the two application sheets back to the SII office. If you happened to have an address that you are able to put down in Santiago, you will need to go to the SII office for that comuna. (Or you can do what we did, and wait for 40 minutes in one office only to be told to go to the other office on the other side of the city, where the wait was an extra hour and half long… whoops!)
If all goes well, you should walk out of the SII office with a stamped piece of paper with your RUT number on it. This number is what will allow you to buy a car, rent a house, buy property, and pay taxes on all of it! It is not, however, the official and final document. The paper lasts only 3 months (or in some bureaucratic offices, it means nothing to them…), and within a month and half or so, there should be a plastic card with your name and RUT on it, waiting for you in that same office. Either you, or your “poder” can pick that up, but it cannot be mailed to you.
Step two: Find your vehicle!
Okay, so you could be extra proactive and find this before you even get to Chile, but we looked online a ton, and just knew that the right one would show up when we needed it.
There are a few different sites to check online, we mostly used yapo.cl and mercadolibre.cl. Yapo proved to be the one with the biggest selection and the best filters to narrow down our search.
Now, none of this searching online is going to be of any use to you if you don’t have a way to get ahold of the sellers. You have quite a few options on that – getting a cheapo cellphone from a local provider, buying a calling card, borrowing a friend’s phone, or relying on the messaging system of the website you’re looking on – but what we found that worked the best was:
- Having a phone that actually works in South America – Alex bought a T-Mobile plan, which are now relatively cheap, and in most parts of S.A. you can get 3g service
- WhatsApp. If you are a traveler and don’t use WhatsApp yet, I highly suggest downloading it. It’s a simple messaging app that allows you to text message other WhatsAppers for free, and I would say 90% of the population of Chile uses it over other forms of communication.
So you’ve narrowed down your list of vehicles you’re interested in, contacted the sellers to set up times to view them, and you’re getting stoked. Great! A few things that you must know before you meet up with any seller. There is a series of necessary paperwork that every vehicle must have up to date to be street legal. The common term for this is documentos al día, and they include:
- Seguro obligatario – or Compulsory Third Party insurance. It should be paid in advance and valid for one year. It is transferable with the purchase of the vehicle, so in our case, there was 3 months left on the insurance, we will need to update it before the end of the 3rd month.
- Permiso de circulación – A registration document that shows that Chilean road tax has been paid. Be sure that this is up to date before you purchase.
- Revision técnica – A mandatory car inspection that needs to be completed once a year. If you would like to make your life easier, and get on the road faster, find a seller who has had this done recently. We did not, and we went with the seller to the revision técnica, and proceeded to endure 4 hours of idling in the hot sun without air conditioning. Did I mention Chileans really like to wait in lines?
- Certificado de anotaciones para vehículos motorizados – this shows you if there are any violations or tickets on the car. Tickets of all kinds travel with the license plate, which stays with the car, so be sure that yours has a clear certificate before purchasing. You can verify this at the Registro Civil, and the document will need to be presented in order to get the padron
- Padron, or Registro nacional de vehículos motorizados – The motor vehicle registration record, which shows the cars details and identification of the owner. Be sure that the seller has this in their name, and then proceed with them to the next step.
Step three: Purchase and Transfer the vehicle
Unlike in the U.S., where one can make a back alley car purchase by simply signing the back of the vehicle title, there is strict process in Chile to ensure that your name is connected to your vehicle. You will again need to go to a notary. The seller should go with you, with their vehicle registration document in hand. Here you will pay the sales tax, and the notary will give you a sales contract, hopefully multiple copies of it. We were told that the “padron” will then be sent to our address in Santiago (we are borrowing a friend’s, bless her) in about a month, but until then, the sales contract should serve as such. I have heard different ways to go about this, including needing to send all of this to the Registro Civil, but the notary said that we were all set after she stamped our contract. (Yes, I’m crossing my fingers that she wasn’t lying to us… )
Just to note, we, along with the seller, had thought that this process was to be done at the Registro Civil, which is basically the Chilean DMV, but more of a nightmare. We had waited for over FOUR HOURS until our number was called, only to be told that because our RUT number was for extranjeros, it was not “in their system yet,” and therefore our request couldn’t be processed at the office, but must be done through a notary. Ooooh that poor woman had probably never seen a gringa turn so red with fury so quickly. Anyhow, despite what we had heard and had been told, we were not going to get anything done at the Registro that day, so notary it was. Save yourself some time and skip the register civil, the notary should be able to take care of everything.
And that is that. What I have come to realize through this process is that it is not common even in a city as big as Santiago for two very gringo extranjeros to be buying a vehicle, and people will give you strange looks, and they probably won’t know exactly how to process your request. We spent a lot of effort explaining our situation at each office, and laying out what we needed done, and it eventually got done. Again, we will forever be grateful for our seller, Gustavo, who held our hands like little children throughout the process.
While it was more of a hassle than we had hoped for, it was, after all, purchasing a vehicle in a foreign country, so we could only expect so much. And now we feel content to drive around Chile and cross border without some shady policeman trying to take the car because it wasn’t actually in our name.
Have a different experience? Did I miss anything? Any questions? Please, let me know in the comments! And to all of you looking to buy a car in Chile, buena suerte!