Buying a car is something we swore we would never do when we moved here a year and a half ago. We were terrified of the style of driving and the apparent lack of road rules. Well, we’ve loosened up a lot since then, and we are ready to be independently mobile once again.
Obviously a drivers license is required. There is a bit of a mistaken view here among foreigners about drivers licenses. An international drivers license is valid only for one year. After that, you must get an Ecuadorian license.
Buying a vehicle is an unusual experience here. First of all, a vehicle that would be completely worthless back home, is worth a verifiable fortune here. For example, an 11-year-old Dodge Caravan might be worth a few hundred dollars in Canada (if its in good shape) and here, it is listed at $8000. We bought a 16-year-old Isuzu Trooper (sold here with the Chevrolet branding on the body) and paid about 6 times the value it would have had in the United States. But then again, gas is just $1.48/gallon for standard or $2.08 for extra.
But there is something interesting about the vehicles here in Ecuador:
- First of all, there is absolutely no rust. Anywhere. Our 16 year old beast looks almost perfect. What you would expect out of a 5 year old car back home. The cars from the coast, especially Guayas province are sort of shunned here in the Sierra. They are available, but are much cheaper. There is a view that the vehicles with Guayas plates are poorer quality – partly because of the salt air on the Coast, and partly because of the idea that people from the coast don’t maintain their vehicles well (local biases). I don’t know, but this is probably also said in reverse. You can always tell where the vehicles are from, by the first letter of the plate. Guayas cars have license plates that start with “G”. Azuay cars (plates starting in “A”) are more expensive. For the best prices, head north to Quito and get a car from the northern Sierra provinces.
- And secondly, it is the culture to take awesome care of the vehicles here. I think partly because of the high prices and partly because Ecuadorians appreciate their things, the cars are immaculate. I’m confident that you’ve never seen such a clean motor anywhere. Its going to be a challenge to keep our car as clean as our neighbors.
The prices stay high, thanks to high import taxes on new vehicles. And as I understand, only new cars may be imported. So that leaves a limited pool of vehicles to chose from.
There isn’t a central CraigsList or eBay here, but there are a few great classified sites. For used car listings check out:
We ended up buying from a dealer. A friend took me and the truck to his mechanic to check it out, and perform a cylinder compression test. The test, and a road test cost $5. This was a friend of a friend, so it might have been a little low – but gives a point of reference.
The documents need to be notarized (costs $45). Payment is via a certified check, which costs $2.50. And if the vehicle is already registered, you won’t need to pay until it comes due. Ours is good until next fall.
Hopefully we won’t be posing much about dealing with mechanics, but time will tell.
What’s been your experience in buying a car as an expat?