Buying a foreign registered car in Chile as a foreigner

One week ago we finished the van life part of the Pan American trip. In total we took 217 days, drove 25,000km and passed through 16 different countries on the journey from Colorado to Santiago de Chile. One of my niggling concerns during the last few weeks of the trip was how we were going to sell the van once we reached Chile. Normally when selling a vehicle the main difficulty is finding a buyer who’ll pay the right price. When selling an overseas car in a foreign land an additional problem is how to do the ownership transfer from the seller to the buyer. I found this all very confusing but in the end it all worked out to be reasonably straightforward. Here’s how we did it:

Finding a Buyer

This was the easiest part. We listed the vehicle in Overlander Chile Buy & Sell Cars/Motorcycles/vanand included a bunch of nice photos and a bullet list of all the details about the van. There’s plenty of other listings that you can use for inspiration. The most important pieces of information to convey, and which should be at the top of the post are:

  • How much are you selling for?
  • Where will the vehicle be sold?
  • When will it be available, and for how long?
  • What country and state is the vehicle registered?

In almost all cases the buyer will be a foreigner who is intending to also do a road trip. Selling to a local isn’t easy as it is difficult for a Chilean to import and register a foreign vehicle in Chile. If the buyer is intending to do a short road trip around Chile and nearby countries, and then return to Chile to sell the vehicle then it would usually make sense for them to buy a Chilean registered vehicle, as the ownership transfer process would be a lot simpler in this situation. If the buyer is intending to take the vehicle further afield and sell it outside of Chile then they will almost certainly be looking to buy a non-Chilean plated vehicle, as it’s hard to transfer ownership of a Chilean vehicle elsewhere. In other words, depending on circumstance, there’s a few stars that need to align when trying to match a buyer and a seller and it often comes down to where the buyer is intending to sell the vehicle.

Obtaining the Poder

In the case that you are selling a foreign registered vehicle in Chile than the first step is always to get a Poder. This took me a while to understand as there isn’t really an equivalent process in Australia or New Zealand. A Poder, in this situation, is a simple one page legal document, written in Spanish, that gives someone else the right to drive your vehicle. Not just in Chile, but any country in the world. Once the buyer has a Poder, signed by the owner and notarised by the correct authorities then the buyer can start their road trip. No transfer or change of registration in the home country of the vehicle is required. This means that when they cross a border, or are stopped by police they can pull out the registration documents and say: “This vehicle is owned by person X (the old seller), but here is a Poder that permits me to drive this vehicle as if I were the owner”. This is enough to cross borders, get insurance etc.

To obtain a Poder both the buyer and the seller need to visit a Notary Office in Chile. There’s lots of them around and they handle all sorts of legal matters, not just vehicle documents. We went to this place in Nunoa. We took my brother, who is fluent in Spanish as this was one conversation that we didn’t want to be misunderstood. After waiting a long time in the queue (it’s best to show up early), we explained what we wanted and handed over our Colorado vehicle title and registration and all passports. In our case the buyer was a couple and both wanted to drive, so they got two Poder documents for themselves. It took about 10 minutes for the notary to prepare the documents and get it stamped.

We then took the metro into the city and went into the Ministry of Justice. It was here that the Buyers need to get an offical government stamp on their Poder verifying that it was indeed sourced from a legitimate Notary and wasn’t a forgery or anything like that. 

That’s all that we did. Some people go to the Aduana office at the airport to try and get their Chilean Temporary Import Permit transferred to the buyer but we were assured that this wasn’t required. As the seller I then gave the old Temporary Import Permit, the Colorado Title, the Colorado Registration to the buyer and this was enough for them to drive off with our van and start their road trip. In total it took one morning and visits to two offices in Santiago. Total cost, about US$10.

Buyers, Sellers and two Poders

Transferring Registration

Back in Colorado the van is still registered to my name and the final, but optional step, in this process is for the buyer to transfer the US title and registration of the vehicle from the seller to the buyer. This step is recommended to do once the Poder has been obtained. The reason why this isn’t usually done instead of getting a Poder is that it can take 4-5 weeks and the Poder gives the buyer the ability to start driving immediately. Having the Title in the correct name makes it much easier for the buyer to on-sell the vehicle and also is likely required to reenter the USA. I won’t be involved in this step, as it is the responsibility of the buyer. However I did sign off on a Bill of Sale, saying that I have sold the vehicle, and for what price. The Buyer will usually engage the services of someone such as Overland Title Services in order to have this process completed in the US and their new plates sent to them. There is a cost attached to this, as well as a sales tax and it isn’t cheap. However, once this is done Poder is no longer required and everything is fully legit. 

That’s pretty much everything I know about this topic. Selling our van in Chile was way easier then I expected, as long as you and the buyer are both in Santiago and are able to get the Poder together. After driving most of the Pan American it was good to find passing on the van to some other adventurers was a simple process.

ps: For more information check this site:

One thought on “Buying a foreign registered car in Chile as a foreigner

  1. Does this mean that your year abroad is coming to an end Adrian? I was wondering how you fared after your great escape from Peru!
    We have our year planned:
    First 8 weeks commencing April 3rd is walking the Camino from Lisbon to Santiago de Compostela and making it back to Lisbon by June 3rd. We then fly home and spend 8 weeks renting at Cape Paterson whilst our first granddaughter enters the world.

    Then August 6th we fly to London with an ongoing around the world ticket that leaves Athens on November 6th and lands in Rio de Janeiro and finally leave Santiago de Chile to Melbourn early March 2024.

    No real plans, just wander the world. I hope to hear more about your travels, particularly Central and South America throughout that time.

    Safe travels and thanks for the blog, I will have to work out how to set one up as well!


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