Buying a car in Chile

Having successfully mastered the Chilean tax number assignment the next task was to purchase a car. Generally speaking, the car market in Chile is slighlty more expensive than in the US and Germany. Or rephrased differently: For the same $ you get cars are much more worn in Chile. Websites such as Chileauto.cl and Yapo.cl helped to pre-select a range of 4WD vehicles to look at. We were searching for a car with sufficient space for luggage and to carry 4-6 persons (brother and parents intend to visit), a 4WD for bad road conditions, odometer < 150,000km, low gas consumption, a price less than 10,000 USD and ok resale value.

Since Santiago’s metro just covers a certain range of areas we have rented a cheap car to start car hunting. After four years in the US we nearly forgot that such small cars exist at all 😉

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With 20 EUR/day (O’clock rental, Metro station Manuel Montt) at least we got a good deal.

Traffic is pretty bad in Santiago every hour on weekdays. Driving times were three times longer than without traffic. As a consequence, the maximum amount of car dealers per day was limited to 3-4. Within four days, Lothar managed to look at ca.15 different cars. Also, Lothar had the opportunity to talk to Daniel, the owner of Suzi Santiago (cf. Links), who is a great service source to buy a car. We decided not to hire him (price tag ca. 200 USD) since we could not fully evaluate the value-add after having talked to a couple of car dealers. This was definitely a wrong decision in retrospect and we would highly recommend hiring him to better be safe than sorry.

The narrower choice came down to two Mitsubishi Outlander K2 (best price-space-gas economy combination). The first one obviously needed to have the battery replaced due to oxidation on the plus pole and could have had other issues as well since it hadn’t been seeing by a mechanic yet (more issues?)The other one was inspected by the car dealer’s mechanic under Lothar’s presence. He confirmed Lothar’s findings that the A/C and a signal need to be fixed, front break pads and rear tires replaced. Further, the mechanic recommended to replace the belt and the air filter.

The favorite was the first one but the car dealer would not agree to sign documents in front of a notary and scheduled the pick-up late afternoon such that an independent mechanic visit was hard to do. It seemed shady to Lothar and he decided to go for the second option. Unfortunately, Lothar rushed the decision on it and oversaw obviuous things an independent mechanic would have caught immediately: Opposed to what was said in the Autofact report the car has been in an accident (missing plastic cover in front of the front wheels), the odometer has been manipulated (ca. By 80,000 km) and the central was not working. The second mistake was to pay upfront before the negotiated repairs and renewal of the revision tecnica have been performed. Basically, we got screwed by the car dealer on the replacement of the tires and the renewal of the revision tecnica (which expires in Nov 2018). He pretended that there has never been any agreement on these two things and Lothar was naive enough to trust into a verbal agreement. High;y frustrated about himself Lothar renegotiated the reimbursement of the equivalent of 1.3 tires. All of the other pre-agreed issues had been fixed by the dealer.

The same day we went to Avenida 10 de Julio (a heaven for car parts and labor) and had tires and motor oil changed. Then after 9 intensive days of car hunting we finally left for Viña del Mar!

Here are the things I would do better next time:

  • Rush less with the decision & reserve more time to find a car. I’d recommend two weeks.
  • Don’t trust any car dealer: Leave a deposit and have an independent mechanic look over the car before you make a decision.
  • Try to enforce that all paperwork is signed in front of a notary. Especially, with small car dealers this seems to be uncommon.
  • Take photos of all signed contracts.
  • Check the Autofact report and reject all cars which show a decrease in odometer with increasing time (look at the historical revision tecnicas)
  • Pay at the latest point in time to guarantee that all agreed repairs are in fact performed
  • Hire the folks from Suzi Santiago. They help you pre-selecting cars, recommend a mechanic, negotiate with the car dealer and oversee the paper work.

Leaving Santiago felt like a big relief and we addressed little by little during the next couple of days the outstanding smaller issues of the car. After passing the revision tecnica we gained confidence that our travel buddy was now in a good shape for South America and the journey could truly begin! As our car is now the latest add-on to our family and we also gave it a name:

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“Oscar Outlander” 🙂 Bienvenidos, Oscar to SchnitzelandSchaschlik! Let’s have a safe and fun trip for the next 10 months together! Vamos juntos!

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