Papers, Police & Customs

It turns out selling the Jeep down here is a lot more difficult that I first thought. Argentina and Chile both have extremely strict importation laws to protect local producers, which makes things more than difficult. The funny side effect is the cost of imported foreign cars here. I’ve found my Jeep to be worth a very large sum of money to Argentines and they’re pretty keen to find a way to buy it. Jeeps from the 60’s sell for US$10k, from the 80’s about $15k and 90’s $20k. Every day I also see various junker death-traps selling for around $3k-$5k that make my Jeep look like new.

Every second person that sees it’s for sale for only $6k immediately asks to buy it. After I politely explain they really can’t (foreigners only) people think of all kinds of crazy ways we can make it work. Most revolve around reporting it as stolen, some involve stripping it for parts and even crazier ideas involve various takes on insurance fraud. Hmmm.

Singing a “Power of Attorney” for an Argentine guy is the closest I’ve come yet. He is to “drive it around” for a little while until I “come back” in a year or two. (cough, cough). At the border leaving Argentina the customs guy catches on pretty quickly to what we are trying to do and immediately puts stop to it, almost having the guy arrested for driving it until he realizes I am there too (Apparently in Argentina the Jeep and I are literally inseparable). Upon re-entry the guy is very formal and strictly checks all my papers twice.
Very quietly, off to one side, he mentions that in two weeks he will be at another border station, alone, and we should talk more there.
My new favorite word in Spanish is Corrupción

About an hour into Argentina we drive through a routine police stop where they very throughly check all my papers, search for drugs and generally waste our time until one officer asks about our intention to import the Jeep into Argentina. Apparently our friend at Customs has called ahead and told them to give us a good old fashioned shake down. This is all pretty funny to us, as we know we haven’t done anything wrong, and they have to let us proceed.

After all this has been explained in great detail to willing buyers, each and every Argentinean tries to buy my tent separately. Then my tool box. Then the spare parts. I think somehow they just want a piece of what they know is selling for super cheap, we just can’t make it work.

I’m sure something will present itself.  simple smile


26 Responses

  1. Ron Parker says:

    Hey Dan,
    Why not sell it to a wrecking yard for parts?
    Get a receipt stating it is no longer driveable and unrepairable.
    What else are you to do with a broken down Jeep!
    leave it on the side of the road.
    What happens after that is not your problem,it is not yours.

    • Dan says:

      For sure that’s an option Ton, I could go to the Police/Customs a fill in a form stating the Jeep is unrepairable, this absolving me of all responsibilities… Customs will confiscate the Jeep from the new ‘owner’ in 6 months when the temporary import expires, I have no idea what they do with it after that.
      I can’t leave it on the side of the road without filling in the above form and police work, otherwise they won’t let me leave the country…..

  2. Alex says:

    Man sounds like you are finding out the hardway.

    We are going to Bolivia, if the bus is still running after we tramp around we will sell it to the highest bidder.

    We just took a side trip up to Iguazu Falls. On the returning drive into Buenos Aires, we were pulled over around 14 times. I was issued sitations for not having lights on and also for not having the bus properly equipt with seatbelts. However, the cops are not that smart, the tickets are being sent to 000001 California, Ecuador.

    Good luck!

    • Dan says:

      Classic Alex, absolutely classic!
      Good luck, there is a chance I’ll bump into you guys over that way somewhere.

    • John&Michelle says:

      Dan! Though it has been years since the comment, I am hoping you had success at selling in Bolivia! We have a similar intent for later this year. (We’re about to load our jeep to ship to Cartagena.) How did it go? What guidance/info can you give us? The wikioverland site says “Unknown” for selling in Bolivia!
      Thanks very much!

      • Dan says:

        Hi John & Michelle,
        I never did look into selling in Bolivia, so I don’t know anything about it. I ended up selling in Argentina, all the details are on WikiOverland Argentina. I also almost sold in Chile, and I know people sell illegally, more or less, in Paraguay and Uruguay.
        If you do find out anything in any country, please add the info to WikiOverland so others can benefit from your experience. Thanks! good luck,

      • Dan says:

        Hi John & Michelle,
        I never did look into selling in Bolivia, so I don’t know anything about it. I ended up selling in Argentina, all the details are on WikiOverland Argentina. I also almost sold in Chile, and I know people sell illegally, more or less, in Paraguay and Uruguay.
        If you do find out anything in any country, please add the info to WikiOverland so others can benefit from your experience. Thanks! good luck,

  3. eddie zawaski says:

    Nationalizing your vehicle to sell it in Argentina is usually a six month process. It is possible, however, to get the paperwork done more quickly than that. I left your email address with an Argentino in El Bolson who thinks he can effect a streamlined nationalization of the Jeep. I suppose it all depends on how much time you have to unload the car.

    While it is theoretically possible to sell it to a non-resident foreigner living here, I think that is practically unlikely. I would qualify as one of those persons you could theoretically sell to, but I have little interest in buying problems. Saying that it is legal if I drive it every six months to Chile and actually doing that are two different things. Anyone who has lived in Argentina for years without permanent residence can attest to the difficulties that Argentine customs can generate with even the slightest irregularity. I would imagine that a foreigner could buy your jeep and then on his first trip to Chile have it impounded by our lovely aduana officials.

    • Dan says:

      Hey Eddie,

      It’s not only the six months of paperwork I’ve worried about, it’s the 100% tax applied to the value of the Jeep listed in the Aduana database (around $20,000USD) – so really that is a no-go.
      I can assure you a non-resident foreigner can buy it and drive it around legally – as you say they must leave and re-enter the country every six months (I’d stick to that), I know people that have done it before and customs has already told me it’s fine.
      Something to keep in mind is that in my 20+ border crossings and hundreds of police checkpoints through 14 Latin American countries I’ve never shown a single person the original title/registration for the Jeep, or the original of my drivers license.
      It’s really not hard to make color photocopies 😉
      Who knows, maybe I’ll change my name.

  4. Brian says:

    So I have to ask, I have been wondering why you did not just ship the jeep back up to North America. Would it really be that cost prohibitive?

    I have no idea what it would cost, but it seems like an idea.

    Heck just ship it over to South Africa, and keep that trip going for us! 😉

    • Dan says:

      My plan was not to return to North America at the end of the journey, though now I think that’s what I’ll be doing.

      Lets look at some numbers: shipping to Mexico or Florida is around $1000 USD, then I have to drive it all the way back to Canada before I can sell it legally. I also have to sort out insurance and Registration before entering the USA. The Jeep is now 11 years old, 200,000kms and only a 4-cyl, probably worth about $3.5-4K. If I was going to keep it, I would like to spend around $1K right now on maintenance (tires, oils, leads, plugs, etc.)
      If I was still working with $5k in my bank account, maybe I could make that work. Unfortunately, my accounts are around -$7K right now… so I don’t have money to play with.
      On top of all that, I don’t actually want to keep the Jeep. It has been fantastic beyond belief for this adventure, and I would make the same choice 1000 times again, but for what I’ll be doing next in my life, I’d actually prefer not to have wheels for a while.
      It’s also pretty likely the price of gas is going to keep rising, and I’m looking to save money right now.
      So, as you can see, for a bunch of reasons, I want to sell.

      As for Africa, this is not the right rig, and my bank accounts are saying no.

  5. Ryan K says:

    Saw your Jeep parked in front of the El Bolsón market last week. The Alberta plate sure caught my eye. Looks like you have had yourself a great journey and I look forward to reading more about it here on your blog.

    Ryan & Amy
    (year-long RTW trippers from Boston/Denver)

  6. Fred says:

    Hey Dan, I am thinking of selling my Jeep (registered in NY) as well in Argentina. What did you do with yours in the end, did you manage to sell it?
    cheers, Fred

  7. Angela says:

    Hi Dan,

    Me and my bf just arrived in South America where we catched up with a german guy who is selling us his Ford Explorer which he drove all the way here from canada.
    We are facing some problems with the paper work and while looking for a solution on google I found your blog.
    At the moment we are in chili and we have a power of attorney to get the permit to drive the car in our name at the border. The thing we worry about is if we can sell the car again, because it’s not possible to get the car registered in our name..
    We could sell it to a foreigner, and authorize them to travel the car abroad like we did now. But on the official car papers we are not the owner, just authorized to drive it, so we can’t authorize somebody else. A bill of sale would be a solution, but there is no notario around here that wants to notarify that, if they even understand what we are trying to get done.

    Because you seem to have been in the exact same situation I was hoping you could maybe give us some more information about how it’s done.. I would really appreciate it!!

    Thanks in advance!!

    • Dan says:

      Hey Angela,
      Awesome to hear you guys are looking at a vehicle. It’s a great way to get around.
      You raise an interesting question that I don’t really have a solid solution for.
      How much are you spending? You could just consider the money a right-off so you don’t actually care what happens when it comes time to sell. With all the money you’ll save on buses, accommodation and food, you might actually be saving money anyway.
      You could drive it back to Canada..?
      You could sell it for scrap in many South American countries and probably still get decent money for it.
      I was told you can illegally sell anything in Uruguay for cash and get away with it… but I don’t know the details.
      After you’ve bought it you might be able to send paperwork to Canada to get it moved into your name… but unlikely unless you are residents of Canada..

      You could ask on the Horizons Unlimited Board ( as I know lots of motorbike guys buy/sell bikes time and time again to foreigners in South America.

      Good luck!

  8. Emerald says:

    Hey Dan,

    I have been traveling down and have now ended in Argentina. We have a non resident buyer and are about to go through the process of giving over power of attorney. Just wondering if you can give us any specific info on who you went to to finalise your documents, how much this process cost, how long it takes…ect your blog is soooo helpful and I fully intend on updating wikitravel on the buying of cars in Colombia when I get out the other side of this.

    Cheers in advance

    • Dan says:

      Hi Emerald,

      Everything you need to know is on

      Get the power of attorney from any law office (they’ll know what a ‘poder’ is) Then either leave the country and the new person can come back with the vehicle, or go to the customs office in BA (Map is on WikiOverland). Either way, the car will be in Argentina in the new person’s name.

      Good luck, and please do update any sections of wikioverland that need it – you can help make it better for people coming behind you!

      • Ameridriver says:

        Dear Dan,

        Thank you for your posts and all the info!
        I am now (a tourist) in Buenos Aires and want to buy a USA car from an american. We’ve been to some notaries to get the carta poder, but they seem to not know what exactly to produce or try to claim it’s very very complicated. Are you able to help by sending me a copy of the poder you made so I can use it as a template to show the notaries here?
        Will be super appreciated.

  9. Dan the Man,

    Just found you – inspiring stuff.

    My girl and I are going to be buying a car soon in the US and driving it all the way down. I have read everything on this post/comments and on, but still have a big question.

    I see that the tax rate to legally import the car into Argentina is 100%, does that mean that when you finally sold your jeep you didn’t make any money? I’m not sure if i understand all the legality stuff. I ideally would like to make some money back when I sell my car at the end of the trip – was that doable for you?

    • Dan says:

      Hi There,

      Awesome to hear you’re heading down, it will be the trip of a lifetime!
      When I sold in Argentina, I didn’t import the Jeep there – I left the Canadian plates on it and sold it to a foreigner, who must take it out and back in every 3 months. It’s by far the easiest way to sell and the option that 99% of people take. I did exactly the section option listed here (sell to foreigner) and I just saw a blog post from someone who did it very recently and it still works the same.
      Good luck!


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