Drive from Central to South America
Replies: 10 - Last Post: Dec 1, 2012 5:40 PM Last Post By: chefhagan
Nov 29, 2012 11:29 PM
Drive from Central to South AmericaHey all
This is a mammoth ask as currently I only have an idea with no knowledge at all about how to execute; hence this post
We are English but would like to drive from probably somewhere in Mexico all the way through Central and South America
- Which country would be the easiest in terms of red tape to buy a car as UK citizens that we can cross borders with
- Would we be able to sell that car at the end of our travels and which country would be the easiest to do this in from a red tape pint of view? Are we best to try and do a loop so we sell in the same country as we bought?
- Which kind of 4x4s are most prevalent in central and south america (if there is just one type) so we would be more assured of spare parts availability
- I presume both petrol and diesel are available in all gas stations but is there a marked price difference?
All and any information gratefully received
Nov 30, 2012 2:00 AM
You've touched on some of the biggest issues facing people traveling from Europe with this plan. Its difficult to register a vehicle if you don't have a residential address, and often harder to insure it on a foreign license. Its very tough to sell a vehicle that been taken into a country on a temporary permit, plus of course you need to ship between CA and SA as there is no road. All types of fuel are widely available (but not cheap) and a Toyota will normally be your best bet! (It doesn't really matter, spares networks are just everywhere). Apart from that its dead easy!....most people give up in the planning stage.
From my experience, British Colombia is a good starting point as they will insure you on a UK licence (unlike Ontario) and you'll obviously get a wide choice of vehicles. Stay at a B&B and use that address as your residential one- they do all the documentation and plating in-office so it doesn't really matter.
Accept that regardless of the cost you may need to do a 360 round trip to resell the vehicle. Legally you would need to import it to your destination to sell it and that means paying all the taxes (huge).
You'll need LOTS of money. This is about the most expensive way of doing this trip...
Nov 30, 2012 3:11 AM
2The driving part is the easy part, people do it all the time. The hard part, is the fact every time you enter a country with your vehicle, it goes in your Passport, trying to leave the country, without the vehicle, will result in heavy duties, taxes and fines/tariffs, and they judge the value of the car, not what you paid for it. So to sell a car in a given country, requires importing the vehicle, which is not cheap, taxes on the determined value of the car can be 50% of the cost of the car alone, or higher, also many countries have restrictions on imports, like it must be within 10 years old.
The main issue is you need to ship the car from Panama to Colombia or somewhere in South America, as there is no road connecting CA and SA. Most people use a container, as its safest and secure, two regular passengers cars can go into a container, so the cost can be split if you plan your time in Panama to piggyback with another person like yourself, going or shipping it to the same port as you, allow 3-10 days for all that to come together. Prices range from $800 to $2000 for a car. Flying from Panama to the cars destination is not cheap either, most flights are usually about $350-$600 onward to SA major cities.
The other issues are more related to crime and safety, you dont drive at night, it gets dark at 6pm, you want to avoid the major cities, they are congested and crime ridden, you also want to stay in hotels you can secure the car, and also never park the car unattended with any thing of value in it, not even sunglasses. The other factors are the rainy season, from May to Nov, in CA can get be pretty bad in Oct/Nov, so expect landslides, bridges out and roads washed out/flooded.
The website listed above has all the info you need. Most people touring the Central America region, 8 countries, spend about 3-4 months to see the highlights, 10 days to 2 weeks per country, depending on your interest, and budget. The distances in CA are much smaller between areas venues and countries, as all of CA can fit into the size of Colombia, so keep in mind when planning, South America is gigantic in comparison, and requires far more time and distances between points, and also keep in mind winter in the Andes, is the opposite time of year, as north of the Equator.
A diesel engine would be ideal, but not many diesel passenger cars in North America compared to EU/Latin America. A very fuel efficient gasoline vehicle would be best, like a VW Golf or Toyota Corolla. But if you want to drive a 4x4, the most common in Latin America is a Toyota truck, so a Pathfinder would be ideal, and also are desired in the resale market. If you could find a nice 8 year old, 1 owner, 80,000 mile 4x4, for about $13K or so, and then have the belts, hoses, and all fluids changed if original, and get some spare brake pads, put on fresh rotors, as its a lot of mountain driving, you should be fine. But the gas mileage will stink, and petrol is not cheap in these parts overall, and the driving is most like city driving, under 65KM for the most part, mainly two lane roads. If you buy a car in US, you need to register it, then wait for the new title of the vehicle in your name, mailed to you at an address, allow 4 weeks for that to occur for most states. You will also need to pay sales tax on the car in many states too, and buy insurance while its in the USA. The USA FAQ has info on all this. You need the title in your name, to both cross borders, and import/sell it.
Overall, 99% of travelers to CA, use the bus network, shuttles, or rent a car in a given country, and some areas you cant take one or dont need one, like Belize Cayes, Honduras Bay Islands, Nicaragua Corn Islands. Major cities and capitals are super confusing and congested, poorly marked roads, routes make for some very stressful times in endless traffic snarls in often unsafe and dodgy areas.
So your main issues, is look into what it takes to import and sell a vehicle in Argentina.
Nov 30, 2012 5:44 PM
Nov 30, 2012 6:38 PM
4Buy in California (easier than anywhere in Canada (cheaper, too) or most American states), sell in Paraguay (easiest in South America). Chances are 99 to 1 you don't make this trip, but if you really think you might be serious try starting with Chris Scott's book: http://www.overlanders-handbook.com/. The Latin America section isn't that good, but this aside he's got the information you need.
Nov 30, 2012 7:46 PM
5Its been 10 years on this forum, and have yet to see a post about driving the Americas from MX to Argentina, and anyone ever coming back to report back on the trip, so I think its 100% never make the trip, not only is it very expensive compared to just busing the trip, most people dont have the time either.
Nov 30, 2012 9:22 PM
6Tim, people definitely make the trip, but it's at best unusual that anyone would start that process here. If they did, they'd quickly recognize that this is not the place to gather useful advice, and either give up or shift their attention elsewhere.
The fact that hardly anyone comes back with a report is true of any category of posters here. How many introduce themselves with questions about whether Mexico is safe for tourism? How many of those come back with a report? How many ask about all the good surf spots in Nicaragua or El Salvador? Or lodging at Manual Antonio? Various markets in the Guatemalan highlands? Etc.
Dec 1, 2012 3:42 AM
Dec 1, 2012 3:51 AM
8Mark you may be right, but usually someone coming to this forum asking driving this route, would also need more info in each country, and would leave a history of questions from place to place as they go, dont you think? You would also think that after reading of the obstacles and issues you have to deal with, if they did make the trip, they would report back to clarify the ins and outs of such a journey...
For the most part, posters hear about the need to ship the vehicle to SA and dont even respond after that, not even a thank you, then sink into reality thats its a grandiose idea that is fleeting at best.
Dec 1, 2012 4:41 AM
9I spent 9 months doing it and it was one of the great adventures of my life. My plan started like most people- looking at a map and going "ooooh wouldn't it be amazing IF......". The reason most abandon it in my experience is because for some reason they start off thinking its the budget way to go- buy an old van, split the gas cost and its done. The reality couldn't be more different BUT it IS an amazing journey.....
Dec 1, 2012 5:40 PM
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