The Complete Expat Guide On How To Buy A Car in Colombia

Looking to buy a car in Colombia? This guide will teach you everything you need to know about avoiding scams, registration costs, and paperwork required for car buying in Colombia.

  Mins Reading Time

Published On: June 15, 2023

Latest Update: April 10, 2024

expat in a car they just purchased in Colombia

About the author

Hi, I'm Marco Sison. I worked in finance for Fortune 50 companies before retiring early at 41 years old. I have been an expat for over 10 years, living in over 50 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries outside the USA. I am a trusted resource on personal finance and overseas retirement for US News & World Reports, HuffPost, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Association of MBAs, the iTunes documentary Seeking FIRE, and the Amazon Best-Seller- Abroad: Expats That Thrive.

QUICK SUMMARY- Purchasing A Car In Colombia

  • It is recommended to buy a new car rather than a used one in Colombia due to the risk and simplicity of the registration process.
  • All drivers and cars must be registered in Colombia involves using the RUNT system. 
  • Compulsory insurance called SOAT is required
  • Additional comprehensive insurance is highly recommended. Seguros Bolivar is a budget-friendly option.
  • When buying a pre-owned car use Certificar.co as the Colombian version of a CarFax report to check for a car's history to ensure there are no outstanding debts or accident history.

Close your eyes and remember your last experience at a car dealership. Now imagine your last trip to the DMV in your home country. Are those fond memories or do they fill you with anxiety and dread?

Now multiply that by 10 and you have what it is like trying to navigate the car buying process in a foreign country. (Do I need to speak Spanish? Can I trust car dealers? How do I register anything?)

With different laws and regulations, language barriers, and cultural differences, it can be hard to know where to start. If you’re an expat looking to buy a car in Colombia, you need a comprehensive guide that takes you step-by-step through the process.

This post may contain affiliate links. I may get a commission if you purchase something using my link. Please note, there is NO ADDITIONAL COST to you. For more information, please see my disclosure.

6 Quick Tips To Prepare For A Move To Colombia

TIP 1. Understand Colombia's visa policy- A decade of experience living abroad taught me that a country's resident visa and permit situation can make or break a plan to move overseas. Chat with a Colombian visa attorney.

TIP 2. Know your health insurance requirements- Starting July 2022, the government requires all expats living in Colombia to purchase specific medical coverage that includes accidents, illness, hospitalization, disability, repatriation, maternity, and death. 

TIP 3. Save On Moving CostsInternational moves can get expensive. Save hundreds of dollars by getting accredited moving companies to compete for your business. Fill out a quick form, sit back and let our moving partners get you five free moving quotes from trusted and reliable international moving companies.

TIP 4. Set up a Traveling Mailbox- Change all your critical mailing addresses to a traveling mailbox. Don't lose an important tax return, bank statement, credit card, or government document in the mail. Sign up for a virtual mailbox, and you can keep a permanent US mailing address and check your mail via your phone or PC.

TIP 5. Prove your onward ticket- If you only have a tourist visa Colombia requires a mandatory departure ticket. You need a onward travel with a date leaving the country before your visa expires. Save money by using  an onward plane ticket for just $16

TIP 6. Pick up some Spanish Skills- The most common difficulty experienced by expats in Colombia is English being less common than expected. Only 4% of the country speaks English. You can get a free 7-day Spanish language crash course to make your move to Colombia easier.

That's why we've created the ultimate expat guide to buying a car in Colombia, so you can navigate the process with confidence and ease. From finding a reputable dealer to understanding the legal requirements, this guide has got you covered.

You'll be cruising through the streets of Medellin and Cartagena in no time.

Other Guides On Living In Colombia

Colombia Identification Card: How Expats Get A Cedula De Extranjería
Colombia Digital Nomad Visa Requirements: How to Apply, Work Remote, And Live Cheap
How To Rent Apartments In Medellin Without Getting Scammed
How To Get Health Insurance In Colombia As A Foreigner
Expat Guide To Medellin Nightlife: Best Clubs, Party Areas, Bars, and Dancing
The Best Medellin Salsa Clubs [2023]
How To Apply For A Colombia Tourist Visa [2023]
The Top 26 Reasons Why You Must Visit Colombia [2023]
The 5 Best Neighborhoods to Live in Medellin Colombia As An Expat [2023]

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What to consider when buying a car in Colombia

 INSIDER TIP : Spanish language- If you are still in the 'Si' and 'cerveza por favor' stage of learning Spanish, everything from dealerships and price negotiations to getting a driver's license and vehicle registration to getting repairs and asking for directions will be more challenging. Kick start your Spanish with free lessons.

Higher Prices For New and Used Cars

New Car Considerations in Colombia

Whether you are buying a car in Colombia, the United States, or the European Union, you'll need to choose between the reliability and peace of mind of a new car vs. the lower prices of a used car. However, there are a few differences in the car-buying process in Colombia

  1. Unlike the US, the 2nd largest car manufacturer in the world, cars are not domestically produced in Colombia in meaningful quantities. Importing cars means higher new car prices in Colombia due to customs, duties, tariffs, and import taxes.
  2. Importing cars also means higher prices for imported parts.

An import tariff of 35% is applied to cars

An import tax of 15% is applied to trucks

VAT is typically 16% with few restrictions

Consumption tax is 8% for a vehicle that is valued at $30,000 or less

Consumption tax is 16% for vehicles over $30,000 in value

screenshot showing the price a foreigner will pay when buying a new car in Colombia

This Nissan Sentra SR costs ~$32,000 in Colombia vs. $22,000 in the United States

 INSIDER TIP : Latin America Car Manufacturing- Due to trade agreements, reduced shipping costs, and lower price for spare parts, buying a car with a regional presence will save you money. General Motors, Renault, Volkswagen, Toyota, along with Stellantis (owners of Fiat, Jeep, and others) are examples of car companies with regional manufacturing and assembly plants in Latin America.

Used Car Considerations in Colombia

Don't bother trying to ship your personal car into Colombia. As part of the 1993 Andean Automotive Agreement, Colombia restricts the importation of used cars. Only new cars from the current model year with zero mileage on the odometer are allowed to be imported into the country. Exceptions to this rule are only made for antique or classic cars and diplomat vehicles.

Lack of imported used cars, combined with the import cost of auto parts means used car prices are higher, and used car repairs may use lower grade or substandard parts.

Negotiating New Car Prices

Negotiating prices for new cars is not a common practice with car dealers in Colombia. The price listed for a new car tends to be the price you pay. However, you may have some wiggle room on getting some freebies added to your deal. Dealerships may offer promotions that include additional features or accessories, such as free window tinting, car mats, or safety kits.

 INSIDER TIP : Foreign Exchange Rate Flucations-  Pay attention to the strengthening Colombian Peso (COP), as exchange rate fluctuations greatly affect car prices. The US Dollar has lost 20% of it's value vs. the COP in the last 6 months (Jan'23 to Jun'23). 

For expats with savings in USD, the 130,000,000 COP Nissan Sentra you wanted to buy increased in price from $26,000 USD to over $31,000! 

Shopping For A Used Car in Colombia

Buying a used car in Colombia isn't very different than buying a used car in any country. You can expect prices to be much cheaper ,buying used and you have the option to buy from a dealer or a private owner. Use online sites like tucarro.com and carroya.com to get an idea of prices for used cars in Colombia.

 INSIDER TIP : Feria Automotriz in ColombiaOne unique aspect of used car buying in Colombia are the car fairs taking place on weekends in most major cities. Fairs are similar to automotive flea markets, where you can browse cars from loads of dealers and private sellers for free to get an idea of what you want. In Bogota, the Feria Automotriz happens on Sundays in Alamos.

But don't buy the car at the fair! Take contact details and shop around online for a better deal.

Weekend car fairs:

Bogota- Alamos Ventas De Carros- Tv. 93 #5364 a 53-98, Bogotá, Colombia. Normally held every weekend (Friday - Sunday)

Annual car expos

Bogota- Bogotá Car Expo CORFERIAS International Business and Exhibition Center at Carrera 37 . Normally held in August

Medellin- Carfest Antioquia - Normally held in November

 INSIDER TIP : Buying A Used Car in Cartagena- Warning, if you're considering purchasing a used car, make sure to steer clear of any options from Cartagena, Santa Marta, or any other coastal cities. Why, you ask? Well, the salty water in these areas tends to wreak havoc on cars, causing them to rust and deteriorate pretty quickly.

I lived on tropical islands for years. Salty ocean water and cars don't mix well. Don't get stuck buying a lemon.

Registration and Taxes When Buying A Car

Once you've decided between new or used and found your car, the next step is to register the vehicle and pay the applicable taxes. New cars are subject to a 16% VAT (Value Add Tax/Sales Tax) and an 8% to 16% Consumption tax (impoconsumo), depending on your car value.

Next, you will need to pay car registration fees. Here in Colombia, you must register your car with the RUNT system, which is the Registro Único Nacional de Tránsito. They'll also require you to pay a matricula, which is the car regisration. Depending on the city, you may also have to pay an annual road tax, which can range from 1.5-3.5% of the car's value each year.

Additionally, you will need to pay basic obligatory traffic accident insurance is called SOAT (Seguro Obligatorio de Accidentes de Tránsito). SOAT fees are based on your car's age and engine size.

SOAT Fee Table In COP

Less than 1,500 cc / Less than 10 years

$412,000

Less than 1,500 cc / 10 years or more

$546,200

Between 1,500 and 2,500 cc / Less than 10 years

$501,700

Between 1,500 and 2,500 cc / 10 years or more

$624,000

More than 2,500 cc / Less than 10 years

$585,900

More than 2,500 cc / 10 years or more

$694,900

6 or more passengers / less than 2,500 cc / less than 10 years

$734,500

6 or more passengers / less than 2,500 cc / 10 years or more

$937,500

6 or more passengers / 2,500 or more cc / less than 10 years

$983,100

6 or more passengers / 2,500 or more cc / 10 years or more

$1,180,500

 INSIDER TIP : Colombian Car Insurance Make sure you understand the coverage you're getting, as the basic SOAT only covers health costs of third-party injuries, not vehicle repairs. SOAT coverage has its limits. If you get in an accident and the costs exceed the policy limits, the person responsible for the accident is expected to pay. 

SOAT third party liability auto insurance covers you and a third party for personal injury expenses such as:

  • Medical, surgical, pharmaceutical and hospital expenses.
  • Permanent disability.
  • Death of the victim.
  • Funeral expenses.
  • Transport costs and mobilization of victims.

It's highly recommended that you get full coverage insurance. As a foreigner, it's best to opt for the highest possible coverage to avoid being a victim of an excessive claim. Prices for insurance on a used car will be around $250, and on a new car around $500 per year.

Average Cost Of One-Time Fees To Buy A $30,000 USD Passenger Car in Colombia

Fee or Tax

Cost Basis

Annual Cost (USD)

Comprehensive Insurance

Varies

$500

Road Tax

1.5% - 3.5% of car value

$600

Registration

Based on Type of Vehicle

$115

SOAT

Based on engine and age

$121

Total Annual Fees

Cell

$1,336

Ownership Transfer Costs

One Time Fee

$43

Financing Your Vehicle Purchase in Colombia

Cars Loans

Colombia has approximately 15 local banks. led by Bancolombia, followed by, Banco de Bogotá, with Banco Davivienda being Colombia's 3rd largest bank. Local banks have consumer credit lines focused on automobile financing, so if you don't want have the cash to pay outright upfront, borrowing is an option. Note that there is no such thing as "a foreigner loan." A foreigner loan is just a personal loan that is available for foreigners and as a consumer credit product, personal loan rates are eye-poppingly expensive compared to interest rates in the US.

Car loans and vehicle financing are not easy for expats to get. Banks like to see Colombian credit history (your US or home country credit reports don't count). Credit history is next to impossible without employment, yet expats can't work without a permit. Banks also like to see stability, but foreigners on a tourist visa, can only stay 180 days out of a calendar year.

Difficulty expats face when financing a car in Colombia:

  • No Credit History, No Luck: Trying to get car financing or leasing through a big bank without at least a year of credit card history is like hitting a brick wall.
  • Show Me the Deposits: To get that credit card, you'll need to show six months of consistent deposits. They'll give you a credit limit that's almost double your monthly deposits.
  • Big Money, Big Requirements: To finance a car under 100,000,000 COP (~$24,000 USD), your bank will likely require you show income hitting your accounts equal to about 10% of the loan value. This equals roughly 10,000,000 COP or $2400 USD. In parallel, banks will look for at least one year history with a Colombian credit card

Hey, these are just the usual situations, but remember that every expat's case can be different. Remember, banking in Colombia is heavily based on your personal relationship with the bank. Chat with your branch manager directly to get the full scoop on car financing for expats in Colombia..

 INSIDER TIP : Colombian Interest Rates- Qualifying for a loan is only the first challenge expats face. Interest rates for personal loans are EXPENSIVE. As of this writing, the interest rate for a used car is over 20%

Cash Payment In Full

Outright Purchase, paying for a car in cash, is not uncommon for locals or expats living in Colombia. Unlike in the US, paying in cash is unlikely to get a lower price from the dealer or seller.

To get large sums of money transferred into Colombia, look at Wise (formerly known as Transferwise), which offers better exchange rates and lower fees than doing an international bank transfer at a traditional bank.

Transfer Money Internationally- For expats and nomads, Wise offers an International Bank account for your money transfers. It's an easier and cheaper alternative for paying your bills while overseas.

Looking to buy property abroad or a vehicle abroad, Wise has a Large Transfer Rate for even bigger savings. 

Colombia Car Buying Credit Card Hack

Full disclosure, I haven't tried this myself, but I know someone who has.

  1. Step 1: Get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. This will ensure that you get the best exchange rate when making your car purchase. Exchanging currency at a bank may result in significant losses.
  2. Step 2: Confirm with your bank that they are aware of and prepared for large transactions from Colombia. Inform them about your car purchase plans to avoid any blocks or issues with your card.
  3. Step 3: If your credit limit is not high enough, consider overpaying your card or requesting a higher limit from your bank. Keep in mind that overpaid funds may be on hold for a few days until cleared.
  4. Step 4: Approach the dealer and inquire about paying by credit card. Initially, they might say it's not possible or the fees will be high. Give them time to reconsider and offer to pay the fees, which usually range from 2% to 2.5%. It's worth it compared to the losses from exchanging cash at a bank.
  5. Step 5: If the dealer still refuses credit card payment, move on to another dealer within the same group. It's crucial to find a dealership that accepts your no foreign transaction fee credit card. The savings you'll make by using the card can be substantial, providing you with extra funds for enjoyable experiences in Colombia.

Type of Vehicle

Common names for Colombian car types:

  • Carro or automovil: family sedan car, 2WD.
  • Camioneta: SUV-type car, usually 4WD, ie Toyota Prado or Kia Sportage.
  • Willys or Campero: more rugged jeep-type 4×4 with higher ground clearance. Popular in the coffee triangle region of Colombia
  • Pick-up: can be single cab (ie Ford F150) or doble cabina (ie Hilux twin cab)

 INSIDER TIP : Expensive Cars In Colombia- Warning, as a foreigner in Colombia, an expensive car can make you a target. The wealthy people I know in Colombia drive "low-profile" basic cars, even when they can easily afford a Mercedes, BMW, and such. There were even people I worked with who drove armored cars with bullet-proof windows that didn't roll down.

American Expat In Colombia

"As someone with a Toyota camioneta I must warn you, you will be stopped a ridiculous amount of times by police and typically car searched...You will be hated on the road for that car. You could be a target, especially if they see an old gringo driving and you are in the exterior. 

Toyota Fortrunner and up are SUVs of the Rich and Politicans. Toyota Hilux is the petróleo truck. Toyota Land cruiser is for the Ganado. The old Brubuja is for the Colombian who wants to feel rich. These were SUVs of the 90's Narcos."

Used Car Condition

Expat Car Buyer IN COlombia

How To Buy A Car In Colombia- The Step-by-Step Guide For Expats

1

Step 1: Decide if you want to buy a New or Used Car

The new vs. used decision will affect the rest of the car buying process. If you have the budget, buying new is recommended. You won't have to worry about any falsified conditions, and new cars from a dealership have less risk of mechanical problems. Plus, you'll get assurance of a car manufacturer's warranty. 

Buying new is also means you don't have to worry about any surprises. The dealership will handle the registration by entering all the information into the RUNT system and potentially paying the matricula, car tax, and any road tax.

Used car buying requires more research. In addition to checking the condition of the car, you'll need to confirm a complete history of the car to make sure everything is in order: no unpaid fines, back taxes, and ensure the current owner doesn't owe any money on the car.

2

Step 2. Find A Car

screenshot of Mercado Libre an online webstore foreigners can use to purchase a car in Colombia

You have all the same options to find a car as in the US. There are new car dealerships and the used car fairs/weekend flea markets in most major cities. Additionally, you can check out online marketplaces like Tucarro.com, Demotores.com, Carros.com, and Motor.com.co, as well as private sellers on mercadolibre.com.

3

Step 3: Check Car History

Ask the seller for the car license plate (placa), the current owners Colombian ID number (cedula), and the car's engine and chassis serial number. With this information, you can check the car history on the RUNT system. Look for red flags like if the vehicle was reported as stolen, involved in criminal activities, or if there are unpaid fines.

Screenshot of the RUNT system where you research the history of a vehicle before purchase in Colombia

Ownership Verification-  To avoid any legal issues down the road try to meet the actual owner of the car (person whose name is on the car and the cedula) and ensure they are aware of the sale before going ahead with the purchase. Insisting on meeting the owner can save you a lot of trouble in the future. The certificado de Tradicion shows the car's previous owner history.

Car Fines in Colombia- It's important to check for any unpaid fines or fees before purchasing a car in Colombia. As the registering car owner, you are responsible for any debts owed on the car and will need to pay any unpaid fines or fees before getting the car placed in your name.

Ensure that the Revisión Tecnomecanica (annual inspection), SOAT (mandatory third-party health insurance), and tax for the current year are up to date and valid. The 2023 Revisión Tecnomecanica for private vehicles is $228,151 pesos, while the SOAT depends on the car model, and road tax depends on they city the car is registered in 

Outstanding fines can be checked by calling SIMIT (Inicio Federación Colombiana de Municipios) or Secretaria Distrital de Movilidad

Check for accidents or repairs- While there is no Colombia version of a CarFax report. A car's accident history can be found on Fasecolda.com

 INSIDER TIP : Save Time On Car History Checks- Starting at 27,900 COP (~$7 USD), you can pay Certificar.co to check all the public databases for a car's history. According to the certificate website, they check over 49 information sources to confirm a cars:


  • Traffic fines and subpoenas
  • Photo fines charged to the license plate or to the vehicle
  • History and judicial requirements of the vehicle
  • Claims against insurers and accident reports
  • Mechanical, SOAT, and Tenico expiration alerts
  • Tax pending, scrap state, re-registration.

4

Step 4: Get a peritaje judicial car inspection

In Colombia, there is a legal car checkup called a peritaje judicial, which can only be done by authorized mechanics. During the peritaje inspection, the mechanic will note every scratch, ding, dent, repair, or anything wrong anywhere with car's chassis, brakes, engine, interior condition, and electrical system.

A peritaje authorized mechanic can also provide used car value and appraisal service.

A basic peritaje costs starts at 130,000 COP ($30 USD), while a more complete check costs 250,000 COP $60 USD.

4

Step 5. Driver Registration in Colombia

A RUNT number isn't just for cars. The Department Transito has a registration that tracks your driving and accident history. If you just moved to Colombia or if this is your first car purchase, you will need to register. If you are buying a new car from a dealership, as them for assistance. Otherwise, you'll need to head to a RUNT Transit Office and register in-person.

You will need your passport or cedula, get fingerprinted, and pay a fee to get assigned a RUNT number.

The RUNT fee for a person in 2023 is 18,700 COP / ~$5 USD.

4

Step 6. Car Registration and Placas (License Plates)

Car license plate or Placa that is required after buying a car in Colombia

Colombia requires its residents to register their motor vehicles (matrícula automovilística) into the RUNT system, which is the Registro Único Nacional de Tránsito and pay for vehicle registration plates (placas). If you buy a new car, the dealership takes care of the car registration for you.

However, when you buy a used car, the plates will usually stay with the car. This means you'll need to do a transfer of the title from the previous owner to you.

2023 RUNT matricula vehicle fees are 485,000 COP or ~$115 USD

 INSIDER TIP : Watch out for Pico y Placa (Peak and Plate)- Major cities like Bogota and Medellin restrict cars from driving on during peak rush hour periods on certain days of the week. The restrictions are based on your license plate number.

For example, from Monday through Friday, from 6:00 in the morning to 9:00 at night, cars with license plates ending in 6, 7, 8, 9 and 0 can drive on even days, and cars with plates ending in 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 can drive on odd days.

Pico y Placa times vary from city to city.

Matrícula for Used Car Purchases

There are additional steps required for a used car purchase

  • Officially Transfer Car Ownership- Both the seller and buyer must be registered on RUNT and both parties will need to visit a local transport office (SIM office in Bogotá) to transfer the ownership (Traspaso de propiedad). Costs are typically shared equally between both parties. The 2023 ownership transfer costs are 179,600 COP or $43 USD.
  • Seller must provide the following documents prior to the car purchase:
    • Certificado de tradición of the vehicle obtained from the transport office in the city where the car is registered
    • Proof Vehicle tax payments have been paid for all years the car has been registered
    • Proof vehicle registration is up to date
    • Photocopy of seller's cedula (identity card)
    • Photocopy of SOAT
    • A seller's Paz y Salvo from RUNT stating the seller has no outstanding debts or tickets.
  • To register the car, the buyer must submit all the seller's documents plus:
    • Cédula de extranjeria or foreigner ID card
    • Photocopy of buyer's SOAT policy and proof of payment
    • Copy of the sale contract or invoice, or other proof of car ownership transfer
    • Photocopies of the buyer and seller's Colombian driving licenses
    • Current Mandatory Technical Review Certificate (certificado vigente de la revisión técnico - mecánica) proving the car has passed a automotive inspection at an approved Centro de Diagnóstico Automotor
    • A buyers's Paz y Salvo from RUNT stating the buyer has no outstanding debts or tickets.

 INSIDER TIP : Keep Your Car Registration Secure- Don't leave your registration in the car. In 2020, there were 70.5 cars thefts out of every 100,000 people in Colombia. If your car registration is in the car when stolen, it is much easier to legally transfer the car out of your name.

Keeping your car legal

If you get in an accident while not in full compliance with Colombian laws (no compulsory insurance, not having the correct license, etc), your travel insurance likely rejects any claims. This means you won't have any health insurance if you are hurt in an accident.

Get a comprehensive insurance policy

After spending the time and money on buying a car in Colombia, you are going to want to protect your investment. Auto insurance is mandatory in Colombia, with third-party insurance being the minimum requirement. Driving without insurance in Colombia can result in fines, vehicle impoundment, and even imprisonment.

The compulsory insurance (SOAT) only covers personal injury accident expenses. Foreigners driving in Colombia are recommended to purchase optional comprehensive insurance for property damage or theft. Additional coverage is especially recommended for expats unfamiliar with the local driving conditions and safety risks.

Comprehensive insurance protects your vehicle against theft, vandalism, natural disasters, and other unforeseen events and provides peace of mind benefits such as roadside assistance, vehicle replacement, towing services, legal expenses, and rental car coverage.

Recommended auto insurance providers in Colombia include SURA, AXA Colpatria, Mapfre, Allianz, and Seguros Bolivar. Seguros Bolivar is known for more affordable prices for comprehensive insurance

Driving Legally In Colombia

You can drive in Colombia using your home country license for up to 6 months. Even an International Drivers Permit (IDP) isn't necessary. Per Art. 25 Law 769 of 2002 and Art. 50 of Decree 1743 of 2015, a passport and a valid driver's license from your home country are the only requirements.

If you are a citizen of Spain, Peru, Chile, or the Republic of Korea, you can request an extension past 6 months.

However, if you plan to live in Colombia, or specifically have a proper Colombian visa and cedula, a Colombian drivers license is required to legally drive in Colombia as a foreigner.

Colombia drivers license required to buy a car in Colombia

Getting a Colombian Driving License

Compared to many countries where getting a local license is a simple swap with your overseas license, getting a Colombian driver's license is more complicated.

However, while there are more steps, the process is straightforward- it's almost as if you were a 16-year-old teenager again getting your license for the first time. 

1) Register in Colombia's RUNT System:

2) Take 25 hours of drivers classes and 20 driving lessons

3) Pass a written exam and driving test

4) Pass the vision, hearing, coordination, and medical exams

5) Get your photo taken and pick up your Colombian driving license at a Tránsit Office

International driver's license in Colombia

An international driver's license (IDL) or permit (IDP) are not required to drive in ColombiaColombia allows all foreigners with valid licenses from their home country to drive in Colombia for up to six months. 

However, you should always carry a copy of your passport and the page with your entry stamp while driving as proof of being a tourist and in Colombia less than 6 months.

While not required, having an IDP is still useful. English is not widely spoken in Colombia and the IDP serves as a translation of your overseas driver's license and can help overcome language barriers with local authorities. Additionally, car rental agencies may have specific requirements, so it's recommended to check with the rental company beforehand

Essential Paperwork and Document Checklist To Buy A Car In Colombia

To buy a car in Colombia, you will need to gather the following paperwork and documents:

1) Certificado de tradición- This document is issued at the transport office where the vehicle is registered and proves the ownership history of the vehicle.

2) Vehicle tax payment receiptsYou will need receipts for up to five previous years, depending on the age of the vehicle.

3) Registration documents of the vehicle - matrícula automovilística

4) Photocopy of ID (cédula)- Both the buyer and the seller should provide a photocopy of their identification card. (foreigners will need a cédula de extranjeria)

5) Compulsory insurance (SOAT)-  Photocopy of policy and proof of payments

6) Paz y Salvo for buyer and seller- a document obtained from the RUNT system, stating that the driver doesn't have any outstanding debts or tickets with the transport authorities.

7) Copy of the sale contract- alternatives include invoice or a declaration stating the transfer of ownership rights.

8) Certificado vigente de la revisión técnico - mecánica- Up-to-date certificate of technical check-up

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Key Takeaway- Purchasing A Car In Colombia As An Expat

Navigating the car buying process in Colombia can be tricky. There will be more paperwork and bureaucracy than you are used to. Cars will be more expensive than in the US. It's important to have patience and not rush into any big decisions.

Remember to thoroughly research and inspect vehicles and only engage with reputable sellers. Take the time to understand the different costs, registration and taxes process, basic insurance options, and additional inspections and checks involved.

With the right knowledge and careful planning, you'll be cruising the Colombian roads in your new car in no time. Happy car hunting!

NEXT STEPS

If you liked this story, you will enjoy these other posts on living in Colombia

Colombia Identification Card: How Expats Get A Cedula De Extranjería
Colombia Digital Nomad Visa Requirements: How to Apply, Work Remote, And Live Cheap
How To Rent Apartments In Medellin Without Getting Scammed

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FAQs: Owning A Car In Colombia As A Foreigner 

Can foreign expats and tourists buy a car in Colombia?

Yes, foreigners can buy cars in Colombia. However, there are certain documents and steps that must be completed before making a purchase. First, a foreigner needs a cedula de extranjeria or passport to register with the Transportation Authority's RUNT system.

With a Colombian driver's license, cedula, and RUNT registration, foreigners can complete the car purchase.

Can I drive a car in Colombia with US license?

Yes, you can drive a car in Colombia with just a US license. Per Art. 25 Law 769 of 2002 and Art. 50 of Decree 1743 of 2015, carrying your passport and a valid license from your home country, such as the US, is accepted for driving in Colombia for up to 6 months.

However, Americans living in Colombia past 6 months or US citizens with a Colombian visa and cedula, are required to obtain a local driving license is required to continue legally driving in Colombia

Is an international drivers license (IDL) required for expats to drive in Colombia?

No, you do not need an international driver's license to drive in Colombia as a tourist. The Ministry of Transport states foreign drivers are not required to have an international driving permit (IDP). A valid  license from your home country is sufficient for up to six months.

Are cars cheaper in Colombia?

In general, cars are relatively expensive in Colombia compared to the US, EU, or Canada. The price gap is driven by the lack of domestic car production in Colombia. The vast majority of passenger cars are imported from outside the country and taxed with a 35% tariff.

This import cost is passed to the consumer as higher new car prices. Car parts are also imported, keeping used car prices high.

However, car prices in Colombia can vary depending on the make, model, and location, it's important to research specific car prices and compare them based on your preferences and budget.

Is it safe for expats to drive a car in Colombia?

Driving inside the city limits is generally safe for expats in Colombia. However, I discourage driving between cities, especially on remote country roads at night. Within bustling cities, driving in Colombia can be challenging with less enforced traffic rules, heavy traffic, and aggressive drivers.

Especially watch out for public transport and cyclists. Buses and cyclists often disregard traffic rules and will pull in front of you in heartbeat. Traffic congestion is prevalent, and travel times can be longer than expected. It's recommended to use navigation apps like Waze for real-time traffic updates.

Like with everything in Colombia, don't draw unnecessary attention to yourself. Keep a low profile. People who look like foreigners or drive nice cars become targets for unethical police and criminals.

Keep your doors locked at all times. Use your air conditioner and keep the windows rolled up. Even when driving, keep your bags, luggage, purses, and cell phone out of plain sight. And take all your valuables with you when parking the car. 

Exercise extreme caution in rural areas and avoid traveling to regions near Ecuador and Venezuela borders due to the higher risk of cartel activity in the area. 


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About the author

Hi, That's me. I'm Marco Sison. I am a survivor of the corporate rat race. I started Nomad FIRE to show you an alternative to the stress and grind of 70-hour weeks to pay off a mortgage, student loans, and countless bills. After getting laid off in 2015, I said screw it all and retired early at 41 years old. I have traveled the last eight years to over 50 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries for 70% less cost than the US. I have been featured in: US News & World Reports, HuffPost, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, the iTunes documentary Seeking FIRE, and the Amazon Best-Seller, Abroad: Expats That Thrive. [view press...]