Cars in Argentina are not cheap: dependable new models start in the range of US$20,000. You will find makers like Fiat, Renault, VW, Audi, Nissan, Honda, Toyota and BMW, as well as others. In Buenos Aires there are dealerships for all of these scattered throughout the city. Used cars are bought and sold widely on Mercado Libre, and many exiting expats also sell their cars on Craigslist.
Many locals will recommend that you purchase a new car (if it is financially an option) because many used cars are not kept in reliable condition, and there may be liens or tickets on the car that you won’t find out about until after the purchase has been finalized. Another reason is that the cars here retain their value, relatively, so that a used car may only be marginally cheaper than a new car.
As with purchasing property, expect to pay in cash in full, even when going through a dealership, unless you have a DNI and qualify for a bank loan. By law, however, the dealerships are not allowed to take more than AR$1,000, which is what you must pay in order to reserve the car. Because of this, you cannot pay with a credit card. The difference between this down payment and the remaining balance of the sales price is to be directly deposited into the dealership’s bank account. This is a common practice with businesses to maintain cash transactions. Vehicle prices are always listed in US dollars. While there is some room for negotiation when purchasing a previously owned car, prices for new cars are typically fixed.
In order to purchase a car in Argentina, you must have:
- An Argentine driver’s license or an international driver’s license (which you must obtain before departing your home country)
- A Certificado de Domicilio (document certifying your home address in Argentina, which can be obtained from your local ‘comisaria’, or police department)
- A CDI — ‘clave de identificación’ or tax ID number for non-residents (obtained from your local AFIP, the Argentine revenue service)
- A valid passport
- Proof of insurance (when going through a dealership)
For registration, which can be costly and quite a hassle, you have to deal with the Dirección Nacional de los Registros Nacionales de la Propriedad Automotor (DNRPA) under the tab ‘Registros Seccionales por Domicilio.’ The website is in Spanish, but you can find information on it. It’s better to find a location, or ‘sucursal’, to go in-person and deal with the registration. It is advisable to do this before you purchase the car, as there may be some times when they require a physical inspection of the vehicle before they issue the registration.
Be prepared to show your DNI, another form showing proof of residency such as your lease contract or bill of sale, and the following forms:
- Form 08 from the DNRPA, signed and certified by a representative at the registration office, or notarized by an Escribano Público (you can find notaries who speak English at Escribanía González)
- The certificate issued by AFIP (this is the form that proves you paid the VAT taxes on the vehicle and you must get it separately from AFIP).
The last two forms you will have automatically if you purchase a car from a dealership. If you purchase the car from an individual, you will have to acquire these separately, and for each you will need to have your DNI and proof of residence.
Once you own a car, keep the registration (DNRPA) and tax information in the car at all times. (The VAT tax is paid to the dealership at the time of purchase. If you purchase from an individual you will have to go through the AFIP website and find a location near you, go in with your bill of sale for the car and DNI, and fill out a form and pay the VAT tax.)
Unless you have residency in Argentina, you cannot leave the country with an automobile that you’ve purchased here. An exception would be if the car is nationalized in another country, but this will carry additional stipulations depending on the car’s country of origin.
Purchasing a car for anyone can be incredibly difficult in this country, used cars tend to be overpriced, and it is usually advisable to purchase new and from a dealership due to the massive amounts of paperwork (all in Spanish) that you would have to take care of on your own with different agencies. There is no guarantee of registration, or of how long these separate processes will take or cost. So if you decide to buy a car and you want to buy from an individual, be prepared for a lengthy transaction process and many trips to different government agencies before you can drive away.