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We bought our car over 6 weeks ago from the US Consul here. It’s often a good idea to buy diplomatic vehicles because they usuallly have low mileage, good maintenance, and come cheaper than local cars. Car duties are upwards of 50% of the value of the car in Ecuador, making almost all cars expensive. Since diplomatic vehicles enter the country duty free, the prices are usually substantially lower.

With the handover, we thought we were receiving all the proper paperwork and that we would have no problem with registration. Actually, we have had endless problems; this is not unusual, no matter who you bought your car from.

First, the chief at the transit police insisted we present an original invoice, that is, an invoice from the place where the car was originially purchased. We had a copy of the “buyer’s order” as it was called, which is exactly the same as the invoice. But no, this was not adequate. They also insisted that the customs documents have the seal from the Ecuadorian Customs Corporation stating that they were faithful copies of the originals, not just photocopies.

After several days of contact with the consul (who had long left the country) via email, she got the Embassy to stamp the buyer’s order with a seal stating it was a copy of the original. Back to the transit police. This was good enough. Then at customs they told us we would have to have the original copies certified in Guayquil, where the vehicle was originally imported. With the help of a portrait of Andrew Jackson and a nod and a wink, we were able to get the customs stamp put on here in Quito.

But then, just as everything was almost in order, they noticed that the VIN number had been recorded for both the vehicle and the engine number on the customs documents when the vehicle had originally been imported. They use an antiquated set of standards here and consider the engine, and thus the engine number, an integral part of the vehicle. You can’t change out the engine here without having to do a ton of paperwork. And if the engine number is properly recorded on the original paperwork, in this case the required customs documents, then it would be our duty to go to the Ecuadorian Customs Corporation and have those documents amended before they would register the vehicle in the system. This would take six months.

At this point, we had put in more than a day’s worth of wait time in travel, waiting in line, and talking to people to get the problem solved. It was time to call in someone key, someone who could override the stubborn, by-the-book, illiterate in customer service police woman who wouldn’t lift a finger to help us. For better or worse, it’s all about who you know here and “billuzo” or cold, hard cash to get your problems solved.

Fortunately, through a friend of the family who has a friend, who have a driver, whose wife is a Captain in the police department, we sent in the paperwork. He’s the expediter. Basically, you meet with this guy, explain your problem, turn over the necessary documents, and he goes and explains it to whoever needs to know. He comes back to you with your problem solved a few days later, and a bill for whatever it cost. Wait for the next update.

Welcome to Destination Ecuador!

Welcome to Destination Ecuador! My family and I have been living in Ecuador for the last four and a half years. We’ve dealt with the worst kinds of red-tape, searched out or ended up making hard-to-find ingredients ourselves, imported equipment for making chocolate confections, learned the import-export business...Continue >>

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