Driving to South America from Canada

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1. Posted by ChriNi (Budding Member 13 posts) 18w Star this if you like it!

Hello guys,
We are curently in NZ with the WHV until I guess August-September.
The plan is to fly from here to Vancouver then buy a van there and to travel around Canada for about 3 months.
Next we would like to go down with the van to the USA for about a month/6 weeks and sell the van there or in Mexico.
Then going around south America by bus 3 months / 14 weeks top.

Our passeport expired in November 2021. We will leave America back to Europe by may 2021 (6 months passeport validity rules).

Any of you have done any of this?

What do you think about the budget to do this trip?
Is it easy to buy a van in Canada with a tourist VISA?
What cannot we miss?
Any tips?

Thank you for your help.

2. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2015 posts) 18w Star this if you like it!

The main problem I see with this plan is you're looking to permanently import a used vehicle into either the USA or Mexico. I've no idea of the process for that but I'd expect it to be a pain - reregistration in the new country, testing? May not be possible. Better check.

Re overland travel into South America, there's the Darien Gap to get past. No road runs through, just deep jungle and unfriendly guys. The situation with boats to bypass this area by sea varies all the time, there doesn't seem to be a permanent reliable service. Flying between cities may be your best option.

3. Posted by road to roam (Travel Guru 460 posts) 18w Star this if you like it!

Quoting ChriNi

The plan is to fly from here to Vancouver then buy a van there and to travel around Canada for about 3 months.
Next we would like to go down with the van to the USA for about a month/6 weeks and sell the van there or in Mexico.

There's a certain amount of legaldom involved with buying/keeping street-legal/importing/selling a vehicle. Buying can be quite easy depending on certain things, of course. The other factors...not so much. Know all the laws, know about registering, inspections, insurance, importing, etc. You can often bypass some of these, but that's not a smart choice at all.

I'm not certain of the legal requirements for bringing a Canadian vehicle into the US for an extended amount of time..

Bringing a Canadian-purchased vehicle into Mexico: Depending on where you enter Mexico, you DO NOT need to import your vehicle using a TIP (temporary import permit) and pay excise tax to enter for up to 6 months so long as you enter with the vehicle in the Mexican state of Baja California or certain parts of Sonora state included in the free zone. The ENTIRE Baja Peninsula is in the free zone; see a map of the portion of Sonora state included in the free zone at www.mexbound.com. Another portion of the free zone extends to a 12 - 16 mile (19 - 25 km) zone from the US/Mexican border south, along the entire international border.

We crossed into the free zone of Baja California twice with my van and drove the length of the peninsula - no permits or checks on registration are required from Mexican border officials; no check for a Mexican insurance policy by Mexican border officials, either. However, a Mexican insurance policy IS required if you are involved in an accident and you may be required to prove Mexican insurance coverage if you get stopped by the police. Again, there is no check at the border for a Mexican insurance policy - it's only required in an accident or if stopped by patrolling law enforcement agents.

Selling the vehicle: Selling a vehicle across international borders in North America?? Almost impossible without importing it. There may be one exception: The free zone of Mexico. As mentioned, you can easily bring a Canadian-registered vehicle into Mexico without fussing over fees and paperwork, so long as you enter into the free zone. Because of this I believe it may be easier to sell a vehicle illegally in Mexico, however I do not recommend this at all. Vehicles are seen driving without any plates and registration in Mexico although, of course, this is illegal. Black market vehicles are not entirely rare in Mexico.

It took us four months to legally sell our van in the United States, using multiple online forums, marketplaces and regular old adverts placed around town. I don't think it's wise to think you'll sell your vehicle quickly, either going through legal channels or not.

[ Edit: Edited on 26-Feb-2020, 08:06 GMT by road to roam ]

4. Posted by BeateR (Full Member 192 posts) 18w Star this if you like it!

for flying in to canada you'll need ETA:
https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/visit-canada.html

some times it takes longer till it is approved, so apply for it ASAP.

do you have a proper visa for USA. otherwise you'll need ESTA:
https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov

but can stay only 90 days.

5. Posted by ChriNi (Budding Member 13 posts) 18w Star this if you like it!

Thank you all very much.

I will apply for the Visas, thanks.

You recommend us to buy a van in Canada and sell it over there and buy a van in USA and selling it in USA?

Is it easy to do the car registration even if you are on a tourist visa?

Thank you all.

6. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Travel Guru 1623 posts) 18w Star this if you like it!

It may not be easy to buy a car in the USA as to get license plates you need to have an address.

7. Posted by BeateR (Full Member 192 posts) 18w Star this if you like it!

Quoting BeateR

for flying in to canada you'll need ETA:
https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/visit-canada.html

some times it takes longer till it is approved, so apply for it ASAP.

do you have a proper visa for USA. otherwise you'll need ESTA:
https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov

but can stay only 90 days.

neither ETA nor ESTA is a visa. it'S only a allowance to enter an airplane to USA or canada.
if you are citizen of a country which needs visa, this is a different and more difficult thing.

8. Posted by 55vineyard (Budding Member 99 posts) 18w Star this if you like it!

It doesn't sound very cost effective to buy a car in the US if you are only going to be here for a month to six weeks. You will waste a week or two buying the car and try to get it registered (you need a US address to have the registration and possibly license plates mailed to you) plus since you have no US driving record your car insurance premiums (you must have at least liability insurance) may be very expensive.
I'd just suck it up and rent for a month and consider it part of the cost of travel.