Buying a car in Nicaragua is a big, expensive, decision. But what used to be a luxury is becoming the norm for many.
More expats who move to Nicaragua are buying cars or motorcycles even though the law says a foreigner cannot do so without residency.
There’s a loophole, though
Nicaraguan citizens can buy an unlimited number of vehicles, and some will put a foreigner’s car or motorcycle in their own name. Our car is in the name of a woman we have never met and my husband’s motorcycle is in the name of our house cleaner. The title, insurance, and registration are all in that person’s name. If ever questioned by the police, we are “borrowing our friend’s car.”
Some entrepreneurial Nicaraguans have started businesses buying vehicles for expats. The average cost for this is around six percent of the sale price.
The more reputable of these businesses will have you fill out a separate title in your name with an attorney. This is separate from the title with the Nicaraguan “owner’s” name you keep in your car. It safeguards you against the Nicaraguan “owner” later claiming the car is theirs. Also, you can use this title whenever you sell the car.
Buying a car in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua
Either may have a suitable car already for sale. Failing that they will take you to Managua to look for a car that matches your needs and budget.
Richard has been doing this since around the turn of the millennium and charges $250 to drive you to Managua and tour the different dealerships and private sellers. He understands the mechanics of a car and runs tests himself so you don’t waste your time on an obvious lemon.
After a car passes Richard’s tests, he takes it to a trusted mechanic for a compression test.
At Expat Car Solutions, Walter not only helps you buy a car but also provides a car service when you travel. He meets you at the airport, looks after and services your car while you are away, and picks you up with your car at the airport when you return.
Buying a car in Nicaragua ain’t cheap
There’s always the desire to save money and buy something cheaper, but if you spend less than $6,000 you should expect mechanical issues.
Good mechanics can be difficult to find, and often when you do, they are not in the same town as you. Parts can be hard to find and again—expensive.
A minimum of $10,000 can get you something sound with functioning A/C. Toyotas are preferable to buy. Nicaraguan mechanics are familiar with Toyota engines, especially diesel ones, and Toyota parts are easier to find.
Like anywhere, having a car in Nicaragua gives you the freedom to go anywhere at anytime. Whether it’s doing the school run, volunteering, going to the beach, or exploring – having a vehicle is easier.
You also have the ability to live further afield
In San Juan del Sur, downtown can be loud with the many festivities and late-night bars. Outside of town is far more peaceful. Plus, the surfing beaches are further out of town—a major reason for living in San Juan del Sur.
Not every expat has the budget to buy a vehicle, but for those that do, it’s comforting to know professionals are around to help them. For many, residency is not an option. We can live a normal life in Nicaragua thanks to being able to own a car.
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Jenna Reid moved to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua with her husband and two kids in 2015. She helps her husband operate a website development company and she enjoys freelance writing. Her personal blog is The 1 Less Traveled By.