Adventures in Peru - Registering a Car Bought in Tacna
By Vic Hanson
It has been almost a month since I bought my car in Tacna. It has been sitting in the parking lot ever since we drove it back to Arequipa. What happened? I was pleased with how easy the registration application went, and because I was told it would take 10 days, I returned to Cotahuasi on the bus to wait for the title and license plates.
Just over a week later I returned to Arequipa to pick up the title. I went to the Public Register on Wednesday, a day early, hoping that it might be ready but it wasn't, and I was told to return three days later, in the afternoon. I went back two days later and was told there was a problem with the registration, the computer didn't show what the problem was, but I was told to go to a different office and talk to the lawyer there and he could explain it all to me. However this office was only open to the public on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and only from 8:15 to 9:00 am. I explained this to my friend Maribel, and she said she would go with me the next day to try to get more information. We were again told to return Friday morning and were given the name of the lawyer we needed to talk to; he was the only one who had the information. I instantly recognized the name; he was the same lawyer that I had to deal with when I had so much trouble with my first car! He was very nice and polite, but did absolutely nothing to help resolve the problem then, so I wasn't expecting anything different this time.
Maribel said either she or her dad, Lucho, (they are my adopted family here) would meet me there on Friday to help me. The next morning I was there early to get in the front of the line, and soon Lucho showed up. At 8:20 we got to the lawyer's desk and he said that the problem was the age of the car, it was too old to be imported into Peru, as the limit is five years old. He then passed us off to another worker, who explained in more detail that through a loophole in the law, certain dealers were allowed to import older cars for awhile, but not anymore. There was also a problem with the dealer, who had evidently exploited the loophole in some way, and they were cracking down on cars imported by that dealer.
However the worker said that even though I couldn't register the car in Arequipa, I could possibly do it in Tacna, where I bought it. She said that the Public Register there interpreted the law differently, and I might not have any problem registering it there. Even though all of Peru uses the same license plates, each state, or department, as they are called here, has their own rules and regulations as well. I would say there is more national control here and less individual state control, compared to in the United States. License plates in Peru begin with two letters; the first one indicates the class of vehicle - private passenger, truck, commercial, cargo or passenger, and the second letter tells which department it is registered in. However when you move from one department to another, you don't have to get new plates or registration, they are valid anywhere in the country.
After talking it over with Lucho, he offered to go to Tacna with me and try to resolve the problem there. He suggested three options. Go to the dealer and try to get my money back (almost impossible here), ask him to exchange it for a different vehicle (it was the only 4x4 van I had found there), or try to register it there. He also said he has a couple of cousins there who are lawyers, and they could help us. However first, he suggested talking to a couple of friends here in Arequipa, whom he thought might be able to help register it her, saving the expense and time of a trip to Tacna. The initial responses were promising, so we went through a recommended "tramite", a negotiator who is like a lawyer who works through all the layers of bureaucracy and red tape here. For a fee, they get things done much faster and easier than the average person can do them on their own, as well as accomplishing things that can't be done without their connections.
We met with the tramite on Tuesday afternoon and after explaining the situation to him, he said he would talk to the lawyer in the morning and have an answer for us by 10:00 am. It seems that this is the normal way to do things and is the reason the hours for the general public are limited to 45 minutes, three days a week. But when we returned at 10 on Wednesday, the tramite said he hadn't been able to talk with the lawyer yet and we would need to come back on Thursday. The next morning we received the good news that the car could be registered in Arequipa, the bad news was that it would cost $2000!
Needless to say, that evening Lucho and I were on the last bus to Tacna. We left at 10:00 pm, arrived there at about 4:00 am and slept on the bus until just after 6:00, when they were ready to move it out of the terminal. After eating breakfast, we went to find his lawyer cousins. One was out of town but the other one said she would meet us at her office shortly. It was close to 9:00 when we met Marleny and explained the situation to her. She was familiar with the import laws and agreed to go with us to talk with the dealer. I had wanted to have Lucho call and talk to the dealer from Arequipa, as I felt he had been honest and fair with me when I had bought the car, and possibly could help register it. Lucho was sure he had known that I couldn't register the car but sold it to me anyway. I think he felt that if we called the dealer first, he would be "unavailable" when we got there.
We got to Ceticos, where all the cars are sold, and went to the dealer's office, not really knowing what to expect. I explained the problem to him and he assured us that we could register the car in Tacna, and at Marleny's instance, he agreed to pay for the registration fee, which is only $20. He took us to another larger dealer, who was the actual importer he had bought the car from, to get a letter that would help in registering it. This was a much nicer place, large office, and fancy desks - this was where the money was being made. Marleny showed the boss the letter telling why the car couldn't be registered and when he read it he laughed. I couldn't understand all of what he was saying, but I got the impression that he was saying it wasn't his problem and he wasn't going to help. Then he looked at Marleny for a moment and asked her the name of her husband. It turned out they were friends and his whole attitude changed and he said he would have the letter we needed in the afternoon!
After doing some shopping, and having lunch, we went back and picked up the letter and went to the Public Register in Tacna, arriving about an hour before closing time. I was expecting the usual long lines like in Arequipa but there was hardly anyone there. First we were told it would take a week for the title but one of the workers was a friend of Marleny's and she said that she would have it ready on Wednesday instead of Friday. Marleny said that we could return to Arequipa and she would take care of everything, and send the title and plates to me as soon as she received them. As a favor to "family", she only charged $20 for all that she is doing.
Lucho and I went to the bus depot to get tickets for our return trip and there were only three seats left on the next bus back to Arequipa, which was in two hours. We quickly purchased our tickets before they were gone. We were going to wait there, but Marleny invited us to her home for a light dinner and then took us back to the bus terminal. We arrived back home at 1:15 am, tired but very thankful for a successful trip. Hopefully part three of this story will be very short - title and license plates received as promised.
Vic Hanson is the founder of Adventure Cotahuasi Tours, which offers pre-planned and custom adventure travel tours in Cotahuasi Canyon and other areas of Peru.
If you are interested in your own adventure in Peru, check us out!
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