Buying a Car in Argentina: Part I

We are now the proud new owners of a Chery Tiggo! And yes, I am the first of my friends anyone I know to own a Chinese-made car.

How did we made the decision to buy a Chinese car, you ask? To get to the answer requires a deeper understanding of the Argentine car market. Well ok, not really… it just comes down to one thing – cars in Argentina are ridiculously expensive.

In keeping with Argentina’s protectionist policies, high taxes are levied on all imports, including cars. This leaves, as the most affordable choices, cars that are manufactured in Argentina (not many) and cars that are manufactured in Mercosur countries (usually Brazil).

Since we wanted a SUV with 4×4 so that we could make snowboard trips to Bariloche, our choices were already limited. As we started looking, we quickly realized that our options were going to be even more limited based on price. My top choice, the Toyota Hilux SW4, is a mind-blowing AR $210,800 (U$S 52,945). That was out. Then we started to look at other options, and comparing them to the US:

Toyota RAV4 – Argentina Price: U$S 42,600 / US Price: U$S 24,235
Hyundai Santa Fe – Argentina Price: U$S 44,000 / US Price: U$S 25,490
Jeep Grand Cherokee – Argentina Price: U$S 73,784 / US Price: U$S 32,995

We quickly realized most of the imported cars did not make sense for us, which pretty much left us with two options:

  1. The Ford Ecosport (U$S 27,665): manufactured in Brazil, and incredibly popular here), or
  2. The newly introduced Chery Tiggo (U$S 26,400): made in China and relatively cheap even with the import charges

Of course, these prices are still absurd considering what you could get for this kind of money in the States, but like I said, you do not have a lot of options. (We even considered bringing a car from the US, but found out that there would be 80% tax levied on the assessed value of the car.)

We took a look at both cars, and while they had similar specs, we really liked the Chery Tiggo over the Ford Ecosport. We looked for some reviews of the Tiggo online and were only able to find one complete review from New Zealand. It gave the car poor reviews for its cheap plastic interior (which is pretty much the same as the Ecosport) but really praised its engine and road performance. I liked the way it drove and handled the city streets, so when Chery was able to lower the price a bit and give us a better trade-in value on our Toyota Corolla we were sold.

Unfortunately, the sales and trade-in process was anything but smooth. This was due to a combination of horrible customer service (we’ll never do business with Zen Automotores again) as well as governmental bureaucracy.  Look for Part II of this post (coming soon) to find out more about the many headaches involved in this process…