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Cost of Owning a Vehicle in Ecuador

Posted in: Living in Ecuador

We are frequently asked about the costs to run a vehicle here in Ecuador. Of course, the specifics will depend on the type of vehicle you purchase and where you have it serviced – just like in any other country. To give you an idea, here are our vehicle costs:

Costs to Own and Run a Vehicle in Ecuador

These are actual costs, but it’s important to note that your costs will vary. Repair costs can never be accurately estimated – so we haven’t included them. If you take your car to a local mechanic instead of the dealer, you’ll not only pay much less for the labor – they also know great ways to save on parts.


Fuel Costs in Ecuador

Our truck is old, it’s a 1994 Isuzu (Chevrolet) Trooper. The 3.2L V6 engine is anything but good on gas. But because of the cost of fuel in Ecuador, it doesn’t really matter. At just USD$1.48 per gallon, its hard to worry to much about the cost. We spend roughly $80 per month driving approximately 1200 km.

Fuels Costs: $80 per month

SOAT: Ecuador’s Mandatory Car Insurance

There is a mandatory insurance in Ecuador, called SOAT. It is obligatory insurance that covers medical expenses in case of an emergency. It really is an exceptional system, providing free medicare in case of automobile accidents. For our truck, it costs $63.45 per year. Smaller vehicles are less. As I understand it, those injured in a car accident are taken to the nearest medicare center and the program pays for the costs – regardless of if it is a public hospital or a high end private one.

SOAT Costs: $63.45 per year

Car Matriculation (Registration) in Ecuador

The annual matriculation costs $66.79 for a large vehicle. The government has implemented a new green tax for all vehicles with engine sizes over 1.5L. It increases incrementally, this year costing just $46.92 and increasing to more than $100 in five years.

The green tax depends on the year of the vehicle and the size of the engine. All engines over 1.5L are included in this green tax.

There is a provincial tax (Taso solidario) that costs $12 for the year. I believe that this is per passenger vehicle, regardless of size. This can be paid at the Transit Commission. Cuencaire, is the entity that does vehicle inspections (including emission controls).

There is a fee for the inspection, but no charge to return once the problems are fixed. I had to purchase new fuel injectors to make our truck pass. Passenger vehicles are ranked differently than commercial vehicles.

Matriculation Total: $114.31 ($113.71 plus $0.60 bank fee).

Cost of an Ecuador Oil Change

Oil is not subsidized like gasoline. Our truck takes about 1.5 gallons of oil in an oil change. This costs about $35 plus $3.50 for the filter. Our mechanic charges $3 labour to change the oil.

Here they recommend oil changes every 3000 kilometers, especially with older vehicles. We get an oil change roughly every 2-3 months.

Annual Oil Change Totals:  $207.50 ($41.50 x 5 times per year)

Auto Accident Insurance

Although not common for older vehicles, we found and purchased auto insurance for our truck. Despite its age, it is worth about $10,000 here. In the US, I found an equivalent vehicle online for $1800. Something notable about vehicles in Ecuador is the care that the owners take of them. The truck has been especially well cared for.

We had to look hard to find a company that would insure our truck – but eventually we did. It includes zero deductible 3rd party insurance, full replacement value (with zero deductible) in case of theft, and full replacement value in case of accident.

There is a $10.40 addon that gives unlimited (country wide) roadside assistance. That is an annual cost and has no additional cost. Last year I added it on a whim – not sure if it would even work.

Just a few months after, the seal on the clutch went – leaving us stranded on the side of the road. I called the number, gave them my plate number and they dispatched a grúa (tow truck). The driver didn’t request any papers – and towed us to our mechanic. No cost – I only needed to sign that the service was performed. Did I mention the cost is just $10.40 per year? Insurance is paid annually (not monthly).

Insurance Annual Costs: $575.40 ($565 plus $10.40 roadside assistance)

Parking Costs in Ecuador

There are numerous pay parking lots in the center. Costs range from $0.60 to $1.00 per hour. There are parking attendants to help you park safely and to watch your car. We use these lots every week and have never had any trouble. We spend on average about $10 per month. In Cuenca, the shopping centers still offer free parking – while in Quito you have to pay.

Outside of the City Center, there are tons of places to park for free. Just be sure that the signs allow it. If you ignore the signs, you can expect a $10 fine.

By the way, if you don’t pay the fine, you won’t be able to matriculate your car – which means you won’t be able to leave the city. Car papers are seldom (if ever) checked for matriculation inside the city – but once you get on an inter-provincial highway police checks are frequent.

A friend of ours drives a very old, very well used Fiat and he just hasn’t gotten around to matriculating it for the past few years. So he drives within Cuenca frequently – but takes the bus when we wants to visit a town outside of city limits.

Parking costs: $10 per month

Annual Costs of Running a Vehicle in Ecuador 

Fuel: $960 ($80/month x 12 months) (driving approx 1200 km)
SOAT: $63.45
Matriculation: $114.31
Oil Changes: $207.50
Auto Insurance: $575.40
Parking costs: $120 (approx $10 per month)

Annual Vehicle Expenses: $2040.66 ($170.06/mo)

Don’t forget: these cost don’t include repairs or maintenance. We haven’t had to do much to our truck. A new Bosch battery cost $115. Fuel injectors cost $120 each plus installation. The clutch seal (including labor) cost $30.

What do you think? Reasonable? High or low?

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Travel.

48 comments… add one
  • Steve Leach Mar 13, 2017, 12:34 am

    I was told by another expat who has his website, that a car must be at least a 2012 in order to bring it in.I told him I love my 1995 Pathfinder too much,and could I get it in?
    He replied that I could keep it in Colombia or somesuch, and drive it in for 6mos at a time. Ever heard anything like that?

  • Holly Dec 16, 2015, 12:15 pm

    Good information but adding where each fee can paid would be very helpful (i.e. SOAT can be paid at ______ bank etc).

    • Bryan Haines Dec 29, 2015, 8:59 am

      The tax and permit fees are paid at different places, depending on where you live. In the city, you’ll have different fees and places to pay them than in the country.

      SOAT can be purchased at most insurance companies and Cooperativas.

      • Holly Dec 29, 2015, 9:12 am

        Thanks for the info Bryan. I recently found out that the rules have recently changed, now SOAT and the matricula are combined. So when you go to renew your matricula you will also do SOAT at the same time. At least that’s for Cuenca, I’m not sure about other locations in the country.

  • Morgan Jun 14, 2015, 12:10 am

    I heard from an American Friend who just bought a brand new Hybrid Accord that he paid less than a regular, non-hybrid model. Is it true that hybrid cars cost less and pays less tax? Thanks

    • Bert May 3, 2018, 1:02 am

      There are no taxes on hybrids under $40k sticker price (if over $40k there is still a luxury tax) so you will pay very close to the same price for a Hyundai Sonata now (since 2017) in Ecuador as in US, just remember sales tax in Ecuador is 12% so final price will be a bit higher than US after sales tax. Little things like destination charges, etc. can also differ but that is minimal and why I said “close” to same price.

  • steve Jun 24, 2014, 1:20 am

    Hi Bryan

    If I bring my Toyota Corolla 2013. What would the Taxes and imports be If you have any info let me know please. I am from Montreal and plan to move there.

    • Bryan Haines Jun 24, 2014, 6:13 am

      Hi Steve, you can’t bring a used car. I know it sounds unusual but the rules only allow new car importation.

  • Jean May 24, 2014, 7:18 am

    Did you ever consider buying a car in the U.S. and driving it to Ecuador?

    • Bryan Haines May 24, 2014, 7:30 am

      We did consider shipping one here but it was simpler to just buy it here. If you drive a car here it can’t stay. Imported vehicles must be brand new. If you drive a car into the country it must leave.

  • Stacey Mar 3, 2014, 7:09 am

    So much more expencive than I thought it would be, actually!

  • Yann Feb 4, 2014, 10:51 am

    Hello Bryan!
    Thank you for your interesting post, which was quite helpful.
    I bought an old 4×4 Toyota in Quito and I am now looking for an Accident insurance.
    Where did you insure your car ? I’m trying to find a good insurance company, but it takes some time.
    Do you have any recommendation ?
    Thanks and kind regards.

  • Paul Ostoich Oct 16, 2013, 11:52 pm

    Hi Bryan I am considering moving to ecuador , however I can’t seem to find out about purchasing a new
    dual sport motorcycle. I only travel on two wheels , and don’t have a need for a car or truck.
    Any information would be appreciated.

    Thank you paul

  • ANTHONY ARCHIBOLD Oct 2, 2013, 8:21 pm

    Hi Bryan, your comments were very useful on ecuador about the break down on owning a vechical can you say if they sell new trucks there such as FORD/TOYOTA/CHEVY/DODGE etc, because i tried looking to see on the internet for a dealer but no luck or you would have to do your own import My wife and i are planing on retireing soon so i just wanted to get a few things in place before i pull my anchor up to come over, if you can acknowledge to us we thank you very much and greeting from us here in the Cayman Islands……..thanks…Tony & Ilsa Archibold

    • Bryan Haines Oct 3, 2013, 6:45 am

      Yes, there are lots of new car options. Ford, Dodge, Toyota, Chev, Mazda, Hyundai.

  • J. D. Chinn Mar 3, 2013, 11:05 am

    Thanks-that’s useful information in approximate costs.

    Being at the equator, does it rain nearly every day in Cuenca. How about humidity on the coasts?

    J. D.

    • Bryan Haines Mar 5, 2013, 5:59 pm

      Sometimes it will rain everyday for a few weeks, and then we’ll have weeks with no rain at all. The humidity on the coast depends on the area. Some areas are noticeably worse than others.

  • Guy Jan 28, 2013, 12:40 am

    I recently requested a suggestion of cities to live in that are not at an extremely high elevation. I & some other travelers had Breathing trouble in a city in the U.S.A. that were 5000feet Above Sea Level. Most of the cities including your City of Choice are 9,000 feet. I would Sufficate there ! ( Ha )! I can’t find your reply ? It is very important to me & my Lungs. Thanks Guy

    • Bryan Haines Jan 28, 2013, 8:24 am

      A city that we considered after arriving in Ecuador was Salinas. It is right on the ocean and isn’t that big. There are good services and a nice beach right in the city. If you travel north from Salinas up the coast, you’ll find many small towns and a few cities. There are expats living all along there – although we haven’t been very far up the coast. I recommend that you check out Salinas.

      Also, you’ll want to make sure your flight arrives in Guayaquil instead of Quito. Guayaquil is on the coast and Quito is at 9000ft+ in elevation.

      • Shelaughs Nov 3, 2019, 5:13 pm

        I appreciate this information about elevation- I’m from Boston and used to hike the mountains of New England- but after decades of living at sea level on Florida’s east coast I struggled when camping at 4,000 above sea level.
        So, Salinas it is- though I have friends native to Quito whom I would love to visit.

  • Frank Yetter Jan 10, 2013, 6:15 pm

    Hi, all…my wife and I are contemplating a move to Cuenca from Cambodia and we have several questions so we can get better informed before we make the break. How’s the banking system (easy to open account, ATMs generally available)? Are basic medications generally accessible and reasonably priced? What about health insurance? Have read several posts that Cuenca’s climate is cooler than elsewhere in Ecuador but some that have said it’s cloudy or overcast. Climate is subjective issue; here, it’s “cool” when it’s in the mid-80s. Would appreciate an insider’s description of typical weather, seasons, etc. Also, what are resources to explore volunteering, work, consulting, etc.? Expat network groups? Many, many thanks.

    • Lisa May 29, 2014, 5:25 pm

      80s is cool.. to me that is hot. Im in colorado and i think weather in the 60-70s is perfect. lol

  • Stan Jan 9, 2013, 6:40 pm

    I am retired and have over $800 income for the retirement visa. How do Igo about obtaining such and how much does it cost including lawyers.? A friend told me it now costs about $2500 to get a visa Is that true of the retirement visa costs?

    • Bryan Haines Jan 10, 2013, 10:26 am

      Sounds expensive but we aren’t using a retirement visa. You can see my reply to your other question here

  • Frank Yetter Dec 14, 2012, 12:30 pm

    Hey, Bryan…love the blog, and my wife and I are regular consumers of your factfests as we contemplate a move your way. So what about driver’s licenses in Ecuador? We live in Cambodia at the moment where my Massachusetts license sufficiently baffles the crooked cops on the street corners into waving me along. Would also love any insights from you or other readers on traveling around the region from Cuenca…bus, air, self-hire car, motorcycle? Easy, cheap? Popular destinations?
    Thanks, and keep up the great work.

    • Bryan Haines Dec 16, 2012, 8:11 am

      Hi Frank – getting a drivers license used to be fairly involved because it involved a week long course (7 days). Here is my story of getting an Ecuadorian drivers licence. The laws have recently changes and they will take your current foreign license into account. We are in the process of testing the new system and we’ll publish our experience.

      • Terry Doyle Apr 24, 2013, 8:40 pm

        Great news! We have Cuenca in our sights for next year – 2014. Not sure I want to spend much time driving but after 55 years of driving, a week course seems a bit excessive. 😉

        You didn’t mention how it’s possible to take/ship a vehicle to Ecuador. I was under the impression that only new vehicles were allowed in, accounting for the high price of used cars.

        • Bryan Haines Apr 25, 2013, 8:02 am

          Yes, we bought our car here in Cuenca. We have a friend who shipped a new car in a container with her other things. There are specific rules, although I don’t know them. From what I’ve heard, the car must be new.

          All the best on your plans!

          • TerryE Apr 29, 2013, 6:18 pm

            I’m not sure how the new law works for getting a drivers license IF you have a valid foreign license, but can speak with authority if you DO NOT. Without giving it much thought, I foolishly allowed my USA license to expire last year. Then recently, when planning a trip home , realized that I couldn’t rent a car anywhere. Bummer!

            My state didn’t allow online (or mail) renewals, so my best option seemed to be obtaining a local license.

            This entailed first taking a 32 hour course split evenly between driving and classroom instruction (all in Spanish) and cost around $185. After completion, the school issues a certificate, which along with your blood type card, copies of your cedula, utility bill, voter certificate. etc. you take to the Transit Authority. There pay $38, take an eye test, a 20 question drivers test, sit for a photo and receive your license on the spot.

            The drivers course was very comprehensive and well presented. Even with my limited Spanish was still able to easily pass both the driving and written courses. After not driving for over two years, really enjoyed getting back behind the wheel. FYI – there is a rumor that the school requirements may soon double to 64 hours along with the cost.

            Along with taking the course, I took the time to translate the official drivers manual and two different series of examination questions. These I’m offering copies to anyone interested for just a few bucks (just to recoup what was spent on conversion software). Details available at

  • Larry Andrews Sep 28, 2012, 4:59 pm



  • bob sykora Sep 15, 2012, 3:41 pm

    What can I expect to pay for a vehicle when I am ready to buy. I plan to be there sometime in 2013 and can not do without a truck preferably 4 wheel drive. I am a good mechanic so parts would be my only worry for the most part. Unless it involves brain surgery. Older model, lots of miles, body ok.
    I have a 2001 Toyota Tundra that would be great there, but not sure what to do. Can I really not get this truck into Ecuador?

    • Bryan Haines Sep 15, 2012, 6:29 pm

      An late 90’s / early 2000’s pickup will cost from $9000 – $14,000 depending on the shape its in.

      Toyota pickups are one of the most common trucks here, after Chev. Might be tied with Mazda. There are more pickup trucks here than I have ever seen anywhere. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a good used truck.

  • Lenny Ledoux May 6, 2012, 5:53 pm

    Recently retired to Cuenca. Curiously I come here from a rather different direction than most folks. I was introduced to my wife in March 2003 in Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador and the economic heart of the country. I bought a house there in 2007 but find the weather unacceptable for living, my in-laws attend to the place for me. In 2008 I spent the month of October in country and traveled around much of it and once in Cuenca I fell in love with the city. I knew nothing about it being a popular retirement location. Regardless, I am considering buying the car my new landlord is going to sell prior to leaving for the USA. I have researched many websites and it is just maddening trying to figure out what a vehicle is worth. The same vehicle, within a year or two can vary over $10K. Today we had a taxi driver drive us around, I hadn’t seen the North or Northeast of the city having spent most of my time in Central and South where we live and will live for the next two years. Along the way the conversation regarding “matriculation” was discussed at length. Any vehicle costing over $20K can have a yearly fee of $2K and more. The value of the vehicle, not its age being the driver. I am going to do some additional research as well as kick some tires up on Ave. Espana this week and see what information I can get from the dealers. As discussed, the costs of importing are supposed to be high, but it is unclear just what they are. We had a 2008 Ford Fusion which would have fit all the criteria for a “returning native” duty free for age, engine size, value. My father-in-law checked with a friend in Aduana who immediately threw his arms up and said don’t even think about it. When a gringo shows up to claim the car, out comes another set of rules. They set a price, there is no negotiation, no appeal. Pay it or forfeit the car. So we didn’t bring it down. Now I wonder, just what would that figure have been as the price of cars, bikes, electronics, etc. are through the roof down here. As the locals have told me, if you are an employee you love the President. If you are an employer you don’t. Hence my new landlord renting me his house as he heads for the USA to pursue citizenship.

  • Mark Apr 18, 2012, 8:31 am

    Good Morning Bryan,
    First time reader today…I own a 1997 VW Passat Turbo Diesel, and could you guess the cost to pay import tax on it? I get around 62MPG so…The math is obvious I guess. Does anyone ever drive from Texas to Ecuador by road/highway??

    Great Blog site …look for ward to hearing from you.

    Please email a copy of your post if it’s not too much trouble.


    • Bryan Haines Apr 18, 2012, 9:06 am

      Hi Mark, I understand that only new cars are allowed to be imported. You can confirm this, but this is what we’ve been told. This import restriction is part of the reason the prices on used vehicles stays so high.


    • Bill Aug 9, 2012, 2:50 pm

      Go to Super info Regards Bill

  • Rocio Torres Mar 31, 2012, 10:41 am

    I’m glad your car expenses are not so high but from my personal experience when I was living in Ecuador + my parents and brother talking all the time about the cars, I’d say having a car is very expensive in Ecuador, gasoline is cheap but very bad quality meaning your car will always have something, roads (at least in the Coast side) are not ok (to say the least), drivers are irresponsible, etc. and I hope I don’t bring bad luck to you but like my uncle said: having a car second hand is like having a second woman (tener un carro de segunda mano es como tener una amante)

    • John and Mary Apr 18, 2012, 3:16 pm

      FYI..Roads on the coast have improved 100% in the past three years especially between Manta and Canoa. After you first posted this article, we talked to three car owners here in San Clemente. They all feel that whatever their expense amounts to is well worth it. Though I do know that more use motorcycles.

  • Mary and John Mar 30, 2012, 7:19 pm

    Hola Brian, another great article, thanks. We live in San Clemente and spend less than $100 a month for transportation. Thats getting a driver twice a month ( sharing costs with another couple) for large shopping trips or trips to Manta. We use the bus for trips to market at Charapoto and take the bus to Puertoviejo and Bahia for shopping. We generally take a taxi back home and we occassionally use a moto-taxi for San Jacinto. Otherwise we walk or use our bikes. For us, the cost of a vehicle would not fit in our budget. Rememebering what we paid in the states (Ohio), insurance, registration and cost of oil changes are on the high side. But the cost of gas makes up for it. 🙂 Though like Lenny, sometimes it would be nice just to be able to jump in the car and go.
    Keep up the great articles,
    John and Mary

  • charles Mar 30, 2012, 3:51 pm

    High? Low? Reasonable?
    My opinion is that it depends on where else you are comparing the figures you came up with to. If you compare them to the USA or Canada or Europe or Brazil, I’d say your costs are definitely on the low side, primarily due to your lower cost of gas and insurance.

    Thanks for the detailed rundown on yet another very important topic.

  • Ray Irizarry Mar 30, 2012, 3:22 pm

    Hi Brian,

    Did I miss it somewhere? I did not see anything about liability insurance. Is it included with the accident insurance? Does it even exist? And, if yes, what are the costs on average?



    • Bryan Haines Mar 30, 2012, 3:32 pm

      Hi Ray – good point. The insurance policy covers liability insurance. But not to the degree you are used to. Lawsuits are not the same here as in the US or Canada. I would have to check the policy for exact numbers but liability is covered in the 5 digit range – not 7 digits like we are used to.

  • Lenny Charnoff Mar 30, 2012, 3:16 pm

    Long time follower of your blog and web site and your advice and information made our move to Cuenca much easier.

    I was considering buying a car but I think your yearly expenses are much too low. Firstly, I don’t think you amortized the cost of the vehicle in your yearly expenses.

    Secondly, wear and tear on tires are very hard in Cuenca because of the cobble stones. One expat that owns a SUV said he had to replace his tires after 18 months. Normally, that would be 3-4 years in the States or Canada.

    So far buses and taxis have worked for me and my wife. But, every so often I yearn to get into a car to pick up something rather then call for a taxi or wait for the bus.

    Appreciate all your research and great facts.

    • Bryan Haines Mar 30, 2012, 3:30 pm

      Thank Lenny, appreciate your comments.

      You’re right – depreciation isn’t included. That being said, depreciation is very low here, especially for an old vehicle like ours. A few months ago, I was offered our purchase price by a mechanic for our truck. Because of high import taxes, car prices remain high and don’t depreciate like they do in other countries.

      And you are right that repairs aren’t included in the breakdown either – its hard to estimate those, as noted. That being said, for the large 16″ tires we have we are looking at around $800 to replace the set of them.

      Without considering depreciation and repairs the expenses noted are what we really spend. They aren’t estimates or guesses. We’ve owned the truck since Jan of last year – 15 months so far.

      The taxis and bus system work well – sometimes I wish for the days when we could call our driver (in the pretty yellow cab) to pick us up. I’m glad its working out well for you and your wife.

      Thanks for your comment – hope you’ll continue to share your thoughts.


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