Registration Renewal in Panama

Suzi, Ready for Registration

Suzi, Ready for Registration

Registration renewal in Panama is basically a three part process, unless you want to move it to a different municipality, which makes a fourth part.  The first three are (1) renewing your insurance (see earlier blog, “Vehicle Registration in the Azuero”), (2) having your vehicle inspected, and (3) having your paperwork processed.

Part 1, Insurance

I started the process of my June registration renewal in May.  The first thing I learned is that you can’t do it early.  By chance I also learned that my insurance actually expired in May, a month early.  So that was a good thing.

The next thing to accomplish was the required annual inspection.

Part 2, The Inspection

What is it they say about assuming?  I assumed (mistake) that it would be similar to a vehicle inspection in the States.  So I first took my machine to the garage and had a tuneup, oil and filter change and so forth.  (My Suzuki absolutely purrs now.) Then I took it to an authorized inspection place and took my place in line behind two other people.

After a wait of about twenty minutes I was handed a walkie-talkie and given some rapid fire instructions in Spanish.   The deer-in-the-headlights look I gave the young lady inspector apparently inspired another employee to take the walkie-talkie from me and beckon me to follow him with the scooter.  I drove it to the carport at the rear of the establishment where he gestured that I should park it just so in front of a camera on a tripod.  Once Suzi was in place, he radioed the front, waited a moment or two, and then moved the scooter for a side view shot.  A brief walkie-talkie communique and we moved it again, for a back end shot.

That was it.  That was the “inspection.” The lady inspector filled out the paperwork and we both signed, I paid and left.

Well, I had needed an oil change anyway.

Part 3, Papers to Panama

To allow Sr. XXXXXXXXXXX to handle my business, I needed to provide him with a copy of my cedula (or passport) and a “letter of authorization” stating I gave permission for him to handle this stuff.  To effect the transition of the registration from San Miguelito to Las Tablas, I would also need some proof that I lived in Las Tablas.  Something like a copy of an electricidad bill would be the ticket.  I took care of both.

OK. The next thing was to get all this accumulated paper (title, inspection, insurance paperwork, cedula copy, electric bill and letter of authorization) to San Miguelito down in the City of Panamá.  Several of my friends had happily used the services of Sr. XXXXXXXX, whose name will no longer be mentioned, to take their paperwork to Panamá, get it processed, and bring it back.  His fee of $25 seemed quite reasonable.  However, when we contacted him again to be sure we had all the documents he would require and to make certain of the charges, he informed us that the actual registration would cost $29, his services would be $30, having the registration moved to Las Tablas would be another $21, and it would take eight days causing Sr. XXXXXXXXXXXX to have to make a second trip which would entail another $25.  That was $50 for the paperwork and $55 for Sr. XXXXXXXXXXX.   For a grand total of $105, significantly up from the $68 I had previously been told these things would cost.  Hmm.

So my wonderful Panamanian friend with her wonderful command of the language, solid business skills and take-no-prisoners approach to such things called the San Miguelito office to get the costs directly.  It seems the actual registration would be $25, as it was a moto not a car, having the registration moved would cost $11, and the whole thing would take place while one was at the counter, requiring no return trips.  A total of  $36 for the paperwork instead of $50.  Hmm.

It turned out my friend’s husband was going to be in that neck of the woods next week and would happily take my papers in for processing.  So I changed the authorization and we dispensed with the services of Sr. XXXXXXXXX, for the further savings of an additional $55.

Part 4, The Papers Return

Ah, but that is not the end of the tale.  Remember, I don’t want to have to do this dance again.  I want to move my registration to Las Tablas so that next year I can do everything in my own back yard.

Once the papers are back, we need to go to the correct office here in Las Tablas and pay a $5 registration fee.  Then we need to take the paper they give us there over to Banco Nacional and pay a $20 transfer fee to the state.  THEN and only then, will the deed be done.

After all, we are not in Kansas here.


This is the third in a series of posts about the experience of registering a vehicle in Panama.

1. Vehicle Registration in the Azuero.  It sounds so simple. Ha!

2. Update on Vehicle Registration I was thwarted last time, but I’ll get it this time! Ha!

3. This post, Registration Renewal in Panama If at first you don’t succeed…

4.  Vehicle Registration in Panama: The Final Segment