Vehicle Registration in the Azuero

Scooter in Need of Registration

Scooter in Need of Registration

Time to renew my vehicle registration here in Panama. Just as in most other countries, it is an annual thing, and the process for my scooter is basically the same as renewing a car registration. The price for renewing my registration will be a whopping $25.

Ah, if that were only all of it. There are, you see, a lot of peripherals. And they are all in Spanish.  Because we’re “not in Kansas anymore.” It’s different here.

So far, my dear friend Soraya has helped enormously with this little adventure. Fluent Spanish helps so much.

First, she studied the sheaf of paperwork I had accumulated to determine my due date and other vital items. When you buy new, the dealer handles the license and registration for the first year. My scooter was imported at Colon and initially registered by the dealer in a suburb of the City of Panama called San Miguelito. That meant it had to go back to San Miguelito to renew the registration.

While driving to Panama in any vehicle is a dangerous proposition, driving to Panama on my 125cc scooter would be suicidal.  I was horrified.

“Not a problem,” Soraya insisted.

It seems that half the countryside has the same kind of issue, so a small industry has grown up around this. There are people who perform the service of running your paperwork down to the appropriate barrio in the City and getting the appropriate stamps. It just costs a bit.

Considering that to do the same thing as Sr. XXXXXXXXXX* proposed doing for $30 would cost me at least that much for buses, taxis and lunch, plus a day of frustration, this seemed like a deal. XXXXXXXXXXXXXX* is the name of his business; he can be reached at XXXX-XXXX.*

Working backward from our final objective, Sr. XXXXXXXXXXXXX informed Soraya that the scooter would first have to be inspected. Finding a Las Tablas garage to inspect it didn’t seem that tough – I would just take it to Taller Velazco where I go to have it serviced.

Soraya called Sr. Velazco to make sure he could do it. But no, alas, that was not one of the things he was licensed to provide. So she dragged out her phone book and began calling around.

We found a couple of garages. One, La Machina, will inspect your vehicle for $14.75. BUT… first you have to renew your insurance policy.  La Machina conveniently offers to provide your annual insurance for you before inspection.  (One stop shopping, yay.)   A policy for my machine would be about $75, they told her.

“No, no, no!” cried Soraya. “We have a neighbor who works in an insurance company. Let me call her.” And sure enough, the neighbor informed us that essentially the same coverage was available for either $62 ‘here’ or $52 ‘there.’  (Are you beginning to see why it helps to be fluent in Spanish?)

So the bottom line was that I would:
1) First, need to acquire an insurance policy for the year for $75, $62 or $52, ladies’ choice;
2) Second, get my machine inspected and stamped as road-worthy, $14.75.  So far, this is the same stuff I would have to do back in the States;
3) Third, give my paperwork to the intrepid Sr. XXXXXXXXXXXXX to take to San Miguelito on my behalf, $25 for registration, $30 for service.

I thought about all this, and it occurred to me that I could save $30 per year in future years by transferring the registration from San Miguelito to Las Tablas. I know such a thing is possible, because other people have done it. I am not sure how much it costs to do that, or what the exact process is, but I believe it is less than $30 and it only has to be done once. So, since I have more than a month before my registration is due, I’m going to do that. That is El Plan.

Stay tuned for the next installment. Soraya and I are heading out the first of this week to attend to this stuff.  Sounds easy, right?  I’ll let you know how it goes, as ‘the best laid plans of mice’ rule is definitely in force here.


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

1. Vehicle Registration in the Azuero, this post

2. Update on Vehicle Registration

3. Registration Renewal in Panama

4. Vehicle Registration in Panama: The Final Segment