There were a couple of important things to consider before we decided to purchase the car:
1) Would it be safe to drive in Mexico/Central/South America?
2) Can you actually drive a car all the way down to the tip?
3) Can we get car insurance?
4) If so, what kinds of documents etc would we need?
Question One: The answer to question one was found by reading info online and skimming through our ridiculous number of Lonely Planet Guides (I actually wonder if they offer a ‘global’ option where for a reduced price you could get coverage of the whole earth – it may be cheaper that way than filling up our bookshelves one guide at a time). It seems like in general, you avoid the areas where things are a little sketchy (which you would do as a backpacker regardless), and you don’t drive at night. Apparently drunk driving, random unofficial speed bumps, wandering donkeys, and driving without headlights at night are all somewhat common, so it’s best to just not be on the road at night.
Question Two: turns out there is a 45 mile gap in the road between Panama and Colombia, and even if you wanted to walk on foot, you really don’t want to through that area now as paramilitaries and drug runners apparently run the show in this area, but there are plenty of ways you can ship your car around this Darien Gap and hopefully it will turn up on the other side. They advise taking off any removable parts (windshield wipers, license plate etc) as these things tend to disappear during the shipping process. Who knew there was such a demand for windshield wipers?
Question Three: our lovely Geico insurance offers coverage for all of Central and South America, and Mexico you can do through AAA or on the border. It actually seemed reasonably priced, but you have to pay extra if you’re going to be putting the car on a boat.
And finally, Number Four: It’s a good idea to get an international drivers license, but it seemed like it wasn’t even totally necessary. You can also get this through AAA.
So, given all of this, we decided it was indeed possible and not ridiculously risky to bring a car with us on this trip. Sweet!