The Ultimate Vehicle for Central and South American Travel?

At first, we thought that a VW camper van would be the way to travel to South America, after finding the VW Vagabonds site. That plan did not seem like a very good idea after finding out the prices! How does a hippy afford paying 20-30k for a 9 year old camper van? I started looking around for alternatives, and came across the Honda Element ECamper. This is what led us to looking at a Honda Element. SparkleGirl found that the ECamper guys were not the only ones that saw a correlation between the Honda Element and a VW Camper. Look what the Car Talk Gurus said about the Element:

…it reminds us a bit of a modern day VW Microbus. That, too, was cheap, funky, and very practical. But unlike the Microbus, the Element is safe, plenty powerful, heated and cooled inside, and it’ll start every day. -Click and Clack

We started thinking seriously about the Element, but before deciding on the ECamper, we went through the alternatives:

  1. Lay the seats down to sleep: You can lay all the seats down to an almost flat position, but then where would we put all of our stuff?
  2. Buy the Honda tailgate cabana: You can spend more on accessories for the Element than the price of the car. Works for small trips, but once again, do we move everything up to the front seats each night. Call me Mr. Safety Patrol, but I did not get a warm fuzzy feeling thinking about a small piece of fabric between myself and a Guatemalan jungle. Knifes and mosquitoes would not be deterred.
  3. Use a regular tent: Great in the outdoors, not so fun setting up camp every night for a year.

It was decided this weekend- we are going to put down the $500 deposit for the ECamper and travel in style. We can worry about who to get the car from later.

5 thoughts on “The Ultimate Vehicle for Central and South American Travel?

  1. Hi,

    I’d like to do a Pan-American road trip this summer and need to buy a vehicle. My plan initially was to fly to Mexico City, buy an SUV, drive to Buenos Aires, and sell it there or ship it home. If someone doing the trip now would like to sell me their vehicle in South America, I’d be happy to agree to sell it back to them in the U.S. I can’t lease or rent it though because I believe ownership is an issue when crossing borders. Presumably a 3k+ mile trip through pot hole ridden Central America would depreciate the vehicle so we could discuss before hand simply selling it back for less than I bought it or paying for repairs or both.

    Thanks,

    Brian
    510/435-6113

  2. Hi Brian,

    Nice to meet you. I have a couple of recommendations for you. First, check out our other website at Drive the Americas. On this website we compiled comprehensive information on cars, borders, shipping, scams, gas and road conditions, hotels and camping – in essence everything we wish we had known about when we started this trip. We have a forum for roadtrippers on this website as well, and I know there are several cars for sale in Buenos Aires listed on this forum.

    Second, you may want to consider purchasing the car in the US. We met several Europeans who flew to San Diego, purchased a car, and went on their way. We only met one couple who tried to buy the car in Mexico and it sounded like it was a very difficult process.

    And you're right, you need to prove ownership of the car when you're crossing borders. Also check the your vehicle page of the Drive the Americas website for more information on purchasing vehicles, insurance, and vehicle modifications you might want to consider.

    Best of luck, and be sure to contact us when you do start your trip – we'd love to profile you in our roadtripper profile section of our Drive the Americas website.

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