Before we moved to Panama we made contact (thanks to Vecino) with a young fellow who helped us buy our vehicle. As I’ve said before, if you speak very little or no Spanish hiring an expeditor to help you to navigate things such as getting your driver’s license for the first time, buying a car, renting a house etc. is well worth the money spent. (Of course make sure the person you are dealing with comes with good references.)
One of the many things that our Vehicle Expeditor (VE) asked us was if it mattered where the vehicle was purchased in Panama. One of the reasons he asked this was because whatever district the vehicle is bought in, it must be registered in. In the smaller areas of the country the town offices have “command and control” over the distribution of the license plates. And it’s not just a new sticker that you get every year, it’s a full plate and a window tag with the same number on it.
The SUV we did end up purchasing was found in Panama City. That worked out great because VE brought it right to the hotel the day we arrived so we didn’t have to get a rental car. The purchase money was sent via wire transfer to our lawyer who then paid VE. We bought the vehicle at the beginning of May and the registration was expiring at the end of the month so VE arranged to have the plates renewed for us.
Every time a vehicle is re registered you must prove current vehicle insurance and go through a government required revisado process. This is to prove that the vehicle is what it states to be on the documentation and that no alterations have been made. You present your documents; insurance and proof of ownership along with last year’s registration at an authorized revisado office which is usually a mechanic and have multiple pictures taken of the vehicle. When that is completed you’re sent on your way with documents in hand to pick up your plates either at the transit authority or the municipal office. Because our vehicle was purchased in Panama the license plate sits somewhere in Panama waiting for us to go pay for it and pick it up. Last year we arranged with the revisado office to have it mailed from Panama to their office and they called us when it arrived. We had to pay extra for the service as well as the shipping costs. At the same time we decided to transfer the plate to Pedasi.
Wow, that sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? Now, keep in mind that we spoke much less Spanish last year and we are still far from fluent. Did I also mention that the lovely señora at the revisado speaks rapid fire español and doesn’t have very much patience for those that don’t understand her? We managed to get the paperwork completed last year and SU visited the municipal office here where he thought he was told by the helpful señora here that the paperwork would be processed and we’d receive our plates in Pedasi for 2014.
It’s May of 2014 and our insurance and registration was due once again. Off we went on Wednesday in the early morning hours to Chitre to pay our insurance, hoping to have time to hit the revisado on the way back through Las Tablas. Renewing the insurance was pretty simple once again this year. We present our old policy, the young woman enters our information into her computer which spits out a new one and with a much lighter wallet we’re out the door. We did several other errands and were in Las Tablas on time for lunch. (I’m going to skip the lunch part because both of us agreed it was the most disgusting meal that we’ve ever eaten in Panama. We were really disappointed with a notable burger place near the revisado office that is usually very good.)
The revisado process was quite easy this year now that we know how it works. There was one other person ahead of us so we hit the jackpot and didn’t have to wait long. Here’s a tip; make sure to avoid pay days because everybody and their Chihuahuas are in there. While SU was in the back getting the pictures of the vehicle taken I could hear faint murmurs of the señora in her office speaking on the telephone and heard “Pedasi” several times. Of course that made me a little concerned thinking that we had spent all this money to change the registration documentation last year and the plates hadn’t been transferred.
When SU came back and we paid our $15.90 for the revisado I looked at the paper that we were presented for our plate pick up. It clearly indicated that the vehicle was registered in Panama. I asked the lovely señora if the change had gone through and if we were able to pick up our plates in Pedasi. She assured us that yes, there was an error on the paper but our plates were at the municipal office in town.
Still being a little apprehensive, after SU helped me put the shopping away he went off to see if he could pick up the new plates. Score! He returned happily waving them in the air! We’re quite puffed up that we maneuvered our way on our own through a little more of Panameño red tape, in the campo.Would you like to read more stories about license plates? Here’s a few: http://shawnwingsit.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/recurring-feature-harrisburgs-ongoing-vanity-plate-issue/ http://consumerist.com/2014/05/09/judge-rules-against-indiana-bureau-of-motor-vehicles-on-0ink-license-plate-rejection/ http://squattersspeakeasy.com/2014/05/01/april-license-plate-report-3/ http://bongodogblog.com/2014/05/01/be-dog/ http://uproxx.com/webculture/2014/04/i-farted-15-personalized-license-plate-applications-rejected-by-the-florida-dmv/