How I Accidentally Married My Brazilian Car

Car in Brazil If you’ve ever rented a car long term or looked at buying on in Brazil, then this story will appeal to you… And teach you effectively what not to do !

To make things a bit clearer about this story turned life lesson, let’s rewind to 2010. After loads of planning and saving, my wife and I had finally found our shortcut to get back into Brazil and live happily ever after…

The plan was the following: we would land in São Paulo, stay with some friends and purchase a relatively good priced car to drive us around. We would then drive down to Florianópolis (the land of milk and honey) to give birth to our sweet Brazilian girl – aka: anchor baby.

Everything went pretty much according to plan and we purchased a spacious Ford Mondeo – a car that would later prove to stick with me through thick and thin.

Everything went well and when selling it, something unexpected happened…

Why Did we Buy and Not Rent?

Before telling you about the “turn of unexpected events”, let me quickly tell you why we chose to rent instead of buying a car.

In my calculations, we would stay for around 6 months, go abroad for a bit and then come back quickly. So if we were to rent a car, it would cost us like R$6–7000+ (reais), and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you could quickly purchase a used car for around that, sell it and recoup the money.

And that’s exactly what the plan was. I spent just under 2 weeks finding our car and you should have seen the bureaucracy and sleazy dealerships that presented themselves!

Everything from a lying Bahian that would have cheated me into buying an illegally modified alcohol car, to test driving a car with a broken transmission in a favela – it was just something with the exhaust pipes according to him.

Our Break Happening

Our break finally happened when we found a used Ford Mondeo from a very honest man in Campinas. The guy had lived in the USA for 6 years and was a really great individual, he had totally taken care of the car and everything was in top shape.

Ford Mondeo in Brazil

The dear Ford Mondeo that we purchased pictured in front of our place.

So after getting everything transferred and put into my friend’s name (we couldn’t yet because we had yet to apply for residence), we were off to Florianópolis!

Our child was born a Brazilian and our big break had happened, we were good to go and ready to spend a few months abroad. So what was the best solution? Sell the car, come back and buy a new one when it was time.

The First Sale of Many

And so we apparently sold the car to some good friends that were really in need of one.  It really was a win-win situation, they had gotten their big break with a decent job and I was happy to further be flexible and bless them with a nice car.

It was in perfect shape without a scratch, everything functioning flawlessly.

We agreed with these friends to let them purchase the car over 10 months, packed our bags and left (for the time being).

Meanwhile, the first payment came and went – nothing. And then it was time for the second payment – nothing again.

This went on and on for months until I had enough of unfaithfulness to our agreement.  All the while trying to be understanding and compassionate of their situation, it was time to send my Brazilian friend over to this family’s house (who are friends of ours btw!) and take the car from their possession.

Not a great situation to be in but that’s life sometimes.

This kind friend of mine then inspected the car to find out that it had been pretty beat up: a mirror was broken off, the AC wasn’t working, the interior torn up etc It was a bit of a mess!

And so, with his help, we put it for sale again.

The Second Sale

My buddy knew a friend that was in need of a car for his business and our car fit the bill.

After a few reparations (at our cost of course), he took possession of the car and began paying monthly payments.

The first payment came through ok, even the second, the third and also the fourth but then they stopped all together…

Not this again!

Meanwhile, my friend back in São Paulo is getting all sorts of speeding tickets and parking fines sent to his address because the title had yet to be transferred.

He was rightfully irritated and fed up about the situation, as was I!

So this guy stopped paying for the car and it’s time to enter the previous scenario again…

I get the car back from him and realize that he has “yet” to pay any yearly road taxes, fines or anything.

The good news is that I got the car back, the bad news is that the motor needs redoing as well as a bunch of other stuff and road taxes etc.


And then the clutch went out.

But that’s not all, he then has the courage to ask for all the money he paid back as I took the car from him.  Ummm…what?

So as I’m sitting with a bill around r$7,000 to fix the car, I can’t help but think “why didn’t we just rent something in the first place??”

The Big Lesson and Your Takeaway

There are two main things that this whole crazy situation taught me:

  1. If you’re only coming for a few months or more, for the love of everything rent a car!
  2. If you’re looking at selling a car in Brazil, only accept cash up front even if you have to give a 10–20% discount to make it happen, do it as it could cost you tons of hassle in the long run (this has happened to countless of my friends).
  3. Having a car put in your name and transferring ownership is a highly bureaucratic process (and expensive), so make sure you are aware of this before purchasing.
  4. Fines follow the owner of the car: so any traffic infractions, back taxes or problems in general will directly effect the owner of the car unless otherwise proven. To prove it that it wasn’t you, it’s pretty bureaucratic in itself.

So this car is still in my possession after all this time and it appears that it has all the elements of a marriage:

  1. She’s high maintenance
  2. She stays by my side through thick and thin
  3. She breaks down and I get her up on her “feet” again
  4. We travel together
  5. She carries my burdens

I hope my wife isn’t jealous…

In all honesty, it’s a really good car and it would almost be a shame to sell it after putting all these repairs in – I just got it working well again!

I hope that you can learn from this crazy mess of my car experience – oh, and did I mention that this is the second car this has happened with? Geez, you’d think I had already learned my lesson the first time… Maybe that will be another story for later.

Learning from my mistakes one at a time and until next time.


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  • I wanted to email you about this but I guess it could be posted here. I found that Kayak, Travelocity and other web sites uses your cookies against you. I could delete my cookies but I use too many sites and I don’t want to put my passwords in

    Anyway, I am a car nut. I really enjoyed your story about the Fiero that you had previously.

    Since its pretty much buy a car in Brazil or bring a new one from outside Brazil, I believe I may opt for the latter.

    Why? Because being the car nut I am, I love performance cars. You might me thinking, the traffic in the major cities is horrendous, okay so is traffic in Los Angeles during rush hour or any hour in some cases and in some parts of the city (county).

    I found there’s a drag strip (1/4) in Porto Alegre –

    I guess there’s one in Curitiba as well…

    Anyway one of my favorite activities and I am glad Brazilians are into all forms of motorsport.

    But the performance cars that are imported are hellishly expensive and I would save a ton of money, not to mention qualifying for loans much easier at home.

    So I wasn’t joking about driving down, though it wouldn’t be my first trip. Likely my 2nd and hopefully final trip.

    I can totally imagine going to track days (circuit racing or drag racing) just like I do here (when I had my last car).

    Thanks again for all the information you provide on your website. I am looking forward to sharing my experience as well.

    • difourmoney, unless you are willing to pay extra forget about importing car(s) to Brazil. I had that thought when I first moved to Brazil. You can import “classic car” 30 years and older and you will get a tax break. But how you find parts in Brazil? Your guess is as good as mine. I love cars too but loving cars in the US can be a hobby while loving cars in Brazil is a luxury sport! Car is a status quo here unfortunately. Expensive cars bully other cars and people off their way.

      • A car that’s 30 years and older would be 1984, when most cars were terrible. For popular cars like some GM products and Ford Mustang they could be shipped from the US or you could buy in bulk and put everything in a cargo container.

        The car hobby is a luxury in much of Latin America. Truth be told, I had thought of going to Central America first because it can be reached by land and the cost of living is low enough, without the trade restrictions that I could continue my car hobby.

        Brazil doesn’t make it impossible but harder than likely needed. Part of the problem is the aftermarket is not mature yet. I was reading a Brazilian Drag Racing magazine (as much as I could understand anyway) and most of the people owning even what I would call mildly fast cars are business owners. That does corroborate your statement that it is indeed a sport for the well-healed but is that any different than the US?

        They can afford it because everything is imported, they pay the import taxes, yadda, yadda.

        That’s why I said I would buy a new car that’s already somewhat fast. Some of the upgrades can be done over the internet, especially those involving tuning.

        The rest of I could make semi-annual trips back to the US :). Though how do I get the box for a 3″ exhaust on the plane? lol

        • I have pushed the envelop to extreme by hand-carry car parts (ranging from filters to strut bars) because I refuse to pay the R$95 oil filter or R$120 FRAM air filter!

          My brother-in-law was nice enough to loan me his Audi (bullet proof A3 turbo) and the cost of keeping that car is insane (180km per tank? come on!). I drove it for 3 weeks and gave it back. And how much does the deal want for the ignition coil? R$600 EACH! I can buy the whole set for less than $200 USD.

          That was a big lesson learned for me about the “high end” car ownership in Brazil. And the sad part is people who can afford this type of cars are willing (don’t care) to pay ridiculous price to the stealer to work on them.

          I disagree about the comment for being car enthusiast in the US. You can always build a “poor man” version because parts are accessible and available in a wide range. And yes the after market is not matured. If the item has a deal’s “badge”, people are willing to pay. For example (Honda) dealers are charging R$500 to install a rear view camera. The same darn part is made in China sold for $20 USD on ebay but people are willing to pay for it because it comes from the dealer so it is “god made” and warranty is not void. Huh?

          I can go on with my frustration about car dealers in Brazil. Final note: Do you know Honda Brazil recommends ONLY Honda (mineral) oil (and no other brand/synthetic allowed)? You go figure how this type of thing can fly in the consumer market here.

          • Wow it sounds like I need to be a new car dealer in Brazil….

            Honda (and other OEM’s) do recommend some oils based on what materials the lubricant will touch. I can give you thousands of examples that 9 times out of 10, it was a cost saving measure during production.

            I agree than even lower middle class families (in the US) can afford to build a mild show car, drag race or even autocross a few weekends a month without breaking the budget.

            I didn’t know things like filters cost so much, that’s insane!

            High End cars like Audi’s or any German car for that matter is going to be expensive to own and maintain. The car I am looking at is sold in Brazil.

            The biggest difference what’s under the hood. The majority of the parts are shared with lesser versions. I also love synthetic oil! Meaning at most rotating the filter four times, changing out both twice.

            Cost to operate and ensure will be similar.

            I can relay one story… On my SRT-4, which I bought used had a funny sound coming from the front of the car. It turns out a CV joint had failed. Chrysler tried to say it wasn’t covered under its 5/50 drivetrain warranty.

            I know exactly who to talk to at Chrysler and got both axles replaced under warranty.

            If the dealer network in Brazil is anything like it is in the US, then you know they are semi-autonomous, so they end up saying what’s under warranty and what isn’t and are free to overcharge for parts, even the cars themselves!

  • In Brasil you HAVE to get paid UPFRONT. That thing about, “let me give it to you in monthly payments” with Brazilians DOES NOT work. I don’t care if it’s a BFF. (Even worse a friend of a friend)
    Unfortunately, I’ve learned my lesson as well.

    This is why l love PayPal, any other form of credit card taker if cash is not involved right away. But otherwise–cash it is!

    Thanks Kevin for your post.

  • Wow thanks for sharing Kevin, you are a good friend to have allowed monthly payments again after it failed you once. I don’t understand how people can take advantage of others, you know? I mean, if you can’t pay, have the guts and integrity to communicate that and return the car! That would have been much better I think.
    With that said, I will wholeheartedly heed your advice about cash only :).

    • I truly want to believe the best in people which makes me learn the hard way some times lol

      Unfortunately, there are people out there who take advantage and we as foreigners have to take extra care of this!

      I hope this helps you 🙂

  • I am Brazilian, I live between Portugal and Brazil found your site via grigoes groups on facebook, but I’m sad que his testimony, but unfortunately there are people wanting wannabees advantage in this world, but with errors que are more aware and avoid errors repeat again. But continuing the theme, I’m currently in Portugal have heard of similar cases of foreigners in Spain by Spaniards everywhere have people who want to take advantage. One tip I do not know if You Knew, FINANCIAL OF CARS such as BMG and BV Financial specifies only to vehicles … They pay up to 70% of the car is new or used semi and the rest is paid to Those Who bought the car, but Those interested in buying car payments, without worrying about headaches, my father did the BMG is the example of the Peugeot 106 car without problem, without worrying about these pains. The Finaneirar the vehicle does everything and does not even need a bank account just Necessary documents and the car in tax due to the government. Those interested in purchasing a part of the car Should not be in the form of list of debtors the national organ SERASA is another important route of confidence in buyer and no headache for the car owner wants to sell. The person paid by billet banking printed by financial of vehicle.

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