Buyer Beware. Trust your instincts. Look for signs that the car has been in an accident. Check inside the trunk, under the car, and under the hood, looking for evidence that the frame has been damaged and straightened out, if it has, don't buy it. Take your time shop around, compare, compare, compare. Toyotas are very common and spare parts will be found everywhere. If you speak Spanish and don't look like a foreigner, you're ahead of the game. As an english speaking white american, prices doubled whenever I went to see a car. In the end my wife and her sister bought the toyota, pretty on the outside, new paint and bodywork, but it had been in an accident and has been a source of continous anxiety and repair bills. We used our lawyer to check the documentation, after hearing stories about stolen cars being sold and the new owners getting in trouble and having their cars seized by the authorities. You need a recent police report, but even those can be forged so for us using our trusted lawyer eliminated that worry. We paid $RD200K for a 10 year old corolla with high mileage, we rushed, definetly made a bad decision and are paying for it now. Good luck. A Cedula is not required, insurance is but it's cheap.
The safest way to buy a used car is to buy one from a person you know, or someone who knows the owner.
Dealers sell lots of used cars, many cars imported from the US that have been fixed up, look fine, but have been in multiple crashes, if you do a check with the car id numbers on the Internet. There is a US$20 or something charge for the check.
A year ago we were looking to buy a used car and the number of crashed cars was impressive. We ended up buying a used car from a person who worked in the neighborhood and had been the car's only owner. We got trustworthy feedback on the car from friends where the car was being serviced.
Otherwise, the process is not complicated. You need to change the matricula to your name by paying the taxes.
Last year I started looking at late model Toyota RAV4's (2002) here.
I looked at six and finally narrowed it down to three. When I ran the VIN numbers they had all been chopped. Wrecks brought in the USA, re-bulit and shipped here. So, buyer beware and make sure you know what to look out for. Small missing fixtures, paint orange peeling or overspray, rusty parts on late model cars, etc etc.
Make sure you get a sales contract drawn up and do the transfer legally in regards to the taxes, matricula etc.
Most large dealers have in-house people that can take care of this for you.
I ended up buying a Nissan privatley, but still used the services of a dealer to do all the paper work, sales contract, transfer and running around.
I think it cost me RD$1,900 for them to handle this.
It was very smooth and both seller and buyer walked away with a smile
Very common to "turn back" the odometer! While looking for a used car for my wife saveral years ago,I found that most of the "85"Toyota Corrolas I saw all had about 75 or 80 thousand miles.I noticed that in one of them the "Jiffy Lube" sticker from Florida said, "Next oil change due at 300,000 miles!" Look around for "oil change" stickers.Or,as has been said,buy a "One Owner" car from a "Rich Dominican Family" you know! We bought from a lawyer,and he did the "papers" for free!
Your first and most important line of defense is to have a knowledgeable person look the vehicle over both cosmetically and mechanically. There is no substitute for this step, so skip it at your own peril. Unless, of course, you know the person selling the vehicle and they purchased the vehicle new from the dealer and have had it regularly serviced with accompanying service records.
On to "chopped cars" as Rob referred to them. If by chopped, Rob, you mean "total loss" or "salvage" for which an insurance company paid off the original owner and sold the vehicle for rebuilding, it is my understanding that the D.R. does not allow former "total loss" or "salvage" vehicles into the country and supposedly has not for several years now. That is not to say, there are none in the country. If I recall correctly the DR1 news, some time ago, carried a story about the local new car dealers association complaining about it and it was rectified by not allowing those types of vehicles into the D.R.
Now, what are those types of vehicles? Vehicles, from the U.S., that have a history of fire, flood, collision, wherein the insurance company declares the vehicle a total loss are examples. Even those vehicles that have been stolen and then recovered after 30 days, in most states, end up initially with what is called a salvage title as the insurance company has paid off the original owner and now seeks to sell the vehicle at a salvage auction to recoup some or all of its money.
Sometimes those vehicles have minimal damage or no damage at all. How is that you say? By way of true example, lets say a new Volvo wagon is supposedly test driven in Florida and the vehicle eventually ends up abandoned in a parking garage in Connecticut. The vehicle has been gone 65 days before recovery. The dealers insurance company has paid the claim to the dealer and now has possession of the vehicle. Since insurance companies are not in the car business per se, they submit the car to an auction where it is noted the vehicle will be given a branded title as a recovered theft. And, of course, on the other end of the spectrum are those vehicles that are stolen and wrecked, dropped into a lake or river etc. You just don't always know the real reason other than "recovered theft."
Onward to Carfax.com. It has been a great, but not perfect, resource for the car buying public. There have been instances where they have not correctly determined the real history of the vehicle and there are other instances where they could not have done so. By way of example, carfax relies heavily on outside sources of information for their data. One source is insurance company data. But, what if the claim does not go through an insurance company?
Many of the rental car companies are self insured. Thus they internally handle claims losses and reporting for that vehicle may never take place. Further, if you do not carry collision insurance and end up in an accident that is your fault, you may have the vehicle repaired yourself and thus it is unlikely a company like carfax would ever be made aware of the accident. That having been said, I would still run a carfax on any car I was interested in, but only after having the car checked out first hand by a knowledgeable person. Thus I would consider carfax a reasonable secondary line of defense.
One point worth noting, if the vehicle was wrecked and fixed in the D.R. there is probably no data, carfax or otherwise that you can access to determine the nature and extent of that damage.
Now to heresy on the these boards. I have been involved in shipping two vehicles to the D.R. IF you have a good shipping company who can handle door to door, and if you already own a vehicle (no liens and I believe it cannot be more than 5 years old) and consider it to be reliable, and if the taxes and shipping do not equal or exceed the cost to purchase the same vehicle there and, if, and only if, you have the patience to handle the inevitable stress that comes with anything to do with the ports and Customs, then in my opinion I would look into shipping. Best of Luck!
These are all great pieces of advise. You should use Carfax to check the car out, the miles may have been rolled back or the car may have been in an accident. To be honest with you, most of these things don't mean a whole lot in The DR. What really matters is what shape is the car in. The best thing you could do is to get yourself a trusted mechanic (independent) and have him check the car out for you, before you commit to buy.