Jan. 4, 2013

"Kathleen, I am considering the cost of bringing in a vehicle to Ecuador with me and find almost no information on importing a car or household goods. The embassy has some details, and it sounds horrifically expensive. Not to mention that no used autos can be imported. Can't move and buy a new car there!

"The costs for both of the above would eliminate Ecuador from my retirement destination in two years. I am very sad about that but don't have the huge bucks to start over from nothing in that country. Please, please, please add the cost of moving to the widely written 'wonderful advantages' of moving to inexpensive foreign destinations. It makes a huge difference for many of us!"

--Debra F., United States

We don't recommend shipping a car to your new destination overseas in most cases, no matter where you're planning to move. The cost of shipping a vehicle plus the sales tax and import duties you could be liable for (if you're not exempted from them as a benefit of your residency status) add up to a big and unnecessary expense.

Because whatever car you ship probably isn't going to be the car you want to own wherever you ship it. Depending what you ship where, you could have trouble finding experienced labor and getting the right parts for maintenance and repairs. You could end up having to have the parts you need shipped in from somewhere else, probably the United States if that's where the car came from in the first place, making owning that car very expensive long term.

Expensive and probably inappropriate. Years ago, a colleague thought the import duty exemption Nicaragua offered him with his pensionado visa for that country was too good to pass up, so he arranged to ship his minivan down from Canada. Nicaragua ate up that minivan and spat it out in small pieces along the sides of her dirt and rutted roads. My colleague finally sold the minivan for much less than what he had just spent having it shipped to him (nevermind the value of the vehicle itself) and bought a small SUV, more common and suitable in his new environment.

Bottom line, sell your car before you take off for your new life overseas. Maybe you won't need one at all wherever you end up. You don't need a car of your own in Cuenca, for example.

Neither do we recommend shipping your household goods overseas. I've shipped container-loads of furniture and other household items across international borders four times. Each time I've promised my husband, never again. It's expensive. And, usually, once you get where you're going, you realize that you could have furnished your new place locally for less than the cost of shipping your old stuff .

But let's back up. Shipping your furniture with you suggests that you're intending to buy a new house in Ecuador. Again, we don't recommend it. Rent first. Rent furnished, and you don't have to bring any furniture with you or buy any either.

Maybe rent indefinitely. Retiring to a new country does not necessarily mean investing in a new home in that country. Home ownership means carrying costs and a commitment to one particular spot. Stay flexible. Stay mobile. Keep your overheads down.

Sell your car. Sell your house. Sell your household things. Pack a couple of bags and take off.

Please, please, please, don't let a concern over the cost of shipping a car and your household goods to a new country be a reason not to pursue the adventure of being there yourself.

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.

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