The Australian Option
Cons - If I buy a vehicle in Australia such as my long lost love a Toyota Troopcarrier, I will have to ship it to South America and presumably back again since importing the thing is hideously expensive. There are certain criteria to importing a vehicle (has to be over 25 years old being one of them) to satisfy the American standards needed, but the crux of it is that you'll be paying a good deal of $'s on top of the sale price of your vehicle (effectively if I bought a $10k vehicle, I'd be paying that again to import it). Once I'm there, I'd have a vehicle that is RHD (right-hand-drive) in a LHD country. Itself not so much of an issue, yet when travelling through part of South and Central America, RHD vehicle are forbidden - this is only in Costa Rica and El Salvador, the latter of which you can get around, the former is just in the bloody way. Chile is also a bit of a pain in the arseholes, with some over-landers getting rejected at the border. When driving it aboard too, you can only keep the vehicle in one country for a year maximum, sometimes less. Oh and the shipping, don't forget the shipping Reed! The shipping with imports, exports, costs yadda yadda on top of everything would set me back another $6k each way. For that kind of price, I may as well import the vehicle into North America.
Pros - I get exactly the vehicle I want which I'm 100% know will get the job done, which is laid out the way I like, with the security I need (immobiliser, kill-switches, 10,000 Volts hard-wired to the drivers crotch - not for thieves, just to get my kicks!), and this will ensure I have an excellent and relatively untroubled journey despite it being a RHD. Having done a similar trip many years ago in a Land Rover non-stop break down machine, and I cannot emphasise enough the peace-of-mind one gets from a working vehicle. I imagine.
The South American Option
Cons - It isn’t quite as simple as everywhere else where you turn up with the cash, sign some documents and walk drive into the sunset. In my case, driving into the sunset cursing the oil dripping from the sump, the radiator leaking, a flat tyre etc In Chile it can take a month to sort out the relevant paperwork which generally they don't want you to leave the country during that time. I don't have that luxury. You can though get a permit and exit the country into Argentina, which is good! Now, let's imagine I bought a car in Chile, I drive about for a month or two enjoying myself, get to Columbia and either try to sell it or travel onwards. If I try to sell it, Columbia doesn't allow second hand non-imported vehicles to be sold unless it's for scrap or you're a diplomat or Shakira. If I keep the vehicle and ship it around the famously impassable Darien Gap (160km of killers, swamps and shitehawks) then I have the same conundrum wherever I land i.e. I have a Chilean vehicle in a foreign country. My recourse then would be to sell it (highly unlikely), sell it for parts, get it stolen (hmmm) or drive it into the sea. The other negative would be that I would have no idea if the vehicle would actually work or not...it would be going on trust and trust alone. If it breaks down, I'm screwed.
Pros - Buying a local vehicle will mean I have a LHD vehicle making the crossing of Costa Rica much easier and less issues with the local constabulary trying to make an easy buck by telling me the RHD is illegal. I also may have less trouble at the border because I'm driving a South American car rather than a foreign pig dog of a vehicle...although if you're travelling from one country to the next I imagine you'll be under the same legal ramblings as any other country. I could go and get the vehicle checked out with a mechanic presumably and they could run some tests yadda yadda. Always worth spending the money one would imagine before parting with a few thousand dollars on an iron steed only to waltz away with a pantomime cow.
The American Option
Pros - And this is my favoured one at the moment although it's a logistical daymare come nightmare come daymare all over again. If I can make contact with a few of the overlanders travelling from North to South America and offer to buy their vehicle from them when they reach the end of the world, I then have a LHD vehicle prepared and already trip ready because it's just completed one. I then don't have to import the vehicle into North America because it'll be just returning home, or I can sell it locally. There is also the option of just driving the vehicle back to owners who don't want the expense of shipping the vehicle back home. All sounds lovely.
Cons - as above, it can be a logistical nightmare. I'm buying a vehicle sight-unseen and I don't even know if you can buy an American vehicle in a foreign country and get it back through borders - you'd need a whole new fresh set of paperwork. I also have to ensure they're going to be in the same place I want to be when I need them to be, which is hard. The risk in terms of the overlanders backing out, wanting more money, crashing the vehicle, not being able to transfer or cross-borders afterwards is high, all of which I'd have to remediate as best I can.
So.....what the hell do I do?
I thought I'd also pull together a list of links that I've been constantly going to, just in case others were interested as there is soooo much information out there. When I did a similar trip across from London to Sydney few years ago we were bereft of information, however the Pan-American is an entirely different beast and far more popular. Here goes!
Gumtree.com.au - Australian website for buying used, well, everything!
Cargurus.com - American vehicles for sale, although most look like they come from a dealer
Wikioverland.org/Pan_American_Highway - great source of information about the Pan-American
DriveTheAmericas.com - some great forums, vehicles, other overlanders, news on shipping, others doing like-minded craziness
Loveatfirstbagel.com - lots of lovely advice about buying and selling a vehicle in Chile, giving you the real lowndown of everything
Go-panamerican.com - travelling with a Nissan Pathfinder from top to bottom with some great resources available
http://imgoingonanadventur.blogspot.com.au - great adventures from Giles in Australia, this man travelled the world in his Troopy!
Horizonsunlimited.com/hub - lots of vehicles for sale, some of them overlanders so will definitely keep an eye on this website
Autos.mercadolibre.com.ar - Argentina's best (I think!) used car sales. However, I have heard that buying a vehicle in Argentina can be a pain in the arse and that only residents can buy and then travel between countries. As one blogger wrote that found this out the hard way, that would suck immensely.
FollowTheHound - travelling from North to South in a troopy. I am indeed stalking them!
NYKLine.com - these lovely ladies have been the nicest people going, and they handle shipping throughout Central America and also to Ecuador and Columbia. Hopefully I'll get to meet them next year!
Skyscanner.com.au - giving me an indication of flights around the world at a touch of a button, and I used it last year too when in Central America as well
OverlandingSouthAmerica - this is a closed facebook group but there are over 1000 members on this wonderful forum and I've been actively contributing for a few months, well worth checking out if you're interested.
The blog will be a record of everything - from idea conception to old age in making this adventure happen
You can find the excellent 2006 Antipodean Adventure blog by Dwyer Rooney here