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One cannot simply come for a Chile tour without being on high exploration-mode. While many opt for an organized tour to visit some of the best attractions of the country, there are also others who want to explore the country on their own. And there’s no better way to do that than with your own set of wheels. Get the adventure started by renting a car in Chile as soon as you arrive!
Hitting the open road in a foreign country is exhilarating, to say the least. The adventure into the great unknown is liberating, and a rental car in Chile is the first step to planning a great trip.
Below we’ve outlined everything you need to know before renting a car in Chile.
- Maureen Reiss
The main roads in Chile are, for the most part, well-paved and easily accessible. However, dirt and gravel roads can pop up unexpectedly, are not indicated on maps, and road construction can cause muddy and/or bumpy conditions.
Take the Atacama Desert main roads, for example. They are mostly paved with major sites well signposted. However, the roads are quite desolate and it’s possible to drive for long stretches without seeing another soul! Construction along these roads is common and it’s possible you’ll be detoured via an alternate route. Another example is the Carretera Austral. Also known as the Southern Highway, this is a famous route bisecting Northern Patagonia. The route is absolutely stunning, snaking its way through forests, mountains, rivers, and glacier streams. However, it’s also considered Chile’s most challenging road trip; expect dirt and gravel roads with lots of potholes. The terrain can be steep and, in certain sections, prone to landslides and rockslides. Only the most fearless drivers would dare take it on!
The driving conditions are largely dependent on the weather conditions. Summer is typically the best time to rent a car in Chile and get out there. The months of December through March offer favorable road conditions – dry and without cold-weather elements like rain, ice, or snow.
Road trippers could experience closed roads in winter (June through August) due to weather and road conditions. It’s best to follow the advice of locals during these months and not attempt to drive on any dangerous or compromised roads.
Overall, the roads in Chile are in decent condition. However, this can change with the weather and it’s not uncommon for paved roads to suddenly switch to gravel or dirt without warning. It’s best to spring for a 4x4 vehicle which is better equipped to handle the tougher challenges on the road.
- Insurance: All car rental companies provide insurance, it’s just a matter of how much and how beneficial it is. There’s always a standard insurance that’s included or obligatory to purchase. You may want to consider additional liability insurance or roadside assistance in case of a blown tire, breakdown, etc. Ask the car rental company what they can offer.
- Cost: Consider how much the rental, insurance, gasoline, and the painful 19% VAT will run you in total. The car rental price may seem cheap at first, but remember all the little extras that add up. It is always better to run a thorough questioning before you sign up.
- Unlimited vs limited mileage: Be aware that some companies don’t allow you to drive to your heart’s content. Some car rental agencies put a cap on the number of kilometers you can clock in one day. Make sure you’re clear on the restrictions, or inquire about unlimited mileage to give yourself more freedom.
- Pick-up services: This is a super useful service and many car companies offer it. However, if you rent directly from the airport then that means there’s no pick-up required! It also means you go straight from the plane directly to your own wheels. No need for a middle man (AKA the pick-up service). You’ll drop the car off at the airport just before your flight, eliminating the need for an expensive taxi ride to catch your flight.
- Time period: The longer you rent the car for, the better the deal. Daily prices are quite high, but rent for a weekend, week, or month and the average daily cost comes out much cheaper.
To obtain a rental car in Chile you need to be 20 years or older, present a major credit card in the driver’s name, present a driver’s license from home, and (likely) an International Driving Permit (IDP). Not all car rental companies will require an IDL, but it’s best to be prepared and apply for one before you leave home.
Note: For drivers who are between the ages of 20–22, the insurance deductible cost is doubled.
Be aware: You must carry your regular driver's’ license as well as the IDP when you drive in a foreign country. One does not constitute the other!
There are many car rental options in Chile ranging from locally run companies to internationally known brands. Here are our recommendations for car rental companies in Chile.
1. Localiza Chile offers a wide variety of vehicles ranging from 4-door Renault coups, to Suzuki Rav-4s, to Toyota 4-wheel-drive trucks and SUVs. Localiza is a well-known car rental company in Latin America with over 530 locations and 41 years of experience. Localiza car rentals are readily accessible with 10 different pick-up locations in Chile. Daily, weekly, and monthly rates are available. Daily rentals start at less than USD 30 per day.
2. Automóvil Club de Chile is the Chilean equivalent of the American Automobile Association (AAA). With 33 branches in most of Chile’s major cities scattered up and down the country, this auto club hooks its members up with a whole lot of great benefits. Not a member of this Chilean Auto Club? No problem. They honor international auto clubs AAA (USA) and AA (UK) memberships as if they were their own! The Automóvil Club de Chile sorts their customers out with car rentals, free towing, and roadside assistance.
3. Wicked Campers is undoubtedly the most unique vehicle rental in Chile. They specialize in cheap, funky, brightly-painted camper vans. Each camper van comes equipped with a roof rack, mattress, outdoor plastic table and chairs, single gas burner, water container, ice box, pots, pans, and cutlery. There are a variety of vans which can accommodate anywhere from 2 to 6 people. They also have a price beat guarantee, which means they’ll beat the price of any other camper van rental in Chile that’s cheaper than Wicked Campers. You’ll save money with Wicked Campers either way since you can sleep in the van and don’t have to pay for additional accommodation! Of course, this style of travel is truly for the rugged, rough, and wild at heart!
4. LYS Rent A Car is the first car rental company in Chile to start offering online rentals. As a local company, they have decades of experience renting cars to foreigners who come to visit Chile. They also boast the country’s only 24/7 English help desk! No matter when you run into trouble, LYS is there for you via phone, email, or WhatsApp. Overall, this is a very accommodating and professional car rental in Chile.
Renting a car in Chile allows drivers to explore all the ins and outs of the country. With your own car, you can venture to places that organized tours don’t visit. This allows you to get a real sense of the country that most other people don’t. Selecting a car rental in Chile depends upon how you want to travel; rough it in a camper, explore a little further in a 4x4, or travel in comfort in a spacious 4-door, as long as it allows you to shape your own excursion!