Our Guide to Buying and Selling a Used Motorbike in Colombia

If you’re planning a long-haul motorcycle journey through South America, you’re inevitably going to want a set of wheels of your own. Provided you’re not hell bent on bringing your own wheels from home, buying a used motorcycle on arrival is generally the most cost- effective way to country-hopping through the continent.

If your first question was; “can I, as a foreign tourist, legally purchase a motorcycle in South America” we’ve already given you the answer: 


However, buying a vehicle in a South American country is a little more complicated than just answering a Craigslist ad and handing over a stack of cash.

Furthermore, legalities around non-citizens buying, registering and selling vehicles vary greatly from country to country.

So, for the purposes of this blog, we’re going to focus mainly on what we know best – buying and selling pre-owned bikes in Colombia. Fortunately, Colombia is a great place to kick off a South American adventure from a geographical standpoint, it’s also one of the easiest places to buy your own bike as a foreigner.

Things to Consider Beforehand

Whether you decide to buy a new or a used bike in Colombia or another South American country, you’ll need to do some research up-front.

Some of the most important questions to ask yourself are:

  • Can I register a bike in my own name as a foreigner, without a permanent local address?
  • Do I need any kind of special insurance?
  • What additional paperwork will I need to allow me to legally cross international borders?
  • Will I be able to sell the motorcycle relatively easily afterwards?

And, if you’re buying a used motorcycle:

  • How do I make sure I’m buying a bike that’s not a complete hunk of caca?

Often it’s that last point is that turns out to be the most frustrating. As a general rule, finding pre-owned bikes in good condition can be difficult and time-consuming without the right connections. And even if you buy direct from a dealership, service standards aren’t always as stringent as what you might be used to.

Seriously. Make sure your bike is up to the task. If there’s anything troubling you, get a second opinion from a reputable mechanic even after you’ve made your purchase. A remote mountain pass in the Andes or a muddy trail in the Amazon is just about the last place on earth you want your “new” set of wheels to give out on you.

Can I Bring My Foreign Registered Bike to Colombia? Can I Sell It There Too?

Since opening Motolombia, we’ve received countless questions on importing, buying and selling motorcycles in Colombia.
Being at that halfway point between the US and the rest of South America, Colombia is sort of a chokepoint for travellers. Some are at the end of their journey and desperate to sell their US and EU registered bikes before returning home.

There’s just one problem with that:

Selling a foreign registered bike in Colombia is illegal!

Now, plenty of people do bring foreign-registered bikes to Colombia, but this is only legal if the purpose of your visit is “tourism”. If you are indeed a tourist, Customs will issue you with a TTIP (Temporary Tourism Import Permit).

As a tourist, you are allowed to operate a foreign-registered vehicle in Colombia for three months. The TTIP also lets you leave Colombia with your bike and get a renewed three month stay upon returning.

Occasionally, we do hear of the odd tourist in Colombia selling their foreign-registered bike to another foreigner. The problem with this is the original vehicle title cannot be legally transferred to a new owner.

This makes it;

  • Impossible to obtain mandatory drivers’ insurance
  • Extremely awkward when the new owner tries to take the bike out of Colombia (or gets checked out by police or customs at any random control point). The owner will be asked to hand over the vehicle registration card, which will of course be invalid and will usually result in the offending vehicle being immediately confiscated.
  • Extremely risky and costly should you be involved in an accident with injuries occurring as you will have no 3rd party coverage, nor be covered yourself and will likely result in you taking the full blame no matter the fault and in severe cases end with jail time.

Purchasing a Pre-Owned Motorcycle in Colombia

Before You Buy 

As a foreigner, you can legally purchase a Colombian registered bike, and have the vehicle title transferred into your name and acquire mandatory insurance without requiring a permanent address in Colombia.

Before you start negotiations, make sure the seller has all the motorcycle’s papers in order.

The documents required to sell a vehicle in Colombia are:

  • Registration Card
  • Technico Mechanica – a document from an authorised test center (valid for 12 months) verifying that the vehicle is currently roadworthy
  • SOAT – Basic, third-party insurance. Compulsory for all vehicles while in Colombian territory. While the insurance is about $150 USD/year for smaller vehicles the “SOAT” is valid only in Colombia. You will have to purchase a new SOAT each time you enter a new country in South America. They can usually be purchased for one month at a time.

Then, there’s one more vital step:

RUNT (Registro Único Nacional de Tránsito) is a national database for all drivers and owners of vehicles in Colombia. Registering with RUNT is free, and essential. Valid passport and a finger for fingerprint registration required.

Transferring the Registration
Finally, it’s time for you and the seller to head to the Transport Office where the vehicle is currently registered. Bring your driver’s license and passport.
There’s quite a lot of paperwork to be filled out during this process, and it’s important you understand everything you sign.

If you purchase your bike from a dealership rather than a private party, the dealer should ensure that all procedures are followed correctly. Remember though, there aren’t too many second-hand moto dealers in Colombia used to dealing with tourists.

Buying a Pre-Owned Motorcycle with MotoDreamer

Helping tourists get on the road is all we do, so buy a bike with us and we’ll help take care of everything. 


If you want to ride independently through South America, a rentals is fine should you only plan to spend a couple of weeks, up to about a month on the road.

However, if your South American adventure is a long-term kinda thing, that per-day rental fee eventually becomes cost prohibitive and a pre-owned purchase ends up as the most sensible/affordable option.

Also, motorcycles rented in Colombia are prohibited from traversing any border, other than the Ipiales/Tulcan crossing into Ecuador.

At MotoDreamer, we have a small but highly maintained fleet of pre-owned motos available for sale here.

If you’re looking for something dirt cheap (and hey, there’s nothing wrong with that – provided your ‘bush mechanic’ skills are rock solid), you’ll need to search elsewhere, as we only deal in relatively late model, mid-to-high end machines.

We know you just want to start riding as fast as possible, instead of getting bogged down in paperwork. Part of our service is making sure you and your new bike are 100% road legal. Once the bike is under your name, you have the freedom to cross international borders and explore South America as you please.

Altogether, from choosing your bike, having us set it up to your liking, sorting the paperwork and wheeling the bike out of the shop and into the world, the entire process takes between two and five days.

And, at the end of it all, we can even buy your bike back! Yes, we can make the massively annoying headache of selling a used bike in a foreign country completely disappear, instead of hanging around to ruin the end of your holiday of a lifetime!

How Does MotoDreamer’s Buy-Back Scheme Work?

Riding from the Caribbean to Tierra del Fuego and back is awesome. What’s not awesome is your trip ending and you realising the motorcycle that brought you so much joy now needs getting rid of, and pronto.

After hearing from so many riders who ended up with issues selling their bikes before going home, we introduced the MotoDreamer Buy-Back Guarantee, the only motorcycle buy-back scheme of its kind in South America. We guarantee to buy the bike back from you up to six months after the initial purchase, for a pre-arranged value. There’s no obligation to return it to us in the end, however, should your bike find another buyer, or perhaps even another purpose.

Of course, there are terms and conditions:

  • The buyer must return the vehicle to MotoDreamer in the same condition it was received in, accepting normal wear and tear
  • A full before and after workshop report is issued to bring to light any damage or unauthorised modifications
  • If we do discover any issues, they will be itemised and deducted from the return payment. Alternatively, the buyer has the option to fix the issues elsewhere before returning the vehicle
  • The buyer is responsible for maintaining the bike in roadworthy condition and following the maintenance plan issued by the manufacturer

What if Want to Buy a Bike Elsewhere in South America?

Anything outside of Colombia is beyond our expertise. The rules in Colombia change often enough – we simply can’t keep up with them and all the other countries!

Motorcycle travellers – Colombia is an excellent place to buy a motorcycle in South America, not just because of its strategic position, but because tourists can legally register vehicles in their own name.

In several other South American countries, the process is far more complicated, with all kinds of additional hoops to jump through, such as requiring sponsorship or acquiring a special permit.

In the case of Argentina (considered the worst country to buy a vehicle in as a foreigner in South America), any vehicle that has Argentinian papers but is registered to a foreign driver is prohibited from leaving the country at all!

If you’ve dreamt of exploring South America by motorcycle, we urge you to get out there and do it.

Written by: Fiona Davies (extreme pillion rider and adventure travel writer)


24 thoughts on “Our Guide to Buying and Selling a Used Motorbike in Colombia

  1. Bonnassies says:

    Ils a good idea! Have you one Royal enfield 500 to sell and but after six months?? What is the price to buy for me and then what is thé price when i sell you thé royal enfield??

    • Mike says:

      Thanks for the comment the bike prices can be found here: Pre-owned bikes. You can expect up to 60% of purchase price with in the first 6 month after purchase.

  2. Gary says:

    Is it possible to purchase a bike in Columbia and sell it in a different country?

    • Mike says:

      Hi Gary as a general rule NO. Most countries in South America do not allow import of used foreign registered vehicles, but you can always find a foreign buyer to sell to and they will take the bike out before the temporary permit runs out. Its not as straight forward as it sounds and can rarely be done 100% legally. Check the bike forums for post from people who have done it.

  3. Rus Krause says:

    Thank you for the excellent article! This has been a hot topic in many of the conversations I’ve had with other overlanders in South America. I was recently in an accident, and the injuries were severe enough I had to fly home and leave my bike in Peru with friends. If I can’t return and it’s too expensive to ship it back home, im wondering if i could give it to them and legally transfer title as a gift.

    • Mike says:

      I do not believe Peru accept import of used foreign registered vehicles. Which in effect means that you can not leave it longer than the temporary tourist permit in the country even if you wish to give it away or pay an import tax it is not possible. Basically the likely scenario is that customs will confiscate it if found in the country after expired permit.

  4. Andrea says:

    Hello, thank you for your article. Do you know something about bolivia? Can i buy there the bike and travel outside the country?

    • Mike Thomsen says:

      Hi Andrea, Bolivia is complicated. There are restrictions on what bikes can enter (for example Peruvian registered bikes can not enter Bolivia), and fuel is not always easily available. I recommend you read up on it in the bike forums. We don’t deal with any of that from here in Colombia, we only pass through the country once a year or so.

  5. Jeff says:

    Hello, I am in the United States and I would like to find out how I can purchase a motorcycle for someone who lives in Muzo, Colombia. She has to travel every day up the mountain to the village to take care of a dog shelter. I would like to figure out a way to get her a motorcycle to make her travel easier. Thanks!

    • Mike Thomsen says:

      Hi Jeff Sorry for the delay. Corona times!

      It depends whether you need to purchase the bike and keep it in your name or register it to the ladies name. In either case the one who will figure as the owner on the documents, will need to register in the central register with El Transito. This requires legal ID and fingerprint (so must show up personally).

      Once the “owner” is registered you can purchase a vehicle and get it registered to the persons name. You do not need to be a resident to register. You can register using your passport but fingerprint is unavoidable.

      To register a bike there are several form to fill out. Usually the dealerships will sort that out, but again the need for ID and fingerprints are necessary. This can of course be posted if needed. If you buy used you normally have to get involved with the process yourself to ensure it gets done correctly, so you don’t get cheated.

      We own a Honda dealership in Cali, so we can sell you a new Honda and help sort out all the paperwork. Our used bikes are 600cc and up, so likely not what you are looking for. Feel free to get in touch if you need our help!

  6. Brian McDonald says:

    I am looking to buy a used ATV Quad. I don’t need something super powerful. It’s just for cruising up the mountain with my wife. I don’t want something to old. I am living near Santa Marta Colombia.

    • Mike Thomsen says:

      Hi Brian Thanks for getting in touch. We do not deal with Quads at all, so I’m afraid I can not be of help to you with this. If you need something on two wheels, I’m happy to help!

  7. Brian McDonald says:

    Thank you for your help Mike. Is there a cost or taxes to pay when buying a used bike or atv?

    • Mike Thomsen says:

      Yes there is a registration cost involved with title change and normally buyer will have you pay for what is left of the insurance, yearly taxes and road worthy test. So depending on how many month is left you take total and divide by twelve and you pay the number of months left on each of the items.

  8. Patrick says:

    Hi Mike. Thanks for an informative article. I’d like to buy a bike in Colombia and ride to Argentina, but I don’t want to ride back. Assuming that I can find a buyer in Argentina (that wants to ride back to Colombia), is it viable that I sell the bike to that person, and you buy it from him/her in Colombia? At this point it doesn’t seem viable to me, as I wouldn’t be able to transfer the ownership to that person, which means he/she would have problems crossing borders. But maybe I’m wrong. Thanks.

    • Mike Thomsen says:

      Hi Patrick

      Yes, that is complicated. It can not be done legally. You can leave documents signed here for a title transfer, but the person buying the bike will have to trust in your word that its possible to transfer title when he arrives in Colombia and take the risk of having problems crossing borders. Furthermore our buy-back guarantee is personal, so buyer most return and ensure all terms our the agreement are completed.

  9. ASH Green says:

    Awesome! No words. You always go one step beyond.

    There is so much great, useful information here. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
    Read our guide if you wish.

    Thanks again 🙂

  10. Kyle McElfresh says:

    Hi Mike. Does one need a motorcycle license to operate a bike in South America? I’m confident in my riding ability, but I don’t have a US motorcycle license (or permit).

    • Mike Thomsen says:

      Hi Kyle

      Yes, every country in South America require and motorcycle license to operate a motorcycle. It is also a requirement to rent or purchase a motorcycle.

  11. Rick says:

    Mike. Question please. Do you know how bike prices compare in Colombia to those in Uruguay.

    Very expensive in Uruguay.

    I am trying to research comparative prices but struggle.

    I have an MT09 Yamaha here in Montevideo and may be moving to Colombia so is it financially better to sell it here and get the good price i am likely to and then re buy another bike there or take it with me.

    What would I pay there for an MT09 Yamaha 20,000 kms 5 years old Thanks

    • Mike Thomsen says:

      Hey Rick

      The quick answer is you have no option here. It’s illegal to import a used vehicle into Colombia, period. So you can not bring your bike here for another thing other than a 3 month tourist visit. If you come here on any other visa or status you can not bring a vehicle with you and you can not sell your foreign registered bike here either.

      I recommend you check prices on Mercado Libre online to review local prices here.

  12. Rick Shaw (its Frederick but I always got Rick) says:

    Hi again Mike.

    So as a further option ,rather than bringing a bike form Uruguay to Colombia, which you have said is a no no . What

    tax do you pay as part of the purchase price of a new bike ?

    In particular an MT10.. What percentage of the price you pay is Tax ? Here in Uruguay its around 40%.

    Thanks Rick

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