Should You Ship Your Car to Panama?

During a 6-day 7-night all-inclusive Panama Relocation Tours, we go into great details (including special tips) about shipping household goods, cars, and pets to Panama.  Since 2010, we’ve been offering Panama Relocation Tours and have completed more than 160 relocation tours as of January 2022. We’ve helped 1000s of people relocate to Panama the easy way. Here’s an overview of the important information you need to know if you are considering shipping your car to Panama.


hyundai santa fe

It will cost about $3500 to $5,000 to ship your car to Panama. If there is a lien (loan) on the car, you’ll need to either pay it off or get permission from the lender to take the car out of the country.

There will also be a tax to bring your car into Panama. The car broker can give you more details but you can estimate a 17% tax based on what car value is. Customs in Panama will determine the car value.

Once the car arrives in Panama, you have 30 days to get it re-registered as a Panama car which will cost about $1500. Failure to get your car re-registered will result in it getting impounded. The price difference depends on how far you are from a port.

North American cars have emission controls and catalytic convertors but Panama cars do not. Therefore, you may have a hard time finding a good mechanic to work on your North American car and it could take months to get any parts that are needed.

The gasoline in Panama is 91 or 95 octane and does not have ethanol so some cars do not do well with Panama gasoline. Diesel gas is also available and more affordable than regular gasoline in Panama.

A good example….Friends thought he was getting a heck of a deal by buying a 2008 car with low miles for $4000. The car had been brought in from Georgia. Because the gasoline in Panama is different, the lowest octane is 91 and there is no ethanol in the gas, he started having problems with the car. One time they drove from Chitre to Boquete but the car overheated many times along the way until it finally just stopped. I helped them get a wrecker to take it to a local mechanic. The mechanic determined that he needed certain parts which took 3 months to get to Panama. Three months (with no car) and $3500 in repairs later, the car still has problems in Panama.


The moral of the story, it’s not always cheaper to bring your car to Panama. If you do bring your car into Panama, it would be a good idea to bring the parts most frequently needed with you.

I know you’re going to ask… NO, you cannot fill your car up with your household goods when you ship it to Panama. The car must be completely empty and drain the oil and gas too.

Good cars are readily available in Panama. You can buy new cars or go to a used car dealer.  I used a car broker to help find the first car I purchased in Panama. You just tell the car broker how much you want to spend and what you are looking for then they go find the car for you. The car broker has the car inspected and handles all the paperwork to transfer ownership to you. My first car was a Kia Sportage with 25,000 miles which I purchased for $9,000. My second car was a Nissan X-Trail with 25,000 miles which I purchased for $7500. A few months ago I purchased a 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe with only 5,000km for under $20,000 (it still has the factory warranty).

A tour client shipping his motorcycle to Panama  READ THE DETAILS HERE

Jackie Lange

Jackie Lange is the founder of Panama Relocation Tours and lives in the highlands of Boquete Panama. She has helped thousands of people relocate to Panama.

Reader Interactions


  1. Grace chychul says

    Is there a car broker in Coronado or only in Panama City.

    • Jackie Lange says

      There are car brokers in several locations throughout Panama, including Coronado. During a Panama Relocation Tour we’ll give you the complete list of reliable car brokers.

  2. nita daviesbagnall says

    If the auto that we may drive down to Panama is electric, is there an ev charging infrastructure in Panama?

    • Dustin Lange says

      Our staff in Panama do not drive electric vehicles so we have no first-hand knowledge of this. Based on my research there are very few ev charging stations in Panama and possibly even fewer in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Even if you managed to get the vehicle to Panama you would probably have a very difficult time finding a mechanic who could work on it.

  3. Keith Anderson says

    Hi Jackie,
    Just watched a video of a couple that highly recommended your tour. My wife and I are strongly considering a move to Panama, and specifically to Boquete. Not sure at this point (with COVID and flying — my wife being in a higher risk group) but I may end up doing an initial on sight check out on my own if necessary in Nov. or Dec. 2020. Would appreciate a way of contacting you and any initial thoughts you might have of how we could meet if I fly down, that is I don’t know where your tours start from, how often you do them, etc.
    Keith Anderson

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Keith

      Because of the pandemic, we’re currently not doing Panama Relocation Tours. But we do offer private tours of Boquete and other areas. A private tour would just have you and the tour guide. For safety reasons, we don’t combine people from two different families. They are $200 per tour per day. We recommend doing a 2 day private tour so you can get a good understanding of the town. see details at

  4. Candis says

    I have a right-hand drive 1995 Jeep Cherokee that is great still to this day and thinking of shipping it to Panama once we purchase our vacation home there. Does the car need to be a certain year/model to ship to Panama, also does it have to be left hand drive – someone mentioned that it has to be left-hand drive.

    • Jackie Lange says

      Unless the rules have changed, the car cannot be more than 10 years old when you import it into Panama.

      • Joe Couture says

        I just now chatted with a shipping company that confirmed the 10 year rule

  5. jerzy przybylko says

    I’m planning on driving my 2016 GMC Canyon truck with a trailer (mostly construction tools) for the purpose of building a house there (I’m a retired contractor on pensionado visa) for duration of construction about a year or so. After that I’d return truck back to US and buy Panamenian SUV. What are the implication of such a move?

    • Jackie Lange says

      if you have a trailer with construction tools, it will probably be considered commercial and you’ll have a tax at each border. Once you get to Panama, you must register your car as a Panama vehicle within 30 days and pay a transfer tax of about 17% of the value.

      Listen to this interview with a guy who drove from Texas to Panama

  6. Isabel Burke says

    I have plans to move to Panama and have my car shipped to Panama. Since I am dual citizen and retired will I have to pay the taxes for the car once in Panama or will it be duty-free? thanks in advance

    • Jackie Lange says

      Isabel. In addition to the $3500 to $5000 to get your car to Panama, you will still have to pay a 17% tax and pay about $1500 to get the car re-registered as a Panama car. It may be more cost-effective to buy a car in Panama.

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