As I recently went through this process, I will detail the steps to take and the paperwork needed to sell your vehicle in Panama. Many of the travelers find out (like me) that selling a SH car in Colombia or Ecuador is impossible, so unless you plan to take it back, you’ll find yourself in a tight corner, trying to get rid of it before crossing the Darien Gap. And as the process to sell the car in Panama is not very difficult, the paperwork you need to clear the entrance stamp in your passport is a bit overwhelming.

In short:
1. find a buyer
2. go to a notary
3. take the vehicle to storage
4. cancel your passport stamp

Tip: some may want you to declare the vehicle totally damaged, this way they would buy fake papers and register it without paying the import tax. Whatever works as long as you get the “cancel” stamp in your passport.

More details about the legal way:
1. find someone who won’t back off when he finds out the cost of the import tax (quite a big tax). You will probably lower the price a lot under the value of the vehicle. You may go to Autortidad Nacional de Aduanas and ask for “valuacion” to get an rough unofficial estimate of the value of the vehicle (according to their catalogs) as well as a tax estimate for the nationalization of the vehicle (about 30% of the catalog value in my case). Or better off, sell it to someone travelling North. It’s easier to sell it where it was bought. Borders can be crossed with a notarized paper, or a notarized compraventa. I would get both to make sure.

  1. Take all this to a notary office:

– a printed and filled up/signed sale bill (compraventa samples found online)
– your passport and ID of the buyer in original and copies
– original and copy of the vehicle title
The notary will legalize the copies you brought and ask for your fingerprints on the contract (buyer will pay. This notary charged 40$ for the above papers)

  1. Take all this, as well as the vehicle, to the Kinte storage place (Almacenadora Kinte SA – google maps knows) to deposit the vehicle. You park it, go upstairs, ask for nationalization papers/storage (they only speak Spanish) and hand over the documents. You will be asked to fill up another declaration and give you a quote for 20 days of storage (that’s the minimum time, and the buyer has to pay it). Once agreed, wait for all the papers to be processed (about 30min) and then go downstairs to pay and sign a declaration of storage. Meanwhile they take pictures and inspect the vehicle. Once done with the payment you may drive it to the storage (a parking place, a container, or a covered but very dusty deposit area for motorcycles). Once done, return to the entrance and go to the local customs (aduana) office to get a paper release form. Need this and for the last step.

  2. Once you got all this, head over to the Autortidad Nacional de Aduanas (few blocks away – Avenida Ascanio Villalaz). This step can be done without the buyer, but you need to return the papers to him. You need to present another form of ID at the entrance to receive a Visitor badge. Someone will take you to the desk called “Control vehicular” which is at the end of a long labyrinth of corridors. Hand over the stack of papers along with your passport to the customs officer who will stamp your passport cancelling the import stamp.

At this point you’re free to walk away and leave the country – the buyer will handle the registration and nationalization papers. Good luck!