Thursday, November 7, 2013

Rock Auto To The Rescue

By Scott

Before starting our trip to South America, I spent a couple months and a couple thousand dollars getting El Tigre ready for the journey. Most of that money was spent at Despite their barebones website, their prices, speed of delivery, and customer support is excellent (by the way, we are not sponsored by anyone).

They recently bailed me out in Colombia. I was attempting to modify my fan clutch to engage at a lower temperature. In the process, I ended up cutting through the housing. A local told me I might be able to find a new one in the seedy auto parts neighborhood in the giant and hectic city of Bogota, but that it would cost $200-300. Instead, I found the fan clutch I wanted from RockAuto for $100 with FedEx Priority International shipping for $85. I ordered on Sunday, the part shipped from the US on Monday, it cleared customs on Tuesday, and was delivered in Bogota on Wednesday!

That's pretty awesome. The one downside is that I ended up paying another $50 in Colombian import taxes to take delivery. These taxes would have been legitimate if I lived in Colombia, but since I'm passing through Colombia, and the fan clutch will leave with me, it should not have been subject to import taxes. Unfortunately, I didn't make RockAuto, FedEx, or Customs aware of that ahead of time.

Old clutch with epoxy and sealant. It probably would have worked. Luckily, we didn't have to put it to the test.

During this episode we parked at the Hostal Renacer in Villa de Leyva. The owner, Oscar, was extremely helpful in getting the part delivered to a friend and fellow hostal owner in Bogata. Oscar happened to be driving 3 hours to Bogata to visit his friend the day after our part was delivered!!!! Oscar picked up the part and hand-delivered it to us in Villa de Leyva - unheard of!

Camping at Hostal Renacer was peaceful and quite nice

For other overlanders, it is possible to avoid paying import taxes for goods that are leaving the country with you. The key is to contact Customs in advance. From what I've read, all countries in South America have a process for Short Term Temporay Importation of goods that will subsequently be exported. It's really no different than how your vehicle and personal effects are handled when driving across borders, or how your luggage is treated when flying into a country. If you aren't reselling the items, or giving them to locals as gifts, you should not be taxed.

In Colombia, in order to be classified as a temporary import, the package needs to be delivered to a specific warehouse designated by Colombian Customs.  I'm sure that would have slowed down the delivery process, but it would have saved me $50. That's a pretty cheap lesson that could pay off if I screw up again and have to ship something really expensive, but surely that won't happen, right?

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