Buying a Motorcycle in Ecuador
How to do it, what to get, how much it will cost
Ecuador is an incredible place to motorcycle. Most of the roads are in great condition. There are mountain roads and coastal roads with magnificent views. For the more adventurous, there are precarious dirt, gravel, and stone roads that will take you to hard to reach off-the-beaten-path destinations. The best way to experience it all is on two wheels.
I knew I wanted a motorcycle even before I set foot in Ecuador. Visions of road trips to the coast hauled-ass through my head.
After arriving and experiencing Ecuador’s thorough but sometimes frustrating transit system, I had even more reason to get my act together and figure out how to own a motorcycle in a country where I don’t speak the language.
Motorcycles are expensive in Ecuador
The import taxes here are extortionate. Anything foreign made will cost an extra 25% to cover the import tax. On top of that is another 12% sales tax. I briefly looked into shipping over my Harley, which has been in storage for the past 6 years, but that would have cost me more than the bike is even worth.
So unless the bike is made in Ecuador, which isn’t really a thing, it’s probably going to cost around 25% more to even double the price.
For example, the 2019 Honda Africa Twin Adventure, which I think would be a pretty good bike for Ecuador, in America goes for about $16,000. In Ecuador it’s $32,000.
My budget was more like $2500, which is plenty of money to get a decent bike in North America, but in Ecuador I am limited.
Chinese Motorcycle in Ecuador
Most of the motorcycles in Ecuador are Chinese. Pretty much all of them have been rebranded for the local market with names like RANGER, SHINERAY, SUKIDA, DAYTONA, LONCIN, THUNDER, AXXO, and even LAMBORBINI.
Now I should explain that a Chinese motorcycle isn’t necessarily all Chinese made. The motor would be for sure, but some of the other stuff might be made in Ecuador, or other parts of the world. A lot of these bikes are shipped over unassembled and put together by the dealership, or a garage in Ecuador.
I had to make a choice between a Chinese bike, which is a lot cheaper, or a name brand bike (likely Japanese) which is better quality but around twice the price.
New or used?
An interesting thing about buying vehicles in Ecuador, they retain their value really well. This is good if you want to sell, but bad if you’re looking to buy used.
For example, a 2010 Toyota Corolla in Ecuador costs around 12-13 thousand dollars. In America, I think you can get that car for under $5000.
I will probably not live in Ecuador forever, so in the back of my mind I had to think about selling the bike in as little as 2 years time.
However, the paperwork involved with buying a used bike seemed quite complicated. There is a lot of red tape in Ecuador and with my limited Spanish everything would be a lot harder.
On the other hand, buying new almost always comes with free matriculation. I’ll get into matriculation later, but it’s pretty much just a fancy word for registration.
How much power?
The size of the engine is probably more important in Ecuador than in most countries. I literally live on the side of a mountain. For my wife and I to go for lunch we either head to the city and go up in altitude about 350 meters, or we head into the valley -- a drop of about 300 meters, so I needed a motorcycle with enough power to pull two people up a mountain.
I ruled out anything under 200cc.
There are some reasonably priced Suzukis and Hondas in Ecuador, but they’re both 125cc. The cost of anything brand name with more power would put me way over my budget.
So I decided on a Chinese motorcycle.
Which Chinese Motorcycle to Buy in Ecuador
The problem with doing research on this topic is it’s very difficult to figure out what company even makes the engine for any random Ecuadorian-Chinese bike. I could find a Chinese engine manufacturer that gets decent reviews, but figuring out what they market that bike as in Ecuador was near impossible. On top of that, every market from Brazil to Thailand is calling the bike something different.
I hit the streets with my terrible Spanish and began asking motorcycle dealers one simple question: “¿Cuál es la mejor motocicleta china en Ecuador?” or “What’s the best Chinese motorcycle in Ecuador?”
The name that kept coming up, even from dealers that sold more expensive Chinese bikes, was “Galardi”.
Galardi might be the worst name for a motorcycle ever, but I guess it’s the bike for me.
I never did find out the name of the Chinese company that makes the engine in the Galardi. I asked around but no one could tell me. What I did like about the Galardi is, first of all, it seemed taller than most bikes. I’m probably a good half a foot taller than the average Ecuadorian, so size was definitely a concern for me.
Their bikes were also dual-sport -- kind of a cruiser dirt-bike hybrid. Perfect for going down roads that Google Maps highly recommends I avoid.
Galardi has 200cc, 250cc, and 300cc motorcycles. That should be enough power to drag my ass up a mountain.
Even better than that though, they have the option of carburetor or fuel injection. This is important in Ecuador if you plan to go, or if you live in the mountains. High elevation means the air is thinner and carburetors will often have problems. A bike with fuel injection uses a computer to measure the air pressure and to determine how much fuel is needed. From talking to a few motorcycle riders in the area, I heard the first thing to go on a bike in Ecuador is almost always the carburetor.
A brand new 250 Galardi Tutori with fuel injection cost $2250. The 300 with fuel injection would have put me slightly over budget.
I did find some used Galardis for sale, but the price difference between one that’s 1 year old and the brand new 2020 model, was about $300.
The new one also came with a helmet, a 15 month (or 20,000 KM) warranty, 3 free maintenances, and it included matriculation.
It was decided: a brand new Galardi 250cc fuel injected.
Matriculation and all that nasty paperwork
In Ecuador, every vehicle has to be matriculated. It costs money, depending on how much your vehicle is worth. It would have cost me around $100 I think, so that $300 I would have saved by buying used instantly dropped down to $200.
But it’s the headache of it all that I wanted to avoid.
Once I bought the bike I had to go into the Agencia Nacional de Tránsito del Ecuador (or as they call it, the ANT) to put myself into the system. Because I was new in the country and had never been registered, I had to… well:
Travel an hour to get to the office, find out their system was down and I’d have to come back on Monday, make the hour-long trip home, go back again after the weekend, stand in line for about 20 minutes, explain via my phone translator what I wanted, take a number and go upstairs to the real waiting room, wait about 2 and a half more hours, go to a desk, explain again using my translator what I needed, give the woman my passport, a few keystrokes later and I was in the system.
Now the matriculation process could begin. Thankfully, for me that involved sitting around my house and watching pet videos.
In total, it took around 3 weeks for the bike to be matriculated. I was growing ever-impatient as I took the bus down the winding roads into the valley, but the motorcycle was finally mine!
The dealership that I bought it from is actually called Galardi Motors. You can get other brands there, but I think now they are focused on just the Galardi. I’m not really sure… but I must say that they were very helpful. The salesman I worked with spoke great English, he explained everything very well, and he gave me his WhatsApp contact so I could harass him anytime of the day. On top of great service, it was also the cheapest place selling the bike that I found.
When I picked up the bike, they went through everything with me. How it operated, the steps I would have to take to get my license plate, and to get the “vehicle revision”.
In 2 months time I have to pickup the actual license plate (I was only given a temporary one). That means a return trip to the 4th ring of Hell.
The “revision” is a sort of E-test that has to be done on all vehicles. I had to make an appointment online, however in order to do that you need to have a Cedula, an Ecuadorian ID card. I obviously don’t have one, so I had to go directly to the revision place and make the appointment in person. I was able to get an opening for the next day.
The next day I head back to the place, but, as I was instructed, instead of going in I take my bike to a mechanic nearby. Apparently this is pretty much mandatory. Mechanics aren’t hard to find as they surround the entrance of the testing office and yell at you as you approach.
As far as I could tell, the mechanic calibrates the amount of gasoline going into the bike. You then go for your test, which just involves handing over your keys and the print out confirming your reservation, and then waiting for about 20 minutes. When it’s done, you head back to the mechanic, he adjusts everything back to how it was before, and you pay him. It cost $10. The mechanic held my driver’s license while I took the bike to get tested. Seems kind of crazy not to have my driver’s license when I’m driving to some government transportation office, but okay. You only pay them if you pass the test. The whole thing seemed kind of sketchy, but it all worked out. I’m legally on the road and loving it.
It’s a lot of hoops to jump through, specially compared to the last country I bought a motorcycle in (Vietnam) but it was well worth it.
I think if I decide to sell the motorcycle in a couple years, I should be able to get around $1500 for it. That’s like paying $750 to use it for 2 years -- like renting a motorbike for a dollar a day.