Last April, I received an anxious phone call from my Santiago friend Marializ Maldonado, to whom I had loaned my trusty 1996 Nissan Terrano (it’s a Pathfinder in most other countries) when I was last in Chile a year earlier. As she was running some errands in Santiago’s Quinta Normal borough, a young man ran a stop sign and hit her directly on the drivers' side of the vehicle. Fortunately, she was not seriously hurt, but my truck (seen below in the Argentine village of Colonia Pellegrini, after a mudbath in the Iberá marshes) was a total loss, the cost of repairs exceeding its market value.
Worse yet, my insurance with BCI Seguros, its collision coverage valid only for total loss, had apparently lapsed and the young man in question had no coverage whatsoever. At the same she told me, though, that his family had sufficient resources to pay for the damage. Meanwhile I learned, to my surprise, that BCI had automatically renewed my policy even though I had not paid a single peso of the premium, and would pursue the case on my behalf.
It took eight months, but yesterday came the reward, as BCI presented me with a check for 2.5 million pesos (roughly US$5000) which I could devote toward a replacement, a 2005 Suzuki Grand Nomade that my trusted Santiago mechanic Mauricio Donoso found for me. I won't divulge the final purchase price, but I'm delighted with a comfortable vehicle that's suitable for the Patagonian roads that lie ahead. BCI did deduct the unpaid cost of my unpaid premium from the settlement.
Finishing the purchase, though, wasn't quite so simple as I had hoped. This morning I met the seller - Mauricio's cousin María Elena León - at the Registro Civil in the borough of Vitacura, where an ill-mannered civil servant refused to transfer the vehicle because I did not have the original copy of my RUT, the Chilean tax ID that's obligatory for all such transactions. In the Terrano’s glove compartment, it was lost in the accident’s aftermath.
Instead, he directed us to go to a notary public who could verify my photocopy of the tax ID and complete the process. As I wrestled with the idea of arranging a long-term rental with option to complete the purchase, everything went smoothly and, now, I'm almost ready to start my road trip to Patagonia, the region I love most.