It should be common sense that one is better protected against fraud when doing business with an American firm as opposed to a Brazilian firm.BUT, folks like to think they’re smart by saving a few hundred bucks or even a few thousand.I get the temptation as on paper, it looks like a VW bus is a VW bus. So why pay more for something that appears to be a commodity?
Well, the simple answer is that odds are, it’s not a commodity and the bus that you’re getting a discount on will cost you much more than that discount down the road.As I’ve said in many posts, I love Brazil and the people of Brazil (I lived there for two years).BUT, Brazilians will be the first to admit that in Brazil, people are considered clever if they can pull a fast one on others in business to gain an advantage.
I can tell you stories about “direct exporters” that have a business model where, once they secure a deposit for a restoration project, they will continue to come back to the customer for expenses that they found during body work or other parts of the restoration process.The customer pays because what else are they going to do?Some suppliers will take on more jobs than they can handle so they say it will be 8 months which turns into 18 months.Others will take a rusted out lemon and use anything flat to fill large holes with bondo or other shortcuts that will cost you down the road.
There are some that post daily on FB & IG buses that are available in Houston and advertise pics and prices.When in actuality, these buses are still with their owner in Brazil.They charge the owner for advertising and selling it and then mark up the price to charge the end customer margin.Most of these are from ads posted on the Brazilian equivelant of Craigslist.They have no one check the vehicle on your behalf (or if they do, they are shills) and will say that you have an option to use an escrow service for an additional 10%.This is true but you have to give them all the money before taking possession or seeing it anyway so what’s the point?
Bottom line, there is a shady element in the Brazilian VW bus export market in Brazil.There are good and ethical folks there as well but unfortunately there’s too large an amount of folks that will try to take advantage of you.
So what can you do to protect yourself?First and foremost, there are plenty of American firms with relationships down there that can help you bridge the trust gap.Obviously I am biased toward the VW Bus Guy team but I’d be more than happy to help you find other options with competitors that you can trust.I can also point you to many in the VW community that can vouch for us or someone that we refer you to in addition to customer references.Second, if you have the time to do a restoration, I’d recommend to go that route.It’s the only way to protect yourself from a mechanical lemon or a bondo/franken bus.You’ll be able to document the entire process to see what’s underneath.If you buy a previously restored bus from anyone (including me) there is just no way to know what’s under the paint or going on mechanically.This is where the myths (that are true half the time) about Brazilian buses come from.
My intention here is not to scare you away from a Brazilian bus as most are excellent investments.I only want to illuminate some of the things that most don’t think about.As always, feel free to DM, call or email me with any questions as I’m happy to help.
Owner, VW Bus Guy
@thevwbusguy on IG
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Hi! My name is Scott Mills and I'm the VW Bus Guy. I travel to Brazil to find and restore Kombi Buses (the Brazilian name for VW Buses).