First, we’re assuming you are not going to risk a bunch of money buy trying to buy from a Brazilian and go through an American broker.I love the the culture and the people from Brazil but they’ll be the first to tell you that in the Brazilian culture, if you can cheat someone in business, you’re considered clever.And cheating us trusting gringos is somewhat easier.
Before we take any deposit or search for vehicles, we talk about all your options.Why do you want to buy a kombi?Do you want a standard bench seat configuration, a camper or something custom?One of the most important questions is do you want an “as-is” kombi (one that can range from a project to one that was restored five years ago to one that was restored last month by someone else) or do you want to do a restoration project?
You can look at previous blog posts to see why I recommend doing a build from scratch but the gist of it is that you don’t know what you’re getting because you’re not seeing the builds progression.You could be getting a “bondo bus”.Brazilians love to cut corners to make money so if you buy a bus that was restored without someone making sure no corners are being cut, you run the risk of getting a bus you’re not going to be happy with.That being said, it’s a lot less expensive and we can get you your smile maker (my nickname for VW buses) a lot quicker.
Path 1:Buying an “As-Is” Kombi
After we have all your wants and needs, we start working our suppliers for options.Because these suppliers know we are a constant source of business for them, they want to make sure we are happy so that we think of them on future projects so that alone does mitigate quite a lot of risk.We typically take in what’s available and send you 2-3 options to start so we can get your thoughts that will help us narrow things down to get you more options.
Once we find a good option for you, we have one of our guys go out to meet the seller.The seller could be someone selling it private party from the classifieds or they could be someone we have worked with before such as one of our suppliers.We will get a good first impression with a test drive and then pre-negotiate a final price (often if they find out a gringo is involved the price bumps up so our proxy will act as if he is buying for himself).
Then we come back to you with all that we’ve learned from our first impression and what we’ve negotiated.If you’re in love with the bus, we’ll take a $200 fee (refunded to you as a credit when you put down you’re initial deposit).Once done, we take the vehicle from the seller to our shop and put in on a lift for closer inspection.Our mechanics will let me know if there is any work that has to be done to it or not.
Now you have all the info needed to pull the trigger or move to another option.Should you decide to move forward on an as is kombi, we will take a deposit from you to purchase it.Then we get it prepped for export in Brazil which includes clearing the title to make sure there aren’t any outstanding tickets (seller will pay) and clear their customs with a certificate.The balance is due prior to port.Next, she’ll be on the water for 3 weeks before arriving to your nearest port where she’ll sit awaiting to clear US Customs which takes about 2 weeks (in rare situations another week is needed if they want to do an X-ray to make sure we’re not smuggling something in).Finally, she is ready to be picked up.In most cases we arrange transport to your house but sometimes folks want to save $500 and get it themselves.
The other aforementioned path is to have us buy a kombi to restore for you in Brazil.Here, we leverage the strong dollar and relatively cheap labor which is more specialized than 99% of shops you’ll find online.There are a few dozen shops in São Paulo alone that ONLY work on split window VW buses to give you an idea of how focused they are.We take a 35% deposit to start your build from a bud we buy for you that has “good bones”.The restoration process can take between 3-10 months depending on what’s needed an will give you an overhaul of all the mechanical, electrical, interior and exterior.This will include your choice of paint with any features you wish to add such as our premium window package that provides a 23 window conversion with sliding rooftop window or a camper conversion package.Once complete, the timelines are the same as with the “as-is” route starting with the export process.
Everything listed in this post is an estimate but it should give you a good idea of what to expect.As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, be very wary of a lot of the companies that post ads for VW buses on FB and Instagram as 95% of the time (probably more) they are simply re-posting ads they’ve see on the Brazilian equivalent of Craigslist.They don’t even own the vehicles.They charge both the buyer and the seller and don’t care about quality…only volume.We look forward to helping you navigate these waters as reputation and customer satisfaction are our driving goals.
If you have any questions, please feel free to call, email or DM me:
Scott Mills scott@VWBusGuy.com
Instagram – @thevwbusguy
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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).