We provide a guide to auto insurance in Colombia. Third party liability auto insurance is compulsory in Colombia and comprehensive insurance for property damage or theft is optional. Also, we also look at how to file a claim.
Not many foreigners living in Medellín own cars. About three years ago, I surveyed 200 foreigners living in Medellín and found that only 18 percent had cars. With the inexpensive Medellín metro system, inexpensive buses and inexpensive taxis, a car isn’t needed by most foreigners living in Medellín.
Most of the foreigners that have cars in the Medellín area tend to live in El Poblado (particularly up the hills) or further away from the city in places like Rionegro near the Medellín International Airport.
However, if you do have a car in Colombia it is important to understand auto insurance in Colombia, as it works differently than in other countries like the U.S.
We previously provided a guide to Colombian health insurance. And we have received several questions from Medellin Guru readers about auto insurance. So, we now provide a guide to Colombian auto insurance.
Note the above photo is a Renault Duster in Bogotá by Felipe Restrepo Acosta. This is typically one of the most popular models of cars sold in Colombia.
Cars are Expensive in Colombia
Another reason not many foreigners have cars is that cars are expensive in Colombia.
Automobiles can be quite expensive in Colombia due to import duties of up to 35 percent. Reportedly over 60 percent of the vehicles sold in Colombia are imported. So, many models of cars sold in Colombia can be more expensive than in the U.S.
Colombia has a free trade agreement with the U.S. that went into effect in 2012. The agreement is phasing out the import duty for vehicles over a 10-year period but there are still import duties.
Colombia has additional free trade agreements with several other countries. These other agreements are also phasing out import duties for automobiles. Over time this will help reduce the costs for imported vehicles sold in Colombia.
We included cars in our list of expensive things in Colombia for foreigners. Also, you have to factor in the cost of gasoline, taxes, maintenance, parking, driver licenses and insurance when comparing having a car to not having a car.
Auto Insurance in Colombia – SOAT Basic Coverage
Third party liability auto insurance is compulsory in Colombia. This insurance is called Seguro Obligatorio de Accidentes de Tránsito (SOAT).
This insurance is required for all vehicles driving in Colombia or transiting through Colombia. This include cars and motorcycles.
And SOAT is intended for victims of traffic accidents, including drivers, passengers and pedestrians. Note that SOAT insurance does NOT cover any property damage or damage to your vehicle or theft.
In addition, all hospitals and clinics in Colombia are required to provide medical care though SOAT, regardless if they are private or public institutions.
More About SOAT
The Financial Superintendence of Colombia is responsible for establishing the rates and coverage of SOAT. To renew this compulsory insurance, it is only necessary to make an annual payment, and the cost varies according to the type of vehicle and its age.
This insurance is relatively inexpensive. The cost in 2021 for a typical family car ranges from 328,800 to 554,100 pesos per year. And for a motorcycle the cost ranges from 178,500 to 559,050 pesos per year. You can see all the 2021 SOAT insurance costs on the SURA website.
This insurance covers accident expenses for victims. SOAT offers immediate medical attention to all those injured in a traffic accident: driver, passengers and pedestrians. It also includes transfer to hospitals and medical or funeral expenses if required, as well as compensation for cases of permanent disability.
In addition, SOAT is digital. The SOAT receipt is delivered in digital format, making it easier for the driver to save it on a cell phone. And to keep your SOAT up to date, you can buy SOAT online and receive a receipt directly via email.
Furthermore, the following are the maximum values that the SOAT covers at the time of a traffic accident (for 2019):
- Medical, surgical, pharmaceutical and hospital expenses: Up to 22,082,400 pesos (or 800 times the daily minimum wage)
- Permanent disability: Up to 4,968,540 pesos (or 180 times the daily minimum wage)
- Death and funeral expenses: 20,702,250 pesos (or 750 times the daily minimum wage)
- Transportation and mobilization expenses for the injured: 276,030 pesos (or 10 times the daily minimum wage)
Auto Insurance in Colombia – Comprehensive Auto Insurance
There are multiple levels of comprehensive auto insurance available in Colombia beyond the basic SOAT coverage. For example, SURA has the following levels of comprehensive insurance:
Basic Autos Plan (Plan Autos Básico) – pays damages that are caused when you (or the person to whom you lend the insured car) are driving, and even when it is a different car than the one you insure, as long as you, your partner or your children (under age 25) are authorized to do so.
But this plan does not cover total or partial loss due to theft or damage to your vehicle caused by someone else.
Classic Autos Plan (Plan Autos Clásico) – The insurance plan adds to the basic plan and provides coverage not only in the case in which you cause damage to other people or property, but also insures your car if you suffer an accident or are the victim of a theft.
In addition, this classic plan covers legal expenses. Also, this plan includes a limited number of times (six times per year) where you can use a personal driver per year – when drinking alcohol or for medical or special visit, when you can’t drive. In Colombia, the legal amount of alcohol allowed when driving is one cup of wine, for example.
Furthermore, this plan offers towing services if you experience a breakdown or have an accident. But towing is only to the nearest city.
Global Autos Plan (Plan Autos Global) – This insurance plan adds to the classic plan and covers your vehicle in case of accident or theft. Compared to the classic plan, this coverage adds access to the SURA Auto Service Centers (in Bogotá, Cali, Medellín and Pereira), where at no additional cost SURA checks your car before a trip.
Also, this plan includes vehicle replacement when your car is being repaired (up to 20 days). In addition, it includes key replacement in case your keys are lost. And it includes a personal driver (12 times per year) for those moments that you choose to drink alcohol or for a medical or special visit, when you can’t drive.
In addition, with the global plan, it offers towing service. So, if you experience a breakdown or have an accident it will tow the vehicle to your home city compared to the classic plan that only tows to the nearest city. Also, the global plan offers a lawyer at the scene of the accident.
Better Driver Plan (Plan Conduce Mejor) – this insurance includes the coverage in the above three levels and it also includes a discount on the renewal of your auto insurance, according to your driving habits. This insurance includes other features including vehicle tracking and damages caused when you ride a bicycle.
In addition, you can see all these comprehensive auto insurance plans compared in detail (in Spanish) on the SURA website.
The basic level insurance only covers damages caused by you. And the classic coverage is more comprehensive and also covers damage to your vehicle caused by someone else and also theft. The global and better driver insurance plans cover even more but are more expensive.
Filing a Claim
In the event of an accident, the Transit (Tránsito) should be contacted. The emergency line is 123 and transit police is 127. These officers will provide an accident report that should be given to the insurance company.
In addition, insurance companies in Colombia will have a call center, which the insured person can contact to report a traffic accident.
The following documents are generally required before any insurance company will make payments in the event of damage to a vehicle:
- Copy of the vehicle registration documents
- Copy of the SOAT insurance
- Copy of the ID of the driver
- Copy of the driving license of the person driving the vehicle at the time of the accident
- Copy of the accident report
- Other relevant information (such as contacts of witnesses and photos)
Also, additional information may be required by the insurance company.
How to Sign Up for Auto Insurance
It is possible to sign up for SOAT auto insurance yourself. Basic SOAT coverage is sold at many places including at Exito and is even sold online and is relatively easy to sign up for.
There are many insurance companies offering SOAT coverage including SURA, Seguros del Estado, AXA Colpatria, Seguros Mundial and Mapfre and the rates for SOAT are defined by the Financial Superintendence of Colombia.
In terms of compressive auto insurance, some of the larger insurance companies offing comprehensive auto insurance include SURA, AXA Colpatria, Mapfre, and Allianz. But signing up for comprehensive auto insurance is in Spanish and is more complicated than signing up for SOAT.
So, we recommend working with an insurance broker who is bilingual when signing up for comprehensive auto insurance.
Using an Insurance Broker to Obtain Auto Insurance in Colombia
Medellin Guru has partnered with an insurance broker to offer auto insurance and other insurance products to foreigners and Colombians.
We partnered with Angela Berrio, who is a bilingual insurance broker who speaks English and Spanish. And she has many foreigner clients.
Features of this Colombian insurance service include:
- Office in El Poblado in Medellín.
- Bilingual – English and Spanish.
- Online quotes.
- Free consultations.
- Offers health insurance, auto insurance, homeowners insurance and life insurance.
Angela’s company offers insurance services to all foreigners and Colombians who need assistance in their process of finding the best insurance protection while living in Colombia. With over ten years of experience, they design the plan that best fits your needs allowing you to enjoy your life abroad.
Angela is an independent insurance broker but she prefers selling SURA insurance since they offer the best coverage. Also, she believes that SURA has the best private clinics in Colombia and is the most solvent health insurance provider in the country.
Angela is based in Medellín but can sell insurance throughout Colombia and even to clients overseas working via the phone and email.
Our insurance partnership is an affiliate relationship (like the Amazon affiliate program). If you use our Colombian insurance partner, Medellin Guru receives a small commission and you support this website. This is at no additional cost to you. The price remains the same, whether you use a button or affiliate link on this website or not.
Medellin Guru’s Colombian Insurance and Healthcare Articles
The Medellin Guru website has several popular articles about Colombian insurance and healthcare services:
- Health Insurance in Colombia: How to Sign up with SURA Insurance
- Auto Insurance in Colombia: A Guide to Colombian Auto Insurance
- Homeowners Insurance in Colombia: A Guide to Colombian Homeowner Insurance
- Medellin Guru Insurance Service: Providing Colombian Insurance
- Colombia has 24 of the Best Hospitals in Latin America
- Emergency Surgery: Expat Experience in Clínica León XIII in Medellín
- Healthcare Colombia: Offering Services to U.S. Veterans in Colombia
Also, we plan to publish additional articles about insurance and healthcare in Colombia over the next several months.
The Bottom Line: Auto Insurance in Colombia
It is very important to understand that the obligatory SOAT auto insurance in Colombia only covers medical attention to all those injured in a traffic accident including the driver, passengers and pedestrians. SOAT does not cover property damages or theft.
I met one foreigner about a year ago who had a car and only had the obligatory SOAT insurance coverage. And he was in an accident that wasn’t his fault and his car was totaled. Since he didn’t have comprehensive insurance that covered his car and the driver of the other car only had SOAT and no assets to go after, he had to buy a new car.
So, it is important if you have a car in Colombia to get more comprehensive insurance than the very basic SOAT coverage. And we highly recommend getting comprehensive auto insurance that covers property damage caused by you and damage to your vehicle caused by someone else and also theft.
Also, we have a comprehensive guide to getting a drivers license in Colombia.
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Editors note: updated on January 20, 2021 with current costs for SOAT auto insurance.