Buying a 4x4 in Managua

Hello, I'm trying to decide whether to buy a Toyota Hilux of a Toyota Tundra, both with the extended cab. My GF and I (with our dog) will be moving to Nica (SJDS area) on Nov 1st.

I'm a bit worried that a brand new truck might attract unwanted attention, what do you think?

Although when I read about how difficult it is to find a good used 4x4 that won't break down all the time, I'm inclined to buy new. We will be living about 20min outside of SJDS so the last thing I want are car problems.

Any opinions on what I should do? Any ideas of what either of these two vehicles new will cost?

Thanks, Shawn

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Kia K2700

Has anyone tried or considered these.

I like them but check on line re the transfer box problems

They have failed on both of the K2700 4 x 4's I know of in SJdS. Mauricio (Pizza San Juan) is one of them, he is selling his for $8,500.

Transfer case problems K2700

Couldn't find any mention of them on line. Still, that would be a red flag. Do you know if these were fairly new vehicles? Were they bearing failures? Cracked cases?

I'll ask Mauricio

Give me a day or two. I like them, the big double cab and payload area is useful if you are building of taking a few surfers to the beach. There is a K2900 now, single cab but heavier payload and bigger engine.

It could be matter of hitting rocks on the dirt roads? Perhaps a simple add on protection plate would work.

OK, here are some scant details on the problem

The transfer case has some kind of "membrane" which is part of the actuator!! Sounds like a diaphragm for the fluid or vacuum operated system that lets you shift on the fly. With this part failed, when you try to shift the lever in the cab to 4 x 4, there is no pressure in the transfer case.

Doesn't sound that bad but seems a removal and partial strip down of the transfer case is required.

That's the best I got from an Italian with Spanish as his second and English as his third language!!

Why 4Runner?

Oh, I also wanted to answer this:

Well, with a Hilux there is all that wasted space in the truck bed that no one really puts anything in, since they are worried about it getting stolen. In Managua my friend even ties things down to the truck bed so the kids at the stop lights won't try and lift them.

The 4Runner is much better I think since we can pack it with our dog, supplies, luggage, and gear for the beach or trips, without much of a worry.

The 4Runner also has the 3.0 Turbo Diesel engine in it, and it's pretty darn fast. Fast enough for the roads here in Nica by far. I drove 2hrs to Jinotega yesterday, and at 85km/hr it was smooth as silk. Barely used any diesel either....

The Result

So, I just wanted to write a follow up thread on how everything worked out with the 4x4.

I ended up buying a 2004 Toyota 4Runner 4x4 with 80,000km for 18.5K in cash that I brought from the states. I knew a local who lives in Managua that speaks perfect english and spanish. Without him this would have been impossible. Most dealers only speak spanish. We brought along his family mechanic for the day with us for $40. We visited about 10 used car lots. The first 5 had nothing or really beat up crap 2005 4runners, hilux, pathfinder. Many were over 24K. We then got a call from a friend of his who is a dealer who just bought a Ex-Diplomatic 4runner who was selling it for 19.5. Since the dealer didn't know gringo's were buying it, he cut our friend a break to 18K. I saw 4 more used car lots (if you want to call trucks parked on the side of a road, a lot) with one of them being the used Auto Nica "certified" cars (only 30 day warrenty). None of the trucks were under 21K. So we went with the ex-diplomatic truck. Once we decided, we all then went to a lawyers office (just a open market on the road side) and counted out 17.9K in cash to the seller, signed a bunch of paperwork, and wa-la. New Truck.

After the mechanic inspected it, we found it had a broken grease seal on the front left tire, so the dealer took $100 off, and the mechanic fixed it for $55. It's going to need a tune up (oil, oil filter, engine filter, diesel filter), and then some new tires in 6mo or so.

I spent about 3 hours at BanCentro getting insurance and a checking account. Full Coverage was $950 with Finse. At this point I was so tired (2nd day) that I didn't want to go shopping around. We called Metropolitian and they said it would be around 850-1000 anyway as a rough number.

3 days in and I found that the rear cargo hatch won't open. We called the dealer and he said we could take it to his locksmith or electrician for free for a fix. I'm going to do that later this week. 2004 4Runners all over the world have this issue, so I'm not that worried about it. The rear window works, so I can still get stuff in and out.

Hope this helps!

-Major Lesson. Don't try and do this yourself if you are not a Nica or don't speak spanish. Get someone to help you!

Be prepared to pay a lot

Be prepared to pay a lot more for a vehicle here than 1 would in the USA. 1 does see a lot of Toyota's, but pay attention to where it was made! I was looking at a RAV4 that came from the USA---AutoNica, the Managua dealership, told me they could not get a lot of parts for it, because it came from the USA!! They were more than happy if I bought the parts, then they do the install. Labor is super cheap here. You see a Lot of the Helix's, Mitshibushi L200,, fair amount of Hyundia's, bought Toyota would rank #1.

Go for the Hilux. They are

Go for the Hilux. They are actually common and you will see them around. You won't stand out or draw attention to yourself. My friends in Nagarote bought one within the last couple of years and paid $26K for his. I assume he purchased it in Managua. If you decide on used just buy something that is common to the area and you won't have a problem finding parts or mechanics. Motorcycles are very cheap to purchase in Nica in case that interests you. Florida&Nagarote

Hilux 100% agree

My advice is Hilux, Tundra is beautiful but is not for SJDS area, specially non paving roads, and you must take in consideration:

1. If you buy locally a Hilux you will find any kind of repair parts,... not for Tundra. 2. Mechanics are not familiar in Rivas area with Tundra technology. 3. If some day you have an accident no there are parts for Tundra... in Hilux you can find everything. 4. Gas consumption, any vehicle has an absolutely different gas rate or average than in Nicaragua; Roads and gas quality probably. A relative of mine has the same Toyota Camry I had and the gas consumption is different; in USA are more efficient. A Tundra for this area need 4x4 the average will be 18 - 20 gallons per kilometer; a Hilux use Diesel, a bit less expensive than gas, and will do 35 gallons approximately per kilometer. 5. Re sell price.. .. a Hilux easily you will sell for a good price in two weeks... Tundra will be harder.

The only one advantage of Tundra, in my opinion is comfort in side of the vehicle.

If you are coming as a retiree I remind you, you can have a tax exemption over $ 25,000.00.-


Best Regards

Paul Tiffer. Attorney at Law

P.S. I went to Rancho Santana this year, I went a Four Runner 2005, a friend went in a Tundra 4x2, 2007, when we return to Managua and he stop the Tundra the horn fall down!

Tundra MPG

Paul. Your miles per Kilometer on the TUNDRA are off,I own a TUNDRA 5.7 V8 4x4 6 Sped Crew Max and I get 19 MPG (Miles not KMs per gallon ) on the hgw,and about 17 city,I love my truck, comfy as hell,TRD package help,I may bring mine to Nica towards the end of the year,I've had it for 4 years trouble FREE barely 56K miles on it :-).


That is the gas consumption in Nicaragua according my cousin, who has a V 6.- About confort I agree 100%, !!!

Thank you all for the

Thank you all for the excellent advice. I have found a few used Hilux's and Fortuners on the website. I have also been quoted the following prices on the vehicles brand new: 2011 Fortuner 3.0 4x4 - $48,000 2011 Hilux 3.0 4x4 - $40,000

Used I found a 2007 Hilux 3.0 with 87000kms for $21,000.

My instinct is telling me to go with the Fortuner over the Hilux, since I will be carrying my girlfriend, a dog, and many times tons of surfing and kiteboarding gear that is rather expensive. What do you think?

In regards to the tax exemption, I'm not sure that I qualify since I do not have retiree status yet, and I'm only 38. Is there a minimum age to declare retiree status? I read through the link you posted but was confused by the age requirement.


The age is 45, with the exeption for people with disability.

One more thing, tax exepmtion is just for brand new. Not for used vehicles.

Best Regards

Paul Tiffer

45 was mentioned in the new pensionado act.

Send Paul Tiffer a message he will know for sure.

There are many cross platform "Yotas" these days

The FJ in north america is actually built on the Prado frame. A Prado in Nica is the current SUV (LX470?) Lexus in the US and Canada

Going back to you original question the defining difference for a Hilux over a Tundra is a solid front Axle. If you do any off roading you will quickly find how advantageous a SFA is for angle of attack of hills and potholes.

I do not know if the current Hilux models have a SFA.

Also the D4D is a sweet engine... I've seen it pull from a full stop, in 3rd, to 70kmh before the owner shifted to 4th (Poor mistreated Yota)

The Tundra is Front independent coil spring, and while that is good for paved and dirt roads with moderate bumps. Also that 5.7L will KILL you at the pump. You see since a Diesel makes almost all of its torque before 3000rpm it is just perfect sot stop, start and slow driving. Most Gas engines do not make most of theit torque past 3000 RPM and stop start and slow bumpy roads will be where all of your dollars go out the tail pipe.

WRT Mazda and Mitz they are close but you will see the difference in fit and finish (better) and also look at a 7 yr old Yota vs a 7 Yr old Mitz or Mazda you will see how they hold up. I have a 25 yr old Mitz RHD Pajero/Montero and I can say that it is just as tough as an 88 Hilux or 4 Runner but as stated by others.. YMMV. Myself I love the Mid 2000's Mazda Diesels... There is a new body style called the BT-50 .. not sure it is sold in nica though.

Toyota is king for a reason.

If you've got the money, buy the Hilux. There is no perfect vehicle in Nicaragua but the Hilux is darn close.

The talk about parts...stick with Toyota. Spare parts are never very easy to get your hands on without paying a premium no matter what model but if you buy something other than Toyota you're screwing yourself even more. You may think you're saving some bucks but you will pay for that penny-wise-pound-foolish logic later on. Bank on it.

When I first moved to Nicaragua in '96 I brought an Isuzu Trooper from Miami. I was so proud because I found a diesel model in Miami. Then discovered that spare parts were nowhere to be found in Nicaragua. The models they sell in the US were designed differently than those sold in Central America. My hard lesson learned.

Do NOT buy an American model vehicle! They may look nice on the show room floor but they fall apart quickly and don't come close to the durability of TOYOTA.


Don't be such a Toyotona :) ...

point being for skdoyle is that a moderate looking mid-range white double cabin 4x4 is as near a non-descript vehicle as exists here in Nicaragua...we hardly get pulled over now for that reason I believe. I would look for a less than a year old HiLux if you're set on that and have a good mechanic really give it a once-over before you buy it. That is still very much a target for carjacking though...

I think it would be less likely for a nearly new vehicle but buying used is tricky as they will use the wrong parts, do obviously temporary fixes, literally gluing things together, painting parts to look new, you name it.

also... you may want to consider looking at other brands, to me you get more for your money. I got a 2002 Mazda B2900 and I think it has every bit the quality of the HiLux but the Mazda was $5-6k cheaper than a comparable Toyota.

This country is loco for toyotas "toyotonas" I've heard it called and I just don't see paying that much more for a vehicle I can easily get parts for, made in Japan, a world-proven vehicle, etc.


And yes roger, on Carretera a Masaya I see more and more high-end BMWs, Mercedes, aforesaid Land / Range Rover in addition to the everpresent Prado's and HiLux.

I do like the look of the HiLux that have snorkels. I figure you must really mean business when your truck is sporting a snorkel :)

Doors of hope fly open when doors of promise shut. -Thomas D'Arcy McGee

Farmstay in the hills of Managua

you're a funny guy

Mazda every bit of quality as a hilux???? ROTFLMAO NOTTTT. not the mazda,not the mitzu, NONE came close to the DURABILITY/DEPENDABILIT of the hilux.

And I've had/used plenty of models in Nica in rough terrains,due to my hobby :-) .

thanks! like I say, YMMV...


Doors of hope fly open when doors of promise shut. -Thomas D'Arcy McGee

Farmstay in the hills of Managua


You don't get to much attention with a simple Toyota Pick Up truck in the 25.000 range, that spot is already taken by the 100.000$ land cruisers passing you on the road. Be live me, it's plenty of them, throw in a few Range Rovers and Mercedes SUV and you know what i am saying.

You want attention, drive what I drive, beaten up old Chevy, scars the shit out of people when it's coming.

$500,000 wrapped around Mauricio's Pizzería

A handful of vehicles last long weekend July 19th! (Some revolution that was!!) A Range Rover HSE, Audi Q5, a couple of BMW SUV's, a nice pewter colored 7 series sedan and a couple of token Prados.

Mind the ox cart when you leave!!

there are many

good choices. I currently have a 2000 hilux pickup, the old school version and I love that truck. We use it mainly on the farm and as long as I don't get the front wheels totally off the ground that truck will pull whatever I ask it to. Also own a 2002 Prado, it's alright but honestly it's a gutless dog. We were afraid to buy anything else because of what everyone says "Nicaragua is Toyota country" well it's true there are lots of Toyotas here, I like mine, but they are by no means any less expensive to maintain or repair. We have since picked up a 2008 Nissan patrol and I really like that truck. It's built much tuffer than the prado, much heavier guaged steel under the truck, bigger springs, just a better built vehicle in my opinion. You have to be good about oil changes and filter changes, keep your air filter clean on those diesels, keep some good tires all the way around and get your front end alignment done regularly to save on wear and tear. Automaster does a great job for $23. I work on the rio coco in the north of Nicaragua and we rent trucks to take to Wiwili, we often have a Mazda in the mix and while it keeps up just fine it guzzles diesel. The new hilux can make it to wiwili and back to Managua on a tank take the mazda a tank and a half.

Other 4x4's

Anybody got anything good or bad to say about a Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, or Nissan Xterra?


Just don't buy them. Nicaragua is a "Toyota country". The good news is that Toyota makes excellent vehicles. The reality is that if you have anything else, parts and service outside Managua get hard to find with the possible exception of the Kia Pride.

Fact is

Toyota part and service are also hard to find...even at "ultra-premium" prices. Toyota is OK, but the the be and end all. Plenty of other good choices here, part and mechs that can work on them are around. You'll have part problems in some remote vill anyplace here with anything, even a horse cart. Don't be constrained by the "you cannot do it naysayers". ZZT


Hilux all the or used...dont think twice bout it! Previous generation = amazing!

Hilux or Tundra

I went through the same thought process and decided to go with a new Hilux Double Cab 4x4. Buying slightly used just didn't save me enough money. So as a gringo, I opted to go with new one because I just didn't want to take any chances with used. I don't think routine maintenance of a vehicle really fits in the Nica vocabulary. A tundra is a bit big for some rural roads you might find yourself in not to mention the fuel economy issue. I really like the way the Isuzu looked but here in Nica, Hilux is King.

Thanks for all the votes on

Thanks for all the votes on the Hilux. I was doing some research and I also found a vehicle called the "Toyota Fortuner". This vehicle is based on the hilux platform, but is enclosed like a SUV. Since I'll be carrying my dog, and varios watersports gear I was thinking that this might work as well.

What do you think? Any idea how much in USD they cost in Nica?

This guy loves it:

Question on insurance. What happens if someone outright steals the car? Is there insurance to cover theft of the vehicle up to the purchase price?


If ever there was a controversial truck, its the Hilux. Some rave, others say its junk. I believe its made in Brazil if that matters. If you are going to a pickup take a look at the Izusu F ... my friends hee who live on the really bad roads who have them rave. Its smaller, quick and dependable. I would actually lean toward a Nissan Frontier since it's the only one that has a truly lockable four wheel drive (as you know most other four wheel drives are NOT). This is the truck you see farmers here buy.

If you don't really need a pickup, think of options. Theft out of the backs of pickups are legendary, especially in cities ... even at intersections.

I really like the comment about the Nissan Patrol ... its tough. I would lean toward the Patrol or Mitsubishi Montero. If I went to a Prado / Landcruiser I wouldn't buy anything newer than 2005, the last year the finance guys were not running Toyota.

Just my two cents. Sure hope I haven't offended anyone.

MN Hacienda Iguana, Tola, Rivas SKYPE: QWLCrew

Agree on the 2005

After 2005 the hilux seem weaker and look older/ beaten up faster. The newer engines are expensive to maintain and you cannot use the run of the mill local mechanic, so you would have to go to main centers to have any work done. I would buy a 2005 Hilux in good shape , get the Engine overhauled and some other maintenance done on the shocks etc. all for under 16K and be worry free for as at least as much time i would be with a brand new Hilux. for less than 1/2 the cost over the same period. Diesel Engines are EXPENSIVE to fix, and doing 1 overhaul will usually cost about 2K on older engines (3L etc.) and more on newer ones, so you will probably loose all that savings you made paying for diesel at the pump with your first overhaul. Sometimes I think a gasoline engine is more economical in the long run, since the repairs are MUCH cheaper.

Agree on the 2005

May I ask are the prices of Nica online sites shown in Dollars? It seems if Cordobas were intended cars are beyond cheap in NI; they're a steal!

A horse! A kingdom for a horse! Goran Bockman

So if I were to buy a 2005

So if I were to buy a 2005 Hilux, do you know anywhwere here I can get this overhaul performed without getting totally ripped off? Please remember that I don't speak great spanish, and I'll be coming in with all my stuff, my GF and her stuff, and our dog... so we don't have tons of time to spend. We are only planning on spending a few days in Managua area. I guess I could rent a truck for a bit.

Everyone said to buy a diesel engine, but I am more familiar with gas and automatic's since I'm coming from the USA. Do you have any recommended trucks with a gas engine?

I'm still leaning towards a SUV since I can leave stuff in it that at least is a bit more protected than leaving surfboards in the truck.

the BEST

hilux ever made is the 2005 and older models. the newer model were made in Brazil and they SUCK,easily over turn etc. only good thing is that they are fast(turbo).


Foretuners look really nice, but are very expensive new ... more than $50,000 with taxes. I've read that they are not a good off road vehicle. I've been driving a 2001 Suzuki Gran Vatara here since 2005 on VERY bad, muddy, potholed roads and have been delighted. Its small enough to dart around in the cities without any problems finding parking, doesn't attract attention, best smaller 4-wheel drive for off road rating ...I've had to do some front end work after five years. Only problem is that this is one is made in USA, not Japan. Parts for Japanese made vehicles are much lower than US made vehicles. Mechanics here are good and can work on ANYTHING ... its the parts that have to be bought from Pellas or other retailers that's the problem

MN Hacienda Iguana, Tola, Rivas SKYPE: QWLCrew

The accused local Narco had Tundra....may be bad luck!!

Its a little big for around town but nice. My vote would be a slightly used Hi Lux and then you aren't going to freak when you get your first dent and scrape or bits stolen from it. 20 minutes south you may be on alequines all the way pretty soon, north not so lucky yet. Shocks, springs front ends a wear about the same except I would think the Tundra parts are more $ and not as common. The Kms on those roads count at least double on certain parts of the car so expect front end repairs on any joints and rubber/metal bushes etc. Lots of muddy gritty (some salty) water working its way into things too.

I am a "when in Rome" sort of guy so the Hi Lux would win but look at the big 'Ambulance style' Landcruiser if you were thinking of the Tundra. Lots of passenger room and space for the dog in the back, safe and secure.

Just a few thoughts on what I see around here.