We drove 2 weeks with a rental car through Chile and Argentina and would like to share our experiences with you. We started our trip through Latin America with an adventurous road trip through the north of Chile and northwest of Argentina. In advance, we have researched which rental car company is the best for us. Despite many negative reviews, we finally decided on Wicked Campers in San Pedro de Atacama (Chile). What we experienced, what the road trip cost and how Wicked Campers reacted in case of problems with the campervan you can read in our travel report.
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
Our Rental Car from Wicked Campers
Since we didn’t want to spend most of our nights in the Puna de Atacama in hotels, we opted for a campervan. In our case, an off-road capable SUV with a roof tent. So we could pitch our tent where we wanted and cook tasty meals with our small camping stove in the middle of nature. Simply fantastic!
Our choice in the search for a rental car provider for the Atacama Desert fell on the company Wicked Campers. They have been around for a while in the USA and Australia and for a few years now also in Chile. Wicked Campers offers small campervans, but also large all-terrain four-wheel drive vehicles. Mostly with gaudy and eye-catching designs. The target group is therefore rather younger people, which one would not believe at first because of the relatively high prices. But most things in Chile are expensive anyway.
The standard rental cars at Wicked Campers are small minivans, which are rather less suited for rugged terrain like we would encounter on our round trip. So, for a little more money, we took an all-terrain, four-wheel-drive vehicle where we could be sure our car wouldn’t break down in the gnarly road conditions of Argentina’s wasteland.
How to book a Campervan with Wicked?
You simply visit the Wicked Campers website and check out the current offers. Often there are discounts on the rental price or free pick-up from the airport. You choose your desired rental date and select a rental station. If you want to visit the north of Chile and Argentina, you should choose San Pedro de Atacama. Then you will have to choose a rental car. The bigger and more offroad capable the more expensive. We would like to present you a few exemplary models. All cars from Wicked Campers can be found on their website.
The Rental Cars of Wicked Campers
2 Seater Iconic
These are the cheapest campers and at the same time the most colorful. These small box vans are colorfully painted and have a fully equipped camping interior. You can convert the seats into a bed and you have all the utensils needed for cooking. The car has no four-wheel drive and no thick tires and is therefore rather unsuitable for rough terrain. But this car has the advantage that no one will see when you sleep in it. This is much more obvious in a car with a roof tent. Therefore, the small van gives a little more security and privacy.
Cool Car 4 Travel
This car is smaller than the Iconic, but it has a roof tent. So you can’t spend your time inside the car very well, except when driving of course. Otherwise you sit in front of the car in the camping chairs and to sleep you crawl into your roof tent. The car has all-wheel drive, but in my opinion is still not suitable for all surfaces, because it does not have so thick tires and also does not look that stable. Nevertheless, it would have been sufficient for us and we would have taken it for our road trip through Argentina and Chile, if we had not gotten a free upgrade.
This is the car we had on our round trip. It is a from Chinese company (Great Wall), and not of the best quality. But at least everything worked for us and we trusted the car to get through extremely rough terrain. A few screws and fasteners did not stand up to the strain. Nevertheless, we felt safe. The car has a very large roof tent and an extremely large trunk. It could have a little more horsepower, but at least it was enough to climb all the inclines.
This is the crowning glory among campervans and at the same time one of the most expensive. Compared to the above mentioned, it has the unique advantage that you really have the equipment of a small caravan in the rear body. You don’t need a roof tent, because you sleep and cook in the rear body. You are not so exposed to the weather and also have a little more comfort and privacy. If money had not been an issue for us, we would have chosen this car.
At the end of the booking you can take out insurance. Here you should choose the most expensive option (Damage Liability Reduction B) to be on the safe side. You can also apply for the documents you need to travel to Argentina. You need these documents in any case and you have no possibility to get them on your own (unless it is your own vehicle). Therefore you should definitely book the transfer papers.
One Way Rental
Another great advantage with Wicked Campers is also that one way rentals do not cost as much as most other car rental companies. If you don’t return the car to the location in Chile where you picked it up, you will pay about 400 Euro at Wicked Campers. Sounds expensive, but compared to other providers it is really cheap. A one-way rental was not an option for our route, but it’s good to know that it would have been quite inexpensive as well.
Campervans vs. Normal Rental Car?
With a normal rental car I mean a car that is not driven by four-wheel drive. In Chile and Argentina, these are usually larger off-road vehicles, e.g. in the form of a Toyota pickup. A normal rental car, as you would rent it in Europe, is also available here, but we would only recommend it if you are driving exclusively on paved roads (e.g. between Salta and Cafayate). Otherwise, such cars are not up to the road conditions. At least the roads in this region are paved.
Staying Overnight in a Campervan
With a campervan you have the advantage that you can sleep in it or on it, on a mattress in the car or in a roof tent. So you can camp with it easily wild. When and where you want. And that is allowed everywhere in Chile and Argentina, except on private property of course. So not only do you save money compared to staying in a hotel, but you can also be sure of unique experiences in nature.
In areas where it gets very cold at night, it is of course less pleasant to spend the night in a tent or even in a car. Maybe we are just not hardy enough, but at over 3500 m above sea level it is very easy to get below zero degrees at night. And the strong wind does the rest. For such cases, we can resort to hostels (hospedajes), which can be found almost everywhere.
There are enough hotels in the big cities like San Pedro de Atacama, Salta and Cafayate. But also in the lonely areas of the Puna de Atacama there are a few accommodations where you can take refuge from the cold at night. The prices for simple accommodations (which you can’t find on the internet) are about 15-25 Euro for a double room. If you want more comfort, you have to invest at least 50 Euro per night.
Finding a Place to Sleep
If you are traveling in very remote areas, the well-known portals for booking a hotel/hostel will not help you. Therefore you should download the app iOverlander. It lists numerous campsites and places for wild camping. Often with pictures and current comments from other users. If you have found a good place that is not yet in the app, you can also add it.
It is important to load the map in iOverlander once in advance for all regions in which you are traveling. This way you can also find sites in regions without cell phone reception. Otherwise, the same applies in Chile and Argentina as on a road trip through Norway: You can park anywhere as long as you don’t disturb anyone and you are not on private property.
How much is a Rental Car
Despite the high prices, Wickel Campers as a rental car provider was still the cheapest among those available. Especially if you consider a one-way rental. For the campervan, we deliberately did not take the smallest option, as we wanted a slightly more stable vehicle with all-wheel drive and enough space for our stuff. Together with the insurance and the costs for the transfer to Argentina we ended up with just under 100 Euro per day (about 1500 Euro for 15 days).
Our car (Bigfoot 4WD) consumed an insane 12 liters per 100 km, which at gas prices of about 1 Euro per liter gave us a total price for gasoline of just under 250 Euro for 2409 kilometers driven. But since the price of gasoline in Argentina and Chile is still much cheaper than in Germany, you still get away relatively cheaply, despite the high consumption.
On the sixth day of our round trip through Chile and Argentina we spent unplanned longer in Cafayate in Argentina, because we were uncertain because of the upcoming offroad passages in the Puna, whether we would create these only with two-wheel drive. We had wanted to try out the four-wheel drive – much too late, of course – but unfortunately in vain.
The car drove normally, but we could not hope for the salutary powers of 4×4 drive. So early in the morning we called Wicked Camper Roadside Assistance and described the problem. After some back and forth on how we could alternatively engage the 4×4 drive (short press, long press, reverse while pressing, etc.), the lady on the phone realized that the 4×4 drive was really broken. She looked for us a workshop in the vicinity out to which we should drive.
No sooner said than done. The residential area on the outskirts of Cafayate, where the workshop was to be located, did not look like a garage at all. After asking several times in the neighborhood, we were sent to a normal house. We rang the bell and tried to explain to the friendly lady that our car needed help. She just said that her son, the mechanic, would have to come.
That would take about 20 minutes. We used the time to withdraw some money from the bank. After we finally had cash after several attempts, we drove back to the workshop. There the mechanic looked at the car for about 1 hour and only said that it was an electronic problem and that we should go to another garage, which would not open until 4 p.m. (thanks to the siesta).
The Final Repair Attempt
When we arrived at the other workshop shortly after 4pm, a long marathon started: screwing around on the car, test drives, wild translations with Google Translate and phone calls with Wicked Roadside Assistance, the Wicked mechanic and the mechanics on site. Long story short, the mechanics failed to solve the problem, saying it was probably a “mechanical problem”.
Whatever that means. However, we were assured by the mechanics on site and by Wicked on the phone that our route could be managed without four-wheel drive and that they would help us in any case. Well, whether that would be true. We then got the promise that we could keep the car for another day free of charge . Well, after all!
Our Conclusion to Wicked Campers
All in all we have to say that we were really satisfied with Wicked Campers, concerning the handling of the rental in advance as well as the communication in case of problems while we were on the road. Although some problems, such as a broken four-wheel drive, of course should not occur in the first place. We have read in advance quite a lot of negative about Wicked Campers on the Internet.
Not only, but also about the stations in Chile. In retrospect, however, we are glad to have booked with them, because not only does Wicked have the lowest prices on the market (related to campervans), but we have really only positive experiences. The booking process via the website went super easy and also later the communication with the staff was super positive.
A few weeks before our trip, we received an email telling us that our car was unfortunately not available for our travel dates. We thought we would have to look for something else. But we were offered an upgrade to a better vehicle completely free of charge. We thought that was great.
Even with Technical Problems you get Help
And even when we had a technical problem with the car (the four-wheel drive didn’t work), we got as much help as we could get. There is a hotline with a roadside assistance, so a telephone help if something does not work. We had contact with this nice lady by phone and Whatsapp and also the English skills were sufficient to help us with our problem.
Since we had wasted a whole day in Cafayate by the repair attempts, we were also offered that we either get an additional day or a part of the rent refunded. What more could you ask for? The staff at the rental station in San Pedro de Atacama were also super friendly and spoke very good English. In general, we can give a full recommendation here. The prices at Wicked Campers are relatively high, but they are with all rental car providers in Chile. Therefore, Wicked is still the best choice.
Do you have any other questions about car rental in Chile or Argentina? Did you have other experiences? Write us a comment under our travel report.