It's just a fact that with all the cheap/frequent public transport having a car is not a "necessity" just merely a "luxury".
But several expats, maybe you too, shy away from buying a car cause they don't really understand the process of both purchasing a vehicle and what's needed to drive in Ecuador.
But it's nothing to fear and actually not that complicated.
The process to buy a car in Ecuador:
After agreeing to terms with the seller, you're going to want to check their registration card (Matricula). On it there will be the name of the owner and the VIN of the car. Verify the vin by popping the hod of the car and physically checking and verify the owner by having him show you his Ecuadorian ID card (cedula) or passport.
Many in Ecuador buy and sell cars and thus are selling a car that is not in their name, all they have is an open contract from the previous owner that they are waiting to put the new buyer's name on and a copy of the previous owners "cedula".
I recommend only buying a car from the person that is the registered owner.
You can then run a check to see if the car has any unpaid leins against it or outstanding fines through the website of the DMV of Ecuador called the ANT, http://www.ant.gob.ec/index.php/consulta-de-multas AND through the website of the National Police http://www.policiaecuador.gob.ec/index.php?id=infracciones_de_transito .
All you need is the plate number of the car to do the search.
To double check you can also go to the office of the JEFATURA DE TRANSITO in your town and verify the car is really owned by the person appearing as the owner on the matricula they are showing.
With the plate number you can also check to see if the car is stolen online here. http://www.policiaecuador.gob.ec/index.php?id=vehiculos_robados
If everything checks out and you'd like to continue with the purchase the next step is to write up the sales contract and get it notarized. Notaries usually charge around $50 for this service.
Once you have the notarized bill of sale you can take it to the nearest SRI office (the Ecuadorian IRS) and pay the 1% transfer tax based on the value of the vehicle to put it in your name on both a national and police level.
The last step would be to go and register the car in your name in the DMV of Ecuador (ANT or COMISION DE TRANSITO). But if the car still has a bit of time left on the current registration (you need to renew once a year) you can drive with your license (from any country), the notarized bill of sale and the registration (matricula) which is not yet in your name but still current just fine until the current registration expires, according to the Ecuadorian police. Registration costs around $150 annually.
You will also need to make sure the car has the basic liability insurance paid required by law (the SOAT). The SOAT insures all the medical costs people involved in a car accident may have.
What it does not cover are the cars involved. For example, the cost of the SOAT for an $11,000 car in 2013 is $27 for one year of coverage.
Private companies like Generali also provide more comprehensive car insurance in Ecuador. For example, to insure an $11,000 car full coverage runs about $450 annually.
So to recap, whenever you drive in Ecuador you will need to bring your license from any country, your matricula card of the car you are driving (registration), and have the SOAT card on hand. And if the matricula is not in your name you'll want to have the notarized bill of sale or the rental contract in the car as well.
Murali Hostal Airport Guayaquil - At only 3 hours form Cuenca and 2 from the coast, Guayaquil is your ideal jump off point in Ecuador.