Once you have found your dream home and start planning for a move to Costa Rica, you will need to consider transportation once you are living in Costa Rica.  Options include:  owning a vehicle, using public transportation including buses and taxis, walking or bicycling.  The following information is intended to help you if you decide you want to own a vehicle in Costa Rica.

If you ask ten randomly selected people whether it is better to ship a car from North America or to buy a car in Costa Rica, you will get ten distinctly different viewpoints.  Our goal is to provide  important factors to consider when evaluating these two options.  There are no right or wrong answers, this is an individual choice based on needs, wants and budget.  We know people who have had great experiences either shipping a car or buying locally.  Doing a little homework and understanding the processes up front will help you have a good experience.

The process and cost for shipping a car to Costa Rica includes:

•     Cost to get the vehicle to the shipping port in North America.  Companies specializing in moving to Costa Rica can estimate this cost.

•     Point-Of-Origen emission testing.  All imported cars must bear an emissions certificate from the country of origin.  This certificate will be verified by auto technicians when the vehicle arrives in Costa Rica.

•     Cost to ship the vehicle from North America to a port in Costa Rica. Companies specializing in moving vehicles internationally can estimate this cost.  It is important to confirm that the shipping costs include insurance for the vehicle while it is in transit.

•     Import tax on the vehicle based on the value as determined by the Costa Rica Ministerio de Hacienda.

•     Cost of transportation to a customs warehouse from the Costa Rica port of entry.

•     Inspection and registration upon arrival in Costa Rica:

•     There are fees for registration and Marchamo, an annual tax on all vehicles.

•     RITEVE is a multiple-point inspection that covers emissions, brakes, signal lights, windshield wipers, and other mechanical and safety features. After the initial inspection, used vehicles will be subject to annual inspections, while newer vehicles will be inspected every two years.

•     Find out how long the entire process is going to take and have a plan in place for transportation while your vehicle is en route and know the costs related to your plan.

Tips on buying a car in Costa Rica:

•     The avenues for buying a car in Costa Rica are similar to those in other countries. You will find dealerships, individuals, car lots that specialize in used cars, or car buying specialists who can provide assistance.

•     Costa Rica does not have a system whereby you can obtain a complete history of a vehicle so it is very important that you do your homework and have trusted individuals, such as a mechanic, to help you evaluate available vehicles.

•     It is important to consider what makes of cars have parts and service experts readily available in your community.

•     The process for buying a car is:

•     Establish your budget and vehicle requirements (for example, is four wheel drive mandatory).

•     Check online websites selling cars to get a general sense of value.  Cars are more expensive in Costa Rica due to the import tax that is charged on every car coming into the country.

•     Carefully evaluate available cars.

•     Have a trusted mechanic check out the car(s) that you are considering.

•     Make sure the Marchamo (registration & mandatory liability insurance) and RITEVE (inspection) are current. You can visually check this by stickers that are located on the windshield.

•     The month that the RITEVE is due coincides with the last number of the license plate, 1 is January and so on.

•     The Marchamo is paid annually between November 1 and December 31.

•     Negotiate a deal that is acceptable to you and the seller.

•     Complete the transaction using a lawyer or notary public, this is required by law for a valid title transfer.  The lawyer/notary public will write the bill of sale, search the government database to make sure the car has a clean title and send the paperwork to San Jose to get a new title.   The paperwork created at the time of the sale is adequate for you to drive the car legally until the new title is delivered.

Either shipping a vehicle to Costa Rica or buying one in country warrants time spent on careful up front research and planning to make sure you get the most for your money and end up with reliable transportation for many years.