Getting a Brand New Car in Costa Rica

Blue is meant to denote the eco-friendly aspects of the vehicle

Blue is meant to denote the eco-friendly aspects of the vehicle

Since 2006, we here at WheelsCR.com have helped their clients purchase reliable used cars from reputable dealers in Costa Rica.  If you’re reading this, you probably know that vehicles are a major investment here.  The import duties run from 30% for new cars, to 85% for cars that are more than 6 years old. No vehicles are manufactured here, so transportation and customs brokerage fees are always an additional cost.

Given the high price, the majority of the WheelsCR.com clients settle for older vehicles in the $5000 to $15,000 range. Some clients go for newer SUVs that will cost from $20,000 to $35,000.

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Toyota 4runner RAV4 For Sale in Costa Rica

All-time, All-Terrain Classics

Used Cars in Costa Rica Toyota 4runner 1999 rear view

Toyota 4runner pictured, see below for RAV4 photos

The Toyota RAV4 and 4runner are classic SUVs for Costa Rica and residents here. Many current residents had their first experience driving in Costa Rica in a RAV4 rental. The RAV4 is a smaller SUV, based on an automobile chassis. This gives it a much better ride and handling than many SUVs. At the same time it offers an excellent all-wheel drive feature, which will get you out of the majority of situations where you need traction but not that much power. The lighter body helps in these cases too. The RAV4 seats 5 adults fairly comfortably and has some room in the back for luggage or gear too.

The Toyota 4runner is a great multi-purpose 4 x 4. It has a good amount of cargo space in the back and will seat 5 adults comfortably. The 4 x 4 capability and ground clearance are superior to most SUVs, while the classic styling looks good in the city and exploring on the back roads. The chassis will handle up to 33×10.5 tires without modification, which improves the ground clearance and is good for those who generally travel on bad roads. Read More

Suzuki Sidekick – Samurai in Costa Rica aka Geo – Chevrolet Tracker

Suzuki Samurai 1988 - Great if your motto is "Life's a Beach!"

Great if your motto is “Life’s a Beach!”

Used Cars in Costa Rica for Sale –  The Ideal Sport Utility Vehicle ?

We talk about SUVs all the time, but if you sit down and think about the individual terms, the Suzuki Sidekick really comes close to being the ideal SUV — Sport Utility Vehicle.

Sport – Starting with the Samurai, and continuing with the original Sidekicks, the Suzuki 4 x 4 is convertible. How much sportier can you get? The colors are also fun and perfect for the tropics.

Utility – Utility means useful. The convertible top allows you to literally fit almost anything in the cargo area if the need arises, no matter how awkward or bulky. In normal day to day use, all of the versions have folding rear seats, allowing for 2 passengers and cargo / gear / groceries. Some versions have split bench seats, which means you can have 3 passengers and some gear — or a cooler! As well, the 4 x 4 capability is excellent, the bare bones construction and short wheel base means that you can get almost anywhere, and you aren’t worrying about damage you might be doing to some fancy electronics or delicate emissions control system.

Vehicle – being something that gets you from place to place. Aside from having 4 wheels and seats, the Suzuki Sidekick, Suzuki Samurai, Geo Tracker and Chevrolet Tracker are all dependable vehicles with good quality parts, that are also available nationwide. They’ll get you around when you first buy one, but you also can depend on being able to keep them going with a minimum of fuss. The Samurai is truly bare bones and you don’t have much that can go wrong there. Think of the classic VW Bug. The Sidekick is a step above and a bit more complex, but still fairly simple in most facets through the mid 1990s versions. Read More

Get a Vehicle Property Title Replaced

A sample Property Title for a vehicle registered in Costa Rica

Partial view of the document and seal.

First of all, keep in mind that the property title is not a vital document in Costa Rica.  Vehicle ownership must be transferred with the help of a lawyer / notary, and regardless of any additional paperwork the information in the National Registry is what matters.

There isn’t a case where you are asked to produce a property title to prove ownership. In a traffic stop, for example, you must present your current “marchamo” and the RTV technical inspection report, plus your driver’s license.

That said, most of our clients come from the US and are very concerned with getting the registration paper in their hands.  Conversely, many attorneys are very lackadaisical about following through with this.  IF you are in an outlying area, or have a hard time getting the lawyer to follow through, then you may wish to go to the National Registry and get a replacement or duplicate title.  Registry offices are located throughout the country and it may be easier — and even less expensive to get a title there.

Here is the procedure (documented on the National Registry web site)

Procedure for Replacement of Vehicle Property Title

The solicitud must be made by the proprietor of the vehicle in person at the Registry office and must meet the following requirements:

  1. Complete the form and present valid identification, WHICH MUST MATCH THE INFORMATION IN THE REGISTRY. If the owner’s current ID is not the same as that shown in registry records, then the owner must present a publicly sworn statement (DECLARACION JURADA EN ESCRITURA PUBLICA), indicating that the the two documents identify the same person. If the person cannot appear in person, the form may be presented signed and with a notary’s seal that authenticates the signature, as well as with the official stamps corresponding to the authentication.
  2. If the vehicle is owned by a corporation, then the registry report of a corporation must be presented (called a personería jurídica). The report must be less than two months old.
  3. For applications in the name of state owned vehicles, diplomatic vehicles or state univerisity vehicles, the application must be presented on the letterhead of the institution and the seal of the corresponding department, and the registry report of a corporation must be presented (called a personería jurídica).
  4. If the applicant is acting under a special power of attorney, then they must present the original testimony (ESCRITURA PÚBLICA) of that power of attorney.
  5. If the vehicle has a pending sales transaction noted in the registry, then the replacement property title may not be issued. The registration of the pending sale must be completed first and a new title will be issued.
  6. Present the form (Download the Form as PDF)

Time of Delivery
The property title is delivered immediately, once all the necessary documents are presented.

Stamps and Fees

  • ¢ 6000 Registry Fees
  • ¢ 250 Bar Association Stamps (if application is authenticated)
  • ¢ 5   National Archives

 

Import Duties on Shipping a Car to Costa Rica

The Galloper was never sold in the USA, but offers good value and economical operation.

If you have a vehicle that you have owned and that is commonly imported to Costa Rica, you may consider shipping the car to Costa Rica. This article explains the reasoning behind the high import duties, as well as some exceptions, including updated information on environmentally friendly taxes.  Read More

Costa Rica Fuels: Gasoline, Diesel, LPG, and more

Turbo Diesel Intercooler Engine - The best of both worlds?

If you are going to own a vehicle in Costa Rica, a big part of your life (and budget) is going to be spent filling her up.  Here is some information about fuel varieties, the national refinery and distribution system, and the choices you may make in buying a car. Read More

Paying for a Vehicle if You Don’t Have a Costa Rican Bank Account

Sexy, eh?  Could be trouble though ...

Jeep Wrangler Close-up

Many of our clients for the car buying assistance service are in the process of relocating and have not yet established a bank account.  But they would prefer not to wait to buy their vehicle until they get an account.  There are a number of ways to arrange for payment of the auto, but the best one for you may depend on your budget (the amount to be transferred to Costa Rica), and also where (or who) you intend to buy the car from.  For example, currently a wire transfer to the dealer’s account is the best option in most cases.  But if you are buying from a private party or a dealer you’ve just met, then it wouldn’t be wise to wire the money into their account and expect to pick up the car a few days later.  They will probably be in Rio spending your money on wine and loose women!

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Importing a Car to Costa Rica vs. Buying a Vehicle Here

On some web sites people recommend importing a vehicle yourself rather than buying a vehicle that is already in Costa Rica.  A common concern cited is that cars coming in are flood damaged — Katrina Kars — or wrecked vehicles.  But, often the person giving this advice is a customs broker !  To be fair, we also earn money providing a service to people who buy cars here, so if you import a vehicle yourself, then we obviously can’t help you or earn our keep. This article attempts to objectively look at the issue and offer you advice depending on your situation. Read More

Costa Rica Auto Insurance and Coverages

The hill of death?

Accidents happen ...

If you have done some driving in Costa Rica, you may have felt an “urge” to get insured (lol) .  Most of our clients in the PASS service end up getting voluntary coverage, often mainly for the road side assistance which is valid nationwide.   The following information is basic information on the mandatory and voluntary insurance in Costa Rica.  What they cover and some information about costs.

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Should I use a company to buy the car ?

Two door version Toyota RAV4 1998-1999 models

A lot of people have been told to use an S.A. to buy the car, for the purpose of asset protection. This may or may not be good advice. Some lawyers charge $500 and more to set up the company and there are some disadvantages you will encounter:

  • You will always need an up to date “personería juridica” when you do something with the car (RTV inspection, insure it, pay the annual marchamo – property tax, base insurance)
  • The company has to file a tax return each year in September and pay a stamp in March. This is obligatory, whether or not you have economic activity in the company.
  • The legislative assembly is discussing a tax bill that will charge $200 annually for companies.
  • Being in an S.A. protects the car in case you are sued, but the vehicle is more likely a source of liability (due to accidents) so in most cases the protection is limited.
  • Board members – you need to have different members of the board and a legal representative. This can cause problems later, for example if the lawyer fires his secretary and she is on your board, then you will have to replace her. An unscrupulous or careless attorney can cause you to lose control of the company that will own the vehicle if people are granted powers in the incorporation that they should not have. Ask your attorney about making a Responsibilidad Limitada (partnership or sole proprietor) rather than a Sociedad Anonima (S.A.) to avoid this.
Advantages
Are there advantages to having the company own a car? You may want to have the car in a company name if it will mean you can declare it for local taxes or you are using it for a business. It does protect the vehicle if you are faced with a civil suit for some reason not related to the car, so if it is a very expensive car and this is a consideration, you may want to have it in a company. If you are arrested for some reason having the car in a company name could protect it. If you have an accident with the car, the car could not be placed under a lien as a part of the civil suit arising from the accident. If you do decide to use a company, make sure:
  • The company should not own bank accounts or real estate, only the vehicle. (unless it is a related business enterprise)
  • Consult with your lawyer or CPA about what documents you must file for the company and when.
  • Get a personería jurídica from your lawyer. This can also be obtained when necessary from the service window at the Registro Nacional, it is pretty straightforward process that anyone can do.