Starting in January of 2012, the National Property Registry began using new license plates for cars being registered in the country for the first time. During the next 3 years, all existing vehicles had to update their old plates to the new design, and add the sticker too.
The most distinctive feature of the new plates is that they have letters! Prior to 2012, the plates were numbered in consecutive order. Late in 2011 the numbers were over 900,000, so the question was would the registry move to 7 digit plates, or do something else.
The powers that be decided to go with the new plates and add letters to the mix. If you know your statistics, you know that a 6 digit passcode made up of only numbers has a possible 1 million combinations. Whereas a 6 digit passcode, made up of 3 letters and 3 numbers that may be repeated, has a possible 8,000,000 combinations. (only 20 letters may be used – since the registry excluded vowels)
However, the new license plates aren’t just pretty permutations. They have other new features as well, intended to prevent falsification and “cloning”.
Laser and hologram images engraved on the plates.
- Visible seals.
- A matching sticker must be placed in a visible location on the windshield.
- They cost more: 8,000 colones for motorcycles and 15,000 for cars and trucks.
All vehicles in the country must change their license plate within 3 years, according to a timetable that will be established by the registry. The good news is that the Registry plans to open new facilities to deal with the more than 1,000,000 vehicles that will have to go through this process.
Another feature is that vehicle owners may now choose their plate number, for an additional fee. This means that you will be able to choose your ending plate number, which could be useful if there is particular day of the week you don’t normally need to drive in San Jose. It could also allow you to buy a second vehicle that still has the old number-only license plate and matches your current vehicle. You could change to the new format and specify a different ending number to avoid having both vehicles with the same restriction day of the week.