Import Duties on Shipping a Car to Costa Rica

The Kia Bongo Crew Cab was never sold in the US, but has characteristics that make it great here.

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.  Before you ship a vehicle, read our previous article on Importing a Car to Costa Rica vs. Buying a Vehicle Here regarding the advantages of buying a vehicle from a reputable importer and cases where you should import a vehicle yourself. The information stated within is based on information provided at the Tax Ministry web site ( )

Import Duties in Costa Rica – Basic Concepts

It is very important to note that the import duties are based on the value of the car according to customs authorities, not the actual price you paid for the car. In addition, the cost of shipping plus shipping insurance  The objective of the taxes is two fold, sales tax is collected at this time, rather than at the time of resale by the importer.  Secondly, there is a luxury item tax paid.  Since no autos are manufactured in Costa Rica, this is not a protectionist tax and vehicles were not included in exemptions brought about by the CAFTA agreement.   The concept of this taxing is that those who can afford to buy expensive objects should pay more taxes, in addition cars imported to Costa Rica require roads to run on, as well as other public services like traffic police, so vehicles coming in to the country should fund these items.

Tax tables and calculation

52.29% – Cars Less Than 3 Years Old these are cars of the current year model and three year models prior; currently this would mean 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008.

63.91% – Cars 4 and 5 Years Old – currently these are cars 2007 and 2006 model, 4 and 5 years older than the current year model.

79.03% – Cars 6 and More Years Old – any car older than 6 years, currently older than 2005.

According to a 2005 executive decree, 32458-H, the value of the calculation must be the higher of the receipt for purchase presented by the importer, or the value of the vehicle contained in the data base of the Tax Ministry (at CARTICA/AUTOVALOR linked to from the home page of the ministry web site).   Following is a sample calculation for importing a year 2000 Nissan Sentra.

Vehicle price – $2000 (about 1 million colones)

Shipping and Insurance – $700 (about 350,000 colones)

Total Value – 1,350,000 colones

Hacienda Value – 3,590,000 colones (value returned from on line query)

Importation Value – 1,651,400 colones (value returned from on line query)

Notes: Since the importation value is higher than the purchase price + shipping, this is the value to be used.   The online query for any vehicle returns two results, the Tax Ministry (Hacienda) Value and the Importation Value.  The Hacienda Value is used for calculation transfer or registration taxes, also the end of year “marchamo” taxes.  The importation Value is used to calculate import duties.

1,651,400 x 79.03 % = 1,282,183 colones
(approximately $2564 at an exchange rate of 500 colones to the dollar)

Import Duties on Motorcycles

Motorcycles also pay fairly high taxes, with the rates being as follows:

58.10% – Motorcycles 0-3 years old

46.48% – Motorcycles 4-5 years old

34.85% – Motorcycles 6+ years old

Import Duties on Hybrid and Electric Vehicles

In 2006 the executive branch decreed that certain energy efficient vehicles could pay less luxury tax and import duties.  The decree established that the following vehicles could pay less:

Electric, Compressed Air, and Hydrogen – the decree established 0% tax rate on these vehicles. They must be new vehicles, and the importer must get certification from the MINAE (Environment Ministry) that the vehicle in question meets the required characteristics for this type of vehicle.

4 Cylinder Motorcycles – a 10% rate on certain taxes was established for 4 cycle motorcylces between 50cc and 250cc.

Hybrid Vehicles – new hybrid vehicles that have less than 2000cc gasoline engines get a 15% reduction in the luxury tax.  The vehicle must have certain characteristics and these must be certified by the manufacturer: 1) serial or parallel hybrid configuration with 2 propulsion systems, 2) combines an internal combustion engine with an electric motor – either may be used to drive the vehicle but there must be at least 1 computer controlling the system, 3) the electric motor must be at least 10 kW 4) there must be a system for capturing kinetic energy during braking, 5) maintenance-free chemical energy source, for example a deep cycle lithium ion or nickel metal battery pack, of at least 48 volts.

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6 thoughts on “Import Duties on Shipping a Car to Costa Rica
  1. Joseph MCgee says:

    Can I ship[via sea]a car to Costa Rica,use as a tourist and continue on to South America or drive home to U.S.A without registering or paying the full duties as if Im keeping it here.If so how and what are the fees and time allowed.Thank you for your info and advise. Joe Mcgee

    • Russ Martin says:

      Yes, cars that are driven by tourists don’t have to be nationalized. You will need a customs broker to clear customs with the appropriate paperwork. There will be some fees, but no import duties (85% on cars over 5 years old). The car can be driven in Costa Rica for up to 6 months, then it must be nationalized or leave the country.

  2. Michael Newhouse says:

    I believe you need to change the 2006 tax on hybirds as the government now is saying only 10%. Am I correct?

  3. Jennifer Freedman says:

    Not sure if anyone is still answering questions here, but I’m trying to find out if the valuation is based on the ORIGINAL price of the vehicle or the current price, ie, in my case, for a 13-year-old car. Or is it the value of the car that I tell the shipper — based on blue book or whatever? Also, this car is a European car — are there changes that would need to be made for it to meet Costa Rican standards? Thank you.

    • Russ Martin says:

      Tax Ministry Vehicle Values is the website where you can find the value of the vehicles for tax purposes. You would need a customs broker in order to bring the car here, they can tell you what documents you need. You may find that you can’t bring a 13 year old car, nowadays the oldest permitted is 10 years, I believe.

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