Someone “Likes” Us

Hi Russ,
Chris was fantastic yesterday! Thank you for the great service you provide. I couldn’t have done it without him. I’d love to share my positive experience with your potential clients.

Nissan Pathfinder 2013

Otherwise, I’ll just share my write up on a couple of expat Facebook places. It’s a valuable service.


Hi Russ,
This is the write up I did for a couple of expat Facebook pages:

Using a SERVICE geared toward expats to buy a car, and why it was valuable to me. 

I’m providing this write up of my recent experience in the event it might help someone else.

If you don’t yet speak Spanish, nor have the time to spend countless days searching the local classifieds; and in some cases multiple nights in a hotel (if living somewhere other than Central Valley); then I recommend using a service to help you buy your vehicle.

You whittle your stress down to one day and there is someone to hold your hand through the process.

In my case, I used Russ Martin is the owner and has been in business 12 years here in Costa Rica. He has family working with him as the business has grown over the years.

Here is the process:

Determine your budget.  You can spend some time looking at used cars on classified sites for an idea of what’s available in your price range. If your serious about needing a car in CR, don’t be cheap. You might get away with a smaller, compact car if you strictly stay in the Central Valley. Any exploring of the country requires a sturdy and dependable car so you need to be realistic.

Reserve extra funds on your credit card for some service you may need to perform on the car post-sale. Many used vehicles aren’t completely serviced when you buy them (they may be road ready but the oil needs changing, new tires, transmission fluid, etc…. likely won’t be done before selling).

Next, reach out to Russ via email and tell him your budget and car needs and date you will arrive.  Usually 2-3 weeks is plenty.  His service is $360. Totally worth it!

Next, three ways to pay: bring cash in hand, wire it, or put it in escrow.

  1. cash in hand. You can only bring in under $10,000 per person, undeclared. When you declare, there are fees. You will need to research on your own.
  2. Wire it – I don’t recommend because it’s not immediate and you need to know your bank can send it if your not there in person initiating the wire. It seemed more complicated than I had time.
  3. Set up escrow- I chose this option. Russ recommends an escrow company they know is reputable.  Contact them while in your home country and they tell you what docs they need from you to set up the account on your behalf. It’s $380 for an escrow account plus transfer fees that vary according to your bank’s policy. Then, go to your bank and wire the money to the escrow company before you leave for CR. It takes 1-3 business days to arrive.  The escrow company sends you an email confirmation when it’s done. They are in country, and will send the money within hours to the seller as you buy the car. It’s worth the fee and less-hassle factor.

A few days before your big day:   Russ checks with you to ensure the date is still good and where to meet (they will pick you up at the airport if you don’t have a rental or anywhere around the Central Valley) very accommodating.

The big day: They meet you with a list of 6-8 cars based on what’s available from the sellers in their network at the time you want to buy. While they don’t “vet” any of the cars, they do only work with folks they know to be reputable. Note: some of them are simply brokers and take cars on consignment to sell on behalf of private owners. They usually make sure the car is cleaned up and road ready.  In all cases, It’s your job to understand how to check out a vehicle and inspect it yourself.

They let you drive them and do whatever you need to do to inspect it.

Tip:  the day goes fast and you don’t have as much time as you think so don’t spend a lot of time on every vehicle unless you really like it. There is no time for lunch so prepare food and water for your day. Any stops you make, cost you valuable car search time.

Now- You found your car and agree to buy.

Your wheelscr representative will start the ball rolling. He or she will bring in the insurance broker to meet at the car.  They must declare its value in person to insure it. Meanwhile, the rep gets the account info from the seller and tells you the total amount to transfer( including all fees) that you turn around and give your escrow company.   Do it via email they respond quickly.  Escrow place closes at 4 so you need to get your request to transfer money by 2:30p.m.

Next, you and the seller travel to the nearest attorney and do the paperwork. You show your passport, answer some questions and sign some papers.

Travel back to the car, and the insurance broker has you pick the insurance you want. There is a minimum Marchamo required and the rest is optional but recommended if you think you might have a hard time driving here.  You pay 6 months up front with a credit card and in another 6 months, the broker emails you to renew and pay again.  It was about $100 a month full coverage for my 2013 SUV, the rates increase for cars older than 10 years though.

WheelsCR helps you wrap it all up and drive away.

They make a difficult buying process easier. They want you to be pleased with your purchase and with their service. They work hard to help. 

Published by Russ Martin

Helping expats locate reliable used vehicles since 2006. I have lived in Costa Rica since 1994.

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