The PASS Advantage – Can You Buy a Car Without Help?

If you are moving to Costa Rica or buying a car here for the first time, there are a number of web sites and publications that offer cars for sale by dealers and owners.   However, if you don’t speak Spanish, don’t already have a car and don’t know your way around San Jose; well then you may have difficulty completing your purchase.

  • You’ll have to pay a taxi driver, to cart you around. Or impose upon a friend, or try to navigate your way through San José with a rental car.
  • When you get to the agency you might find that there is no one on duty who speaks English.
  • If you find a car you like, then you won’t have any trouble paying for it! (unless you didn’t want to carry all that cash with you) But you might have difficulty understanding the transfer process and also figuring out when you can pick up your car, since it must go through a delayed registration process if it is being brought to the country for the first time.
  • After the sale you may find that the vehicle you purchased is difficult to repair or find parts for, if you chose a brand or model that is not common here in Costa Rica or in the area you will be living.

In some English language publications, like The Tico Times or AM Costa Rica, or on Craig’s list, you may find other expats who are selling vehicles.  Sometimes the prices are very good, but sometimes not.  This way you will eliminate the language barrier, but you also severely limit your possible choices for a vehicle.

The main problem though is that you will often encounter vehicle here that will be troublesome for you.  Sometimes, as Craig’s list warns, they are scam artists selling you a vehicle that they don’t intend to deliver. Another issue is vehicles that have not been brought to Costa Rica properly.  Some people drive down their car and get it into the country on a temporary permit, but once the permit expires the vehicle is difficult to register for a number of reasons. Also vehicles that were shipped down by inexperienced people may not have all the required documentation.

Finally, makes and models that are good buys in the US, Canada and Europe are often less than ideal for Costa Rica.  This may mean that they are not appropriate due to the road conditions here, but mainly the concern is parts and repairs.  Parts can be a big issue if the vehicle is not popular here.  You may have to pay outrageous prices at the dealer, or worse, there may not be a dealer here! Or they don’t carry a large inventory of parts and must special order them. You may end up waiting a number of weeks for a part and of course in the meantime be without your car.

A second problem along the same lines is that mechanics here are not familiar with the rarer cars.  They may have quirks that take longer for the mechanic to figure out, which logically causes delays in the repair job.  The mechanic may need special equipment to repair the vehicle properly, which means they will probably “wing it” with varying results.

The PASS Advantage

Since 2006 we have offered our clients the PASS service.  This eliminates the problems and issues described above, and makes the car buying experience as worry-free as possible.

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