Bringing Your Car

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Bring Your Car or Buy in Costa Rica

The question is- Should I bring my car to Costa Rica when I move, or should I buy one when I get there?

If money is no object, then obviously you’ll do whatever you want, but for the other 99% of us- let’s do the math. To actually bring your car here, you would have to be in LOVE, because for the most part, it’s not a good idea. Don’t let passion over ride your reasoning skills.

The reason- IMPORT DUTIES. They’re HUGE by anyone’s standards. So, regardless of how you bring your car to Costa Rica, whether by driving or shipping it, etc. you WILL be charged import duties. * Used car is defined as- if you own it (it is titled), it is a Used car, whether it’s 2 days old, or ten years old. The import duty on a used car in Costa Rica will cost from 45% to 70% of the RETAIL VALUE of that car. Throw out the Blue Book, this has nothing to do with that book, this is the “Costa Rica Book”- things are different. The price you paid in ‘your’ country is irrelevant- this is all about BOOK price HERE.

You just can't put a price tag on LOVE. well, you can't but they surely will.
You just can't put a price tag on LOVE. well, you can't but they surely will.

You may pay from $10,000 to $17,000 in duties on a $20,000 used car, depending on the age of the car. Newer cars have MORE duty and older cars have less... older meaning maybe ten years old. Don’t forget to add the $500.00 to $800.00 for freight charges to have it shipped from the US to Puerto Limon where you will pick it up. Once it arrives, you are still obligated to have it inspected, pay you Marchamo, and insurance. Is your calculator burning up yet?

Also when making your decision whether to ship or not, you should consider if they even have the same model of car here (could be called something different), as obtaining parts could be a problem. The warranty on your car probably isn’t valid here, definitely something to check out before making the decision.

However, new cars here are expensive, but the good part is the cars seem to hold their value much better than in the States. Bringing a new car here would almost border on stupidity (unless money is no object), but an older car where the import duties may not be too bad may be doable and cost effective, but you must do the math before you make the decision. Don’t forget to check for parts availability.

To buy a car here, I recommend a dealer, used or new, and make SURE you have the car inspected by a competent mechanic before you sign the papers. It must be able to pass the Inspection and if you’re buying used, don’t forget to check the Marchamo, and have a qualified mechanic do an inspection, if not, there could be a lot of hidden expenses.

The best prices are always in the Spanish language newspapers like La Nación, English language newspapers such as the Tico Times- expect to pay Gringo Prices.