Buying a Car in Costa Rica

Buying a Car in Costa Rica

Foreigners who’ve settled in Costa Rica quickly realize that they can’t bring their cars in from other countries, as they’re subject to extremely high import taxes. The next best option is to purchase a car. For a Costa Rican, buying a car is no big deal. The slow process is a way of life, but then, everything runs much more slowly in Costa Rica. For the westerner who expects instant gratification with everything, buying a car in Costa Rica can be a long slow process.

Since cars in Costa Rica will generally cost you more money new or used, you’re going to need to spend time shopping around. Many people in Costa Rica purchase cars through private sales, rather than relying on used car lots. But how to get around town to look at all your potential new car purchases?

You have the option of renting a car, so you can drive around checking out potential purchases, or getting one of your local friends to drive you around.

There are several websites that have new and used cars on them. One of the best is There is also and

You may find that your Costa Rican friends are the ones who will make purchasing a car much easier for you. They can provide valuable advice on which car dealers to trust, who to avoid, and a reliable mechanic who can provide an inspection of your potential new car purchase.

Many people in Costa Rica own an SUV 4×4 vehicle, as some of the roads aren’t paved, and may be rough to drive on. If you’re purchasing a vehicle, you should consider buying this type of car, so you can truly get around to see all the fabulous sights of the country.

It’s recommended that you narrow down your selection between three different vehicles. Have each one inspected by your trusty mechanic. Your mechanic will provide advice on whether the vehicle will be a good purchase, and since you’ll likely be purchasing a used car due to the expensive costs of cars in Costa Rica, you’ll want to know how much any potential repairs will cost as well.

Once you’ve made your choice you need to visit an abogado, or lawyer. Sometimes it can be difficult to find one who can speak good English, so ask around. A friend may be able to not only provide a recommendation, but set up a meeting for you.

The lawyer will search a government database for information on the car, and whether there are any liens on it. You’ll be required to pay Marchamo, an annual road tax where you get a sticker to place on your windshield. Plates always stay with the car, and are never exchanged, even when the car switches hands.

The lawyer will fill out pertinent papers for you, and you’ll sign them. You’ll receive a temporary document until the papers are processed in San Jose. You’ll receive the keys, and will return to pick up the processed papers in two week’s time.

Treat your new car purchase as Tico style and don’t stress out over it. Once you have your new car, you’ll have freedom to travel anywhere.

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