How to bring your car to Costa Rica

Hello everybody,

If you exported your car to Costa Rica, were there any formalities that needed to be completed beforehand? What were they?

What is the best way to export your car? Is there a limit on the number of vehicles, or perhaps the age of the vehicle? Are there limits on emissions or emission controls in Costa Rica?

What are the expected costs of exporting a car? In your opinion, is it worth it?

Once you arrived in Costa Rica, what were the applicable taxes? What was the customs process like?

How do you go about registering an imported car in Costa Rica?

Is it best to buy a car once you have arrived or to bring your car with you, in your opinion?

We look forward to hearing from you!


Good article here

We have done both; purchased one here and and brought one in.

kohlerias :

Good article here

We have done both; purchased one here and and brought one in.

Thanks for that link Kohlerias - great info.  Also shows why cars are so incredibly and ridiculously over priced here. 

I imported my car when I moved here.  I plan to sell it in the near future and buy a newer one here.  I no longer know anyone that I trust to import a vehicle now.

- Expat Dave

I have both imported vehicles and bought locally and unfortunately the system is filled with issues (things stolen out of one of the cars we shipped) and corruption at the port. Best of luck to everyone... my suggestion is to buy one locally from an expat that already got screwed (I have a pickup on craigslist for sale if you need one). Take a bus or even better Uber is paying drivers almost nothing for the use of their vehicles in Costa Rica. Not sure how they do it on overpriced gasoline. Forget everything you knew outside of Costa Rica and get ready to pay to play ;-)

I accidentally deleted a message sorry if it was from you. Just as it flew off,.I just read the first sentence "did  you import a car to CR ?
The answer to that is DEFINITELY not..I have bought many cars here, never a problem, sure more expensive DUH they do not make cars here (In case anyone forgot to notice before griping re prices...we are NO longer in Detroit Dorothy !

The reality is that cars are expensive in Costa Rica due to extremely high import duties and registration fees (marchamos) that are supposed to go into building infrastructure projects that are for the most part ineffective, late and failing due to corruption and poor planning. The average Tico and Expat are paying for this high cost of living and it is important that folks understand once they enter Costa Rica they are going to pay high prices for just about everything (except labor) due to inefficiencies and a blase attitude toward paying off cops, customs agents, etc. It happens all over the world but in my experience the corruption is very much in your face in Costa Rica. Don't believe the hype and think you will live in Costa Rica on the cheap as just about everything is imported and most of the good local products are earmarked for export (i.e. coffee, pineapples, bananas, etc.). Don't take my word for it though... go live there for a year or two and see for yourself. Pura Vida!

Don't bring your vehicle, your furniture or all your stuff. Find a good mechanic in the area you are moving to and ask which vehicles are best. You're going to be seeing a lot of them no matter what you buy. Bring the wrong one and you won't get parts and they won't know how to fix.  Toyota, Mitsubishi,Nissan will win and diesel is best. Buy in the city and not in the jungle.

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