Buying – Importing A Car

Purchasing an Automobile in Costa Rica

High taxes make the purchase of a new vehicle in Costa Rica more expensive
than in many other countries. In the past, people chose to buy new cars in
the United States, where prices are much lower. Now, prices of new cars in
Costa Rica are more affordable than before, and more people are choosing
to purchase locally rather than deal with the paperwork of importing a
vehicle and high taxes.

One more reason to buy locally is to ensure your vehicle will be under
warranty in case anything goes wrong. Most local dealers offer two to three year
warranties on new cars.

Due to the high price of new cars, used cars are plentiful in Costa Rica.

Most of these second-hand cars are priced higher than they would be in the
United States or Canada, so Costa Ricans tend to keep them longer and take
better care of them. This makes resale value high.

The majority of automobiles in Costa Rica are made in Japan, so most
replacement parts are for Japanese automobiles. Mechanics know these
brands and have equipment to diagnose them. Parts are available nationwide
for Japanese automobiles.

Spare parts for U.S. cars must be imported, are expensive and sometimes
hard to come by. Brands such as Ford, Chevrolet, Saturn and Jeep only have
parts available from the dealer or by special order. With some cars, an owner
has to be careful about which country version he or she has. Therefore, you
should think twice about bringing an U.S. car to Costa Rica.

Other brands such as Honda, Mitsubishi, Mercedes, BMW and Land
Rover have good quality parts that are available but they are much more
expensive here. These vehicles hold their resale value very well (Other brands
such as Kia and Daihatsu have very low values on the secondary market)
If you do decide to bring a car from the United States or Canada, it is
best to bring a Toyota, Nissan, Honda or other Japanese import for the
reasons just mentioned.

If you plan to drive mostly in the country’s larger cities, smaller, new or
used cars will help reduce fuel consumption and are easier to maneuver on
crowded streets. Prices for new small cars are extremely affordable and range
between $12,000 and $16,000,while new mid-sized vehicles cost between
$17,000 and $23,000. Those of you who plan to drive outside the city and
off-road should consider a sport utility vehicle (SUV), pick-up or jeep. Many
of the country’s roads are unpaved and filled with potholes, and a solidly
built vehicle is absolutely necessary especially during the rainy season. Prices
of new SUVs run $20,000 to $75,000, depending on the model and size of
the vehicle. Used cars are priced substantially lower.

Here are sample prices of some used cars found in the The Tico
Times’classified ads. Also check out www.crautos.com for prices.
All prices are in U.S. dollars
95 Chevy Lumina………………………………………….$4,900
91 Isuzu Amigo……………………………………………$2,900
02 Chrysler Caravan…………………………………….$21,500
00 Mercedes S-500……………………………………..$30,000
04 Mercedes E240………………………………………$48,000
91 Isuzu Rodeo…………………………………………….$5,500
4X4s
99 4-Runner………………………………………………$14,000
03 Pathfinder……………………………………………..$27,000
91 Land Cruiser………………………………………….$13,900
00 GMC Jimmy………………………………………….$18,500
01 Jeep Wrangler…………………………………………$22,500
80 Land Cruiser Diesel…………………………………$13,900
87 4-Runner………………………………………………..$8,900
03 Dodge Dakota………………………………………..$25,000
95 Mitsubishi Montero………………………………..$11,000

On the road between the Pan-American Highway and the town of
Grecia there are sixty-five used car dealerships. Check this area for a wide
selection of used cars.

Since new cars are so expensive in Costa Rica, buyers have the option
to lease or finance. The dealer can usually arrange financing. If not, many
Costa Rican banks offer financing for cars. Interest rates are generally in
dollars instead of colones and vary according to market rates.

Bringing a car to Costa Rica

If you decide to bring a car to Costa Rica, there are two ways to do it: by
sea or by land. If you ship your car to Costa Rica by boat, contact a shipping
company near where you keep your car in the United States or one of the
companies mentioned in this chapter. This method of transportation is
relatively safe since your car can be insured against all possible types of
damage.

If you have all of your paperwork in order, your vehicle should not take
more than a month at most to reach Costa Rica, depending on your port
of departure. If you send your car from Miami, it takes only one week to
reach Puerto Limón on the east coast of Costa Rica and costs about $800
plus taxes. From the west coast or New York, you can expect to pay more
than $1,300 plus taxes and some other fees to process your paperwork.

To import a new or used vehicle, you will have to make sure your
shipping company sends the following documents: a driver’s license for all
potential drivers, the original clear title or pink slip (título de propiedad),
original registration, copy of passport, original bill of lading (conocimiento
de embarque) if the vehicle has been shipped, and the name of the shipping
company. Also make sure your car has Canadian or U.S. plates, or the whole
process may be delayed.

Note: ALL VEHICLES, since June 7, 2001, require an Emissions
Control Certificate certified by the Department of Motor Vehicles from your
country of origin or by the vehicle’s manufacturer if new, dated no later than
30 days prior to the shipping date. The certificate must be translated into
Spanish by an official translator and authenticated by the Consulate of Costa
Rica nearest to the Emissions Inspection Station that issued your certificate.
This applies even to used vehicles, and any car without it will not be able to
be registered in the country. This change, in fact, caused many vehicles to
be stuck in Customs for a time, as the law passed in December 1999, but
was never enforced until the middle of 2001.

To be safe, call the nearest consulate to check what documents are actually
required. In many cases, they will ask for a notary public to authenticate
the gas emission test and then have the State Department certify that the
notary is registered.

If your name does not appear on the original title of the vehicle, you
must provide a document from an attorney certifying that the owners allow
you to drive their car. Said document must be notarized and approved by
the nearest Costa Rican Consulate in your country of origin. Cars that
are being financed in the United States and are not fully paid off fall into
this category.

If you do not provide all of the documents above, including the gas
emission certificate, you cannot import the vehicle to Costa Rica.
Make sure that the VIN (vehicle identification number) and all details
of the car are correctly typed on all documents. Any errors will void the
documents and prevent you from importing the car.

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