Importing a Car to Costa Rica

Whether you want to live in a beachfront condo in Jaco or have a family house right on Hermosa Beach, you will find that Costa Rica is one of the most unique countries in the world to live in. On top of determining which tropical area you will search for your new home in Costa Rica, you will also need to make plans on whether you’ll bring your personal car along or not.

Reliable transportation for local travel in Costa Rica can of course be easily found, and many locals walk or bike where they need to go when it comes to moving around within the same town, but if you plan to do any extensive traveling or need to get to or from work or play outside of town, you are going to need reliable transportation to do so.

It is best to talk to a reliable vehicle shipping company who specializes in moving overseas like A-1 Auto Transport to get a quote on bringing a vehicle to Costa Rica and to find out how long shipment will take. On average, it can take up to two weeks to move a car from a Miami port to Costa Rica. A vehicle shipper will know which paperwork is required and the best options to keep your car safe once it leaves your sight.

A Taxing Situation

One of the biggest concerns for importing a car to Costa Rica is going to be the cost not to physically ship the car, but to pay taxes and import duties. If you can get the car to a port in Miami in the USA to send to Costa Rica, you will pay, on average, around $1000 USD to ship it out. Taxes and duties however can run as high as $4000 or more depending on the type of car you own. Import taxes can run as high as 52.29% if the vehicle is older than three years. Even more, taxes can run as high as 79% on cars that are older than five years old when bringing them into Costa Rica. In some cases, you can buy a new home in Costa Rica for less than what you spend on importing a car.

Let’s look at what it might take to import an inexpensive used car. Imagine that you found a decent used car listed online for a price of just under $500. The car runs and looks good enough, and chances are you won’t find another deal like this one in your lifetime. So, you snatch the car up and have it delivered to your door safe and sound ahead of your move to Costa Rica. You may be surprised to find that due to taxes, the $500 car will wind up costing nearly $5000 to bring into the country.

Something to consider when it comes to this situation is going to be determining whether the car is in excellent condition or not. Buying a car in Costa Rica is certainly an option, but it can not only be expensive to buy a car but if you buy used, you will need to have a thorough inspection because many used cars in Costa Rica have been neglected, driven through many potholes and otherwise not been well-maintained, yet owners will try to sell them for far more than they are worth. So, paying more to import might be a better deal if you have a good car to bring over with you.

Documentation Needed to Import a Car to Costa Rica

First, it might be wise to own a 4WD vehicle as you are going to find many rough roads, even in bigger towns and having a 4WD will help travel go smoother after rainy days or when you venture outside of the primary roads. Whether you have a 4WD, a motorbike or a sports car, you’re going to need some important legal documentation for customs to bring the car to Costa Rica. Thankfully, the government enjoys having Americans stay in the country and they make the paperwork far less burdensome than many other countries. You will need some of, if not all the following paperwork:

  • Driver’s License
  • Insurance Certificate
  • Temporary or Permanent Import Permit
  • Vehicle Registration
  • Valid Passport
  • Emissions Certificate dated within 90 days (For permanent import)
  • Vehicle Title
  • Original Sales Invoice or Notarized Bill of Sale

Taxes must be paid at the following rates based on the age of the car:

  • 52.29% for cars under three years old
  • 63.91% for cars between four and five years old
  • 79.03% for cars older than six years

Customs in Costa Rica will determine the value of the car based on a scale that they use, so it is best to not even attempt to tell them what the car is worth as the agents will go by their figures and not your own. Once they have approved the vehicle for entry and you have paid all necessary taxes and import fees, your car will be cleared, and you can enjoy driving to the places you need to be in your new home in paradise. Remember, watch out for bumpy roads and be sure to make plans to get your Costa Rica driver’s license within three months if you are staying as a permanent resident.