Buying a car in Costa Rica – Pros and Cons

Posted on November 25, 2011 ~ Categorized as Live, Play
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buying-a-car-in-costa-ricaHow to Buy a Car in Costa Rica or Bring Your Car to Costa Rica

To bring my own from home, or buy abroad? That is the question most expats ask themselves when making the move to Costa Rica. Is it cheaper just to bring my current car from the States, or should I buy a car when I get to Costa Rica? This guide will help you decide which of those two options is best for you, as well as give you helpful tips on how to buy a car in Costa Rica.

Bringing Your Car to Costa Rica
While a still a viable option, most expats have a lot of misconceptions about the process of bringing your car to Costa Rica. It may seem like the cheapest option. However:
You will have to pay import duties for your car, which is one of the reasons bringing a car to Costa Rica is so expensive. You will also need to pay insurance and shipping costs.

You will have to take your car through customs, which is a process in itself. If you don’t speak Spanish fluently or aren’t familiar with customs in Costa Rica, you’ll need a Customs Broker to help you do this. (And of course, you’ll have to pay the Customs Broker.)

If you bought a new car from a dealer in the US to bring to Costa Rica, any warranties and guarantees will be voided .

It is common for cars to be damaged or have parts stolen during shipping. It is possible that your shipping insurance will cover any damage, but it is unlikely, especially if the damage could be argued to be pre-existing.

Bringing Your Car to Costa Rica- Taxes
Here are some prospective tax rates for cars brought to Costa Rica:

Cars less than 3 years old- Around 50% in taxes

Cars 4 or 5 years old- Around 65% in taxes

Cars 6 years old or older- Around 80% in taxes

The tax rates for brand new cars will be applied via the Black Book value of the car, as well as to the shipping and insurance rates of the car.

Buying a New Car in Costa Rica
Because of import taxes, the cost of a new car in Costa Rica is about 30% more than a new car in the States. A price increase any higher than 30% is due to the popularity of the model in question, a brand’s good reputation, or the high prices a dealer pays to the factory.
Some cars in Costa Rica are for sale only in the Latin American market, and some new cars are manufactured specifically for Costa Rica, and these cars have special engine tuning, suspensions, and motor sizes. Many new cars will have the same accessories and safety capabilities as cars in the States. Certain U.S. brands that aren’t super popular, such as Suzuki, make for great cars in Costa Rica. This is because these brands are popular in Costa Rica and because they have good selling points, such as 4WD and high clearances. Here are some things to consider when buying a new car in Costa Rica:
The popularity of financing has grown significantly in the last few years, but rates are still higher than in the US. Expats who are not officially residents in Costa Rica or do not have an “authorized” form of income may experience difficulty in getting financing, regardless of your credit score.

Before you buy a model, check to see if that model is popular in the secondary market. Models that are more popular as used cars will retain their value longer. It will also be easier to find the right parts if you should need to make some repairs.

Do some research on a specific dealer before you buy from them. Many dealers have reputations for carrying certain brands or having certain part inventories. Know your dealer well before you buy from them.

Popular Car Brands in Costa Rica
Toyota, Nissan, and Hyundai are the 3 most popular car brands in Costa Rica. There are many great reasons to buy one of these 3 brands:

  • Car parts for these brands can be found in almost any part of Costa Rica
  • These car parts normally cost less than other brands’ parts
  • Due to their popularity, these cars retain their value well

Mechanics have experience working with these brands and are more likely to have the right equipment to repair or diagnose them.

If you need help or have questions about buying a car in Costa Rica please click here, fill out our contact form and we will respond to you shortly.


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