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Costa Rica Vehicle Importation Process Explained

Updated: May 24, 2023

Are you considering moving to Costa Rica and importing a car?

If you are considering moving to Costa Rica and importing your car then you may be wondering if it's worth the cost and hassle.

In this blog article, by Price Auto Sales in Uvita, we will help you understand the process of importation, and we hope we can help you to decide if it is a good idea for your situation or if you would be better off buying a locally sold model.

First, let's start with the requirements for importing a vehicle to Costa Rica. According to the Costa Rican government, you'll need to have the following documents:

  1. Proof of ownership of the vehicle.

  2. Original title or certificate of origin.

  3. Bill of sale from purchase.

  4. Export certificate from the country of origin. (Different For Every State)

  5. Proof of payment of import duties and taxes to Costa Rica!

In addition, you'll need to have the vehicle inspected by the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) to ensure that it meets the country's emissions and safety standards. This is currently handled by Dekra, which we cover in another blog in depth.

Understand The Cost Of Importing A Vehicle To Costa Rica Versus Buying A Local Model!

Now, let's talk about the cost. The exact cost of importing a vehicle to Costa Rica can vary depending on a number of factors, including the age and value of the vehicle, the type of vehicle, and the shipping method. There are also now new exemption opportunities which you can explore on our other blog coming soon to see if you qualify.

Here are #'s so you can get some rough estimates if you do not qualify for an exemption as a resident, which now exists for up to 2 vehicles but is still very hard to qualify for and may actually come back to haunt you.

Keep reading for just why that is, but first the cost!

  1. Import duties: These can range from 52% to 79% of the vehicle's value, depending on its age and type.

  2. Sales tax: This is currently 13% of the vehicle's value.

  3. Shipping: This will depend on the shipping method and distance, but can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

  4. Inspection fees: The cost of the inspection will depend on the type of vehicle and the location of the inspection center but is only a few hundred dollars.

An Inconvenient Truth: All in all, it's not uncommon for the final total cost of importing a vehicle to Costa Rica to be almost as much as 100% of the cost in the United States making it often times easier and more affordable to buy a vehicle in Costa Rica.

The added benefit to this decision is that parts are readily available for that vehicle here since foreign models are not really sold in Costa Rica. For instance here in Costa Rica, the Tacoma is simpler looking and called a Hilux. Click this link or the photo below for a written comparison between Hilux and Tacoma.

Qualifying For The Tax-Free Import of Two Vehicles With The New Law!

The Costa Rican government has recently introduced a new vehicle import tax exemption, which can be accessed through the Ministry of Finance's online portal If you're looking for more specific information on the cost of importing a vehicle to Costa Rica, there are a number of resources available online. The Costa Rican government's website has a section on importing vehicles that includes detailed information on the process and costs. You can check the Costa Rica Immigration Experts for more info. The main thing you need to know is it will not be easy, and the bureaucracy involved will be substantial and may make you question living if your car is your baby then it could be worth it.

Pro Tip On Importing Vehicles To Costa Rica: Remember that time is not a thing, only a figment of your imagination, so dont think about the when only how it will feel to receive it. Life is after all most sweet with a bit of delayed gratification right?

The Biggest Surprise About the Process!

To qualify for the exemption, is that individuals must meet certain criteria, including owning and using the vehicle for a minimum of 10 years. They must also provide all necessary documentation through the Ministry of Finance's online portal, such as proof of ownership and usage of the vehicle so if ya dont love computers you are in for a treat. If these requirements are completely met, only then will the individual will be granted the import tax exemption and can import their vehicle without paying the standard import tax.

Is the New Import Tax Exemption A Good Thing?

We don't mean to be negative about the new law, because over all this new vehicle import tax exemption is a positive development for individuals wishing to import their own vehicles to Costa Rica. It does help to reduce the cost of importing a vehicle by a lot and make it more accessible to a wider range of people, just doesn't speed up the process.

So whats the catch to importing besides the time frame and paperwork struggle?

It is important to note that the exemption comes with certain conditions and individuals must ensure they meet all requirements and provide all necessary documentation through the Ministry of Finance's online portal. Failure to do so could result in legal issues and potential fines. They are notorious for helping you do it wrong to is the worst part.

Now Lets Talk about shipping Your Vehicle To Costa Rica!

Overall, the new vehicle import tax exemption is a step in the right direction to make it easier and more affordable for individuals to import their own vehicles to Costa Rica.

In conclusion, importing a vehicle to Costa Rica can be a bit pricey, but it may still be worth it if you plan on living in the country for 10 years or more or have a super special car to you. If not it is probably easier to sell your vehicle there and buy here, wherever there is for you.

Just make sure you do your research and understand all the costs involved before making a decision. Additionally, you may want to consult with a Costa Rican customs broker or shipping company for more specific cost estimates. If you qualify for exemption it allows individuals to import 2 vehicles without paying the standard import tax, which can often be a surprising high expense when importing vehicles to Costa Rica.

In summary the biggest concern we have for those that bring down vehicles is that there just are not parts for them. At the end of the day having a vehicle that is sold in the country you are end is infinitely easier in the long run.

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