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Guanacaste, Costa Rica by Joseph Emanuelli

Real information and stories from Guanacaste , Costa Rica. Presneted by a long time expat living and working in Costa Rica
How to Ship a Car to Costa Rica and what expect

Hello from Playa Hermosa Guanacaste,

            Over the past few years a lot of people asked me “Is it worth shipping my car to Costa Rica”? Well the answer is not an easy Yes or No. So I am going to tell you about our experience with shipping a car in to Costa Rica.

            It all stated about 3 months ago when Pam’s uncle said she could have his old Nissan pathfinder, a 1997 model to boot. Pam was pretty excited about the idea as she had to give up hers when she sold her business. So she started the long process.

First Pam had to get the cars title in her name. No big deal if we lived in AZ where the car was, but we live in our paradise of Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste. The next step was to find a reliable shipper that could handle the whole process of picking up the car, transporting it to a port for shipping, receiving it here in Costa Rica and then go through all the requirements to get it legal here. I will explain what they all are and I hope I don’t miss a steep or two hear and Pam handled the whole thing.

Once Pam found a company through recommendations of friends and having had to deal with this with some of her past clients she felt it would be no problem, and it was but there were some hiccups along the way. Make sure it is a company that has shipped items to Costa Rica before. And remember you get what you pay for, just because someone might be less expensive, it may end up costing you more in the long haul with actual $$ and frustration.

First the cars title needs to be in the name of the person shipping it. Then you need to supply the exact VIN number so that the customs agents and shipper have full knowledge of the car and can place a value on it for tax purposes.  Here in Costa Rica they do a “Blue Book” value on the vehicle. The VIN # also will state ownership as well. Personally we got lucky as I checked on line and this car had a higher Kelly blue book value then what the CR customs guys gave it. This is where things can get crazy. Sometime the value is just a random number they come up with and based on the year and make of the car the import tax can be as high as 70% of the value these clowns put on it. Guess we caught them on a good day.

Next step is getting the car to the shipper. Most of these logistic companies can handle the whole process from picking up the car at your door and taking it from there. Depending on where you live will depend on the port the boat leaves from and arrives at in Costa Rica. If you live on the west coast of North America it could come from lots of places, the same with the east coast. If you live in the middle somewhere most likely it will go out from either ports in Texas or New Orleans. Once the car is on a boat it could take a couple of weeks before it lands in CR and this is when the “FUN” starts, even with a good shipper.

When the boat arrives and the car is taken off it is held by the customs until the shipper supplies all the bill of laden information and legal information as well as payment for the import tax. The legal information is completed by a Costa Rica attorney, and will show who is going to own the vehicle and you need to attest that you are not bringing it in to sell, right away anyway, along with a bunch of other information that the attorney will take care. Yu must be thinking by now “ holy crap, what a process” I need to find a lawyer to help do this as well” Now a good shipping company will have all these professionals lined up and ready so you won’t have to deal with this.

Once the car is released from customs, and this can take up to 3 weeks, the car then needs to be brought to RTVE, this is the national inspection company to make sure the car is in good working order, as in lights, breaks, wipers, seat belts, tire condition, suspension and emissions.  Once the car passes the technical inspection, Thank God Pam’s did, then it can be presented to get license plates and Machamo. The Machamo is the yearly circulation tax and basic liability insurance for all vehicles. Again another payment needs to be made to get all these items. The Machamo sticker was not ready, even thou it was paid for, because their system was down and they could not give out the sticker. Typical Costa Rica government run agency, make you jump through hoops only to say NO come back another day as our systems are down. I think it is an excuse not to work that hard.

Now the car is ready for you to either pick it up from the shipper or pay him more money to bring it to you. We chose to go and get it and that was experience all in itself, but that’s for another blog.

So back to the original question, “is it worth it shipping my car to Costa Rica”? All in all it can be a pretty easy experience with the right people working for you. But if not the right people, in all reality it is really a lot less stressful to just purchase a car here and be done with it. Yes it may cost more here, but the stress you may have to deal with is not worth it and not to mention the amount of tax you may have to pay. Besides it is just a car, its main function is to get you from point A to point B safely.  Oh and Yes Pam is very happy she has a new but old car to drive that works just great.

As always, thanks to my steady followers for stopping by my blog. I hope you enjoy some of my rants, craziness and even some good information, if you want to make a comment just send me an email to jaaechef@gmail.com , my personal email address or post it here. If you have an interest in or are just curious about Costa Rica and the possibility of owning your own piece of Paradise just click this link and have a look around.


I look forward to hearing from you! May the Sun Shine on you no matter where you are!!

“Pura Vida” Pure Life Baby!!

Posted: Sunday, April 21, 2013 10:58 AM by Joseph A. Emanuelli


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