Bringing in a car

On one of my articles the tax on cars being imported has changed for the better. If you are looking to import a car the “domestic tax” for vehicles coming into Costa Rica is based on “Customs” value – that is WHATEVER Customs think your car is worth. This is not based on the black book like some people claim.
52.29% x importation valor for model years 2004 through 2006
63.91% x importation valor for model years 2002 and 2003
79.03% x importation valor for model years and older than 2002
The older the car, the higher the tax rate. These percentages are based on the value of the car, the amount it cost to import it and any insurance that you placed on the car for shipment.

On December 31, 2006 they will push the bracket up one year.
If you have any questions regarding shipping a vehicle to Costa Rica you should contact Charles Zeller at Be sure to tell him Angela sent you.


Traffic and Driving

Be prepared to lose that game of chicken, but take care not to lose your life. Every day the newspapers report on the previous night’s wrecks and on the pedestrians who’ve been aplastados (flattened or run over). Most of the country’s roads are atrocious, and as for walking…there is a public service announcement on TV that urges pedestrians to wear white, and to step off into the dirt whenever they see a car coming. No mention is made of the fact that the country could use a few more sidewalks, and that drivers should be on the lookout for “obstacles,” especially in rural areas where cars share the road with horses, oxcarts and whole families walking to weddings, baptisms and funerals.

In Costa Rica, the car is the patron and the pedestrian the peon. The culture here is that cars stop for NOTHING…not an old woman limping across the street, not a stalled car, not a group of school kids trying to get to class on time. In many cultures, people are taught to drive defensively. In Costa Rica, parents teach their children to walk defensively. Costa Ricans on foot know to treat cars as the unpredictable animals they are. Follow their lead and don’t expect cars to stop just because there is a stop sign or a red light.

If you can avoid driving at night, do so. Eighty percent of insurance claims come from night-time accidents. In rural areas, be on the lookout for cows or dogs lying in the road, or for people who consider the bank of a highway a good place to hang out and socialize.

Erin Van Rheenen – Living Abroad in Costa Rica


Bringing a car

A common misconception among foreigners coming to Costa Rica is that you will save money by bringing a car here from the US. There are some major drawbacks to this.

  • You have to pay import duties, which is the main reason cars are so much more expensive here. Plus insurance and shipping costs.
  • You will have to go through the process of clearing customs, not an easy task!
  • The guarantee that you have on the car from the US dealer is not valid in Costa Rica
  • The car may be damaged in shipping or have parts stolen in transit. Insurance doesn’t always cover this.

If you still think you want to import your car the following taxes will apply.

  • Less than 3 years old – 59.33%
  • 4-5 years old – 70.63%
  • 6 or more years old 85.32%

These rates are applied not only to the Black Book value of the car (regardless of the purchase price), but also to the shipping and insurance costs.