Importing Vehicles to Costa Rica: An Updated Guide (2022)
If you want to import and register a vehicle in Costa Rica, be prepared for a slow and bureaucratic process
We have received many requests regarding information about importing and legally inscribing vehicles in Costa Rica. The following will help you understand the basics.
Importing vehicles to Costa Rica
The process of bringing a vehicle into Costa Rica is supervised by Customs — therefore, you need to be prepared for a slow and bureaucratic process.
First, the interested party will require documents that prove ownership of the vehicle and a customs document that proves that the good entered legally to the country.
The customs document is called in Spanish “Documento Único Aduanero” (DUA) and is delivered by Customs to the owner of the good when entering the country.
If your vehicle is not imported, bought at an auction to a government institution, or is a unregistered vehicle, you will not need a DUA.
Once you have the required documents, you must also check if the title of the vehicle has any items that would compromise its importation, such as:
- Salvage note (part only, lemon salvage, letter-parts only, cert-lemon law buyback, certificate-No VIN, Katrina)
- Destruction of vehicle
- Non-repairable vehicle
- Salvage/Fire damage to vehicle
- Parts only
- Total loss
- Junked vehicle
- Crushed vehicle
- Scrapped vehicle
Once the vehicle arrives in Costa Rica, it will be placed into a Customs warehouse, which will require additional fees to be paid for it to be released. This is where the “naturalization” process starts by defining the tax class (according to the VIN number) and custom taxes.
(Important note: a certified Customs broker/agent in Costa Rica will be required for the process and all the documents required for this process are required in original.)
At this point, the Customs broker will require the DUA and other supporting documents in order to determine the correct classification and to pay all the required taxes. This is the point that the vehicle will be released from the warehouse.
Once the vehicle is released from the warehouse, the next steps will be:
Riteve: mandatory vehicle mechanic inspection. You have up to 48 hours to complete this once the vehicle is released from the warehouse.
Every vehicle that circulates in Costa Rica is required to have a valid technical inspection. The inspection is carried out by a private company referred to locally as Riteve and which has inspection stations all around the country.
The intention of the inspection is to ensure that all vehicles comply with basic safety standards established by the manufacturer and with the applicable traffic regulations of Costa Rica.
Marchamo: Right of circulation tax on all vehicles, required to be paid on a yearly basis.
Every vehicle that circulates in our country is required to pay for the right to move and circulate. The owner of the car must go to the INS (National Insurance Company) agency to check the amount to pay.
Inscription: Once the import and naturalization process are completed, you are ready to register the vehicle with the National Registry and obtain the local plates for the same.
Note you will need assistance from a Public Notary to proceed. The notary will draft the deed and file it at the National Registry upon its execution. Once submitted, the process could take around three weeks.
Once approved, the attorney will obtain the definitive property car title, car deed, license plates, and sticker plates.
As a final step, once all documents have been obtained from the National Registry, a second visit to Riteve will be required so that they provide you with the corresponding sticker.
Regarding the exemptions, the main requirement is for those people who are authorized to enter Costa Rica under the immigration categories such as Investors, Retirees and Fixed income (Rentiers).
The Congress approved these exemptions on June 22, 2021. This was effective beginning July 14, 2021, and the government established that these exemptions would be valid for 10 years from the date they are granted.
Therefore, the beneficiaries can import a maximum of two vehicles, for personal or family purposes, so the exemptions include free import tax, customs and value-added taxes.
In addition, if any vehicle is stolen, totally destroyed by fire, flood, collision or accident, during the benefit period of the law, the person may import another vehicle with the exemptions.
Final consideration:Please consider the fact that if this process needs to be done for a corporation all corporate and tax obligations must be updated in order to proceed. As for the procedure, it can be completed under your personal name or the company name.