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Importing Vehicles to Costa Rica

We have received many requests regarding information about importing and legally inscribing vehicles in Costa Rica. The following will help you understand the basics.

1. Importing vehicles: 

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 the following two documents:

A. Documents that prove ownership of the vehicle.

You need to check if the title of the vehicle has any item that would compromise its importation such as:

  • Salvage note (part only, lemon salvage, letter-parts only, cert-lemon law buybak, certificate-No VIN, Katrina)

  • Destruction of vehicle

  • Non-rebuildable vehicle

  • Salvage/Fire damage to vehicle

  • Parts only

  • Total loss

  • Dismantlers

  • Non-repairable vehicle

  • Junked vehicle

  • Crushed vehicle

  • Scrapped vehicle

B. *DUA (Documento Único Administrativo in Spanish) and taxes paid for the importation of the vehicle.

*If your vehicle is not imported (instead, it is a Costa Rican vehicle), bought at auction to a government institution or was it an unregistered vehicle, you will not need this. The re-registration of imported vehicle that it was before registration under the Costa Rican laws, the DUA will not be required.

2. Naturalization:

Once the vehicle arrives in Costa Rica, it will be placed into a Customs Warehouse, which will require additional expenses in order 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. It is at this point that the vehicle will be released from the warehouse.

Once out, the next steps will be:

1. 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.

2. 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 a 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.

 3. 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 3 weeks approximately.

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.

4. Final consideration:

Please take into consideration 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.

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Karen Ulate

Karen Ulate

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