Importing a Vehicle

Find out how to import a car to Costa Rica and get it registered on the roads and the documents required when bringing a car for personal use in Costa Rica...

Vehicles may be brought into Costa Rica in one of two different ways:

  • A temporary entry permit
  • Importation

Temporary Entry Permit

A temporary entry permit application can be made at the port of entry. If the owner of the vehicle is on a tourist visa, there are no import duties to be paid. The vehicle owner must provide the following documents:

  • Vehicle registration papers
  • Driving license
  • Passport

A temporary entry permit is issued that corresponds with the length of the stay, usually for a 90-day period. When this period expires, the car must be taken out of Costa Rica permanently, or must be registered with Costa Rican license plates. Vehicles that do not leave the country within the time period specified may be subject to import taxes. However, it may be possible to renew the temporary entry permit for a further 90 days. The Customs Authorities (Dirección General de Aduanas) should be contacted before the temporary entry permit expires.

Importation

To ship a vehicle to Costa Rica, the following documents are needed:

  • Proof of ownership
  • Document showing Vehicle Identification Number
  • Original invoice showing purchase of car
  • Recent emissions test certificate

To collect a vehicle after it has been shipped to Costa Rica, the owner should go in person to the vehicle's point of entry. This is likely to be Puerto Limón, Puerto Caldera or, if a supplement has been paid, San José.

All taxes and duties must be paid before the vehicle can be released. It is recommended that a customs broker or agent is used to assist with the customs process. Shipping companies usually provide a clearing agent in the destination port, often for an additional fee.

Vehicle Import Taxes

There are a number of taxes due when a vehicle is imported into Costa Rica:

  • Import Duty (Impuesto Arancelario)
  • Consumption Tax (Impuesto Selectivo de Consumo)
  • Sales Tax (Impuesto de Ventas)
  • Further taxes may be applied

Further taxes may be applied.

The Ministry of Finance (Ministerio de Hacienda) taxes all cars and motorcycles imported into Costa Rica. The total amount of tax is calculated according to various factors pertaining to the vehicle.

  • For an import duty calculation tool provided by the Ministry of Finance: Click here

The taxable amount is based on one of the following:

  • The amount calculated according to the import value (valor de importación) using the calculation tool
  • The total sum of the receipt of sale (converted to the local currency), shipping, and shipping insurance (Cost Insurance Freight). If the vehicle was driven to Costa Rica, the CIF is valued at seven percent of the purchase price

The higher of the two values is always used for the purpose of tax calculation.

Import tax rates vary according to the age of the vehicle:

  • Vehicles less than three years old - 52.29 percent
  • Vehicles four to five years old - 63.91 percent
  • Vehicles six years or older - 79.03 percent

No import tax is charged on new electric-powered vehicles, subject to approval from the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (Ministerio del Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones - MINAE).

Motorcycle import tax

Motorcycles are subject to import tax, but the tax rates differ according to the age of the motorcycle:

  • Motorcycle less than three years old - 34.85 percent
    Motorcycle four to five years old - 46.48 percent
    Motorcycle six years or older - 58.10 percent

New motorcycles with four cylinder engines, and which are between 50 and 250cc, are subject to an import tax of ten percent.

Registering a Foreign Vehicle

Once the vehicle has cleared customs, it must be registered with the National Registry (Registro Nacional). It is advisable to use the services of a lawyer (notario) to register a vehicle, as the procedure can be complicated.

  • Registro Nacional
    At: 215, Curridabat 11801, Zapote, San José

The following documents are needed to register a car (inscripción):

  • Proof of import - this is the Documento único aduana (DUA)
  • Passport or identity card
  • Valid roadworthiness test (Revisión Técnica de Vehiculos - RTV)

Registration costs

Vehicle registration costs are minimal; however, once a vehicle is registered, the annual road tax (Marchamo) and insurance must be paid.

The road tax can be paid at most banks, at offices of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes (MOPT) or online at the INS website (in Spanish).

  • For information on the amount to pay: Click here (in Spanish)

Further Information

  • Information about new license plates: Click here