In the heart of Central America lies a paradise, Costa Rica, known for its lush rainforests, pristine beaches, and burgeoning expat community. For many who choose to call this tropical haven home, having a reliable mode of transportation becomes essential. This has led to a growing interest in Expat Cars for Sale in Costa Rica.

Why Costa Rica?

Costa Rica, often referred to as the “Switzerland of Central America,” is not just a tourist hotspot but has become a sought-after destination for expatriates. Here’s why:

  • Beauty and Appeal: From the azure waters of the Pacific to the dense Monteverde cloud forest, Costa Rica offers a diverse landscape that is a treat to the senses.
  • Expat Community: Over the years, many have fallen in love with the Pura Vida lifestyle. The expat community, drawn by the country’s stable democracy, friendly locals, and affordable living, has been on the rise.


expat cars for sale in Costa Rica

The Process of Buying a Car as an Expat

If you’re considering buying a car in Costa Rica, it’s essential to be well-informed:

  • Legal Requirements and Paperwork: Just like any other country, Costa Rica has its set of regulations. Expats need to ensure they have the right visa status, local bank accounts, and other necessary documents.
  • New vs. Used Cars: While new cars come with a warranty and the latest features, they can be expensive due to import taxes. On the other hand, used cars might be more affordable but require thorough checks to ensure they’re in good condition.
  • Understanding Local Driving Conditions: Costa Rica’s diverse topography means roads can vary from well-paved highways to rugged mountain paths. Before making a purchase, it’s crucial to understand where and how often you’ll be driving. For insights and experiences from fellow expats, the Costa Rica Expat Forum can be an invaluable resource.

expat car ownership in Costa Rica

Pros and Cons of Owning a Car in Costa Rica

Before diving into the car market, weigh the pros and cons:


  • Freedom of Movement: No need to rely on public transport schedules.
  • Potential for Road Trips: Explore hidden gems at your own pace.
  • Convenience: Whether it’s a late-night run to the store or a weekend getaway, having a car is undeniably convenient.


  • Cost of Maintenance: With the varied terrains, wear, and tear can be higher, leading to frequent maintenance.
  • Potential for Theft: Like any other place, there’s a risk of theft, so it’s essential to take precautions.
  • Driving Conditions: Navigating Costa Rica’s roads, especially during the rainy season, can be challenging.

This article provides a comprehensive overview for expats considering buying a car in Costa Rica. Whether you choose to buy new or used, the freedom and convenience of having your own vehicle in this beautiful country can significantly enhance your living experience.


expat cars for sale in Costa Rica

Expat Cars for Sale in Costa Rica

In the realm of Expat Cars for Sale in Costa Rica, several related terms frequently come up. These include:

  • Costa Rica vehicle regulations: Understanding the local laws is crucial before making a purchase.
  • Importing cars to Costa Rica: For those considering bringing a vehicle from abroad, it’s essential to be aware of the import duties and regulations.
  • Costa Rica car dealerships: Local dealerships offer a range of options, from brand-new models to used vehicles.

affordable expat cars in Costa Rica

Tips for Expats Buying Cars

For expatriates looking to purchase a vehicle in Costa Rica, here are some invaluable tips:

  • Research local dealerships: Not all dealerships are created equal. It’s essential to find one with a good reputation.
  • Understand the resale value: Some cars have a higher resale value than others in Costa Rica.
  • Consider the type of car based on terrain and usage: Will you be driving more in the city or exploring the countryside? Choose a vehicle that suits your needs.
  • Get local advice and join expat forums: Platforms like the Costa Rica Expat Forum can provide real-life experiences and advice from fellow expats.


expat car market in Costa Rica

Considerations for Expat Car Ownership in Costa Rica

As an expat living in Costa Rica, owning a car can make your daily commute and travel experiences more convenient and enjoyable. However, owning a car in a foreign country comes with its own set of challenges and considerations. Here are some factors that expats should keep in mind when it comes to car ownership in Costa Rica:

Vehicle Registration and Licensing

All vehicles in Costa Rica must be registered before they can be driven legally. Expats should ensure that the vehicle they purchase has been registered and that all necessary documentation is in order. Additionally, expats must obtain a Costa Rican driver’s license within 90 days of residency in the country. Failure to do so may result in fines or legal issues.

Road Tax

Costa Rica requires all vehicles to pay annual road taxes based on the type and age of the vehicle. Expats should factor this cost into their car ownership expenses.

Maintenance and Repair Services

It’s essential to find a reliable and trustworthy mechanic for regular maintenance and any necessary repairs. Some dealerships offer these services as well, but it’s crucial to research and read reviews before selecting a mechanic or dealership.


Expats should consider purchasing comprehensive car insurance to protect against accidents, theft, and other damages. Costa Rican law requires all drivers to carry liability insurance, but additional coverage may be necessary depending on individual needs and circumstances.

Environmental Regulations

Costa Rica has strict emissions and environmental regulations that all vehicles must comply with to operate legally. Expats should ensure that the vehicle they purchase meets these requirements to avoid legal complications.

Best cars for expats in Costa Rica


In the quest for Expat Cars for Sale in Costa Rica, knowledge is your most valuable asset. Costa Rica offers a unique blend of urban and natural terrains, and having your own vehicle can significantly enhance your experience. However, it’s paramount to be informed, from understanding local regulations to choosing the right vehicle for your needs. As you embark on this journey, always prioritize safe and responsible driving. After all, the roads of Costa Rica are filled with adventures waiting to be discovered.

-Article by Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).

[email protected]


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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best car to own in Costa Rica?

Due to varied terrains, SUVs or 4×4 vehicles are often recommended for their versatility and durability.

What is the most sold car in Costa Rica?

The Toyota Hilux and Hyundai Tucson are among the top-selling vehicles in Costa Rica, known for their reliability.

Is it cheaper to buy a car in Costa Rica?

Cars in Costa Rica can be more expensive due to import duties and taxes, often making them pricier than in the US.

Do expats pay income tax in Costa Rica?

Yes, expats pay income tax on any income generated within Costa Rica, but not on foreign-sourced income.

Does Costa Rica tax expats?

Expats are taxed on income earned within Costa Rica, but foreign income is typically exempt.

Can tourists buy a car in Costa Rica?

Yes, tourists can buy cars, but it’s essential to have the necessary paperwork and understand the registration process.

How much is taxes on a car in Costa Rica?

Taxes can range from 30% to 79% based on the car’s age, make, and engine size.

How much does it cost to import a car from the US to Costa Rica?

Import duties can be high, often ranging from 50% to 79% of the car’s CIF value (Cost, Insurance, and Freight).

Why are cars so expensive in Costa Rica?

High import duties, taxes, and shipping costs contribute to the elevated prices of cars in Costa Rica.



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