Importing vehicles to Costa Rica is a process that requires careful planning and understanding of the country’s laws and regulations. Whether you’re a resident planning to bring your car from abroad or a business looking to expand your fleet, knowing the ins and outs of the vehicle importation process can save you time, money, and stress.



Why Import a Vehicle to Costa Rica?

There are several reasons why one might consider importing a vehicle to Costa Rica. Perhaps you’re moving to the country and want to bring your car with you. Or maybe you’ve found a unique vehicle abroad that you’d like to own. Regardless of the reason, importing a vehicle can be beneficial, but it also comes with its own set of challenges.

Understanding the costs associated with importing, dealing with customs, and navigating the legal requirements can be complex. However, with the right information and preparation, these challenges can be effectively managed.



The Legal Framework for Importing Vehicles

When importing a vehicle to Costa Rica, it’s crucial to understand the legal framework that governs this process. The Ministry of Finance and Customs is the central regulatory body overseeing vehicle importation.

The laws stipulate the types of vehicles that can be imported, the necessary documentation, and the import duties payable. It’s important to note that the import taxes are calculated based on the value of the vehicle, its engine size, and its age.



The Process of Importing a Vehicle

The process of importing a vehicle to Costa Rica involves several steps. First, you’ll need to choose a reliable shipping company to transport your vehicle. This company should have experience with Costa Rican customs and be able to guide you through the process.

Next, you’ll need to prepare the necessary documentation, which includes the vehicle’s title, your passport, and a bill of lading from the shipping company. Once the vehicle arrives in Costa Rica, it will need to clear customs. This involves paying the necessary import taxes and ensuring all documentation is in order.

Finally, once the vehicle has cleared customs, it will need to be registered with the Costa Rican government. This involves paying a registration fee and obtaining a Costa Rican license plate.



Costs Associated with Importing a Vehicle

When importing a vehicle to Costa Rica, there are several costs that you need to consider:

  • Shipping Costs: The cost of shipping a vehicle can vary greatly depending on the size of the vehicle, the shipping method (container or roll-on/roll-off), and the origin and destination ports.
  • Import Taxes: Import taxes in Costa Rica are calculated based on the value of the vehicle, its engine size, and its age.
  • Insurance: It’s also important to consider the cost of insurance. You’ll need to insure your vehicle during transport, and you’ll also need to obtain Costa Rican vehicle insurance once the vehicle is registered in the country.



How to Choose a Shipping Company

Choosing the right shipping company is a crucial step in the vehicle importation process. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Cost: Compare quotes from several shipping companies to ensure a fair price.
  • Reliability: Look for a company with a solid track record of delivering vehicles safely and on time.
  • Experience with Costa Rican Customs: Dealing with customs can be one of the most challenging parts of importing a vehicle. A shipping company with experience in Costa Rican customs can help guide you through this process.


Importing a vehicle to Costa Rica can be a complex process, but with the right information and preparation, it’s certainly manageable. By understanding the costs involved, choosing a reliable shipping company, and navigating the legal requirements, you can successfully import your vehicle and start enjoying the freedom of driving in this beautiful country. Remember, preparation is key, and understanding each step of the process will help ensure a smooth and stress-free importation process.

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

[email protected]

Frequently Asked Questions


Can I import any type of vehicle to Costa Rica?

Yes, you can import most types of vehicles to Costa Rica. However, the import taxes and regulations can vary depending on the type and age of the vehicle.

How long does the importation process take?

The importation process can take several weeks to a few months, depending on various factors such as the shipping time, the time it takes to clear customs, and the time it takes to register the vehicle in Costa Rica.

What documents do I need to import a vehicle?

You’ll need several documents to import a vehicle to Costa Rica, including the vehicle’s title, your passport, and a bill of lading from the shipping company.

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