Take the car to Costa Rica or sell it
Everyone who moves to Costa Rica asks if they should take the car to Costa Rica or sell it. Planning to get your possessions moved to Costa Rica? First, you need to focus on moving yourself and your loved ones south. But what about and figure out how you’ll get around once you are in the country.
There are two schools of thought on this. I, frankly, no longer have a strong opinion. You can sell all of your cars but one. Then you can take the car to Costa Rica that you most like and ship it in your container. Here’s the part where I have to tell you to forget about driving here from home. The roads are terrible in many places. The dangers to you and your loved ones on the journey down are not worth the benefit.
Getting here on the ground requires traversing some pretty nasty territory. And you’ll still have to pay the duty on the car upon entry. So forget about it as an option. There is no upside unless you’re in for an adventure.
Selling your car or ship it
Selling your car(s) and not instead of bringing a car to Costa Rica will give you some cash to buy something used when you arrive in Costa Rica. First, when you take the car to Costa Rica, you’ll have to pay the shipping costs. On top of that, the car gets assessed in customs what amounts to a 70% duty.
The upside of bringing a car to Costa Rica is that you’ll be driving a familiar, dependable and trustworthy vehicle. Buying a new or even a used car here is expensive to what it would cost in the States. So, it’s your call. Either way has its pluses and minuses.
Note that operating a car here is expensive compared to North America. Cars, new or used, are more expensive to buy and more expensive to operate. Labor is cheap, but good quality parts cost just as much or more than they do back home and regular gas in Costa Rica is the equivalent of $5.40 per gallon. On top of this, the climate is hard on cars and there is also a rumor that Costa Rica does not get its share of first-quality replacement parts.
Toyota or Hyundai
There are lots of new and used cars to choose from. Toyotas are dependable but very popular, and you’ll pay a bit of a premium for them. There are probably as many Hyundai vehicles here as any other single brand. So, parts for Hyundais are generally plentiful, it’s a quality brand and you’ll pay no premium.
I have a theory on used cars that enter here from other countries. They wouldn’t leave from the auction block for Costa Rican shores unless they have some significant, hard to diagnose or hard to repair difficulty. There are services here to help you sort through a maze of used car dealerships lead you to the most reputable, but Costa Rica is a “buyer-beware economy.” My advice is if you buy a used car in Costa Rica with or without the help of a buying service, don’t be frightened away from buying used.
There are some real automotive repair geniuses here. Just put aside a repair fund to take the car up to peak performance and operating standards. The dealer will probably stand behind the engine and transmission for 30 days, but chances are very high that there’ll be things that you’ll need to repair or replace and may have to put up to ten percent more than the price you paid for your car on necessary repairs. And if you go into your purchase with that attitude, you won’t be upset to spend the additional cash. Also, note that it’s likely you won’t be bringing in enough cash to purchase your vehicle outright and this is one of the instances where your remote wire transfer capabilities will be utilized.
Here’s something to remember. If you decide to not take your car to Costa Rica and sell it before you leave home, chances are you’ll need to rent a car until your flight leaves for Costa Rica. Make a budget for it and plan on the necessity. Also, plan to rent a car in Costa Rica when you arrive until your container arrives. Or you find a car to buy and budget for this, too.
You’re all adults and I’m not going to give advice on how to book a flight. However, you will be faced with a strange fact of life of living in a foreign country: you will always be one half of a roundtrip ahead or behind, depending on your perspective. Here’s the deal, U.S. airlines won’t let you depart from a U.S. airport without proof of a ticket for a return flight within 90 days.
So, if you come here to live, you’ll always have half a roundtrip return ticket to deal with. You can change your ticket to a later date, but when you do return for a visit, or for whatever reason, you’ll have to also have another roundtrip ticket and use the first half to get back home to Costa Rica. And so, the cycle never ends—I am told even after you have your residency, cedula card and have been living here for a decade. Let’s hope this changes one of these days.
Now you have all the necessary information you need to take the decision: take the car to Costa Rica or sell it.
The author of this blog, Ticonuevo, is a US expat who moved to Costa Rica. He and his wife used the services of GoDutch Realty to purchase a property in Costa Rica. In his blogs, Ticonuevo describes his own experiences of taking the step of moving to Costa Rica and getting a new life started.
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