Buying A Car

The roads in Nosara are awesome (for mechanics, people who sell shocks and repair tires). For the rest of us, the roads beat up our vehicles. Cars are expensive in Costa Rica period, so you might as well get over the sticker shock now. Look up what a 2010 Toyota Four Runner or Nissan Pathfinder goes for. When you regain consciousness… try and keep in mind that the cars hold their value quite well when it comes time to sell (there is always, well… almost always, a silver lining). Some will say it is a bad idea to purchase a car that has spent a lot of time in Nosara and that it’s better to find a car from San Jose or Liberia with its miles driven only on paved roads. That isn’t always the case, but you should have a professional take a good look at any used car before you buy it. In Nosara, good mechanics aren’t as common as good yoga instructors.

Importing: There are a minority of people who prefer to import their vehicle. There are examples of success stories and other stories where people pulled their hair out. Since no cars are made in Costa Rica, there is a stiff import tax. The import tax range is from 52%-79% depending on the year the car was made. The car’s value will not be equivalent to the car’s value outside Costa Rica. Here is the website used to determine what the vehicle is worth ( The shipping fee can range from $1000-$5000 depending on the port of departure. There are other smaller fees to be paid at the port (Port of Limon or Port of Caldera). There are import brokers who can help navigate and manage this for you as well. One of the biggest complaints of friends who have imported cars over the years is that often the car can sit in customs for as much as a few weeks upon arrival; however, recently, two friends I have that imported cars had overall good experiences.

Shop Online: The best used car site in Costa Rica is and

Gas or Diesel: Many people prefer diesel to gas. Why you ask? Well, the diesels get better mileage (or should I say kilometerage?) and diesel engines can go through rivers better than gas engines. Yes, you read that correctly. Not too long ago in Nosara, we drove through streams and rivers quite regularly in the rain season and if the water hits the spark plug on your gas engine… you will be dead in the water (pun intended) while diesel engines work off of combustion. You will notice when shopping for a car that diesels are thus more expensive. Most of the streams and rivers are now bridged.

Quads: No car is made for the roads of Nosara. Between the potholes, mud and dust, you shouldn’t grow too attached to your vehicle. Think of it more as a farm animal than a pet. The best vehicle (structurally) for these roads is a Quad. Quads are actually made for this type of (off) roads, but be prepared to be dusted and muddied some of the time. And if you’re a family of four… you’ll need two quads! Hey, you wanted an adventure right? Many families will have one car (and by car I mean 4×4 SUV) and a quad.

Taxes and Inspections: All vehicles in Costa Rica have two annual obligations. The first is Revisión Tecnica (RTV)…aka ‘Riteve’, which is an annual inspection of your car checking things like brakes, lights and emissions. The closest RTV location is in Nicoya (about an hour away) and you need to make an appointment by phone. ‘El Marchamo’ is a tax paid every December. The amount paid depends on the ‘blue book’ value of your car (Not Kelly’s Blue Book, The CR version called Auto Valor). Don’t worry though… all the money you pay ensures great roads (insert sarcasm here).

To make RTV appointment in Nicoya call: 905-788-0000.