Bringing your car into Costa Rica

Apparently the cheapest way to bring a car into the country is by boat. You have three months to start the car’s paperwork from the moment the car enters the country.
You will need to contact a customs broker to file the paperwork, you won’t need a lawyer.

(*A lawyer will be required to sign the documents at customs but they have their own lawyer who will sign the documents, you don’t need to hire one and his/her fees for this service are between 15.000 and 20.000 colones or $30.00 to $40.000.

If the three months go by and you haven’t filed the papers you will have to store the car in a fiscal warehouse where of course you will be charged to keep the car until you file the papers.


Documents required by the Customs Broker

  • - Car Title 
  • - Your passport or resident ID
  • - Payment of Marchamo: This is like paying for your yearly license plate taxes in the United States. The payment of the marchamo goes from November st to December 31st of every year, and regularly you have until de first week of January to pay without penalties. Visit the INS website marchamo section to find out how much you have to pay. The Costa Rican banks give you the option to pay online if you have an account with them. The price of the marchamo is determined by your car’s model, manufacturing year and brand.  Note: If you got tickets for driving infringements you have to pay them at this point. You can find a search utility on the COSEVI website that will display your infringements records. Visit and click on Infracciones (infringements), fill out the fiels to find out how much you have to pay.  Anyone can pay for the marchamo by simply providing the license plate number, it doesn’t have to be the owner of the car. To pay the marchamo your vehicle has to pass the RTV inspection (see details below). After paying for the marchamo at a local bank they will give you a new official circulation card. You cannot loose this card, you have to have it in your car at all times. This card comes with a sticker that is required to post on the corner of your windshield. The sticker may distort or lose color from the sun, it is for this reason that you have to have the circulation card in your glove box.
  • - RITEVE (RTV) This test is equivalent to the emissions testing in North America. You are required to do this each year for your vehicle; for older cars and for almost brand new cars every two years. You have to make an appointment to have your vehicle tested. Go to the following website to make the appointment: You have to enter your license plate number. The other option is to call the RTV office to make an appointment.  Appointments: 905-RTV-0000, 905-788-0000 - Questions: 800-RTV-0000, 800-788-0000. Generally individuals can get an appointment within the first two weeks after making the appointment. You will get a confirmation date and time together with a list of requirements to present the day of the appointment. The cost of the test is around 12,000 colones or $24.00.  Required documentation:  Title deed to the car (Titulo de propiedad), Registration card (Tarjeta de circulación), Your passport or Resident Card. RTV checks on your car’s CO2 levels, lights, breaks, shocks, tires and so. Your car will go through various tests. It is recommended to have your car inspected and fixed before going to your RTV appointment in order to avoid failing the test or you will have to do it all over again. 

You will receive a temporary license and within a month you will get your license plate.