Buying a car
The first thing to know about buying a car in Costa Rica is that you must use the services of an Attorney who is also a Notary in order to transfer the car from the seller to the buyer. The second thing to know is buying a car in Costa Rica is expensive.
Value of your vehicle
The government assesses import duties of 50-80% of the car’s retail value. The retail value is often highly inflated over the actual value of the car and is decided by the government. The retail value governs your annual, mandatory registration and insurance called “Marchamo” (due by December 31st every year). If you are importing a car from abroad (Outlier Legal does not do this, but we have a trusted partner who does), expect to pay an exorbitant amount to bring it in to the country as the retail value will be far higher than what the car is worth in your home country.
We highly recommend buying the car from a reputable dealership, but even if you found one you like from a private seller, we can recommend a mechanic to visit the car and run some diagnostic tests to ensure it is in good condition. We do not recommend skipping this step, as roads in Costa Rica can be very tough on cars.
Once you find a car you like, you will need to ensure that the Marchamo (mandatory registration and insurance as indicated above) and the inspection sticker are correct and up to date. The seller should have the sticker for both in the window of the vehicle and the inspection receipt available for transfer with the car.
Attorney and a Notary
Once this step is set, you will need to find an Attorney and a Notary. Sometimes these two functions are completed by the same person, but it’s important to know that not every Attorney is also a notary. Depending on your command of the Spanish language, perhaps you do not need an attorney who speaks English. If you are not comfortable with your level of Spanish, we suggest using an attorney and notary who speak English and can provide you with a translation, if you need. The attorney will run due diligence on the car, ensuring the car is paid up on taxes and does not have any liens or outstanding tickets as all of these would be transferred to the responsibility of the new owner. Once the car has been cleared by the attorney for sale, the notary can conduct the transfer of the car from one party to the other. A few weeks later, the National Registry will issue all necessary documentation for your new vehicle.
Buying or selling a car
If you have any questions on buying or selling a car, please contact Outlier Legal today. We are here to help you move, invest and live in Costa Rica.
Outlier Legal’s team of professionals will ensure your next car purchase / sale is sound. We can put you in touch with a qualified mechanic to inspect the car, our in-house notary will facilitate the transfer, and we will do it all while making sure the car is free and clear to change hands.
For more information on car purchases, please visit our blog here.