Shipping a Vehicle To Costa Rica – What Are The Two Biggest Reasons to Ship A Car to Costa Rica?

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Shipping to Costa Rica – For many that have relocated to Costa Rica and those thinking about starting a life in the land of “Pura Vida”, the question will arrive whether or not they want to have their own vehicle in the country.  The public transportation in Costa Rica is very frequent and efficient but having a vehicle in the country can be both a necessity and a luxury that makes life a little bit easier.

There are 2 major reasons you should ship your vehicle using a Costa Rica Shipping company as opposed to buying one in the country; money and vehicle dependability.


Before your journey to start your new life in Costa Rica if you plan on leaving your vehicle at home you are going to need to sell it. This has many potential downfalls.

  1. In many cases to get the best price for your current vehicle you are going to have to start the selling process 5 to 6 months ahead of time in order to get multiple offers & the best price for your vehicle. This is going to require you to spend time and money on selling your vehicle.
  2. When you get a good offer this could mean that you are without personal transportation for a period of time before your journey to Costa Rica.
  3. If you decide to wait until last minute to sell your vehicle you could have to take a loss on the vehicle in order to sell it quickly
  4. If you are unable to sell it pay for storage or a friend to try to sell it after you leave.

These are just a few of the disadvantages of selling your vehicle before you come to Costa Rica.

After arriving in Costa Rica if you are in need of your own transportation you will need to find a replacement vehicle. You will need to use friends, taxis, Uber or other forms of public transportation to go in search of your new car or truck.

If you have looked on craigslist or other auto vending websites in Costa Rica you will notice the large price discrepancy between the USA/Canada and Costa Rica. The price of a vehicle outside of Costa Rica is normally about half of what you will pay in the country due to import taxes and shipping costs. For example a 2000 Grand Cherokee which in the USA would go for about $5,500 would sell for about $11,000 or $12,000 in Costa Rica. When you do the numbers it is actually less expensive to ship your current car than to sell it and buy another one in Costa Rica.


Purchasing a vehicle in Costa Rica is a bit different than buying one in the USA or Canada. There is no CarFax or lifetime warranty on the vehicle you are purchasing. In the USA or Canada you are given a breakdown of any damage or repairs done to the vehicle or when normal yearly maintenance took place, oil changes, etc. If you decide to ship your current vehicle you already have all these records and data for your auto.

Let’s go through what you are going to possibly experience a majority of the time when purchasing a vehicle in Costa Rica. The truth is you do not know anything about the vehicle you will be purchasing. In most cases people keep their vehicles until they are on their last legs.

You will be told a history of the car but in most cases it is not true or they might not even know the true past of their car or truck. After Hurricane Katrina, Costa Rica was flooded, no pun intended, with flood damaged cars that were worth pennies on the dollar in the USA, but that used car dealers were able to sell for about 75 to 80% of Blue Book value in Costa Rica. You have no idea who is using Costa Rica shipping logistics to get rid of and sell totaled vehicles. 

Remember you are not protected at all against buying lemon vehicles, if there are engine problems or a problem with the clutch you may be able to get your money back within the first 30 days after purchase (If the seller still has the money) but after that there are no refunds.  You can try to get your money back through the Costa Rican legal system if it breaks down within the first 30 days but it is not worth the time, money and effort to try to push a case through the judicial system in Costa Rica. After you purchase and spending money transferring title, if it breaks down and you are stuck with a huge mechanic repair bill, there is not much you can do.  

There is always the chance you can find the diamond in the rough when on your mission to find a car in Costa Rica, but the horror stories outweigh the number of times I have heard someone happy with their Costa Rican bought vehicle.

You know your personal car, and it is worth the time and effort to ship it to Costa Rica if you plan on having a personal auto here at any time.

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5 thoughts on “Shipping a Vehicle To Costa Rica – What Are The Two Biggest Reasons to Ship A Car to Costa Rica?

  • Mike UdellMarch 15, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    Your right about the savings and knowing the car you have . Buying a used car in Costa Rica is like putting a dollar in a slot machine and saying I’m going to win the big jack pot. The used car market here is one of the worst for the lack of real information pertaining to the car your looking to buy. I believe your better off buying a new car here yes I know about the import tax but they do have cars here you can purchase fro the 16,000 – 30,000 that would fit most people’s needs. Selling your old car using that money to buy the new one can be a better long term solution. If your here for less then 5 years bring your old car and enjoy the life. PS remember bring a newer car to Costa Rica with its import tax is not a great option either unless your staying here to make it worth it. Mike Udelll

  • Douglas SherrowMarch 15, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    We need to get a handle on the costs to move our family of 3 to Costs Rica

    • mikeplambeckMarch 15, 2017 at 6:49 pm

      Hi Douglas,

      If you fill out the contact form on this page, you can have all your questions answered by someone who knows the costs. I myself don’t have that exact information. thanks

  • Bob GardnerMarch 15, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    Approximately how long does it take to ship a car from the US?

    • mikeplambeckMarch 15, 2017 at 6:51 pm

      It takes between 4 and 6 weeks.


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