When you move to Costa Rica you might want to purchase a car locally. If not you can have your car shipped to Costa Rica. I purchased two cars here in Costa Rica. I used wheelcr.com to purchase the first car in San Jose, Costa Rica. (they were great, I do recommend wheelscr.com)
Costa Rica Cars … – New and Used Vehicles – Purchase Assistance (wheelscr.com)
The second vehicle I purchased was from someone locally here in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.
This blog post is not about purchasing a vehicle, it is about owning a car here in Costa Rica and what you need to pay to keep it on the road legally once you own the car.
All vehicles in Costa Rica have three stickers on the windshield. I will explain what each one of these stickers are and about keep them up to date. The stickers can be placed in any order and in different places on the windshield. It all depends on who own the car before you (I am of course writing about used cars), and where they wanted to place the sticker on the windshield.
- The first sticker at the top of my three, is on all cars. It identifies the license plate number that belongs on your car. It comes on all cars sold here in Costa Rica. You do not need to do anything about this sticker. Of course if you go to purchase a vehicle and it doesn’t have one, move on. As you can see below BBJ 334 is my plate number.
This ensures that you can not take a license plate from one vehicle and put it on another. The police will know right away. Yes, there are times that if you disobey and break a traffic law the police will take your license plate until you pay your ticket. Especially now, with driving restrictions that have been placed on vehicles. Based on the last digit of you license plate you are restricted a certain day of the week. (3/26/2021)
2. The middle sticker, the green one, is your inspection sticker. Yes, you need to have your car inspected every year. As you can see in the picture below, my car will need to be inspected again during June of 2021. By the way if you notice in the left corner of the green sticker, the plate number is BCS516. It is from the other car, there is not a problem with my stickers.
The inspection (if I remember correctly from last year) was about $20. The key here is to make sure your car is in perfect working order. If you think the inspection in the U.S. were hard you have not seen anything until you get your car inspected here. It is very very complete. They were under my car checking things out. I am not kidding. Very complete. You will also want to take someone with you if you do not speak Spanish. Why you ask? Well they are going to give you commands while you are being inspected. Like, turn the car off, turn it back on, turn signals, press the brakes; (and this includes both the brake pedal and the emergency brake). There were a few more inspection steps, but I do not remember now. Normally you must go through the line alone, but if you need an interpreter you can have that person ride with you as you go through the line.
Also, you can pay someone to take your vehicle to be inspected. I have not done this, but I have friends here who tell me it is very easy. They just pay a local mechanic to take their car and if anything is wrong the mechanic will fix the problem on the spot, so your car will pass the inspection. Each to their own. LOL
3. The third sticker is the machismo. Think of it as your registration for your car. You are not allowed to drive on the road if it is not up to date. Your machismo is renew every December for the next up coming year.
Your license plate and vin number are on the machismo sticker. You can go to any bank and purchase your sticker. I know it does seem odd to go to a bank, but that is the way it is done here. Just take a picture of you license plate with your cell phone, go to the bank with it and your passport, and show the bank teller both. The bank will look up your vehicle on the computer and tell you how much you must pay. The payment is based on the year and model of your vehicle. Meaning a expensive cars will cost you more than at cheap one. Also the newer your vehicle is, the more you will pay.
As an example, my 2013 KIA Rio was $400 dollars. My 1997 Jeep Wrangler TJ was $98 dollars.
When I first heard that I needed to pay this machismo fee, I asked around to find out how much I would need to pay. I talked to all of my friends and no one could tell me how much I must pay because there is not a set fee. It is different for everyone based on their year and model of their vehicle. My prices here in the paragraph above, are what I had to pay for my year and model. Someone here had a Porsche, pretty new and it was $18,000 dollars for the machismo. Just be aware.
Hope this helps you with understanding all three stickers? Remember two of those stickers are your responsibility to keep up to date here in Costa Rica.