The complete guide to shipping a vehicle to Costa Rica

Moving to Costa Rica can be not only a time of excitement but it can also be a time where very important decisions need to be made concerning where you will find lodging or permanently live when you arrive as well as how you will get around. While many places are going to be within walking distance, especially if you live close to the local restaurants and lounges, you may also need to have reliable personal transportation to get to and from work in a town outside of your own or to visit friends that may not live in a close proximity to your home. In situations like this, you are most likely going to find that having your own car is going to be very beneficial to getting around economically.

Luckily, main roads in Costa Rica are paved in most areas and most towns, even small ones, are connected by roadways that are paved or at least more modernized than in rural areas. Many roads that you find are going to be dirt and may have some rough terrain which means that you really need to own an SUV or truck with a larger clearance than a small car would have. A regular SUV or truck will be fine and having 4-wheel drive is not going to be necessary unless you plan to drive far from the main road or into the mountains where having a 4×4 is going to be necessary.

Having a car to drive will help save expenses from trying to hail public transportation and will get you to the local hot spots much faster than walking. In Costa Rica you will find that your living expenses may be comparable to the prices you pay in the U.S. for housing and groceries but gasoline can be expensive and public transportation costs will add up quickly. Being able to freely drive your own personal vehicle will not only save money in the long run but it is definitely going to free up time as public transportation is often much slower than you need it to be.

Hiring a Professional to Ship Your Vehicle

Locating the right international auto shipper is going to be something that may seem like a time of confusion for you. When you start a search to see who can not only ship the car overseas but also transport it to the port for you if that is necessary and also provide a quote that is affordable, you are quickly going to see that you will find hundreds of companies that seemingly offer the same thing and all will guarantee the best prices and safest services. Your job is going to be to weed through the companies to narrow them down to one that you can trust. To do this, you will need to submit for quotes but also speak to company representatives to see what services they offer, how much insurance coverage they will provide and what they charge for shipment.

To make a decision on the right company to hire, be sure to keep the following in mind:

  • Get quotes from at least 4 companies.
  • Make sure the quote is all-inclusive so you know the company will not add extra fees on at a later date.
  • Check reviews online on both the company website if applicable and also through resources such as the Better Business Bureau to see what others have said about the company and how they perform business.
  • Ask questions to see how long they have been in business and what services they offer. If you need to have the car delivered to or from the shipping port, this is the time to make sure they offer this service.
  • Be sure to get everything in writing when it concerns the overseas shipment of your car. From the initial quote to the insurance coverage and all other guarantees, you need to have it in writing so that nothing may be changed at a later date.

While most companies will offer marine insurance that covers the vehicle during shipment, it is also a good idea to contact your private auto insurance company to purchase a separate policy or to extend your current policy to cover the car during shipment. You will also need to purchase automobile insurance for your car when it arrives in Costa Rica so it will be covered in the country. All motor vehicles imported to Costa Rica need to be registered when they arrive in order for the owner to legally drive. Insurance may be obtained through the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, the local agency that handles car insurance in Costa Rica. The shipping company that you hire should be able to assist you with not only transporting your car to the country but also having it legally registered and tagged and obtaining local insurance coverage so you will be able to drive once the car arrives.

The Cost of Shipping a Vehicle

Cost will vary depending on the company you hire as well as the distance that the car will travel. If you live on the east coast of the United States and can get the vehicle to Miami, you can usually find lower rates for automobile shipping to Costa Rica by shipping it out from Miami and into ports such as Moin or Limon on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Shipping to and from these areas will usually run between $800 and $1000 to ship. If you are on the west coast you can usually ship from Los Angeles, Seattle or even Houston but you really should try, if at all possible, to get the vehicle to Miami for shipment as it will not only cost less but you will have better options for faster delivery to Costa Rica because there are fewer ships that head out to this area from the west coast of the U.S. than from the east coast.

Getting the Vehicle Ready to Go

Once you have hired a company and taken care of finding transport to the shipping port, you need to make sure the vehicle is ready to go on the date that it will be delivered to the shipping port. Preparation includes having all customs paperwork taken care of and paying all of the fees including tariffs and customs duties as well as physically preparing the car for shipment. You may want to take note that taxes are required to be paid on all motor vehicles and rates can range from 50% of the car value to over 70% of the value depending on the age of the car as well as the market value. Your agent will be able to help with the taxes and customs fees so you will know what you need to pay upfront. You also need to physically prepare the vehicle so that it will be shipped safely as well as legally.

  • An emissions test must be performed and your car must meet standards set in Costa Rica. Your shipper will be able to assist with the emissions test to help ensure that your car is able to be shipped.
  • Wash the car and make sure there is no dust or grime left on any surface.
  • The car must be in good running condition in order to be shipped.
  • Fuel should be dropped to less than a half tank for shipment.
  • All personal property must be removed from inside the car.
  • Anything loose on the outside of the car should be removed as it may falloff or damage other cars during shipment.
  • All lighting must work correctly.
  • The brakes and tires must be in good condition and work accordingly.

Once your vehicle arrives in Costa Rica, you must make sure it is registered and tagged before driving it. Having a personal car to drive is going to be a great benefit to you as you learn more about this beautiful country and begin to really find your way around your local area as well as surrounding communities as you enjoy life in Costa Rica.

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