Looking for Used Cars in Costa Rica?

Looking for Used Cars in Costa Rica?  Did you try looking at what Vamos has to offer?  Being a rental car business, we cycle through our inventory just to keep it fresh for our customers.

What’s the process to buy a used vehicle?

The transfer of ownership process in Costa Rica is a formal legal transaction and a public notary or attorney must be employed to carry out the procedure.  An Escritura de Traspaso, or bill of sale, will be prepared and signed by both the original and new owner. The public notary or attorney is then responsible for entering the bill of sale into the National Registry, after which documentation (including the document where you are listed as the vehicle’s owner) should be returned to the new owner.  This process usually takes about a month.

Part of the attorney’s role in the transaction should be to check that the vehicle you are purchasing is actually owned by the current owner and does not have outstanding payments owed, that there are no unpaid fines and that the Marchamo (see below) and RTV (see below) are current.

Vamos clients are welcome to employ the company’s attorney and if this is the case, the purchase and transfer of ownership of the pre-owned car can be simply executed in the Vamos offices.

How much does it cost to complete the legal requirements?

The cost of transferring the car’s title from the previous owner to the new owner is based on a number of factors; all of which are calculated from the value of your vehicle. The supposed value of your vehicle is listed in the Ministerio of Hacienda’s book, see their website calculator: http://www.hacienda.go.cr/autohacienda/autovalor.aspx and is the value on your ‘marchamo’ documentation.

You have to pay a tax for the transfer of the papers which is 2.5% of the vehicle’s fiscal value.  An additional 1.75% of the vehicle’s value is then required to pay for all of the necessary stamps that accompany each transfer.  The public notary’s fees are legally set at a minimum of 1.5% of the vehicle’s value, although they can obviously charge above this percentage for their services.

It is customary for the buyer to cover all the costs of the transfer and so the choice of notary is up to you, the buyer. The approximate cost of the entire procedure can be calculated using the following page:  http://www.miauto.cr/costostraspaso.aspx

Marchamo Defined

The ‘Marchamo’ is the annual road tax that every road user must pay before the end of December.  Where it goes, no one knows, as the roads remain potholed!  But pay it you must! 

The amount you pay is based on the value of your vehicle.   Payments can be made in the bank or using an online banking service.   If you do intend to go to the bank, bear in mind that the ‘Marchamo’ line is usually a window reserved especially for this service and the normal rules of retirees jumping the line does not apply – you’ll have to wait along with everyone else and the closer it gets to the end of December the longer the line gets… 

It is possible to pay from half-way through November each year, so if you can, get there before the crowds.  You will need to present an up-to-date certification from the RTV and pay any traffic offense fines that are outstanding before paying for the ‘Marchamo’.  Driving without an up-to-date ‘Marchamo’ is an offense and a fine is applied to offenders.  The traffic police are out in force in January with a special eye open for vehicles which haven’t gotten their ‘Marchamo’ payment sticker in the windscreen.

Your ‘Marchamo’ fee is calculated on the make and model of your vehicle; with annual adjustments for depreciation, the vehicle’s value and inflation rates.  Go to the INS website and enter the number on your plates to find out the exact sum that you will need to pay.  You’ll have to wait until late in the year (November) for this to be available.  Your payment is about 60% ownership tax, with other payments including the compulsory insurance policy.

Annual Vehicle Inspection (RTV)

The RTV is an obligatory vehicle test which is carried out in one of the 13 centers nationwide.  If your vehicle is less than five years old; it will need inspecting biannually, but older vehicles need an annual inspection.  The cost of the inspection is currently around $20.   Appointments can be booked online via the RTV website at http://www.rtv.co.cr or by calling 905-RTV-0000 or 905-788-0000.

Vehicle emissions, condition and safety features are all scrutinized by a by a computerized system.  Should the vehicle fail, a retest appointment needs booking as before, after the vehicle’s faults have been rectified.  Driving without an up-to-date RTV certification is an offense and a fine is applied to offenders. 

The whole procedure is a little time-consuming, but certainly not painful.  You join a line, rather like a fast-food drive-through and wait your turn to step out of your car, pass it over to the examining mechanic and hold your breath and cross your fingers that it’ll pass!

Buying a used car from Vamos is a safe purchase as your vehicle comes with full service records, a power train guarantee and a history of careful and competent maintenance by professional mechanics.  Why risk an expensive investment without a service background or any guarantees when you have the keys in your hand?  By then, it’s usually too late!


Updated by Sara Ford
• Freelance writer for Vamos Rent-A-Car


Visit our popular ‘Cars for Sale’ page to see why so many people buy their used cars in Costa Rica directly from Vamos!

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