nationalizing vehicle costa ricaGetting your vehicle to Costa Rica is the easy part of the the shipping process.  Where most people run into problems is upon arrival at the dock in Costa Rica.

The process of getting your vehicle from dock to road legal has frustrated many an importer.  Not knowing the Spanish language and not knowing who you can trust can leave you open to be taken advantage of.

Shipping Costa Rica has been importing and exporting vehicles to and from Costa Rica for over 7 years. Through our own experiences we have learned who are the best contacts and port officials to work with to ensure safe, economical and  expedited processing of your vehicle.

The last thing that you want is to have your vehicle sit at one of the docks at the main two ports in Costa Rica for an extended period of time.  The chance of the vehicle being broken into or damaged goes up each extra day it remains on the docks.

The 2 Options for Making Your Vehicle Road Legal in Costa Rica are Taking It on a Tourist Visa or Nationalizing It when it first enters the country.

Tourist Visa – When entering the country for the first time, you may get a 90 day Visa for your car. This allows you 90 extra days to pay the taxes on the vehicle if you need the extra time to raise the money instead of having to pay for shipping and taxes all at once.  You will still need to take the vehicle through RiTeve (Costa Rica Vechicle Inspection) and pay the Marchamo (Mandatory Costa Rica Auto Liability Insurance). Within the 90 days you will need to return the vehicle to the fiscal warehouse to start the nationalization process and pay taxes to get the vehicle permanently plated.

The 90 day tourist visa on your vehicle will start at the same time as the tourist visa on your passport. If you arrive a week before your vehicle the tourist visa will start on your passport stamp not when the vehicle arrives. Each person can have 1 vehicle and 1 motorcycle under their name on a tourist visa. If this is the option you choose for your vehicle Shipping Costa Rica will take you vehicle through this entire process.

Nationalization – This is the process of getting Costa Rican permanent plates on your vehicle in Costa Rica.   This is an intricate process detailed below:

  • Pay the Tax Import Agent – Pay Taxes & Fees, Storage, and the Import Agent  – For This You will Need to Take it to The Fiscal Warehouse.New License Plates
  • RiTeve – Costa Rica Vehicle Inspection. 50% of Vehicle Fail this the First Time Through.  You Will Need to Set an Appointment Online or Arrive at 6:30 am.
  • Register the Vehicle – Pay a lawyer to fill out the paperwork and file this with the national registry.
  • Marchamo – Pay Marchamo (obligatory ‘liability’ insurance) carried on all vehicles in Costa Rica. It has to be renewed annually between November 1 and December 31.
  • Pick-Up Plates (Placas) Return to San Jose to pick up your plates at the National Registry or Registro. Bring your passport and all other import documentation required.
  • RiTeve  (again) – Return to RiTeve to pick up your vehicle registration sticker

Shipping Costa Rica will take your vehicle from port through this entire process, whether you want to take your vehicle on a tourist visa or take it through the nationalization process.

Additional Information (Links in Spanish)

Marchamo (Mandatory Costa Rica Auto Liability Insurance)

RiTeve (Costa Rica Vechicle Inspection)

Registro Nacional  (National Registry)

Vehicle Import Taxes (Autovalor)


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