If the vehicle is brand new or less than 3 years old then the tax percentage will be 52.29% of the value of the vehicle.
If the vehicle is 4 to 5 years old then the tax percentage increases to 63.91%
If the vehicle is 6 years or older then the tax percentage increases to 79.03%
The import value of the vehicle as established in the Valuation Database of the Ministry of the Treasury referred to locally as “Autovalor”. You can check the Auto Valor Database, it is in Spanish and a little hard to operate as are most things when it comes to government websites in Costa Rica.
Toyota,Nissan, and Hyundai are the most widely used brands here. This is good to know because it means that the mechanics are familiar with these brands and have the parts to fix them when needed. To ship in parts for other brands may be quite costly. Another benefit of these types of cars is that they maintain their resale value.Other brands which are gaining popularity here are Suzuki, Honda, Mitsubishi, and Peugeot.
Besides the popularity, availability of parts and knowledge about the brand, and resale value, you will want to consider what kind of power you need as well as gasoline or diesel. Gasoline is at about $5 per gallon whereas diesel is $4.50 a gallon. For this reason you will not want to buy a V6 or V8 engine.
Gasoline cars with between 1500 and 2000 cc have enough power to ride the mountains without burning your wallet. In the case that you will be often driving in the rural areas you should consider 4 wheel drive, an SUV, or a pickup truck. Because of the price of gas, you should look for a diesel engine in one of these.
If, however, you plan to go off road a lot, it may be worth the extra 50 cents per gallon to have the power consistency that a gas engine offers.
What I tell most people to get the most value out of their dollar is to import between a 1999 and 2002 either Toyota 4-Runner or Rav4. They have a great resale value in Costa Rica, taxes are not sky high and they are great for the beach or in the city. Base models of course have a value of less than those fully loaded.