The Ins and Outs of Selling A Car In Costa Rica...


Remember when you wanted to sell your car?  All you need do is find a buyer, collect the money and sign over your title.  That was it.  But in Costa Rica... nothing is easy!

Shipping our trusty 2007 Daihatsu BeGo back to the US was utterly and completely out of the question.  And for the same reason you don't bring your American car to Costa Rica - we will not be shipping this car back to the States... there is nobody there to fix it when repairs are needed.

Cars in Costa Rica depreciate much slower that those in the US.  I bought my car 5 1/2 years ago for $15,500, twice what it should cost, thanks to very heavy Costa Rican import taxes.  I sold it for $12,800!  That's a $2700 depreciation in 5 years.  NOT BAD! 

I got to that price by analyzing how much similar models, in similar condition, with similar mileage were selling for all across the country using this website...

Now don't have a hemorrhage when you see the prices.  My little BeGo was selling for almost 7 million colones!  Here is a simple converter that will make sense of it all.


Finding The Right Buyer...

Usually when selling a car, the process goes like this...

  • buyer meets seller

  • buyer test drives car

  • seller sells car to buyer

  • buyer pays for car

  • buyer drives away and finally

  • seller walks away. 

What made my selling situation unique, I was selling my car two months in advance of my departure.  Since I needed the use of the  vehicle during this period, I was seeking a buyer who could wait for delivery.  

I was fortunate to have found a buyer who was moving to Costa Rica just 1 week before we were leaving.  The only issue being, this person was buying a car sight unseen.  That's funny because I bought this same car in 2009 without ever have seen it.

Buying a car, sight unseen, is a dangerous process no matter where you are and especially here in Costa Rica.  It was important that I certify the mechanical stability of my car before I put it up for sale. 

I took it to the local Toyota dealer and asked them to perform a thorough inspection. 

Other than a needing new set of brakes and an oil change, my car was in tip top shape.

With a clear conscience, I posted the For Sale Notice along with loads of pix on my Facebook page as well as several online "For Sale" sites throughout Costa Rica. 

In addition, I created a short two-minute film highlighting the vehicle and all its cosmetic imperfections. 

In just 48  hours I got my my first serious offer from a Facebook friend in New York which resulted in a possible sale.

Apparently my honesty and integrity came through because they wanted to buy the car. I was 100% up front about everything and even would allow them to back out of the deal should the car not be as described as it was in my offer.

The deal was sealed when I secured a conditionally, non-refundable deposit of $1800.  This money was automatically deposited into my U.S. bank account.  The balance would be due (using the same method) no later than 1 week prior to our agreed upon closing date, 1 week before we leave Costa Rica.

You Can't Spit Without Needing A Lawyer...

Expats all agree, the term Costa Rican Efficiency is the quintessential oxymoron.  Just like selling your house, the sale of an automobile also requires a lot of pomp and circumstance as well as a lawyer.  When I explained to my buyers what was needed in order to "close" the deal, I sensed that they were beginning to feel a wee bit overwhelmed.  Hell I was feeing overwhelmed!  The sale of my car was now contingent on newbies, unfamiliar with all things Tico, navigating (sight unseen) through the quagmire known of the Costa Rican process. 

I decided to make it easy for them.  I contacted a half a dozen lawyers in my area, and asked them to provide a quote on how much it was going to cost to transfer my car to a new set of buyers.  All the competing lawyers needed was the vehicle's license tag number.  They would then validate the true cost of the vehicle with the "Registro",  a governmental agency responsible for knowing everything about Costa Rica.  From there they would be able to calculate the proper taxes, transfer fees (and  most importantly) lawyer fees in order to close this deal.  I'm really glad I did this because I received quotes ranging from $1100 to $639.  That's kinda odd considering everybody was using the same valuation basis from the Registro? 

Bottom line, I hired the $639 attorney with whom I have already had professional dealings.  We will be doing the closing at my house and when we are done we will celebrate with a wine and cheese celebration and a perfect Guanacaste sunset.

Pura Vida...


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