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Buying or Selling a Vehicle in Costa Rica: A Complete Guide

How to Buy or Sell a Car in Costa Rica

Are you planning on buying or selling a vehicle in Costa Rica? If so, you’ve come to the correct spot. This post will guide you thoroughly on everything you need to know to make the process as easy and stress-free as possible.


When purchasing or selling a secondhand car, the following papers are required:

  • The original certificate of ownership for the vehicle must be provided by the vendor (Certificado de Propiedad);
  • A valid ID (such as a passport, dimex, or cédula) is required for both the buyer and the vendor;
  • Both the buyer and the seller must sign the bill of sale (Escritura de Traspaso), which the Notary Public prepares. It can take up to a month for this document to be filed and registered in the National Registry (Registro Nacional);
  • The new owner receives the new title back from the notary public.


The Costa Rican Car Market

There is nothing quite like the Costa Rican auto market. Unlike many other countries, Costa Rica has rigorous restrictions to safeguard buyers and sellers. While these requirements appear demanding at first, they make purchasing or selling a car considerably safer and more transparent.

Note: Check where the car was manufactured, as different countries will have different safety standards, even if it appears to be the same make and model. Also, sometimes models’ names can differ from country to country, for example, if they are from Europe vs. the USA, and not what you expect and could give you a big surprise if you buy sight unseen.



Buying a Vehicle in Costa Rica

When buying a vehicle, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind. First and foremost, you’ll need to have a valid driver’s license. This is required for all automobile purchasers, regardless of whether you’re a resident or visitor. In addition to your driver’s license, you’ll also need a valid ID, such as a passport or a cedula. You’ll also need proof of residency, such as a utility bill or a lease agreement. Once you have the proper documentation, you may start looking for a vehicle. One of the more straightforward answers is to start window-shopping around local dealerships. Another alternative is to acquire a vehicle from a private seller, which you may be able to find on Costa Rica’s Craigslist or When purchasing from a private seller, it can be beneficial to show extra caution. Always inspect the car entirely and have a mechanic check it out before making a purchase.


Selling a Vehicle in Costa Rica

Before anything, you need to gather the required paperwork. This includes the vehicle’s registration and any service or maintenance documents you may have. It is suggested that you take the automobile in for a professional inspection. Even if you have no plans to sell your car, it is still a good idea to get it inspected often, if only for your own peace of mind. All inspection records and paperwork should be in order before you begin looking for a buyer. Starting with a dealership can be a good idea. Car lots are frequently on the lookout for pre-owned inventory, so you may be able to get a decent deal if you sell yours to them. Another option is to sell your vehicle to a private buyer using or Costa Rica’s Craigslist. Being forthright and honest about the vehicle’s condition when selling to a private customer is the moral and ethical thing to do.


How about my driver’s license?

If you are in Costa Rica on a tourist visa, your international driver’s license will expire after the number of days stamped on your visa (up to 90 days). To have your tourist visa and driver’s license renewed, you must leave Costa Rica and then return. Even if your application for permanent residency is still pending, you will still need to renew your driver’s license in the same manner. Here, residence rules have nothing to do with the driving rules.




With the proper knowledge and planning, buying or selling a car in Costa Rica doesn’t have to be stressful or difficult. If you follow the advice in this article, you should have no trouble negotiating an excellent deal. Additional websites you may want to browse through or list your vehicle for sale are Facebook marketplace, encuentra24, automoto, and carros.


-Written by Glenn Tellier (Founder of Grupo Gap)

+506 8500-2085


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