Legal Ease – Due Diligence, Purchasing a Vehicle in Costa Rica

Legal Ease – Due Diligence, Purchasing a Vehicle in Costa Rica

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In Costa Rica, all vehicles are duly registered within the Registro Nacional (National Registry), and all relevant information about the title must be duly recorded. Any modification in the status of a title or any judicial claims that might affect it must also be noted on the registry, making it possible to verify said title.

Before buying any vehicles in Costa Rica, potential buyers should get proper advice from a Costa Rica attorney, who will conduct a proper and full Due Diligence (DD). The purpose of this DD is to verify the ownership and characteristics of the vehicle, ensure that there are no annotations, liens, or fines affecting the vehicle, and confirm that the vehicle complies with all government standards.
The attorney’s office conducts the research and verifications with the National Registry, COSEVI (Consejo de Seguridad Vial), Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS), and other government offices. These verifications include ensuring that the vehicle has no pending tickets, holds a valid circulation permit/tax called marchamo, and passes an annual safety test called Revision Tecnica Vehicular (RTV). The marchamo must be paid on or before December 31st of each year, and the RTV must be completed on the month indicated by the last digit of the vehicle’s plate number.
Registering the newly acquired vehicle under a Costa Rican company rather than the buyer’s name is often recommended in order to avoid any future personal liability and/or to facilitate estate planning. Additionally, while not mandatory, owners are advised to obtain a car insurance policy that covers at least personal and civil liability (damage, injuries, or death to third parties). A Costa Rican attorney can help provide guidance through the process.


We regret an editing error in a statement from last month’s Legal Ease article, Some Facts About CR Income & Sales Tax: The statement should have read: “Vacation property rentals (houses, apartments and condominiums) for periods of less than one month are subject to both income and sales/vat taxes.”