Unlike some of its neighbors, Costa Rica rarely faces periods of violence which end up hindering democratic development. On December 1, 1948, it dissolved its armed forces.
Although the country still maintains a large agricultural sector, Costa Rica has expanded its economy, developing strongly in the industries of technology and tourism.
Since 2010, the country has enjoyed stable economic growth. Its standard of living is relatively high for the region and land ownership is widespread.
Foreign investors remain attracted by the country's political stability and relatively high education levels, as well as the incentives offered in the free-trade zones.
Costa Rica's economy still faces some challenges though, and this is due to its rising fiscal deficit and public debt, and the relatively low levels of domestic revenue.
Population 4.93 million (July 2017 est.)
San José (population 335,007)
|Major cities|| |
1. San José (335,007)
US$58.9 billion (2017)
|Unemployment rate|| |
11.3% (April, 2019)
|Main industries|| |
Agriculture and food processing, technology, tourism, medical equipment, food processing, texiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilzier, plastic products.
Costa Rica Colón (CRC)
|Interest rate|| |
2.07% (April, 2019)
|Total Car park|| |
1.5 million vehicles, approximately one vehicle per four inhabitants.
|New vehicle registrations (Cars, LCV, Trucks)|| |
Sales of new cars and light trucks average about 50,000 per year.
A total of 368 electric vehicles were sold in 2018 (Source: BNEF)
|Top 5 brands (total market)|| |
1. Toyota (approx. 27% of the market)
|Dealer network (including fleet dealer network)|| |
For new cars, search for your vehicle in cities with a large variety of car dealership brands such as San Jose or Grecia.
|Used car market/renewal cycle|| |
Tips for acquiring a used car:
Always check that the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) matches the one on the frame of the car. Furthermore, make sure the Marchamo (registration and mandatory liability insurance) and RTV technical inspection are current. These are 2 stickers on the windshield.
Finally, make sure there are no liens or tickets pending in connection with the vehicle. After the seller and buyer sign the deed of transfer, an attorney will then need to send the deed to the national Registry in San Jose to be duly recorded
|Total Fleet Park (company cars)/Fleet penetration in total fleet sales|| |
Due to the undeveloped vehicle fleet industry, data regarding the current size of the market is hard to come by.
|Evolution fleet sales (last 5 years)|| |
Costa Rica has very little fleet infrastructure so much is needed in terms of evolution.
|Top 5 fleet brands (fleet market)|| |
Besides best-selling brands for the overall market such as Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, Nissan, and Mitsubishi, the corporate market in Costa Rica also consists of BMW, Chrysler, Fiat, Ford, Mercedes Benz, Renault, and Volkswagen.
Costa Rica has significant government tax on car imports, an extra cost which can reach 50%-70% of the car's retail value.
The standard Value Added Tax (VAT) on cars, plans, and boats in Costa Rica is 13% for those valued up to CRC 310,000.
CRC 310,000-1.22 million (1.2%)
CRC 1.22 million -2.42 million (1.5%)
CRC 2.42 million - 3.65 million (2%)
CRC 3.65 million - 4.55 million (2.5%)
CRC 4.55 million - 5.46 million (3%)
above CRC 5.46 million (3.5%)
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Bank financing is avialable in the local currency, Costa Rica colón, as well as the US dollar.
There are entities which offer 100% financing for vehicles with leasing being one option. This is more commonly used for a work vehicle or for fleet managers acquring a fleet for a company.
Average gasoline price per liter: US$1.18
World average: US$1.13
(est. May 20, 2019)
Diesel, just under US$1.00 per liter
Initial cost of vehicles
Sedan: CRC 5,450,960 (US$9,621)
Station Wagon: CRC 4,295,257 (US$7,581)
Minivan: CRC 8,593,743 (US$15,168)
Pick-Up 4x4: CRC 12,694,944 (US$22,407)
Consider Remarketing, or selecting a car with a high resale value, is key to controlling TCO. Cars from Asia (Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Kia) usually have better resale value than Ford, GM, and even European brands.
Every vehicle that circulates in Costa Rica is required to have a valid inspection sticker. The inspection is carried out by a private company referred to locally as RITEVE; inspection stations are located in various inspection points of Costa Rica. The purpose of the inspection is to ensure that vehicles comply with basic safety standards established by the manufacturer and with the applicable traffic regulations of Costa Rica.
In Costa Rica, there is no safety regulation on vehicles being imported. However, according to transportation legislation for public roads, certain requirements are specified and they are far from being considered standards.
In order for vehicles to operate in the country, they must pass a vehicle inspection (IVE) test. This is not mandatory for imports but it is highly encouraged.
The required physical characteristics of vehicles, according to Article No. 32 of the Transit Law, are the following:
- A horn; High and low beam lights; Brakes; Park, Reverse and Drive gears; Emergency flashers; License plates in excellent condition; Speedometer in kilometers per hour.
- Front windshield and a rear windshield, as long as the constructive design of the vehicle allows it.
- Steering wheel or a similar device at the left or center of the cabin which falls in line with the vehicle’s constructive nature.
- Rear-view mirrors or any other devices that allow the driver to observe the vehicle and the road.
- Front and Rear Bumpers. Cargo vehicles with rear-end under-ride guards are exempt.
- Seatbelts of three points or more on all lateral seats and sub-abdominal seatbelts on all remaining seats. However, when the vehicles constructive design does not permit for a three-point belt, abdominal type seatbelts are acceptable. Moreover, seats in public transport vehicles such as buses are exempt for the seatbelt rule, in addition to other types of vehicle such as motorcycles, scooters, and UTVs.
Finally, in the event of a traffic accident, vehicles must remain unmoved until the Traffic Police and the Insurance Investigator carries out the accident report.
In Costa Rica, liability insurance is mandatory. While the coverage for death and bodily injury of third parties is required, coverage for property damage of third parties is not.
At the beginning of 2018, Costa Rica adopted a law that incentivizes electric transport with a long-term view to eliminating hydrocarbon-powered vehicles in the country, responsible for most of the country’s greenhouses gas emissions.
The initiative eliminates sales, customs and circulation taxes for electric vehicles and allows them to use municipal parking facilities free of charge.
“This law will make it possible to transform Costa Rica’s vehicle fleet in just a few years, from cars, cargo vehicles, trains and buses, replacing them with 100 percent electric vehicles,” said President Luis Guillermo Solís during the signing of the law at the headquarters of the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE).
Environment Minister Edgar Gutierrez noted at the ceremony that the country’s percentage of renewable energy generation has approached 100 in recent years, reducing carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming.
“Costa Rica has a great opportunity to electrify its transport, because we have available a low-emissions electrical supply and a coverage level that allows a vehicle to be charged almost anywhere in the country,” he said.
In January of 2018, Costa Rica had 20 electric vehicle charging stations. It intends to install another 41 stations by the end of 2018, reaching a total of 61.
Electric transport is one of the actions Costa Rica has pursued in order to reach its stated goal of carbon neutrality by the year 2021.
In terms of Uber Latin America, Costa Rica is one of the countries with higher coverage. Others include Brazil, Mexico, and Chile.
Although the average price of automobiles in 2018 has been rising worldwide, the slowing market in Costa Rica has been pressuring dealers to withhold price increases in 2018 and launch special offers to gain market share.
Meanwhile, Costa Rica has set an ambitious target to get 37,000 plug-in electric vehicles on the road by 2022. Currently, there are three fully electric models available on the market, being the BMW i3, Nissan Leaf, and Hyundai Ioniq. The new Nissan LEAF is set for a 2018 launch, with the Chevrolet Bolt not far behind. When it comes to hybrid EVs, leading the pack are Mitsubishi Outlander, BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne S, and BYD’s Qin.