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Emerald Forest Properties

Offering Real Estate in Costa Rica with
experience, integrity, and dependability you can count on

To ship a car or not ship a car!

By Brad Butler

By: Brad Butler

Hands down, you do not want to ship your car to Costa Rica. In our business, we have heard horror stories of bring in a car and I personally speak from experience. Back in 1999, I purchased a little Toyota to ship to Costa Rica from my neighbor in the States for $1,500. I felt that if the relocation did not work out for me I could sell or gift it, should I decide to return.

Thus my story begins! After hiring a shipping broker to prepare the documents necessary to take to port, I drove the car to Port Everglades in Florida to board the Dole fruit boat for Costa Rica. I was given an arrival date and off I went confident that my decision to ship would be a breeze. In Miami, I paid the shipping broker to have the car delivered from Limon to San Jose, not far from the hotel I would be staying as I did not know the country well. The following morning I flew out of Miami to my new tropical paradise. I arrived in San Jose and, having days left until my car arrived, I decided to travel around my new destiny and take in the incredible scenery. A day before my car was to arrive, I returned to the hotel that I was staying in to await its arrival. This would mark the beginning of one of the most difficult experiences of my life bar none!

I called the shipping company the day my car was to arrive and was told to sit tight and I would be contacted when the car was on its way to San Jose. Two more days went by and nothing and now we were into a weekend. The following Monday I called again and was told it was in a warehouse in San Jose so I asked directions and went there but no car! Frustrated by the situation I returned to the hotel and called the shipper in Miami and told them of my dilemma. I was told to sit tight and they would call me back when my car was located. Another day passed and no call! I called again and was told my car had been located, but it was still in Limon. I explained that I had paid extra to have my car driven to San Jose. Then I was told I had to speak with a local agent of the shipping company. I called the local agent and she said my car was in Limon and I would have to go there to pick it up. I told her that I had paid to have it driven to San Jose and she said, ? That?s impossible, you must go in person to sign for it at the port warehouse.?

Next morning, I boarded the next bus for Limon. Two hours later I arrived in a town I knew nothing about and could not speak much Spanish. I felt abandoned and stranded and, at that moment I questioned my move. After asking many people where to go, I arrived at the warehouse via taxi several miles out of town. I waited in a line for an hour and finally made it to the window where the clerk told me that I had to go back to the customs office in the town of Limon to get my papers stamped and pay a fee so, back in the taxi I went. I arrived at another line and waited over a half an hour and was told I needed an insurance stamp before I could get my papers stamped!!! I went to the office several blocks away to buy the stamps where I endured yet another line. My God, what did I ever do in my life to deserve this I kept asking myself over and aver again.

After arriving back to the customs office, I walked to the front of the line as I had served my time prior and an officer quickly ushered to the end of the line, me explaining all the way that I had been there and done this before. By this time the day was growing late and I wondered if I would make it back in time to claim my car. The taxi drove up to the warehouse just moments before 5PM and I was inside, only to find a line from here to hell! I waited and, by this time, I had decided I had come here for a slower lifestyle and I would just sit it out and relax. My turn finally came and I presented my papers and stamps. The man took my papers and left to what I thought was a mini vacation. He returned 45 minutes later with a stack of papers and proceeded to tell me the charges! Sr. Butler you need pay $300.00 for spray car to enter country for insectos. You need pay storage fee. You need pay????.I had brought $540.00 dollars and it was going fast. When they got through with me I had exactly $10.00 left for my return to San Jose. I was taken to a lot where my car was and given the keys. I was instructed to inspect it while the lot attendant was standing there so I did. My jack was missing, my good flash light and anything not welded down was gone. I was exhausted beyond words and told him all was fine as I just could not sit through another hour or two of paperwork.

The car was sitting on empty as I had been instructed to arrive at port with an empty tank. I had $10.00 to my name, tired and hungry I left for San Jose. I put the $10.00 in the tank and off I went, by now it was dark and had started to rain no less. To get back to San Jose I had to travel through the Brallio Carillo National rainforest and park on a windy unlit road in pouring rain. I could not see two feet in front of me and could only go 15 to 20 miles per hour max. It took me all of 5 hours to drive back to San Jose now finding my hotel was the next big challenge. This experience had been nothing short of torture for me but it wasn?t over yet.

Then came the task of nationalizing the car! Take the first part of my story and times it by 3 and there you have it. The gray hairs I now have I can attribute 99% of them to this hellish experience. I can also say that this was the only major taxing experience thus far in my 7 years in Costa Rica. There were more exhausting lines, payoffs and confusion to finally have a legal car in this country. If I were to tell you the rest you would not in a million years believe it! I can assure you of one thing it was not worth it as you will see in a moment why.

Cost of car $1500.00

Cost of shipping broker 535.00

Cost to deliver car to San Jose 250.00

Cost of stamps, fumigating and storage fee 530.00

Cost to lawyer to nationalize car 3,500.00 (asked for more in the end)

Cost in payoffs to speed things up 350.00

6 months later I was legal at the grand total of: $6,665.00

I priced the same car here and it was under $2000.00

Now if there is any question in your mind whether you should ship or buy here, call the nearest Psychologist for an appointment! Shipping a car is no Pura Vida experience.