My experience buying a car in Costa Rica with the CR Car Guy
So much to do
There is a lot to do before moving overseas.
1 of the key things I planned to do, shortly after arriving in Costa Rica with my wife and 4 year old son, was to buy a family car suitable for Costa Rica.
I knew we would be in San Jose for the first week or so before moving to the Southern coast, our first place to check out.
I was hoping that I would be able to meet our residency agent and tie up whatever loose ends were needed plus find and buy a car during that week.
I had researched online and found a service to use: Ehlers Cars. It seemed they specialized in the expat market. I would probably be paying a premium, but it would be worth it to get it done quickly.
They hadn’t answered my latest ‘we are arriving soon’ emails which was a bit of a red flag, but there was so much else to do I did not worry too much.
Bienvenido a Costa Rica!
We arrived and checked into De La Tierra Ecohouse Farm in Santa Ana. After our first sleep I got in touch with Ehlers cars and started inquiring about the cars on their site. How about this one? Not available. This one? Not available. Any of these cars on your website? None are available. Then they were suggesting cars outside of my requirements.
After several frustrating days of slow, inadequate communications and service that seemed not to care what I wanted, I was getting very frustrated.
I was chatting to Amanda who runs De La Tierra and her partner Ruben who suggested he could help. He explained he was in fact a mechanic and he helps people find cars.
Huh? Yes he is a mechanic and he does pre-purchase inspections, he explained to me in perfect English. Really? Yes he smiled and asked me what I was looking for. Then he explained his service: he would find cars, discuss with me, call them and ask all the appropriate questions, then we would go together and he would thoroughly inspect them and report to me his findings.
His fee would be relatively small considering the amount of work and stress I would be saving myself from. Seemed like a great deal! Wow – talk about a stroke of luck!
Working with the CR Car Guy
Ruben got to work. He started checking all the sources of used cars for sale. He stuck to my requirements and together we identified key targets.
He was on the phone chatting away in quickfire Spanish dropping technical car jargon left, right and center.
How did I think my stumbling Spanish could have handled that?
Next we were off driving around the sprawling city of San Jose to check out some cars.
Ruben did all the driving, knew all the best routes and how to deal with the traffic. I would have been Ubering around if I was doing this alone. Some of the parts of San Jose are less than salubrious. At least 1 of the sellers we met had more than a hint of gangsta about him (and zero English). Again I was grateful for Ruben handling the situation while I stood around being useless.
Ruben was great company too. We chatted the whole time while driving around looking at cars and had a good laugh. At all times his focus was on finding me the best car he could. He didn’t want me to rush in, nor did he wish to extend the search unnecessarily. I always felt he had my best interests at heart. That is a rare customer experience.
Eureka! I found a great second hand car in San Jose
The 4th car we looked at got the thumbs up from Ruben. It fitted all my requirements. It had been looked after very well and had low mileage. Ruben did all the computer checks and searches on the vehicle, gave it his usual thorough physical inspection and could find almost no red flags. It was available at a great price so after we discussed it together, I gave Ruben the green light. He sealed the deal.
It was Nissan Xtrail and well within my budget. Considering all the other comparable vehicles I had seen for sale on the open market I could easily have paid an extra 20% on top of the purchase price if I had been flying solo. If I had used Ehlers I imagine there would have been a further 20-30% on top of that. So I knew I had saved myself from a much more expensive outlay.
I paid a few hundred dollars for Ruben’s service. I had saved potentially a few thousand!
He had worked with me for about a week, considered dozens of cars, made dozens of phone calls and inspected 4 vehicles all in different parts of San Jose. I had ended up with a great car and had the confidence that it was a good reliable vehicle that would cause us no problems in the short term. That turned out to be the case. It has been a great vehicle and gave us no trouble during the 9 months we were in the country. Ruben even helped me to sell it when it came time for us to leave and we got a decent price for it.
All the official stuff when buying a car in Costa Rica
My next concerns were all the stuff like: How to pay? What about lawyers?
I need not have worried. Ruben had solutions. I was by now getting used to everything just falling into place thanks to Ruben.
I imagine every customer’s needs are different. For me how it worked out was I sent Ruben the money from overseas. We met at the bank and he extracted the cash.
Then the lawyer and the seller met us in the bank and we simply did it all there and then.
Everything was signed. Everyone got paid. Everyone left and I jumped into my new car and drove off. What could have been easier?