205 vehicles declared ‘totaled’ were stopped by Audanas (Customs) from being imported, a practice that was prohibited last month. The director de  Aduanas (Customs), Gerardo Bolaños, confirmed the ban of the imports of vehicles with obvious physical damage and inconsistencies in their registration.

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In the past, the vehicles (like in the photo above) would have been imported into the country, repaired and then sold to unsuspecting consumers.

Despite the assurances by Bolaños that such vehicles do not enter the country anymore, the executive director of the Asociación de Importación de Vehículos y Maquinaria (Aivema) – Association of Vehicle and Machinery Importers, Liliana Aguilar, differs in opinion.

Aguilar assures that junked vehicles continue to enter the country and make their way into the hands of consumers.

Few consumers have the knowldege or even think of looking for signs that a vehicle has been damaged/totalled in an accident and repaired. And even fewer have the ability to check its origin and registration, for when the vehicle enters Costa Rica, it is duly registered and its history erased, starting a new history in the country.

Many buyers of used vehicles in Costa Rica are new to car ownership and are unaware or know to look for the tell tale signs or even have the consumer savvy to investigate.

Vehicles brought in from the United States, for example, have their speedometer and odomter in miles instead of kilometres. Vehicles from Canada have “daytime running lights” – that is the headlights are on all the time, even in the brightest of sunlight. The high cost limits imports from Europe, Asia and other countries.

Paint discoloration, like inside the doors, under the hood and other hard to get to parts are tell tale signs of modifications. Some body and/or engine parts newer that others is another sign.

At a cost, a car buyer can go online to car services in Canada and the US to get a history of the vehicle based on the VIN (vehicle identification number). If no history exists, the VIN has probably been altered.

In general, a rule of thumb when buying a used car is, if it don’t feel right, don’t buy it!

In Costa Rica every retail purchase,  ie a car dealer, is covered by a 30 working day guarantee. But, not of much use if the dealer is nowhere to be found (after the sale) or does not have the financial ability to repair, replace or refund, leaving the consumer to seek help from the Consumer ministry and/or the civil courts.


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