If you are among the thousands of drivers whose driver’s license expires in the coming months, leaving it to the last minute and the long lines or even forget, you could face a fine of ¢22.383 colones (plus costs).
According to the Cosevi (Consejo de Seguridad Vial), a division of the Ministry of Transport (MOPT), a total of 58,734 drivers licenses will expire between February and April.
Our warning is to renew on time, in fact, you can renew up to three months before the expiry day and avoid inconveniences that besides the fine, maybe even have the vehicle you are driving and/or its license plates seized by an overzealous traffic official (transito).
Where to renew
Drivers licenses can be renewed at any of the Cosevi 13 locations across the country: Alajuela (Montecillos), San Ramón, San Carlos (Ciudad Quesada), Cartago, Guapiles, Limon, Heredia, Liberia, Nicoya, Puntarenas, Rio Claro, Perez Zeledon and San José (La Uruca).
Cosevi hours are between 7:00 am and 3:00 pm, Monday to Friday (except legal holidays).
The cost at the Cosevi is ¢5,000 colones for a six-year renewal if when you have 4 points or less accumulated on the license. Renewal fees must be paid in advance at an authorized bank, you cannot pay at the Cosevi counter.
For drivers with five to eight points, the cost is ¢10,000 for four years and must attend a “sensibilización y reeducación vial” course; for between nine and eleven points, renewal is for three years and the same cost and course as aforementioned. More details (in Spanish) at: https://www.csv.go.cr/renovacion-licencia.
A note is for foreigners who obtained their driver’s license with a passport or residency cedula (Dimex) and have since obtained nationalization, you will first have to visit the Paso Ancho office to update your information, in the case of San Jose. Failing to do this will mean wasted time at the Cosevi and having to make a second visit and line again. And believe me, the lines are long on any given day. At least at San Jose Uruca. If you are renewing outside the San Jose Metropolitan Area, the update can be done a the regional office.
Another note is that the point system restarts with each renewal. That is, any points accumulated during the active period of your license will be erased and you start with a clean slate for the renewal period. Now makes sense the shorter renewal periods for drivers with points on their license.
Also, very important, any infractions against your driver’s license must be paid before the license can be renewed. You can check here for any outstanding infractions (and pay online), in case you forgot about it. A waste of time lining up, spending hours to get to the renewal counter and then sent away to go pay the outstanding fines.
All outstanding fines must be paid at an authorized bank, you cannot pay at the Cosevicounter. In San Jose La Uruca there is a BCR branch inside the Cosevi and Banco Nacional
adjacent. Cash is king. Bring lots of it (or plastic for the ATM) if you have been a bad driver (lots of outstanding fines).
The medical certificate (dictamen medico)
Next is the (farcical) medical exam. It is a requisite and without it you won’t get your license renewed. The exam can be made at any authorized medical center. There are many located near the licensing centers, just follow the signs. Parking lots are a good place to find a doctor. Not kidding. And must have not more than six months validity from the day the doctor issues it.
Today, the medical exam (Dictamen SEDIMEC) is digital, no more. The process is very similar to the one used previously on paper, only now all the data is recorded in an electronic system through the Internet. One goes to the doctor, they do the normal checkup that is used for the licensing exams, and if everything goes well the doctor records the results in the SEDIMEC system. And instantly the digital medical opinion for driver’s license is generated.
The medical opinion is registered in the servers of the Colegio de Médicos y Cirujanos de Costa Rica (College of Physicians and Surgeons), to which the COSEVI has access. At the time of renewing or removing the driver’s license, they consult the opinion through the internet to verify that it is valid.
The cost authorized by the Colegio is ¢20,000 colones, but the majority of medical centers charge ¢25,000. If you want home or office service (a domicilio) the charge can be between ¢30,000 and ¢35,000. See here for more details (in Spanish).
Renewing at the BCR to avoid the Cosevi lines
If you do not want to go to one of the Cosevi offices, you can renew at the Banco de Costa Rica (BCR), but take into account there are additional costs.
To renew at the BCR you need to first make an appointment online at http://bcrcita.bancobcr.com/cita/Datos.aspx or by phone at 800 BCR Cita (800-2272482)
At the BCR the cost is ¢10,000 colones plus a bank commission of US$7 dollars (paid in colones at the prevailing exchange rate). The BCR does not explain rules for drivers with five or more points on the license. We can only assume that the BCR will not renew such licenses.