Ministry of Transport Puts An End To the Practice Of Importing “Junkers”

Cars written off in their country of origin or have had their VIN tampered with or have unauthorized structural joints of the chassis will no longer be allowed to be registered in Costa Rica


The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes (MOPT) – Ministry of Transport – has put an to the importing vehicles written off in another country or with the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) tampered with.


First Lady Claudia Dobles stands with the Minister of Transport, Rodolfo Jimenez (left) and Edwin Herrera, director fo the COSEVI (right). Photo courtesy of the MOPT

This week, Minister Rodolfo Méndez and the Director of the Road Safety Council (COSEVI), Edwin Herrera, along with First Lady Claudia Dobles, announced the measures contained in the regulation for the application of Article 5 of the Ley de Tránsito por Vías Públicas Terrestres y Seguridad Vial (Transit Law).



The new provisions will apply to all motor vehicles, trailers, and semi-trailers on first entry, previously registered in the country of origin.

The First Lady assured that the country will not allow the import of vehicles that are declared with “total loss” in their country of origin. Neither will it be possible to register the vehicles that have chassis structural joints that are not authorized, or that have had their VIN number altered or tampered with.

“This is a matter of road safety and consumer protection, we are protecting people to avoid situations that could endanger their lives,” said Dobles.

Cars written off in their country of origin or have had their VIN tampered with or have unauthorized structural joints of the chassis will no longer be allowed to be registered in Costa Rica

For his part, Mata indicated that to verify that the imported vehicle meets all the requirements to be registered in Costa Rica, not only the documents will be verified but also a physical inspection will be carried out.

“Through the COSEVI, the MOPT will establish a list of the characteristics under which it is considered that a motor vehicle is a total loss, which will be incorporated into the Vehicle Technical Review Manual,” said Mata.

According to the MOPT Minister, by means of vehicle inspection, the structural joints of the unauthorized chassis can be determined. All cases will be transmitted to the National Customs System (Sistema Nacional de Aduanas) with the acceptance or rejection ruling, that will be communicated to the MOPT and the importer of the result of said analysis.

The regulation also allows the MOPT and the Ministry of Finance (Ministerio de Hacienda) to sign agreements with the different countries where vehicles are imported from, in order to have access to information about the history of the vehicle and thus determine whether in the country of origin it was declared a total loss and know any other data that is considered necessary.

If it is detected that the importer did not comply with the truth in the importation affidavit, a fine equivalent to five times the sanction stipulated in category A of the Traffic Law will be imposed, which is currently rounds ¢1,400,000 colones.

The customs authority could re-export the vehicle, failing that, be declare abandoned.

The era of buying junk cars at auction abroad and then importing to Costa Rica to be sold to unsuspecting consumers ahs come to an end

Editor’s note: Costa Rica has a history of importing vehicles declared written off in places like Florida (other southern states – no ice and snow) to end up in Costa Rica, after a cosmetic touch up (painted, buffed up, etc), is sold as an unsuspecting consumer. In some cases, the vehicles come in sections and are reassembled (a way to lessen the import tax load). The labor costs are a fraction of that of North America.

In the past, not having access to a check of the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), it was impossible to learn of the true odometer reading of the imported vehicle or defects, recalls, etc. The VIN contains unique information about the car.