I have been asked a couple of times about driving back from CR to the US with a purchased BJ40 or HJ45 cruiser. If you’ve read my other posts, you can see that the process is a bit involved to ship a Land Cruiser to the US, so naturally we might think it would be easier to just drive it back. Let’s talk about that process a bit so that you can make a good decision on whether or not you will drive one back.

Here are the steps that I would see to get the vehicle ready to drive back from CR to the US. I am skipping the process for finding the vehicle to try to stay brief.

  1. Purchase the vehicle – You must be physically present in Costa Rica to purchase a vehicle unless you have granted someone CR power of attorney for you.
  2. It is more expensive to purchase a vehicle that you will license in your name because there is a transfer tax. That tax is a percentage of the total value (valor fiscal) of the vehicle.  It can be between $500-900.  But it will be absolutely necessary to have it licensed to you because you’ll be driving it.
  3. Get the title in your name with the National Registry – You will need to formally change the title to your name.
  4. Ask for exit permission from the National Registry – You will need to get a form from the NR to get permission to exit Costa Rica.  Cars can’t simply drive across the border without it.
  5. Cross a number of borders – Each country will have different rules and laws for crossing into their country.  I have taken a vehicle to Panama before and it took about 2 hours to get the necessary insurance and documents to legally cross the border. We were pulled at a check point about 5 miles into Panama to see that we had the papers too.
  6. Drive through Nicaragua, Hondouras, Guatemala y Mexico. (and possibly El Salvador) – Guaranteed that you’ll have to drive at least through those four countries.
  7. File an entry with the United States  – This is a total assumption, but you will probably have to hire a broker and file your entry with USCBP.  It would be smart to call them in advance and tell them your plan and where you will be entering.

Let me know if I missed something in the comments below.