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License Plates

License plates operate on a different system to what most people are used to in North America. Instead of the plates being attached to a person and a name which are transfered from car to car, license plates in Costa Rica are permanently attached to a car. This means that the license plate will give all vital information about the car, which is public information. Only in the case that a car is totaled will the plates be taken off and destroyed.

Expect to encounter trouble if the plates are lost, or if someone steals them. Use the National  Public Registry website to do a consultation on existing plate numbers and this gives all the important information about the vehicle including make, model, year, owner, and if it has been in an accident or owes money. Check a plate by clicking here and entering the plate number.

One can pick up your plates for a new car or a used car which has been recently inscribed at the National Public Registry located in Curridabat or in the Plaza Mayor Mall in Rhomoser. In order to pick up plates one will need to present:

  • Provisional plate paper (Placa provisional) must hand over

  • Title deed to the car (Titulo de propiedad)

  • Registration card (Tarjeta de circulación)

  • Some form of official ID

The yearly license plate fee is included in the marchamo and is a very low fee. If caught without the marchamo up to date by the traffic police they will take a person's license plates. If someone is then caught driving without license plates they will be fined and the car is likely to be taken away. If the  license plates become unreadable or bent one may need to solicit new plates. One will have to forfeit the old ones. The registry will assign the vehicle the same plate number. Usually one will know if they need to solicit new plates if they do not pass the yearly emissions test known as RTV due to your plate condition.

If a car's license plates are stolen or lost, they must be reported to the OIJ through a lawyer and then one must go to the COSEVI office to pay for the new plates and then new plates can be requested from the registry this process could take around 2 days. It is important to report the plates stolen as soon as possible just in case someone is using another vehicle with another car's plates to commit crimes.

Important New License Plate Restriction

Currently the Costa Rican government has made some new transit laws that include license plate restriction driving dates. Basically what the current law says as of August 2009 is that certain plate numbers are not allowed into the center or the city, driving through the roundabouts, or on the major highway areas on certain days. On these days, if someone owns a vehicle with that plate then they will need to take the bus, taxi, or carpool. Motorcycles, taxis, and public transportation are expemt from these restrictions. Here is the schedule for plates ending in:

1 or 2 have Monday restricted

3 or 4 have Tuesday restricted

5 or 6 have Wednesdays restricted

7 or 8 have Thursdays restricted

9 or 0 have Fridays restricted

*Further details can be found at the Ministry of Transit (MOPT) official website.

If someone is caught driving in the restricted zones on their restriction day they will be fined.

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