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Marchamo and RITEVE

Marchamo is basically a circulation permit for a vehicle similar to regristration payment in the U.S. RITEVE or RTV is the equivalent of emmissions testing in North America. Vehicles MUST have these two requirements to be on the road. If not the driver will be heavily fined and perhaps the car could even be impounded.

Most people have no idea what these things are, what they mean, and why they have to do them when they own a vehicle. Nevertheless, if one is planing to drive then they will need to be educated and follow the rules or face strict fines and possible impound.


This is similar to paying a yearly license plate taxes in the US. Payment of the marchamo is from November 1st to December 31st of each year, and usually one has until the first days of January to pay it without incurring penalties.

In order to know how much one owes check online starting each November on the INS website marchamo section or lots of times your Costa Rican banks website will offer this option as well. The amount one has to pay depends on the year, make, and model of the car.

Also, if someone has any outstanding traffic or parking tickets they normally appear and one will have to pay them as well to renew the registration. One can also go into your bank to consult using the plate number or directly to a MOPT Ministry of Transit location.

A person is allowed to pay for anyone's marchamo even if the vehicle is not registered in their name simply using the license plate number. Some people like to pay for the vehicles of all the people they know since banks offer raffles usually for cars and other big prizes.

One will not be able to renew or pay a marchamo unless one can show proof that the vehicle has an up to date RTV (see below RITEVE)  slip showing that a car has passed it's yearly emissions testing.

Once one has paid their marchamo at a local bank they will issue a new official circulation card right then and there which cannot be lost. This card also comes with a sticker which one is required to post somewhere on the corner of the car's windshield. The sticker may blurr or fade from the sun and if one is ever pulled over then they will have to show this registration card just as in North America.


This is the equivalent of emissions testing in North America. People are required to do this each year on their vehicles. For older cars and for almost brand new cars every two years. One must make an appointment at the RTV office. This can be done online at the RTV offical website by entering in a telephone and license plate number. Or one can also call one of the offices to schedule.

Usually individuals can get an appointment within the first two weeks they try for. When one makes an appointment they will be given a confirmation date and time, along with a list of things one will need to present. Currently as of August of 2009, the RTV test costs around 12,000 colones.

One must present:

  • Title deed to the car (Titulo de propiedad)

  • Registration card (Tarjeta de circulaci√≥n)

  • Some form of official ID

However, Costa Rica's emissions testing is a little more complex and considers a variety of factors. For most people RTV is a scary place to wait, and hope, and cross their fingers that their vehicle will pass the first time. Sometimes even brand new cars off the trucks not pass on the first try. RTV is stressful. the park. Sometimes cars can be almost 100% ok and maybe their alignment is off so it doesn't pass or the hand break is too weak. Vehicles need to have EVERYTHING in perfect working order including windshield whipers, horns, electric windows, seat belts etc. Even the engine has to sound right to the RTV workers for them to even preform the tests.

RTV is not only testing for CO2 levels, they also test breaks, shocks, lights, tread on tires and more. Cars will go through a series of tests. Many people make the mistake of going to RTV without doing a simple revision at home first.

If a vehicle does not pass the RTV test the first time then RTV will have to be repeated as many times as it takes until all of the little glitches the car has are fixed. If the vehicle is in the process of taking the test and it already has a fault, it is a good idea to continue through the whole test to see if there is anything else wrong that needs to be fixed for next time.

When the vehicle obtains a clean bill of health then the driver will receive a RTV document that one needs to keep in the glove box. A sticker will also be issued which tells which month the car needs to go for inspection. One will always go the same month with a vehicle as it is based on the license plate number. It is a good idea to start going a month before if one has an idea a vehicle might not pass the first time.

From the looks of the streets and the high quantities of older cars on the road many people thing that RTV is corrupt and that they receive bribes. Do NOT do this, it is illegal and individuals will more than likely get caught as all of the tests are caught on camera.

Each year RTV laws get tighter and tighter to try and clean up the streets and the air so keep informed on the RTV website for any changes to requirements and faults.

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