A Couple Reasons Why NOT to Import Your Vehicle Into Nicaragua

Volkswagen Van: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Every so often we get an email from someone asking whether or not they should import their vehicle into Nicaragua.

And our reply is always the same.

“Don’t do it!”

Here are a couple reasons why:

1. Foreign vehicles entering Nicaragua will only be granted a 30 day permit to be in transit.

Upon arrival in Nicaragua you will be granted a 90 day tourist visa. Your vehicle however, will only be permitted to legally remain in country 30 days.

It is possible to apply for a 30 day permit extension in Managua, but you can only apply for this extension once. So the best case scenario is that you’ll have to drive your vehicle out of the country every 60 days, instead of every 30.

Crossing the border into Costa Rica in your vehicle is nothing like crossing the border from Canada to the United States and vice versa. It is a complicated process. It involves import and export permits, vehicle fumigation, purchasing of insurance and more. This task could easily take a full day.

There is an exception to this rule. Foreigners with residency (depending on which type) may be eligible to import a vehicle into the country tax free.

2. Finding replacement parts for your vehicle in country is likely going to be very difficult.

Most vehicles sold in North American are not sold in Nicaragua, which means finding replacement parts for your foreign vehicle here may be next to impossible.

If you are lucky enough to find the parts you need for your car or truck the next challenge will be finding a mechanic who knows how work on said vehicle.

If you plan to stay in Nicaragua for more than a couple of months — and you want to have wheels — we recommend saving yourself some time, money and unnecessary stress by leaving your vehicle in your home country and purchasing one when you get here.

You may have read or heard that foreigners without residency cannot own or register a vehicle in their name in Nicaragua. This is true; however, many expats have purchased vehicles here.

They are able to do so by leaving the registration in the previous owner’s name and having a lawyer draw up a sales letter (carta de venta). This is also common practice for many locals, as it’s a way to avoid paying transfer tax.

With the registration card and a carta de venta it is possible purchase insurance for the vehicle.

Vehicle importation is a complicated process; one that we are far from subject matter experts on.

This article was not meant to provide full and complete details on importation of a foreign vehicle or foreign ownership of a Nicaraguan vehicle, rather merely help you understand that importing a vehicle into the country is not as easy a thing to do as a lot of people think.

In short, before you load up the car with your three kids, two dogs and all your worldly possessions — en route to Nicaragua — you might want to think twice!

Posted on March 12, 2016, in Travel & Transportation and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Scott macgregor

    It isn’t as difficult as most imagine. Paper, paper and more paper, together with knowing the guy to do it all, takes care of it. You can find him in the lobby of most any police station. The 40% tax for nonresidents is the downside. So how much do you really love that car??

  2. Police estimate that 25% of the vehicles in the country have not updated the information of their vehicles at the Registry and made the change in ownership.

    Article 125 of the new law sets the fine at 3% of the rateable value to all those owners who do not make the change of ownership. (they can seize the vehicle).

    The change of ownership law is not new, it is something that was established in the previous law. The only thing new is that you have 60 days to make the changes.

    Right now they are not too concerned as long as all the docs are in order.

  3. We are moving to Granada on July 3, 2017. After visiting Nica about every 5 years since 1978, we are finally retiring to my wife’s country, which I love so much. She is a dual citizen of USA & Nica. She wants to bring her car and furniture.

    A 20′ container will cost $3500 from Gulfport, Mississippi (where we live now) to Rama, Nica. We would need a flat bed 18 wheeler to load the 20′ container and drive it to Granada I am assuming.

    I am thinking about putting off moving the car and furniture off for a year or so. Just rent a furnished place for now. Get settled then figure it out. Any thoughts about this?

    Another shipper will ship just the car for $1500 to Managua. With my wife having a cedula, would this make the shipping of vehicle easier?

    Thanx for your blog/newsletter. I look forward to seeing it in my in box.

    Regards,
    Hubie Martello
    USA

    • Hi Hubie

      You will have to pay duty on the vehicle and all of your belongings. The value will be set by the customs office in Nicaragua and it will be based on retail costs here which will be much higher than the USA. The vehicle duty will be between 20% and 40% of the assessed value. The container will be held until all items are inventoried and assessed a value by customs and all documents have been completed by you. This can often take more than a month. You will then add on storage fees at customs during this process. Total cost of taxes and storage fees will likely be more than your shipping costs.

      If you move here first and apply for and receive retirement residency status you can then apply for some tax exemptions on the vehicle and house hold belongings. Your wife is not entitled to any of those tax exemptions. Do some serious research on importation before even considering shipping anything to Nicaragua.

      The other thing to consider is the car you have is very unlikely to be sold in Nicaragua. Even if the brand and model is sold here the version will be totally different for this market. Finding parts is nearly impossible and no mechanic will have ever worked on your type of vehicle. We have probably talked to 100 people that have brought vehicles from the USA or Canada to Nicaragua. Maybe 2 or 3 were happy about their decision.

      I hope this helps start your research.

      Cheers,
      Gordon

  4. ELISHA AND GORDON,

    THANK YOU GUYS FOR THE INFO.

    I WAS THIS CLOSE TO SENDING A CAR BACK HOME “NICARAGUA”, BUT I HEARD LOTS OF INFO AND HERE YOU ARE. YOU GUYS OPENED MY EYES. I GUESS IT IS BETTER TO BUY A CAR DOWN THERE. I’M FROM MANAGUA BUT I LIVE IN THE USA. THE PRICES IN NICARAGUA ARE LIKE DOUBLE AND SOMETIMES TRIPLE, MY GOODNESS.

    RUDY

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