Flying to Central America. Driving back to USA. (1 Viewer)

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@gilmorneau lol duly noted!

Yes I understand I am leaving out plenty of specifics, Most of those questions have been answered on travel forums, but connecting the travel questions with the importing questions is where so need to bridge the gap.

I would fully register the car in Costa Rica in my name, Costa Rican plates, name matching passport on bill of sale and Costa Rican title/registration. This will allow me to cross borders with a temporary visa, lots of homework and paperwork yes.

As far as altering the vehicle, Good to know. I will have to look into qualifications on a utility truck. If I end up with a 40/43 it shouldn’t be an issue. I have yet to find a 45 with the original bed.

Certainly avoiding any clapped out farm trucks with 40 year old tires and chrome hubcaps. Like I said easier said than done and it will be months (if not years) of looking for the right truck.


I appreciate all the help. I have an overly optimistic outlook on this whole plan, possibly naive at times, but it’s the only way to make it all happen. If I didnt think this was possible I surely would be right!
 

e9999

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Seems to me that if you're doing it for the adventure, go for it. You'll likely have plenty of that.
If you're doing it primarily with the intent to save money or if you end up with a truck that is not a 1 in a thousand unicorn that absolutely positively can not be found in the US, then probably not the best idea.
 
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@e9999 yes, I am in this for the adventure. And as far as saving money? I suppose a month long chug from Costa Rica to South Carolina, with flights, gas, food and living, and the obvious setbacks I will encounter, might not save me much over the typical container delivery. Unicorn? I can almost assure you that I will NOT be getting any sort of unicorn numbers matching single owner land cruiser, nor do I want it; nor do I have that kind of money. And yes it is comforting knowing that 40’s in my part of the country go for $20-$30k And they certainly aren’t “unicorns” I think most of us here in the “importing” forum certainly can’t afford a clean, US spec FJ40, so we go looking for a deal in other parts of the world
 

e9999

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well, I am no expert on 40s and certainly not on 45s. But the impression I do have is that those 40s going for 20K+ in the US are usually in very good condition if not fully restored. Whereas you can probably still get a rusted ugly one for $5K here from what I can see. And I imagine that worn out examples are the kind you'll mostly see in third world countries. Even if you get one of those dirt cheap in CR, I would think that your expedition will probably cost several thousands of dollars. Which made me think there may not be that much money to be made or saved with the plan. But, eh, I'm probably wrong, and as I said, if you're in for the adventure, good for you! And if you find that rare 45 that you really can't find in the US, well then it may all be worth it even with no adventure.
 
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@e9999 I suppose I could live on searchtempest for a few months and try to find something in my budget around here, but that's not much of a story I can tell my grandkids!


Does anyone here have any experience importing a 25+y/o vehicle at a border crossing? (specifically as opposed to paying customs brokers at a shipping port) Can I handle the vehicle import myself or do I need to hire a broker near my planned border crossing? I know I will need to have the right documents ready, but if I will need the help of a broker, I would like to have that planned well in advance. For money sake I am hoping that wont be necessary
 

Zjohnsonua

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Importing yourself is definitely doable. This guy did it.

Man, I hope you do this. I'll follow it for sure.

I worked for a summer in another life for a guy who had been in the import/export biz for the better part of a decade and he made a similar trip only in reverse. His most significant advice for these trips was to make absolutely CERTAIN you had your papers in order for the destination and origination countries (i.e. check multiple sources/brokers and check for differences in procedure/documentation). I also remember him talking about areas within ports where sales may occur with more favorable conditions (read as: way less paperwork). I really need to get back in touch with that guy and refresh these memories!
 

gilmorneau

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The process isn't significantly different entering at a port or at a point of entry. If you're willing to do the legwork, you shouldn't need a Customs Broker--it's not mandatory. Not sure how much of this you already know, but here it is for posterity.

All of the following applies to vehicles over 25 years old, BTW, vehicles less than 25 years old are a completely different ballgame.

There are two kinds of entries: formal and informal. If your vehicle is valued at under $2500 (check that number with US Customs and Border Patrol--it's from a couple years ago and may have been updated), you can do an "informal entry". Much easier than a "formal entry", which is for vehicles valued at over $2500.


An informal entry is the simplest type of entry and does not require a customs bond nor does it require obtaining an importer number. CBP assumes that those doing an informal entry are typically not knowledgeable about the import process so one can simply go to the Customs office at the port where the vehicle is entering the USA and request assistance on how to do an informal entry. You'll need CPB form 7501, which is the Entry Summary, and you'll need to determine your HTS code (Harmonized Tariff Schedule--this determines what tariff you'll pay). You'll also need NHTSA form HS-7, on which you declare that the vehicle is over 25 years old and thus not subject to Federal Safety standards. And you'll need EPA form 3520, on which you declare that the vehicle is over 21 years old and thus not subject to Federal Emissions standards. For informal entries, an ISF bond is typically not required.

Filing a formal entry is similar to filing an informal entry with several notable differences:
The CBP 7501 form must provide an entry number. To obtain an entry number you need a CBP filer code. Since you don’t have a filer code you either have to apply for one so you can derive an entry number or go to the CBP office at the port you’re importing into (i.e. your entry point to the USA) to get a CBP form 7501 with a CBP assigned entry number. Or work with a Customs Broker.

Since your vehicle won't be coming into the USA on a ship, you shouldn't need an ISF 10+2 filing (but check with Customs on that).

An entry bond must be purchased to cover duty, fees and penalties in the amount of 3X the value of the vehicle (3X the value due to DOT bond requirements).

The Merchandise Processing Fee is higher on a formal entry, but this is peanuts, relatively speaking.


Worst case scenario you arrive at the USA border (which will be quite an achievement in itself, considering), and you can't get the vehicle in for some reason. Customs will hold it until the problem is resolved, and you'll have to pay them storage fees. Unless there are warrants out for your arrest or something, you'll be able to continue into the USA without the car, where, presumably, you'll be able to solve whatever problem kept them from letting the car through. Then you go get it and pay whatever fees have accrued. If the car is over 25 years old, it could really only be some sort of paperwork snafu. Or that the car was reported stolen. :p

P.S. If some of the above sounds like Greek to you, Google is your friend. There are tons of good resources online about importing cars into the USA, the best of which are US Customs and Border Protection's website, the NHTSA website, and the EPA website. Always best to go straight to the source. The best information is there.
 
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@gilmorneau Thank you for the great information, this will help me and many others in the future. Sounds like I can handle it with the right planning.

Can you clarify the Entry bond at 3x the value of the vehicle? I tried a quick google search but it mainly covers commercial applications.

When you imported your BJ75 was it imported formally or informally and if you don't mind sharing what was the value given?

Thank you for your help
 
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If anyone is curious about what I'm going for here is a best case scenario price and condition: Encuentra24 Cruiser

For that condition I would pay that price, although I am looking for under $8k.

I cant wait to fly 3000 miles to haggle in broken spanish!
 

e9999

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that's a nice-looking truck for at least 330,000 kms. Is that kind of condition common? Cuz it looks like that's listed at about or more than the annual average income for Costa Ricans from what I could (quickly) see. Hopefully not just an outside cosmetic job.
That company seems to be expat-ran. Is it focused on the expat market? Maybe they're waiting for a rich gringo to come by looking for a great-looking truck, eh...? :) Not criticizing, just curious.
 
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@e9999 For the 6 months or so I have been watching that condition is not uncommon, but typically asking a lot more. A few expats clearly in business, but if price is right im not sure I can complain.

It goes without saying that these listings are purely speculation and that without feet on the ground there is no way to tell how "real" any of these are. Bad photography, bad motors, bondo, and scams all a very real possibility. At least its a start tho.

Typically (for all 40 series) rough driving condition: $2500-$5000, good driving condition: $5000-$7500, Great original condition/restored like the one above hovering around $10k with a few outliers.
 

e9999

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from what I read, cars are unusually expensive in general in CR, though. Have you looked at other countries too?
 
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Newer cars are very expensive in Central America I believe it is because the taxes they pay to import them is so high. Old cars not so much, tho many are beat.

Only other country I have considered is Panama, One advantage is the title paperwork can be handled in one day without the need for a lawyer as opposed to Costa Rica needing a lawyer, a title search, and the title will come in the mail 15+ days later. Flights are a lot cheaper to Costa Rica for me, I have done a few trips there, and it is closer to home.
 
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I lived in Costa Rica for more than 5 years. I love the enthusiasm and have considered doing the same trip. My advice...
  • Your odds of stumbling across a 45 capable of making this trip without significant work are extremely low
  • Your odds of finding an honest mechanic will and able to do that work without ripping you off are even lower. Especially if you are back in the states waiting for the paperwork.
  • No matter how much research you do on central american border crossings you will almost always be missing a piece of paper. It's a running theme with doing just about anything down there. I've spent 4 days camped at the Peñas Blancas border into Nicaragua because the guy with the "right stamp" wasn't on duty. Allow yourself time and flexibility especially if traveling with an American passport
  • If you don't speak fluent Spanish don't attempt Spanglish with the customs guys. Feign complete stupidity and they will often get frustrated and flag you through
  • Lots of threads about traveling through Mexico on Mud, but less on Nica which is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere and extremely politically unstable right now. During a job we were doing there I once saw somebody pistol whipped and almost shot in the middle of a busy street.
Have you considered picking something up cruising it locally and then shipping? FWIW...to and from Panama is much cheaper than CR with all the freight moving through the canal.
 
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@destructomatt Thanks for the advice!

I have done two surf trips through Costa Rica, and have a few contacts in Tamarindo one of which is a camp that owns and operates two 45's a pickup and a troopy. I got to drive them around town and fell in love. I have not reached out to them for any buying advice yet (mainly because I am not ready), but I know they have a mechanic they work with. These are locals, not gringos.

Regarding Nica I do have a good friend in Miramar along the coast. Honduras is not much better and with any border luck I would tackle both sides in the same day. I have a friend who is a travel nurse that can accompany me in September, so that is my tentative plan. He is also fluent which will be invaluable.

The adventure is as important to me as the vehicle, as I type this from a cubicle. I suppose I could do a tour then ship it out, but im not giving up on the drive home just yet.
 

gilmorneau

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Can you clarify the Entry bond at 3x the value of the vehicle?

From the US Customs website (emphasis mine):

"If you are importing merchandise into the United States, (U.S.) for commercial purposes that are valued over $2,500, OR a commodity subject to other federal agencies requirements (i.e. firearms or food), you must post a Customs bond."

Read literally, it means that if you are importing anything into the USA that is subject to some federal agency's requirements, which a car certainly is, then you must post a Customs bond. In the usual case of bringing in a car on a ship (container or RoRo), this is handled by the Customs Broker--as it was for all 5 of the cars I've brought in. Not sure of the specifics of how you'd handle it bringing a car across a border, though I suspect there are bond sellers' offices nearby any entry point. Perhaps someone who's done it could chime in. Or, if you can get in touch with someone at CBP, they could probably tell you.

When you imported your BJ75 was it imported formally or informally and if you don't mind sharing what was the value given?

My Troopy required a formal entry, as it was significantly more than $2500. The value given was right off the Bill of Sale obtained from the seller in Europe. Your life will be a lot easier if everything matches on all paperwork--price, VIN, signatures, names, addresses, everything.

Among the many, many places on the interwebs with information regarding importing vehicles, I found this one, which is very clearly written and targeted towards amateur importers like us:


It's mostly to do with shipping cars from Japan, but the "how to" of the site is very good. Everyone thinking of importing a car should read it.

Driving a 43 year old farm truck 3000 miles eh?
God speed.

X2, but I'm totally on board for the adventure.

Your odds of stumbling across a 45 capable of making this trip without significant work are extremely low

Quite likely true, but if you know how to wrench on diesel 'Cruisers, you can greatly improve your odds of success. Fix anything dodgy before you leave, take a service manual with you (and a few tools), have a budget for on-the-road repairs, and keep a list of contacts for parts procurement handy. Maybe you stay at a hostel somewhere along the way for a few days waiting for FedEx to bring you parts. Meh. Could be worse. You might discover something interesting.

No matter how much research you do on central american border crossings you will almost always be missing a piece of paper. Allow yourself time and flexibility especially if traveling with an American passport

True dat.
 

Mr Cimarron

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I originally was going to drive my Costa Rican BJ40 to Texas. I ended up not having enough vacation time to drive it back. Glad I didn’t but here is my take on it.
1. You will need help in CR for title process. It took weeks to get the title in my name. I was lucky enough to have my CR friend help. I signed power of attorney to him so he was able to do stuff in my name.
2. Once I got my BJ40 here it took me months to get it what I consider “road worthy”. Driving a beater around town in CR or even here is one thing bit open road for a solid week is another animal. Comfortable top speed 58 mph on flat ground.
3. Once I had it here it took some time to get a Texas title. Paperwork, theft inspection, title translation, and other stuff but I drove around with Costa Rican plates during that time. Never was hassled by cops and I work across from a police station.
 

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