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I know I write about cars a lot — should you buy or not buy a car? Should you ship a car or get one here? For us expats, a car also acts like a barrier to integration, even though it’s very convenient. And plenty of Ticos have them too. When you don’t have a car, your life is simplified and you save money, sometimes as much as $300/month.
The car issue is a complicated one. We recommend not buying a car if you want to save money. Several of our friends live here without cars and do quite well. They walk and take buses and taxis. Quite often, they’ll hitch a ride with someone who has a car and split the cost of gas.
However, most Americans, like us, will want to buy a car sometime after arriving in Costa Rica. The good news, and it’s my money-saving tip of the month, is that car maintenance and repairs are very reasonable. Every time I take my car to the repair shop, I’m reminded of what a great deal it is. Like in the U.S., a good, honest, car mechanic is like gold. I’ve got a good one. Unfortunately, even in Costa Rica, sometimes you have to go through a few in order to find that special one whom you can trust. Luckily, you can ask other expats whom they might recommend.
Recently, my mechanic:
- repaired my window-washer fluid line (which much be functional at the yearly required inspection)
- adjusted my brakes,
- adjusted my clutch pedal so it would spring back
- examined my exhaust system for leaks (there were none)
- aligned and balanced my wheels
Total cost: $40. Such a deal! Plus he’s a great guy with a great family. His father and son work with him too, and he speaks excellent English, having lived in the States for a number of years. So, if you get a car — once you get a car — the maintenance and repairs will be easily affordable. One thing to remember, car parts may be more expensive that what you’re used to. The big savings really comes in the cost of labor.