San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Buying Appliances Locally Saves Money, Hassle

Moving to Costa Rica doesn’t have to mean leaving household appliances behind. Importing them requires planning and paperwork, but it is feasible. Hauling a stove or relocating a refrigerator can be avoided, however, because a wide variety of brand-name appliances are readily available in Costa Rican stores.

After import duties and shipping costs, buying a fridge, stove or washing machine in Costa Rica is often more convenient and economical than transporting the appliance from abroad.

Costa Rican appliance stores carry a range of items that can fit most needs and price ranges. Many stores, such as Italcompo, will also order specific goods from U.S. manufacturers upon request.

Italcompo (440-1890), in Alajuela, northwest of San José, specializes in Italian lines of stoves and kitchen items in makes such as Bompani. Prices for basic, 60-centimeter, Italian gas stoves start at about $500 and climb to about $1,500 for luxury models, said store owner Gerardo Deli.

For customers who want U.S. products, Italcompo will order appliances directly from General Electric, Deli said. Items from General Electric are usually slightly more expensive than their Italian equivalents.

At Hogar Feliz (222-4514) appliance center in the western suburb of Escazú, shoppers can find a wide range of U.S. products. Hogar Feliz carries brands including General Electric, Whirlpool, Samson, Bosch, Mabel, Sharp,Kitchenette,Magic Chef and Atlas, said Shlomi Akoka, sales manager for the store. Prices for stoves vary from about ¢70,000 ($137) for the cheapest gas stove, a small Atlas, to about ¢780,000 ($1,530) for a fully loaded luxury Sharp, which “does everything but sing to you,” Akoka said. Additional brands give customers almost every possible price and function option within this range, he said.

Hogar Feliz also carries many other appliances, such as washing machines and televisions. An automatic General Electric washing machine can range from ¢166,500-200,000 ($326-392), Akoka said. Prices for televisions vary from about ¢51,500 ($100) for a basic 14-inch Broksonic to about ¢856,000 ($1,678) for a 26-inch Panasonic with an LSD screen and all available options.

Marvin Cedeño, manager of Exclusividades Simon (257-0966), an appliance company in the southern Pacific port city of Golfito, said he has seen an increasing number of foreign residents and visitors streaming into the duty-free commercial zone for deals on new appliances.

Cedeño said these same people have told him that there are several advantages to buying locally, besides costs.

In addition to the extra freight costs, people considering a move to Costa Rica should consider that factory warranties on major U.S. appliances are not honored outside the United States. And goods can sometimes get damaged by being thrown together in a large container box, Cedeño said.

Importing appliances involves much more than the raw price of an item. Applicable warranties, shipping costs and import duties are a few of the things to consider alongside appliance cost. But Guadalupe Riba, client services manager of Mudanzas Mundiales (224-2525,, said appropriate planning can make shipping appliances affordable.

Shipping new appliances involves presenting various documents, including the invoice for the appliance, Riba said. Weighing the item’s value against the cost of shipping and the import duties to which it will be subject is also important. Import duties for new appliances vary widely, but the highest duties – for new refrigerators – can reach 89% of the item’s value, she said.

Costs for shipping used appliances are considerably lower because the import duties are calculated based on the value of the used item, which is much lower.

However, to qualify as a used item, the appliance must be visibly worn.

In addition to taxes, the raw shipping cost of importing appliances can be high. Door to door shipping, not including taxes or insurance, usually costs about $15 per 100 pounds, Riba said.

Importing goods in bulk can trim costs, however, because some shipping expenses, such as local transport, are fixed. This means that shipping in greater volume is cheaper, Riba said.

North Americans have an extra advantage when importing appliances, as their items will fit Costa Rica’s 110-volt electrical outlets. Australian and European appliances require adapters here.


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