Once a year, all vehicles in Costa Rica must pass inspection. Those that pass receive a sticker to be affixed on the inside of a vehicle’s windshield. The monthly inspection is based on the last number of a vehicle’s license plate. For example, if your license ends in a six, the inspection is due in the month of June.
Here’s some information on how to get a car inspected:
What is Riteve?
Riteve is short for Riteve SyC, a Spanish-Costa Rican company in charge of mandatory technical vehicle inspections. Inspections are required once a year at Riteve stations across the country.
What is inspected?
The inspection looks at a number of operational and functional items to assure safe operation; cosmetics are not an issue. Inspectors examine the proper operation of all external lights, exhaust system function and integrity, headlight alignment, suspension components, and more. Safety items include seat belt operation, brakes, windshield wipers, and window lowering and raising mechanisms.
How are inspections accomplished?
Inspection stations are very modern and use electronic and physical testing. The car is driven through a number of preset points along a line, where wheel alignment, brake function, strut and shock absorber condition, and exhaust emissions are tested by computerized machines. Technicians visually and physically inspect other items, including lights and turn signal operation, tire wear, seat belts, windshield wiper operation and side window function.
At each point along the line, test results are automatically fed into a computer. Technician checks are manually entered. All stops are networked together and the information follows each vehicle from point to point.
How to Schedule Your Inspection
Thirteen Riteve sites are located across the country. To find one near you, see www.rtv.co.cr. Under “Estaciones RTV,” click on the map link (“mapa de estaciones”). A map of Costa Rica with the general location of all inspection sites appears, with a list at the right side. The map sites and list locations link to a pop-up that identifies a station’s location on the map and offers general directions in Spanish.
At the bottom of the pop-up is a link leading to an appointment schedule page, pick a date and time (appointments are made at 15-minute intervals) by clicking on a yellow block. This page also offers a detailed map showing how to get to a station.
Then you will be taken to the next page, where you input the vehicle’s license number and a telephone number. One last click will take you to a new screen that confirms the appointment by license number and date – appointments are usually issued, on average, three to four days in advance. Saturday appointments are also available.
What to I need to take?
Well, your vehicle, of course. And you’ll need ownership papers, a current marchamo (circulation permit), a passport copy or cédula, and ₡10,000 ($19).
After the appointment confirmation, print out the page to take with you. The detailed map can also be printed.
At the station, take vehicle ownership papers (they need not be in your name), marchamo, and the appointment con-firmation page you printed out to the entry desk, where your appointment is checked against their list. You will be directed to another window, where the clerk will inspect your i.d. and vehicle papers and issue a payment document, then send you to another window where you pay. After getting a receipt, return to your car and get in any line to be inspected.
How long will it take?
All stations have multiple inspection lines. The time you will wait for your inspection will depend on the number of cars and the number of lines open. Allow at least an hour from check-in to when the inspection begins. The inspection will take approximately 30 minutes.
Once a technician has motioned you to the first stop, he will give you instructions. At different points you will be asked to turn on lights, operate turn signals, step on the brakes, open the hood and shut off the engine. For checking exhaust emissions, you will be asked to step on the gas pedal (in neutral) to bring engine RPMs to 2,500, and hold it there for several minutes.
As each step is completed you will be directed to move forward to the next position. (One station, which checks the car’s struts and shock absorbers, will cause the car to vibrate for a few moments. Don’t be alarmed.)
When all steps are completed, you’ll be directed to park, exit the car, and go to the final station. If your car has passed, you’ll be issued a new window sticker and blue-and-white inspection form.
Put the form in the glove box with your other papers, peel the protective sheet off the sticker, apply it to the inside of your windshield, and drive away with a smile.
My car failed. Now what?
The blue-and-white form you were issued shows exactly what tests your vehicle failed. It may be something as simple as a burned-out light bulb or as complicated as not meeting exhaust emission standards. Depending on your mechanical skills, it may be necessary to go to a competent mechanic and have the problems corrected.
In any case, the rejection paper gives a 30-day grace period to have problems fixed and the car inspected again. Don’t put off the repairs. Under Costa Rican law, only the repairing mechanic is allowed to drive the car until repairs are made and a new inspection sticker has been issued. The fine for driving on an expired sticker is about $320!
Follow-up inspections are done the same way as original inspections. Additional inspections cost about half the initial inspection fee. Some stations will repeat tests that were passed the first time.
Hints for Passing
Prior to inspection, find a competent mechanic to conduct a pre-inspection of your vehicle, including the exhaust emissions test. Let your mechanic correct any deficiencies. The cost is worth it to avoid the inconvenience of multiple inspections.
Some recognized mechanics will take your car through Riteve for you, at an additional cost. The benefit is that recognized mechanics do not have to make an appointment.
If you decide to take the vehicle yourself, you may notice other cars revving their engines for several minutes prior to entering the inspection bay. This is a way to raise the internal temperature of the catalytic converter, which makes it more efficient and lowers emissions. If your car is more than a few years old, this can help you pass the exhaust emissions test.
As you wait your turn, make sure all doors are unlocked, seat belts fastened and the driver’s window is down. Unlatch your hood.
Pick an appointment time early in the day, before technicians get tired and irritable from breathing exhaust fumes for several hours. They won’t waive any bad test results, but they’ll issue their instructions with a bit more tolerance and good humor.
And there it is! Getting your vehicle inspected is a pretty painless process, if you know what to do. If an inspection turns up deficiencies, discovering them is to your benefit – finding a problem early can save lots of money on repairs later. And, once done, you can drive with the confidence that your vehicle is mechanically safe.