San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Registry to replace all old license plates

Last week, the National Registry began distributing new license plates to drivers across the country. Due to Costa Rica’s high number of cars on the road, the registry has begun a program to issue plates with both letters and numbers. 

The new plates have improved security features to make it more difficult for criminals to copy existing plates. Security features include a stamp of the Costa Rican flag, a hologram and a sticker to place on a vehicle’s windshield. 

The system with numbers and letters applies to new cars and vehicles registering for the first time. Owners of older vehicles can apply for new license plates with security features and old numbers. 

New license plate numbers can either be randomly assigned by a computer or chosen by vehicle owners. Choosing custom plates can help drivers with multiple cars avoid San José vehicle restrictions by using two different plate numbers. 

The license plates come with higher prices: 8,000 ($16) for motorcycles and 15,000 ($30) for autos with computer-generated numbers. Custom plates cost 20,000 ($39). 

According to the National Registry’s Andrés Abrahams, all drivers will be required to replace license plates in the next three years. 

“In the second half of 2012, we will start by changing the license plates [but not plate numbers] of buses, taxis, government vehicles and a small portion of the motorcycle fleet,” Abrahams said. “In 2013, we will change plates on remaining motorcycles and then start with other cars.” 

During the first three months of 2013, vehicle owners will be asked to replace old plates every three months with a system based on plate numbers. License plates ending in one through four will need replacements by the end of 2013; plates ending in five through eight will be replaced in 2014; and plates ending in nine and zero will be replaced in 2015. 

In the meantime, owners who need to replace their license plates due to theft or damage should go to the National Registry in Zapote, in southeastern San José.

“We are giving auto owners enough time to save the money they’ll need to make the change. They’ll also have time to pay their circulation permits and make sure that cars are correctly registered in the system,” Abrahams said. 

Only registered owners can complete the process, he added. 

One of the system’s goals is to update registry records and ensure that vehicle and motorcycle owners are up to date with circulation permits. According to National Registry, 145,000 of 245,000 motorcycles in the country do not have current circulation payments. 

The National Registry is currently building facilities to produce the license plates. Automated equipment manufactured in Germany and specially made for Costa Rican license plates will be used once the facilities are ready. Equipment will have the ability to produce 600 metallic plates every hour.

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