San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Nearly one-quarter of car owners fail to pay marchamo on time

At noon today, the National Insurance Institute (INS) Wednesday closed collection at their facilities of the year-end auto registration fee and mandatory vehicle circulation permits, known as marchamos, and reported that some 78.9 percent of motorists made the payment on time.

As usual, many of them waited until the last minute to make the payment, as demonstrated by large lines at INS offices in downtown San José.

At closing time, a total of 990.774 vehicle owners had paid the marchamo, while 264.616 were still pending, the INS reported.

The deadline for paying the marchamo ends at midnight on Dec. 31, but payments after noon can only be made online on the INS website; motorists who pay that way will not receive their marchamo sticker until Jan. 5, meaning they are subject to a ₡49,000 (some $92) fine if caught without the sticker before that date.

All vehicle owners paying after Dec. 31 will also have to pay daily interest.

According to INS reports, one of the main reasons for not paying the marchamo on time is that motorists also failed to pay or pass the mandatory technical vehicle inspection (RITEVE).

RITEVE SyC, the Spanish-Costa Rican company in charge of the inspections, also closed their offices at noon. According to their spokeswoman Jennifer Hidalgo, some 100,000 vehicles are still pending inspection.

Starting on Jan. 1 all motorists caught without the RITEVE sticker will be fined ₡51,000 ($95) plus daily interest.

Contact L. Arias at

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Ken Morris

INS may be right that failing to pass inspection is a main reason people don’t pay their marchamos on time, but there is more to the story than this.

Owners of vehicles that are wrecked to the point where they can’t be driven, but are tied up in traffic court and can’t be fixed or sold, as well as owners of old “project vehicles” that sit in the garage or on the street undriven waiting for the owner to get the inspiration to fix them, continue to be expected to pay the annual marchamo. Typically the owners don’t, since it makes no sense to them to pay a marchamo on a vehicle they don’t drive. Worse, there is no provision I am aware of to opt out of the marchamo for a vehicle in this condition. Instead, the marchamos and penalties keep adding up. Depending upon the vehicle, after a few years the cost of paying the marchamo is more than the vehicle is worth, so it just sits there indefinitely accumulating unpaid marchamos.

Take it from me, I had accumulating marchamos on a vehicle tied up in traffic court for years. Fortunately, when the case finally cleared I was still able to sell it for more than the marchamos, but not by much.

I don’t understand why there isn’t a way to wave the marchamo on a vehicle that isn’t driven all year, and suspect that more than a few owners of older or wrecked vehicles end up being upside down in them because of the accumulating marchamos.

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