Buying Car in Costa Rica

By: Randy Fauchier

My final leg of my car buying Costa Rica journey was at hand. It was equal parts impressive and chaotic. My Spanish is a work in progress, and that was never more evident than at the RTV ( Revision Tecnica de Vehiculos) I made sure Andres had set me up with the exact paperwork package that I would need. So, as I pulled in to the large and impressive and very clean RTV, I felt pretty confident. After parking, I walk up to the first line that has formed under an outside shaded desk. Maybe it was the events of the day taking its toll, but for whatever reason; I forgot almost all of the Spanish that I had learned. I became a numb and dumb struggling foreigner. It was embarrassing, but I had come too far to chicken out. I handed my paperwork to the gentleman while vaguely nodding my head to his questions. He adds a new piece of paperwork, stamps another one of my original pieces and sends me to another line inside. I follow the same procedure inside, with similar results. In a fading moment of clarity, I comprehend the lady telling me in Spanish to take my vehicle around the back and get in line. I pick the shortest line that mysteriously takes the longest time. I am looking at a building that is maybe 200 ft long and 150 ft with about 5 lines of inspection. One is for buses and trucks, one is for diesels; and I am in the slowest of the three regular lines. It is about to get a lot slower.

First station: blinkers, lights, brake lights, seat belts, horn, etc.. With my eyes, I plead for the guy to just point to what he wants me to do. ( I have sunk back in to my language deficient mode) Mercifully, he obliges. Next station: exhaust, compression, smog, etc... This guy isn't real happy with my ignorance, I really can't blame him. But, it is too late to back out and wait for my brain to return, because I am in the building with a long line behind and no way to turn around. He verbally pummels me for a bit, then just reaches in and points at the accelerator when I am to give it the gas. I pass;

he rolls his eyes and sends me to the next station. Suspension: first the front suspension and much later the rear suspension. The car is lifted up one axle at a time and the machine slops side to side and takes impressive computer measurements that show results on a large screen. I barely pass this test ( my slightly bent front tie rod hasn't been changed yet) I think he kept asking me if I was going to change the tie rod, but my mind was more bent than the car part in question. I don't blame the guy for being angry, I have no business being here on this day. I pass by less than 1% allowable shimmy, and go to the most dangerous station of all: the drive train & front alignment. This is where my ignorance becomes more than annoying; it is dangerous. The worker underneath my car that is straddling the pit on the narrow channels supporting the wheels, is barking out orders to put it in gear, take it out, brake, turn the front wheels right then left, etc..

The rear wheels on two rollers lurch off dangerously when I get the command wrong. He comes bounding out from underneath hotter than a habanero pepper. Everyone in the place has stopped what they are doing, this is too good to miss. He is yelling at me. I turn the car off and get out. I summons my brain to give me just a few last Spanish words today. After apologizing, I explain that if he doesn't get someone to operate my car for this stage of inspection; he may die. Incredibly, he sees the logic in my argument. He even smiles at me as his coworker comes to my aid. I am impressed by how quickly I have been forgiven. They are impressed, I think, that I never quit smiling at them. Two more minor visual inspection stations for the motor, and I am at the end. The man at the end looks me up and down and in perfect English says, " Well, my friend, lucky for you; we are inspecting the car and not the driver. Here is your sticker." I immediately think back to my words to my lawyer, " I 'm not buying the guy, I'm " The irony was quite humorous to me. I am really proud of that green sticker on the green car. My was now complete.

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