How to Pass Alajuela Costa Rica RTV in 24 Easy Stops



Here is the easy way to pass car inspection at the RTV station in Alajuela (note: different locations may have different requirements and therefore different tips.)

1. Get an appointment. By phone or by internet. Neither of which may work at any given time. I tried both and couldn’t get an appointment without multiple attempts.  NOTE: others have suggested that no appointment is necessary. I did not find this to be true. I was turned away because I didn’t have an appointment.

2. Park your car and go inside and get in line. Take your car registration and about 10,000 colones for first inspection. If you fail and need to be reinspected, the cost is less than 5,000 colones.

3 Get in line to pay your money.

4. Take receipt and get back in the car and get in line for inspection. If you have a diesel, lanes 5 and 6 are designated for you.

5. Give your receipt to the inspector…First station inside inspection building is for mundane things that you could have (and should) check before you leave home:

  • emergency flashers
  • turn signals
  • headlights hi/lo beam
  • brake lights
  • parking lights
  • seat belts secure and functioning for ALL seats
  • windshield wipers
  • windshield washer

6. Second station, pull car forward and park on shakers. (Inspector will help you get aligned.)  Car gets shaked to see what parts fall off. 

7. Third station, pull forward and over the rollers in the floor. This is the brake check. Rollers turn rear wheels and you are asked to slowly apply brakes. Repeat using emergency brake.

8. Guy rolls a reflector in front of the headlights and asked you to shine hi and lo beam headlights to see if they are aligned.

9. Pull car forward over pit positioning car on more shaker plates. There is a person in the pit and a camera so you can see what they are doing under there. The shaker plates move your suspension side to side to see what falls off.

10. Pull forward and rev the engine four times to four thousand RPM. They push a probe up your pipe and check your gases. (So many jokes, so little time.)

11. Pull out of inspection area and park.

12. Get in line to get your Pass/Fail report.

12a. Pass? You get a sticker along with inspection report.

12b Fail? You don’t get a sticker and the inspection report tells you what is inferior. If you fail, you have 30 days to get it fixed and report for a reinspection.

There you have it. Why 24 stops to pass car inspection in Costa Rica? Because I had to do it twice. 

Here are some tips offered by others…

  • No appointment necessary. Wrong.
  • Wash the gas cap – supposedly to help pass the emissions test. Untested.
  • Wash the exhaust system – actually my mechanic did this when he was “fixing” my inferior hand brake. He shoved a PVC pipe in the exhaust and loaded up the system with water and then revved the engine to blow out the water. I didn’t see this until it was too late. I’m sure I will be replacing the exhaust system due to rust and corrosion prematurely. Could be correct.
  • Pay a tico to take your car through inspection. Theory is that ticos get away with more. Untested


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How to Pass Alajuela Costa Rica RTV in 24 Easy Stops — 8 Comments

  1. Great info. We are currently living here without a vehicle but I am considering purchasing one in the future. I have also heard a $10 taped in a noticeable area under the hood helps.

  2. Hi CRC… I’m not sure your tip would work because there are multiple stations where somebody can fail your car 🙂
    Good luck if you decide to buy a car, it for sure will be your most constant state of frustration in your life in Costa Rica.

  3. You guys have lines at RTV? I believe that I interrupted someone while doing her nails when I went in last year.

  4. Hi Kim, I have been past there with no lines. As a matter of fact on the second try, I was the last car in line at 10:15 on a Monday.

  5. You guys have a line at RTV? You probably have lines at your banks too! : ) Sorry Mark just messin’. Have a lovely evening and thank you for a great post.

  6. Hey! That is very good advice. Will try. Thanks for reading and commenting.