There are three initials that cause nearly every Costa Rican to groan when they hear them. No, I’m not talking about TQM (te quiero mucho), although many do groan when they hear that since it’s cheesy. I’m talking about RTV: The annual vehicle inspection required for all Costa Rican cars, trucks, vans, taxis, buses, and basically anything else with wheels except wheelchairs and oxcarts.
This picture is actually about 4 or 5 years old but trust me: it’s still just as depressing of a place. And you are still always going to choose the wrong line. They also replaced the signage: it’s now a bit less Kindergarten-y, and I believe it now reads “Abandon all hope, ye who drive into here.”
Having a car in Costa Rica is very useful, and I actually couldn’t envision living where I do in the mountains without one. It’d theoretically be possible to take a bus to work, but I’d have to leave something like 6 hours before work. And that’d just be the first bus. So a car it is. It’s a bit of a necessary evil. Necessary for the aforementioned difficulty of getting around without one, but evil because they’re expensive as hell.
To start off with, almost any car, whether new or used, will cost about twice as much as the same car in the US. Interestingly, that seems to be even more true for used cars, since they’re almost always imported from the US, and therefore have to pay high import taxes. New cars may be able to skip the middleman of the US (and about 5 years of use in some salty, car-rusting place like south Florida), although they are still more expensive here. Then there’s gas, which is currently about $5.70 a gallon. If you’re a good Costa Rican–and I’m not–you also have to pay for water and soap to diligently wash it every week. And of course there’s also insurance, the annual registration, and the annual inspection, known as “Riteve” or “RTV.”
The RTV station in Cañas. I stupidly decided to get my car checked there one year when I was teaching a class in Guanacaste once a week. I had the required appointment, but I still had to wait two hours. As did all these other saps.
Another one of the RTV station in Cañas. I’m thinking the single inspection bay might have something to do with the terrible service. Might.
RTV stands for “Revisión Técnica Vehicular,” the meaning of which you should probably be able to work out. Rather stupidly, its also referred to as “Riteve,” and that’s even its internet domain name, despite the fact that it should clearly be “ReTeVe,” with an “e” instead of the first “i.” But then again, we also abbreviate combination as “combo” and not “combi,” so sometimes all logic goes out the window.
In fact, throwing away all logic is a good mindset to get into before going to the RTV. We have a (crappy) 1999 Nissan Sentra that often passes, but it hasn’t always. Today was one of those days, unfortunately. It apparently has tires that are too worn down and some exhaust problems. I asked about the tires, and he said I should have them checked if necessary. I pointed out that the purpose of the inspection was to check for things like tires, and asked, “But if it failed, doesn’t that mean that you guys determined that they need to be replaced?” And the guy responded, “Yes, but check them out to see which ones need it.” Well, that’s kind of a non-answer, but oh well.
“This is where the magic happens.” They’ve also updated the inside a bit, with flatscreens and everything. It’s a Spanish company that runs RTV, so they’ve probably got to make it seem like the money they’re fleecing us out of is used for something.
I’m more concerned with the emissions part. Some gas or what-have-you called “CH” or “HC” (I forget) was apparently measured at 200 something, but it can’t go over 100. So now I need to find someone who can actually measure that crap and take some kind of actions to fix it. And then return to Alajuela to re-inspect it. That’s actually the worst part. It’s about a two-hour round-trip ordeal to get our car to the closest inspection place, and you need to find a time when you’re not working to get it done, of course. And there’s a $20 charge for the first time, and re-inspection will cost about $10. I’d actually be happy to pay double that if I could just do it closer, but that’s just the way it is.
I do think there should be some kind of inspection to keep shitty vehicles off the road, but this inspection obviously is not it, since the roads are flooded with shitty cars belching out all kinds of crap way worse than my car. I’m not trying to make excuses for my own car, but I do smell something in the air that’s not my car’s CH/HC: it’s a rat.
Anyhow, if you have a RTV story you’d like to share, or if you live somewhere else that also requires inspections (or doesn’t), feel free to leave a comment.
Thanks for reading!