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Monday, February 19, 2024

Driver’s Licenses and Auto Insurance

SOMETIMES, when people are gettingauto insurance, they begin talkingabout driving records, proffering copies oflicenses, etc. Irrelevant! Auto insurance inCosta Rica covers so long as the persondriving an insured car at the time of anaccident has been so authorized by theowner of the vehicle, and has an “enabling”or valid driver’s license (licenciahabilitante, in Spanish).Auto insurance policies are issued inthe name of the legal owner of the car, aperson or a corporation as appears in theNational Registry of Vehicles. The name ofthe driver is irrelevant for insurance purposes;anyone with a licencia habilitantecan drive a car, and the insurance policy automatically affords coverage.So there is no need to report to, or request permission from,anyone if you decide to lend your car to someone else. No letters towrite or forms to fill out – simply ascertain that the person to whomyou are going to lend your car has a valid license.So what is a valid or enabling driver’s license? Basically, it’s alicense in force, issued by the Ministry of Public Works andTransport (MOPT) for the type of vehicle being driven. In CostaRica, per article 68 of the Transit Law, there are five differentclasses and 15 types of driver’s licenses. Class A is for motorcycles;class B for passenger vehicles and trucks; class C for taxisand buses; class D for tractors, bulldozers and machinery; andclass E for articulated trucks and machinery.Most readers would need a class B, type 1 (B1) license, whichis for cars or passenger vehicles, or trucks with capacity up to 1.5tons. Class A licenses are for motorcyclists: A1 is for ridingmotorcycles up to 90 cc; A2 for up to 125 cc; A3 for up to 500 cc;and A4 for 500 cc and up.To apply for a Costa Rican driver’s license, the applicant mustbe literate and must have passed a “rules of the road” test, a drivingtest for the appropriate type of vehicle, and a medical examination.Finally, the applicant must be 18 or older. Applicants under18 can apply for licenses for motorcycles, mopeds, scooters andATVs (all under 125 cc), provided they have written authorizationfrom one of their parents and provide proof of insurance.Article 74 allows a couple of exceptions. Its substance is thatpeople with driver’s licenses issued in foreign countries are authorizedto drive the type of vehicle foreseen on their license for threemonths as of the date they enter Costa Rica, provided the foreignlicense is in force. These drivers must also carry their passports, sotraffic police officers can verify that the three-month limitation hasnot been exceeded.The article goes on to say that these people may obtain CostaRican licenses by presenting their foreign license and undergoinga medical examination.This article of the Transit Law, which I think is intended fortourists and new residents, provides a nice loophole whereby adolescentswith licenses obtained in countries where the minimum drivingage is lower can legally drive in Costa Rica for 90 days, andcan also obtain Costa Rican licenses without a whole lot of red tape.And from the insurance standpoint, foreign licenses are valid andenabling licencias habilitantes, and INS should not reject claimsstemming from accidents occurring within the 90-day limitation.The opinions and viewpoints expressed are those of the writer,and do not necessarily represent the official position of theNational Insurance Institute (INS).


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