Reducing Costa Rica Import Taxes:
I want to buy a 97 Jeep Cherokee 4-door for my home in Costa Rica. One of the main considerations is reducing import taxes. CR import taxes are 70-80% of retail car value at initial dealership selling price less depreciation. This means late year models are almost twice as expensive as what they sell for in the USA. Also, used car values for import tax calculations are determined by a little black government book, not by the fair market value of the car. In other words, a used car can have a heap of aftermarket modifications but only be taxed on what the car sold for initially from the dealership (including factory options) less annual depreciation.
Consequently, the taxes on a 97 Cherokee are less than a 98 Cherokee regardless of mileage or overall condition. Example, import taxes on a 97 Cherokee with 50K miles will be about $1,500 while a 99 Cherokee with 200K miles will be taxed at about $5,000. It's all about year, make, model, and factory options.
New aftermarket and OEM parts are taxed at about 50%. Labor is inexpensive and good quality, but it doesn't completely offset the shipping and import taxes on parts.
Consequently, I want to buy used and rebuild like new in the USA then ship to CR.
Driving in Costa Rica:
By far, the Jeep will be primarily driven on paved city streets. Speed limits are usually 25mph in the city and 55mph for short distances on the highway. However, the Jeep won't see the highway speeds very often.
Roads are narrow with lots of climbs, descents and LARGE pot holes. (Large pot holes on the paved city streets, not just off-road) You are constantly turning, climbing, avoiding, descending, stopping, starting, etc. Off-road will consist of dirt roads with large pot holes caused by torrential rains. No rock crawling or even recreational off-road. All off-road will be out of necessity for getting from point A to point B.
What improvements would you make to a stock 97 Cherokee given the driving conditions I will face and considering that I would like to prevent repairs on the front end rather than face repair costs in Costa Rica?
Thanks for all suggestions.