If you are looking to buy a used and affordable car in Costa Rica, you may want to check out the town of Grecia. My boyfriend states that it's the place that Costa Rican's themselves come to when they are in the market for a used car. After spending a couple days comparing used car prices in the capital city of San Jose, with the prices we found at the used car dealerships in Grecia, we definitely found Grecia to be considerably cheaper and to offer a greater variety. According to the dealers there that we spoke to, Grecia's cars are mainly imported from the U.S. (versus being cars produced for the Central American market directly). That means they are a little roomier and probably offer more features inside and out. Not sure if that makes them better quality or not, but it seemed to be a big selling point for most of the dealers here.
The main entrance to the town of Grecia (translated as "Greece" in English) is off of Hwy 1. You can't miss it if you are looking, as you will be able to see a re-creation of a Greek-pillared rotunda at this entrance (pictures below).
About one to two miles up the road from the Greek columns is where you'll begin to see the second hand car dealers all along both sides of the street. We stopped at about 10 or so of these small dealers, explaining to each one what we were looking for. We finally found a car that met our requirements at Auto Salas. The buying process was a little strange to me, as it involved all of us climbing into the car and driving to a lawyer's office in the downtown area of Grecia in order to sign off on the paperwork to transfer the car over to my boyfriend. But, all in all, the process was quick and easy, and the customer service we were given there was great. We received a 30 day warranty on the used car and two months later we are still happy with our second hand car purchase.
If you decide to come out to Grecia to find your used car, you can also make it a sightseeing trip by spending a little time in the town's central plaza area. Here you will be able to see Grecia's famous rust-red twin-spired metal church. You could also add in a visit to The World of Snakes attraction in Grecia which features over 150 snakes from around the world.