Sorting Out A Car And Driving In Spain

Depending on your location in Spain, you might very well discover that there’s no need for you to keep a car on the road at all. However, should you need one, there are a few options you can consider.

Getting a car and driving in Spain
The rules of the road in Spain

Bringing your UK registered car to Spain

Importing your own car from the UK to Spain is a costly affair and involves quite a substantial amount of paperwork.

You can either drive your car to Spain directly or arrange for it to be transported by your removals company. Either way, because we are currently in the EU, you don’t have to pay customs charges to bring your UK car into Spain.

To drive a UK plated car into Spain, you will need a full and valid UK driver’s licence, proof of ownership (V5C) and insurance, as well as a passport or a national identity card.

You can drive your UK plated car for six months in Spain, until you have been in the country for 183 days continually. After that, you are deemed to a Spanish tax resident and it will be illegal to drive a foreign plated car.

At this point you will need to register your car with the local authorities. You have up to 30 days to do this.

Registering your UK car in Spain is a complex procedure and can be somewhat expensive.

This is how to register your UK car in Spain:

Step 1: Obtain a Certificate of Permanent Export from the DVLA

If you are planning to take your car out of the country for longer than a year, you need to inform the DVLA. To do this you need to fill in the ‘notification of permanent export’ section of your V5C (V62) registration certificate (Logbook).

You will then need to send this to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1BD

Make sure you keep the remainder of the logbook in case you need it when importing the car into Spain.

If you don’t have it, click here to apply a V5C (V62) logbook.

Bear in mind, that DVLA cannot send a vehicle log book (V5C) to an address outside the UK.

When you receive your log book, fill in and send the ‘permanent export’ section to DVLA.

Step 2: Get your car MOTed in Spain

ITV (Inspección Técnica de Vehículos) is the Spanish equivalent of an MOT and every car on Spanish roads must undergo a regular ITV.

If your car has a current MOT, you will not need a Spanish ITV/MOT until the current one expires.

If your MOT is about to expire, you need to do the ITV in Spain. You can do it at any local garage that provides the ITV services.

Make sure you bring the following:

  • The vehicle’s technical specifications (provided by the vehicle manufacturer), with a Spanish translation
  • Purchase receipt (original and photocopy)
  • Your car registration papers
  • Your insurance document
  • Your driving licence
  • Your ID (passport)

If you’re importing a classic car (coches clasicos), it requires a special ITV. You will also need an authenticity certificate from the regional government (comunidad autónoma).

You need to be personally present at the ITV. Usually testers give car owners certain instructions (apply the brakes, indicate left, etc.) to test the car. If your Spanish is not up to scratch, you might want to ask somebody to come with you to help you out.

Once your car passes the ITV, you will be given a Technical Test Certificate Card (Tarjeta de Inspección Técnica).

 Step 3: Pay Spanish import & registration taxes 

If you have owned your car for more than six months before becoming a resident in Spain, you won’t have to pay any import duty as long as you can show that you paid the VAT when buying your car.

For a second hand car, the registration tax (Impuesto Especial sobre Determinados Medios de Transporte) is based on the level of CO2 emissions and the average market value of the vehicle.

The tax bands are as follows:

You will pay 12 percent tax for vehicles which are not rated for CO2 emissions.

 Step 4: Register your car in Spain

To register your car in Spain, you need to obtain an NIE number – Número de Identificación de Extranjero – first.

You will also need to pay car tax (road tax) – Impuesto Sobre Vehículos de Tracción Mecánica IVTM – at your local town hall office (known in Spain as Ayuntamiento).

With the NIE obtained, you can apply for your car registration at your local Traffic Department (Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico).

You will need to submit:

  • An application form that you can get from the local Traffic Department;
  • ID: your residence card or passport (originals and copies);
  • Proof of address: your rental contract or title deeds (original and photocopy);
  • The receipt of payment of the car tax from the local town hall or Traffic Department;
  • Registration document (Permiso de Circulación y Permiso Para Conducción);
  • Confirmation of payment of registration tax (Impuesto Especial sobre Determinados Medios de Transporte);
  • Proof that VAT (IVA) has been paid in the UK when you bought your car;
  • Technical Test Certificate Card – Tarjeta de Inspección Técnica – that you received when your car passed the ITV (original and photocopy);
  • Car purchase receipt (original and photocopy);
  • Registration fee;
  • Certificate of Conformity (Certificado de Conformidad) from the vehicle manufacturer or a certified representative (original and photocopy). This should be an EC certificate;
  • Declaration of ownership of other Spanish-registered vehicles if you own a Spanish-registered car;
  • Declaration of possession of a Spanish driving licence if you have one.

In general, registering your car in Spain can take time and is pretty complex. Also consider the safety issues when driving a right-hand car in a country that drives on the right.

If you’re still undeterred, to ease the process a bit you can use the help of a gestor. For a relatively inexpensive fee, a local gestor can prove invaluable when dealing with local paperwork.

Or, better yet, just buy a car when in Spain.

Buying a car in Spain

The easiest way to buy a car in Spain is to go to a dealership. They will take care of almost everything and handle the transfer of ownership with no extra fuss for you.

In addition, you might get some nice extras in the form of free insurance or other bonuses.  A dealer will also take your old car (if you have one) in part-exchange.

If you are buying a second-hand car from a private seller, make sure it comes with the following paperwork:

  • the registration document (Permiso de Circulacion),
  • the latest ITV test certificate,
  • a receipt to show that the car tax has been paid,
  • a photocopy of the seller’s personal ID such as the NIE.

You will need to draw up an agreement of sale – Contrato de Compraventa – which includes the car’s details, both yours and the seller’s names, the agreed price, and the date and time of the transfer.

You will need to obtain a transfer of ownership form – Solicitud de Transmission de Vehiculos – from the Department of Traffic’s website. Make sure that both you and the seller sign it. Don’t forget to keep a copy.

Car insurance in Spain covers a car, not a driver. Most policies cover the main driver and any other drivers the main policy holder chooses to include. 

When you are buying a car, ask the seller whether they want to transfer their existing insurance on the car to you at the time of the sale. If not, you will need to have insurance in place before you can drive (you can read about it in our Car Insurance in Spain section below).

Both you and the seller then need to send the documents to the Jefatura de Trafico. You can take all the documents together if you want to. The seller needs to bring the registration document and his copy of the transfer of ownership form. They can also then deregister the car.

Registering your Spanish car

Now that you are an owner of a Spanish vehicle, you need to register it within 30 days of the sale. You will also have to pay a transfer of ownership fee, which is about 4% of the official car value (not the one you have negotiated).

To pay a transfer of ownership fee and register your car:

  • Get an NRC code (Número Referencia Completo) from your bank;
  • Fill in the ‘modelo 576’ form online on the Hacienda’s tax website to calculate your fee and pay it, keep the receipt;
  • Pay car tax (Impuesto de Circulación) to the local government, keep the receipt;
  • Take all the above documents, including receipts, to your local Traffic Office;
  • Don’t forget your ID: NIE, passport or residency permit;
  • You will have to pay a fee of around €94;
  • You will then receive your licence plate number and the papers confirming the registration;
  • Take all your documents to a specialist who will make up the number plates for you. It will cost up to €50;
  • Attach the plates to the car  – job done!

Car insurance in Spain

It is illegal to drive without car insurance in Spain. The minimum legal requirement is third party liability cover.

How car insurance works in Spain

In Spain, it is the car that is insured, not you. Several drivers can be covered by one car policy. You need to discuss the details with the insurance company when applying for a cover.

If you need to drive someone else’s car, you can’t do it under your own insurance. In Spain you can’t use your car cover to drive other cars. The owner of another car needs to ensure that you are included in their car policy.

Which level of cover is right for you?

Third-party cover

This type will cover any damage that you cause to other cars in the event of an accident and any personal injuries suffered by other people. However, you, your property and your family are not covered by it. 

The policy may come with some additional extras, which can differ depending on the company you select; some may cover road assistance, others may cover glass, etc. Check out what is covered when comparing quotes to ensure you are comparing like with like. 

Fully comprehensive cover

If the third party cover is not suitable for you, a better option might be Fully Comprehensive Cover. It will cover quite a lot, including material damage or injuries to both third parties and yourself and your family. It will usually offer protection against fire and theft and malicious damage.

 Read the agreement carefully before signing it and make sure you understand exactly what you are covered for, as the conditions and offers vary from company to company.

Driving in Spain tips

  • The speed limit on highways is 120 km/h (75 mph), 100 km/h (62 mph) on main roads or roads with 2 lanes (also called autovías, 90 km/h (56 mph) on all other roads, and 50 km/h (31 mph) in urban areas (towns and villages);
  • Talking on a mobile phone while driving in Spain is strictly prohibited, unless you use a hands-free system;
  • Engines, lights, car radios and mobile phones must be switched off while refueling. Authorities claim that mobile phone waves can cause ignition (and an eventual explosion) of petrol fumes. People generally don’t speak on their mobile while refueling but don’t turn it off;
  • If you wear glasses (not sunglasses), you must have a spare pair with you in the car;
  • A helmet is mandatory at all times when riding a motorbike or bicycle.

Mandatory documents and gear

Documents you must always have in the car with you:

  • Driving licence;
  • Ficha tecnica (log book);
  • Passport or residencia card/certificate;
  • Certificate of roadworthiness ( MOT or ITV);
  • Car registration details (permiso de circulación);
  • A copy of your insurance policy;
  • A copy of the latest receipt from your insurance company as a proof of payment. This one is very important because it’s the only proof that your cover is up to date.

You must keep the following equipment in your vehicle while driving in Spain. If it ever occurs that you need to stop on the side of the road or hard shoulder (due to an emergency, accident or breakdown), use them:

  • A reflective vest. Wear it if you need to get out of the car on the road or the hard shoulder.
  • Two warning triangles. Place one in front of your vehicle and one behind it after stopping.
  • A spare tire and tools necessary to replace it.
  • A set of bulbs and tools necessary to replace the bulbs.

You might find useful:

  • Banks In Spain: Bank Account Options For Expats – your banking options in Spain, how to open a resident account, a non-resident account, an online only account and other options;
  • Healthcare And Health Insurance in Spain for Expats – how to access affordable healthcare in Spain, why you need an S1 form and EHIC, how to apply for them and register them in Spain, how to get a health card in Spain, what private insurance options are there and their cost, what to do if you are not eligible for the S1 form;
  • Visit our homepage for a comprehensive range of Retirement Abroad guides.

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About the author: Ola Degteva is the overseas retirement research director at Expatra. Coming from a teaching and research background, she has been working in online publishing since 2010 when she became an expat. Having done 3 major international moves herself, Ola knows exactly what relocation and settling down in a new country involves and how important it is to plan ahead to make moving abroad less stressful.