Your car in Spain.

FOR many years a significant number of expats living in Spain have chosen not to take out residency and have driven cars with foreign number plates, relatively content that they were unlikely to have problems with the authorities as some live out side of main towns.

British passport holders who fit into this category need to understand that Brexit has changed everything and now whilst it was possible for members of European Union states to drive a foreign plated car for 180 days out of 365 in Spain, this will no longer be the case when the UK finally exits the EU.

Then you have to register your vehicle or get rid of it or the police will.

Many may assume that it’s worth taking a risk but the recent seizing of Gibraltar registered cars during lockdown by the Guardia Civil as Gibraltarian workers who have residences in Spain but have never registered the cars in Spain are a perfect example of what could happen.

Police Officers here can easily recognise a foreign number plate and it is easy to stop the driver and demand their papers which may well show that they are residents rather than holiday makers. The police here know that most havent all the correct papers and these stops are now more frequent everywhere.

It can be quite a confusing operation, particularly if you don’t read and speak Spanish.

In order to register your ‘imported’ car, you will need the following documentation;

Spanish customs import document (if vehicle purchased outside of the EU)

Original copy of log book


NIE number and details of your address.

You will have to pay registration tax based on the value of the vehicle. The value is not market value except in rare cases but is supplied via the Hacienda (tax office) tables which are much less than market value.

The percentage of value levied as tax is either zero, 4.75 per cent, 9.75 per cent or between 14.75 per cent and 16.9 per cent depending on the region of Spain where the car is to be registered and is based on the CO2 emissions

Once this is paid you will need an engineer’s inspection which produces a ficha reducida which is not a mechanical inspection, but verification of the vehicle’s characteristics. Where a vehicle has a manufacturers Certificate of Conformity, the ficha reducida is not required.

If your car is more than four years old it will need an ITV (MOT) test undertaken.

It is necessary when applying for certification as a foreigner for you to bring the following;

Receipt from payment of registration tax and NIE number.

Once all of this is completed, you will have to pay a one-off registration duty charge and then an annual road tax decided by your local municipality which is based on age of vehicle, horsepower and CO2 emissions.

Now you may fit Spanish licence plates to your car and drive safely and legally.

Is it all really worth it?

In the 17 years i have lived here i have heard some horror stories and I have driven a uk plated car here when i first came here and was stopped many times.

If you are goimng to live in Spain long term just buy a Spanish car and save yourself the trouble.

Some will say but cars are more expensive here.

You need to shop around as there are some places you can get good deals. Main dealers sell ex demo cars that have very low mileage and still come with all the garentees and servicing.

Then theres the smaller car dealers where you car negotiate the price, take someone who spaeks good spanish if yours is poor.

Banks….Yes even some of the banks now sell cars here and do great deals if you ask them.

Just a few months ago Bankia offered me a new car over 4 years. they have a list of cars that you can choose from and they pay all maintenance and servicing charges for 4 years. Also full insurance and breakdown cover and after 4 years you start over again with a new contract and choose a new car. These start from 149 a month.

Thats 37 euros a week for a new car…Ask your bank.

Apart from all the paperwork and problems you may have getting the uk car changed over there is the fact that your still sitting on the wrong side so it is dangerous to over take and at any barriers you will have to get out unless you have long arms or a person with you.

It is cheaper and easier and way less problems to just buy a Spanish car here and if you do research it doesnt need to be expensive.

From what i have seen and heard here from other expats i would recommend buying Spainish but i am sure others will disagree. What says you?

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British expats in Spain

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