Driving your Car, Buying a Car in Spain

1. Driving your plated foreign car in Spain

1.1. General information

If you are intending to bring your own car to drive through Spain you are perfectly able to without bothering to stop at customs. You must have with you your passport, current driving licence, valid insurance and vehicle registration document.

According to Traffic Regulations, it is mandatory that you keep the following equipment in your vehicle:

  • Set of bulbs and tools necessary to replace them.
  • Two red warning triangles officially approved by the Internal Ministry (Ministerio de Interior).
  • Spare tyre and tools necessary to replace it.

You may be fined if you do not carry these.

Be noticed that children aged under 12 must travel in the back seats of cars unless the front seat is fitted with an approved child seat.

Minimum driving age in Spain is 18.

You may bring into Spain your EU registered car without further formality but you may not use it in Spain for more than 6 months in a calendar year. If you spend more than 6 months in any year in Spain, you will be considered resident and consequently you must obtain full national plates and pay the special vehicle registration tax (impuesto municipal sobre circulación de vehí­culos).

You may also matriculate your foreign car on Spanish plates, you should do it within 2 months from the time of entry to Spain.

The auto insurance you need is the coverage by your insurance company in your country of origin, extended to cover travel in Spain.

1.2. About driving licences

All EU driving licenses are recognized in Spain. If you are a citizen from the European Union, you may drive in Spain until your EU license expires, then you must apply for a Spanish driving license and proof your residency in Spain (showing your NIE no. would be enough).

If you are from outside the EU and wish to drive throughout the Spanish territory for long periods, then your driving license must be translated into Spanish by an official translator. You can also drive on an international license. After 1 year, you must obtain a Spanish driving license as you cannot continue driving under your own license duly translated, nor under an international permit. You should then apply for a Spanish driving license for which you must proof your residency in Spain.

Once you get your Spanish driving license, your foreign license is returned to the issuing office of your home country.

These are only general guidelines and not definitive statements of the law, all questions about the law´s applications to individual cases should be directed to a Spanish lawyer.

2. Importation of your car

The procedures relating to imports of cars into Spain are complex.

If you are Spanish resident importing a vehicle into Spain, be aware that you must register it with the local authorities in the Spanish province where you are resident: the local provincial traffic department (Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico), this will grant you permission to drive your foreign plated car through the Spanish territory.

EU citizens moving to Spain to take up official residence may bring their own car with them exempted from import duties. If you are from outside European Union, you may get the exemption from Spain’s 10 per cent import duties, under the following conditions:

  • You must have owned your car for at least 6 months prior importing it into Spain.
  • You must have paid VAT in your country of origin, otherwise this tax shall be paid in Spain.
  • A special registration tax (impuesto municipal sobre circulación de vehí­culos) must be paid in Spain. This tax is calculated on the vehicle’s current value (based on the original market price in Spain). The imported car that EU residents had owned for at least 6 months in Spain is not subject to this tax.
  • You must obtain a certificate of non-residence from your home country.

Once the importation procedure is completed, you will be issued a temporary registration plate, which enables you to drive your imported car in Spain.

Any concession on the duty-free import of cars applies only to people who take out an official residence permit in Spain.

These are only general guidelines, other questions applicable to your individual case should be directed to a Spanish Lawyer.

3. Buying a car in Spain

3.1. Requirements

Foreigners, whether from the European Union or not, may buy a car in Spain, either a second or a new one, and have their car to use in Spain for a total of 6 moths (it is not necessary a 6-month continuous period) in any calendar year.

In order to buy a Spanish-registered car, foreigners need to meet one of the following requirements:

  • Holding a NIE number.
  • Holding a residence card.
  • Registration with the Town Hall ( this certificate is named «padrón» in Spain).

3.2. New car

The price for the same new car may vary in Spain from a dealer to another. Also, if you give your old car to pay the new one, you will find the price highly reduced, depending on your old car value.

In the event that the car model you have chosen is not available at the time of your request, you should fill in a purchase order for a new car. Pitfalls to avoid:

  • Make sure that the purchase price cannot vary while you are waiting for your new car and that the deposit of money you give takes part of the car final price.
  • The purchase order shall contain the features of the car you have chosen, as well as the date of supply.
  • In case you give your old car as part of the new car price, ask for a copy of your old car’s sales contract, in order to inform the Provincial Traffic Authorities (Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico) and the Town Council (Ayuntamiento) about the new owner name of your old vehicle; otherwise you may be still liable for taxes payment and possible traffic fines.

Once you are given your new vehicle, the dealer shall supply the following documents:

  • The vehicle circulation permit.
  • The technical sheet corresponding to your new car.
  • A written guarantee of the car.
  • The instructions and maintenance manual.
  • The purchase invoice of the car.

You must contract the mandatory car insurance. Non-residents buying a car in Spain will be exempt from the Special vehicle registration tax (impuesto municipal sobre circulación de vehí­culos).

Purchasers must pay the VAT at a rate of 21 percent and the registration tax. Non-EU foreigners may purchase new cars in Spain avoiding the VAT and vehicle registration tax payment.

These are only general guidelines; Any other questions applicable to your individual case should be directed to a Spanish Lawyer.

3.3. Second hand car

If you buy a second-hand car in Spain, whether privately or from a car dealer, you should be provided with the following documents:

  • The circulation permit (permiso de circulación) duly signed on the reverse of the document, together with the technical sheet of the car.
  • Receipt of the municipal vehicle tax (Impuesto Municipal sobre vehí­culos de tracción mecánica). This is a municipal tax, which varies from town to town, you should keep this with you in your car.
  • ITV test certificate, when applicable. ITV is the inspection for vehicles older than 4 years to verify its condition.

Check the vehicle history before buying any car, as the vehicle may have past debts and the creditor is entitled to use the car as an asset for seizure.

Either the seller or buyer, depending on what both parties agreed, shall apply for a new registration certificate, in order to transfer the ownership of the vehicle (notificación de transferencia de vehí­culos), obtainable from the provincial traffic department. Both parties must sign this document.

The buyer must pay:

  • the transfer tax at the tax office at a rate of 4 percent of the car price.
  • The Traffic fees, when applying for the transfer of vehicle’s ownership.

About the guarantee:

The seller is liable for the later possible imperfections of the vehicle, which could not be discovered by a non-expert car buyer. Private buyers may renounce this guarantee, however, the dealer is mandatory responsible for imperfections on the car.

About the car insurance:

If you buy a second hand car you may subrogate the seller’s car insurance, the insurance company shall be informed about this. Make sure that the seller is current in his periodic payments, otherwise once the vehicle is transferred, you will be liable for the amounts pending of payment.

These are only general guidelines, other questions applicable to your individual case should be directed to a Spanish Lawyer.

4. Selling your car in Spain

If you are willing to sell your old car in Spain, make sure that the vehicle’s transfer is completed into the new owner’s name, otherwise you are still liable for any unpaid tax due on the car or any fine imposed to the new owner. In this case you may apply to the traffic department for de-registration (baja del vehí­culo) of your car already sold to avoid later consequences.

When you sell your old car, you may keep your old insurance policy applicable for the new car you acquire. You must inform the insurance company about the sale of your old car, about your intention of giving up the guarantees of your vehicle sold, and apply for the discount corresponding to the part of your old policy not entirely consumed.

These are only general guidelines, other questions applicable to your individual case should be directed to a Spanish Lawyer.

5. Car repairs

5.1. General information

Whether living or travelling in Spain, you may get surprised if something goes wrong with your car, then you should visit a Spanish automobile repair shop.

It is mandatory that the repair shop post notice of the prices it charges for work, a brief information about the consumers’ rights and that they have forms (hojas de reclamación) available for consumers to state their claims.

You are entitled to request a written estimate of the repair of your car to the dealer or repair shop. The estimate shall contain the following items:

  • The repair shop details (name and number of registration).
  • The consumer details (name and address).
  • The car details (model of car, plate and number of kilometres).
  • Repairs to be done to your vehicle and itemized repairs costs (VAT included), stating the parts to be supplied.
  • The date when you took the vehicle in for repair.
  • Validity term of the estimate.
  • Date and signature of the service manager.

Normally the shop repair should first diagnose the problem to make the estimate for parts and labor, therefore you should leave your car in the repair shop. You will be provided with a receipt stating the date on which the estimate will be supplied to you. If you do not approve the estimate provided, you must pay the expenses for the revision of your vehicle.

Your repair bill shall itemize the parts and labor charges so if a problem occurs later, you can prove that the item in question is covered by the guarantee.

All repairs are covered by guarantee for either a period of 3 months or 2,000 kilometers from the date that the vehicle was picked up, unless you have otherwise agreed. If you have any problem with the parts repaired during this period, the guarantee covers the parts, labor and even costs for displacement.

5.2. Claiming against the repair shop

If you feel the repair shop has acted unfairly, there are two ways to bring legal action against it:

  • Before the Consumption Arbitration Board (Juntas Arbitrales de Consumo): You will need to fill in the form (hoja de reclamaciones), which should be available in the repair shop; a copy of the repair estimate and the repair invoice. It is required that both parties voluntarily agree to submit their controversy to arbitration, otherwise you should bring legal action before the Spanish ordinary courts.
  • Before the Spanish ordinary courts. Each court has certain defined jurisdiction and categories of disputes may be excluded because of the amount at stake. If the amount in controversy exceeds € 3005.06, rules of civil ordinary procedure shall be applied. If the amount does not exceed the quantity expressed, the rules of civil oral procedure will be applicable.

You will need skilled legal counsel for either of these actions.

6. Public garage in Spain

Penalties for parking infringements on the street vary from town to town in Spain, and these can be heavy. Parking garages are a safer alternative to the street. Public parking garages can be found in most of the cities in Spain.

Except in cases of force majeure, you are entitled to an indemnity if public garages do not fulfil their surveillance tasks and your vehicle is damaged while it was in a public garage.

What to do if your vehicle is damaged in a public garage:

  • You should notice the police about it and claim for a compensation for the damages. It is advisable that you do not pick your vehicle up until the police have checked your vehicle in the garage.
  • Advise your insurance company about any damages suffered.

You may also submit your claim to arbitration or before the Spanish courts. You will need skilled legal counsel for either of such actions.

7. Getting legal help

Our lawyers provide solid legal advice regarding any vehicle-related issue in Spain:

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