Driving in Spain


Residents can buy cars on a hire purchase agreement (installment plan) although those who aren’t property owners must usually provide a financial guarantee or obtain a guarantor.
For financing you will need to present: a certificate from your Spanish bank stating that you pay your bills regularly: a copy of your employment contract; a copy of your previous year’s tax return. .
The deposit (down payment) varies with the dealer and payments can be spread over one to four years. After making the deposit, you have to sign a number of ‘bills of exchange’ for each monthly direct debit installment due. .
Dealers sell car insurance – make enquiries of your own, it may be less expensive.
Personally importing any car from the UK is usually much cheaper than buying the same car in Spain or elsewhere in Europe.
It’s possible to buy a new car VAT-free in another EU country, e.g. from the factory of a European manufacturer or from an exporter in countries such as Belgium, Denmark (usually the cheapest due to high local taxes), Greece and the Netherlands, and personally import it into Spain. In some countries (e.g. the UK) you can buy a VAT free car up to six months before exporting it. Ensure that the vehicle meets Spanish homologation inspection specifications; otherwise you will not be able to register it. On the motor chassis there is an id number that can be referenced.
There’s no longer any import duty on cars imported from other EU countries, although you must pay Spain’s registration tax (impuesto sobre la circulación) and 16 per cent VAT (if VAT hasn’t already been paid in another EU country.)


Used or second-hand (segunda mano / ocasión) cars in Spain are more expensive than in other EU countries. Usually the best bet is to purchase a used car that’s around two years old.
Many of the car hire agencies sell their models at this point. Spaniards are not much on routine maintenance once outside the warranty period. .
Try to get a car with a warranty. There are numerous publications listing vehicles for sale: Mi Coche, Motor en Mano and Anuncio Motor.
Websites where cars are advertised:

Second-hand car prices vary with the region of Spain and are generally higher in remote areas and the islands than they are in Madrid and other major cities. .

  • ITV is up-to-date.
  • ITV is up-to-date.That the chassis number tallies with the registration document (permiso de circulación), which should be in the name of the seller when a car is purchased privately (check his identity card or passport.)
  • The service history that confirms the kilometres or miles shown on the clock.
  • The service coupons have been completed and stamped by an authorised dealer.
  • That you receive a “transfer of ownership,” (transferencia) form from the seller. The form is available from the provincial traffic department.
      • Car dealerships should provide a 12 month warranty. .

When you buy a car from a dealer, he will arrange the transfer of ownership. When buying privately use a local gestor. Be extremely wary of buying a car with foreign registration plates, as it can be very expensive to register it in Spain if you need to. .


      When you purchase a used car in Spain, the vehicle must be de-registered at the provincial traffic department. At this point you receive the registration document (permiso de circulación,) the ITV test certificate and card, the road tax receipt, and a receipt for the payment of transfer tax. You have 30 days to register the vehicle in your name. .


      In the south of Spain, 4 wheel drive vehicles and professional cars (Mercedes and BMW) are favourite vehicles to steal. Thieves often smash windows to steal stereo systems and other articles from cars – even articles of little worth such as sunglasses or cigarettes. Never leave anything visible, store everything in the boot. Have copies of all your car documents in your home. .


      If your car is stolen or anything is stolen from it. Report it immediately to the police in the area where it was stolen. You can report it by telephone, but must go to the station to complete a report (denuncia). Report a theft to your insurance company as soon as possible.


      New cars in Spain, due to the taxing, are more expensive than in many other European countries (registration tax (impuesto sobre la circulación) up to 12% and 16% VAT). Most new cars are sold at list price, although you should still shop around for the best deal, as dealers compete in offering discounts, guarantees, financing terms and special offers.





      To register the car you will need to fulfill various procedures and present numerous documents. Be warned that it is a bit of on adventure!


      The non-commercial vehicle needs to have been registered in your name for at least six months.


      The vehicle’s registration documents should be sent to the DVLA Swansea in the UK. You send them your logbook and in return you will receive a certificate of permanent export (V561.) DVLA contact details


      Write to: Customer Services. Export Department. DVLA. Longview Road. Morriston. Swansea. SA99 1AG


      tel_ +44 (0) 870 2400 010




      (optional) Vehicle registration, due to change of residence, requires an official letter from the British Consulate in Málaga. Take along the V5C form or certificate of permanent export V561 and your passport. Request a letter of change of residence, a “baja.” This letter states that you no longer reside in the UK and can, be picked up on the same day. (cost: 129€ credit card or cash.)


      You need a copy of your local town hall registration with a date that coincides with the consulate letter. See town hall registration. You also need to have a NIE number. Since the issuing of the NIE can take up to six weeks, do this first. Now that you have all your British and personal documentation together, you must begin your Spanish red tape.


      First off, your car needs to be inspected by an industrial engineer to determine if it meets Spanish standards and is “homologado.” The engineer will issue you an official certificate stamped by the colegio de ingenieros (ficha técnica reducida.) At this junction the engineer will inform you if the lights must be replaced with another type set for left hand driving. (engineer cost: approximately 150€ including the certificate costs.)


      The next stop on your odyssey will be at a Spanish ITV centre. The car will hopefully pass the safety standards and emissions inspections and you will be given the ITV certificate. (cost approximately 110€.)


      Take the ficha técnica and all the paperwork to Recaudación to pay the Road Tax (impuesto sobre circulación de vehículos.) Never more than 120€.


      (optional) The Import Tax of either 7 or 12% of the book value (Impuesto de Matriculación) can be avoided by registering a change of residence.


      If the vehicle was purchased from an individual you must pay Tax Form 620 (impuesto de transmisiones patrimoniales).


      Next stop is Tráfico where you have to pay a registration fee of 80€ (tasas de matriculación). Be there at 09:00 sharp because there is a long queue. Take along ALL your documentation original and a copy (including passport), the ITV certificate, and all of the documentation you have gathered. They give you a number; turn in the documents and wait in the Vehículos section, while they will verify them. You must return the next business day to pick up the Spanish equivalent of a log book (permiso de circulación / ficha técnica.) You take your logbook next door and pick up your two licence plates 24€.


      For more information, contact the directorate general of customs in Madrid:


      tel: 915 530 200


      dirección general de aduanas;


      tel: 917 289 450


      The good news is that annual Spanish road tax is much less expensive than in the UK.



      Driving your car to Spain is easy. Getting it registered is a bit more tedious. As a tourist you are allowed to bring in your car for 6 months, however if stopped by the police you may be asked to prove your vehicle’s entry date. If you are a homeowner or employed, the police may use information to your disadvantage and immobilise your vehicle.


      If you plan to stay continuously in Spain, it is best to register your vehicle as soon as you are required to do so as authorities are carrying out more and more checks and after all, car registration is required by law.




      There are a number of toll roads throughout Spain and the AP7 is the toll road that stretches along the Costa del Sol. At just over 82 kilometres long, it begins near San Roque at Guadiaro (Km 132) and goes all the way past Benalmádena (Km 229).


      Along this stretch there are three toll payment points. Prices are fixed and are charged per vehicle type, but change due to season. From June to September, plus the 17 days over Easter, the toll price almost doubles compared to the winter months fee. The toll roads have gas stations including services.


      The Costa del Sol toll road is named AP7, which should not be confused with the old coast road, the A7 (formerly the N-340). Don’t get confused, the P is for pay! Electronic signs are now used along the coast to guide traffic onto the correct roads, pointing out the AP7 and the A7 clearly, but do watch out for traffic changing lanes at the last minute at these points.


      All Spanish toll roads accept cash, credit and debit cards.


Electronic toll collection

      Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) is the latest payment system deployed on toll motorways.


      This system permits payment without stopping the vehicle. Payment is completed through a small device installed in the vehicle known as “On Board Equipment” (OBE) that is read from a distance by a beacon installed in specific sign-posted lanes.


      Ask your bank manager about getting an OBE or visit the website at:


      , look in section Dónde Conseguirlo (at present, only available in Spanish.)



      Road tax (impuesto municipal sobre vehículos de tracción mecánica) must be paid on all Spanish registered vehicles. The amount of tax is based on the fiscal horsepower of the vehicle and you should check your tax documents to see that it is correct.


      Payment should be made to your local Town hall every year between March and May and though reminders may be sent out, don’t depend on this. Visit your local town hall to obtain a payment form. Although the road tax is not displayed in your car, you will be asked to present a copy if stopped by police.



      Spanish bureaucracy at its best!


      Unlicensed drivers and many non-EU citizens must take a driving test in order to obtain a Spanish license.


      The driving tests in Spain are famous for their trick questions, if you are lucky they will have one available in your native language.


      The spirit here is to try, TRY and try again. Cynics believe this to be a major source of revenue for the government and driving schools. There are 40 questions and you can miss three.


      Taking the test can become a lifestyle, as the failure rate is so high. You have three chances to pass before you have to pay and start over again. Driving schools are designed to help students pass the test.


      An easier option is to get an international license in your country of origin or over the Internet. They are very inexpensive (around 30€, are valid for one year and are accepted by the Guardia Civil.)
      18 – 45 years of age, every 10 years. From 45 to 70 renew every 5 years and over 70 the renewal is every two years. Renewal involves paying a fee and taking the physical and motor skills exams.



For members of the EU it is no longer necessary to apply for a Spanish license. However, if you have a Spanish plated vehicle or hold residency you are required to have your licence validated.
All drivers are subject to the same medical examinations as Spanish nationals. Unlike the UK Spain requires medical check-ups at the time of renewal. In the Spanish regime you must go to an authorised centre, (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores) to have your physical and motor skills tested (informe de aptitud psicofísca.) The latter is very similar to a Nintendo game. .
Validation of licences is done at the Jefatura de Tráfico . Make it evident that you want your license validated (válido), not replaced. .
Take copies and originals of: .
Your valid UK or EU driving licence / ID photograph card (both sides) .
Your NIE / town hall registration.
Your passport.
Two passport photographs 32 x 25mm. .
The process is very simple and quick. Take care not to leave any of your original documents. Getting through to Tráfico on the telephone is an exercise in extreme patience and is virtually impossible, but here are the numbers: .
Renewal / replacement of a British drivers licence while in Spain: .
In order to renew or replace a UK licence you must have a British address.


      • motorbike: 14 (with parental permission)
      • motorbike with passenger: 16
      • agricultural machinery: 16
      • car; motorcycle; truck: 18


        In general they are as follows:

        • motorways: 120 km/h
        • dual carriageways: 100 km/h
        • single carriageway roads: 90 km/h
        • towns: 50 km/h

Whenever you are leaving a carriageway and entering into a small town or village pay careful attention to the posted speeds.




      Spanish premiums are among the lowest in Europe so here you could really make a saving. Insurance in Spain differs slightly from in the UK. The minimum requirement is third party, although a variety of cover is offered: fire, theft, windscreen, etc. If a vehicle is written off, the Ministry of the Interior’s traffic department has established the payoff rates at 1st two years 100%. more or less 85% during the, 3rd year and after the 4th year the, list price as published by Traffic.


      An international insurance card (green card) is not necessary within the European Union. If you plan to drive your car in Spain for extended periods, you may want to investigate getting a Spanish policy. Since 1995, EU regulations require all vehicle insurances correspond to the country in which the vehicle is registered. For instance a car registered in the UK and driven in Spain must be insured by a UK-based insurer (although you can use a Spanish branch) and not with a Spanish company.


      In general green cards are necessary for non EU countries such as Morocco.


      Ministry of the Interior website




      tel_ 902 120 441




      tel_ 902 444 444




      [mon-fri-08:00-22:00 / sat-10:00-14:00]


      tel_ 902 123 271



      ITV (lnspeccion Tecnica de Vehiculos) is an annual or semi-annual inspection of all on-road vehicles in Spain. The inspection assures that all vehicles are road worthy, have functioning lights, indicators, horn and seat belts. Emissions are checked, as are other features that effect public safety such as brakes and hazard lights.


      Following are the year 2006 schedules for different types of vehicles:


      Motorcycles are exempt from inspection until they are 5 years old, then they have to go in every 2 years.


      Private vehicles are exempt for the first 4 years, and then go in every 2 years until they are 10 years old. After 10 years must undergo an annual inspection.


      Caravans that attach to the back of vehicles must be inspected every 2 years once they are 6 years old.


      Mobile homes, after 4 years, require biannual inspection and after 10 years it becomes annual.



      In Spain the ITV test is the equivalent of the UK’s MOT test and is compulsory for all cars over 4 years old & motorcycles over 5 year.



      You arrive at the ITV station and put your vehicle in the queue. You enter the building with your car registration and ITV document, pay the fee in cash (no credit cards accepted) and go back and wait in your vehicle. Price for ITV is 32,05€ for a standard gas car and 36,44€ if it is diesel.


      When it is your turn they will ask you to honk your horn, turn on your windscreen wipers and clean the windshield. They will ask you to put on your seat belt, turn on your indicators, use your brake lights and will gauge your emissions by placing a tube in the escape pipe and they will ask you to accelerate.


      They check the quality of your oil. Next you will be told to drive onto a platform where they will check the brakes and the alignment of the tyres. If your vehicle does not pass the test they will tell you what you need to have: remedied in order to successfully pass the test.


      When your vehicle passes the test you will be given a sticker to place on your windscreen and the ITV documentation will be returned to you with the date of the next inspection noted on the document.


      Ask your mechanic to give your vehicle the once over before going to ITV- it can save you a second trip! As not everybody has the time or the inclination to go through the ITV inspection process, many mechanics offer this service (usually at a cost of 50 – 75€.)


      Inspection points tend to be located near urban centres .The ITV stations are run by different companies under contract with the regional government.


      Many are subcontracted to Ivesur


      tel: 902 221 222




      There are many static speed cameras in Spain so it’s important to drive within the speed limit. It is common for motoring fines to be sent to a previous address so you should regularly check to see if you have any outstanding fines as they attract high levels of interest and penalties.


      You can check your outstanding traffic fines on


      quoting your NIE and vehicle registration numbers.



      Be aware that the Guardia Civil collect fines on the spot from non-residents, so always carry cash or a bank debit card. If you are not carrying cash, they may impound your car if you cannot find a resident to sign on your behalf.


      The Guardia Civil is the arm of the government that patrols the highways. Since joining the European Union, the laws have become stricter and are more enforced. Here is a sampling of current fines:


      150€: Not wearing a seat belt, not having a valid ITV sticker, a person under 1 metre 50 in the passenger seat or running a red light.


      Drink driving is not tolerated. In addition to a steep fine on the first offence the license is taken away for three months; second offence it doubles; third it triples and fourth it is permanently removed.


      It is common for the Guardia Civil to stop cars in the evening and use alcohol detection tests. If you are stopped it is extremely important that you maintain your composure, be polite. If you have to make a court appearance, your behavior will be mentioned. Refusing to take the test is cited as disobedience (article 556 of this Act. In the Spanish Crimes Act.) If you are arrested, you have the right to remain silent and to have the counsel of a lawyer.


      Fines paid within thirty days receive a 30% discount. Fines can be paid by mail with a money order and sent to the Jefatura de Tráfico (must note citation on cheque). paid in person at the Jefatura or paid at the Banco Santander Central Hispano (take the ticket with you).



      RACE (Real Automóvil Club de España) Provide assistance on rural roads, across the European continent and along the Mediterranean in Africa and the Middle East. They also provide personal and road assistance.


      tel_ 902 404 545


      Assistance can be contacted using the roadside SOS telephones, which connect you to the nearest police station. For any questions call the Marbella traffic department_ 952 772 549DIRECTIONS & USEFUL MAPS Help in Finding local Addresses on the Internet and in English! Want to know how to get to a shop or a house and you are clueless? Enter origin and destination, complete with postal codes and it gives you a map and written directions in English:


      As a rule of thumb, if you are in a hurry, take the toll road. Free maps indicating the toll ‘roads are available from your local tourist office.


      Autopista del sol office tel_ 902 100 227


      ASIDE: Spanish Traffic Regulations require that all drivers carry the following in their vehicle:


      • Two warning triangles – officially approved by the Ministerio del Interior i.e. with the round symbol E9 and the code 27RO3.
      • A spare tyre and the tools to replace it.
      • A set of bulbs and tools to replace them.
      • A reflective jacket and spare glasses (if the driver wears them).
      • Driver’s licence / insurance information.

These items must be in your car at all times by law even during ITV inspection. When the car goes through its ITV these items may be checked for.