Many people emigrate to Spain each year from the UK and other parts of Europe to enjoy the great weather, embrace a new culture and enjoy the Spanish way of life.
But if you are planning on bringing a foreign-plated vehicle into Spain you need to be fully up to speed with the current Spanish laws and regulations. Being pulled over by the Spanish traffic police after you’ve just arrived here, is no fun and if you are driving illegally, it most definitely won’t be a great way to get your new life in Spain underway.
So whether you're in the process of moving here or have been living here for some time. Read on and get yourself acquainted with the law here when it comes to driving a foreign-registered vehicle.
Can I Drive my UK-Plated Vehicle in Spain?
If you have spent any amount of time in Spain, you will know that roadside checks by the police and Guardia Civil are an all too often occurrence.
The Spanish police can seem quite intimidating when it comes to checking your vehicle and its documentation and if you are driving a foreign-plated vehicle, you will stand out like the proverbial sore thumb.
But don't panic! You are legally permitted to drive your UK-registered vehicle in Spain. You just need to make sure you are familiar with the legislation and documentation requirements so that you don't become another Brit who has had their vehicle impounded and been hit with a massive fine!
Another thing to consider is whether you are resident or non-resident in Spain as this can determine how long you can drive the vehicle on Spanish roads.
Generally speaking, if you are a non-resident in Spain, you can bring your vehicle into the country year-round and drive it.
How Long Before It Has to Be Registered?
It's important to know that you can't just bring your foreign car into Spain and drive it indefinitely. There are rules that you will need to follow if you don't want to be pulled over, fined heavily, and potentially have your car impounded.
Under the current EU directives, you are considered to be a resident in Spain if you spend more than 183 days of the year here. This is the reason why you are only permitted to drive a UK-registered vehicle in Spain for up to 6 months of the year.
Beyond the 6 months, you will need to either
You can read more about the current EU legislation here
If you have moved to Spain to become a permanent resident here, you must register your vehicle within 30 days with your local traffic department. Check this page to find your local DGT offices. So if you own a property, have children in school, own a business, are employed here, or are registered on the padron etc. you will be considered to be a resident here and NOT a tourist.
We have read several stories on expat forums saying that the Guardia Civil in some cases will fine you on the spot if you are driving a UK car on Spanish roads and are unable to prove that you are a non-resident, so be warned! If you are living here permanently, either register your vehicle ASAP or buy a Spanish vehicle.
While driving your UK-registered vehicle in Spain, it must be fully insured in the UK and have a valid UK MOT and road tax. This applies to any vehicle in Europe. It must be legal on the roads of the originating country regardless of it being driven in another country.
It is also important to note that you cannot get a UK-registered vehicle MOT'd in Spain using the Spanish equivalent ITV (Inspección técnica de Vehiculos) unless you are registering it in Spain and putting it on Spanish plates. Likewise, you would not be able to MOT a Spanish-registered vehicle in the UK.
If your road tax runs out while in Spain, you will be in effect driving without insurance as driving without road tax will mean that your insurance is invalidated. You may then get stopped, have your vehicle impounded, and potentially be hit with a 2,000 Euro fine.
Similarly, if your MOT expires, you will either need to drive/transport the vehicle back to the UK and have it retested. This is of course, extremely expensive and not to mention time-consuming. The better option would be to either sell it to a Brit departing Spain for the UK or register the vehicle in Spain.
Insurance and Road Tax Requirements
While driving your UK-plated car in Spain, you will need to be insured. Your UK insurance will usually provide you with a certain amount of cover while in Spain, but you must check your policy before bringing your car or another vehicle into the country.
In many cases, UK insurance will cover you for around 90 days of international travel, but you must check with them to be on the safe side.
Can I Register My UK Vehicle in Spain?
Yes, but in many cases, it is a bureaucratic nightmare, to say the least with an abundance of paperwork to navigate your way through.
Then there are the import taxes that you will need to pay which are 21% for a new vehicle. For a secondhand vehicle, the tax is based on the level of CO2 emissions and the average market value of the vehicle.
The tax bands are as follows (But may change in the future)
The rates above will be applied to the original price of the vehicle, with a reduction for each year of its age up to ten years. For example, a 20% reduction will be applied after the first year, 30% after two years, 50% after four years, and 80% after ten years.
The vehicle would also need an MOT in Spain, which is referred to as an ITV (Inspección técnica de Vehiculos). Read more about the Spanish ITV test here https://www.healthplanspain.com/blog/expat-tips/118-all-about-the-car-itv-test-in-spain.html
In most cases, it would be well worth employing the services of a Gestor here in Spain if you are intent on registering your right-hand-drive vehicle here.
Unless your vehicle is cherished and of real value, for example, a vintage car, it may not be worth the cost and stress involved in registering it here.
Another thing to consider is the safety of driving an RHD car in Spain. Every year, many foreign RHD vehicles are involved in accidents on Spanish roads, largely due to poor visibility issues especially when overtaking.
For further information on importing a car or other vehicle into Spain, see the following article https://www.healthplanspain.com/blog/expat-tips/352-importing-a-car-or-other-vehicle-into-spain.html
What about Commercial Vehicles?
Large right-hand drive vans and similar commercial vehicles cannot be registered/imported into Spain due to safety issues.
Documentation and Other Requirements When Driving
When you are driving any vehicle in Spain, you must carry all of your documentation with you. Make sure you have your insurance, logbook, MOT certificate, and passport, and make sure your road tax is valid.
The Spanish police are hot on this kind of thing and not having them with you will not go in your favour.
You will also need to have other items in your vehicle such as a jack, warning triangles, a spare tyre, a fluorescent jacket, and spare glasses if you use them to drive. This is a legal requirement in Spain.
For a full list of what you must carry in your vehicle by law, please see the following guide https://www.healthplanspain.com/blog/expat-tips/362-things-you-must-carry-in-your-car-by-law-when-driving-in-spain.html
As the UK has now left the EU the rules above will apply until the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. After this time, things may change and will be dependent on current and future negotiations between the UK, Spain, and the European Union.
Private Health Insurance for Expats
If you want the security of knowing that you and your loved ones are covered against any unforeseen health issues in Spain, please consider one of our excellent value, low-cost Sanitas health insurance policies. All of our policies are in English and are underwritten by Bupa.
If you are looking to move to Spain in 2021, the residency process has now changed. You will now need a residency visa to be able to live here beyond 90 days. Our policies are perfect for this and satisfy the requirement when applying for a Spanish residency visa.
You can view our range of policies here - https://www.healthplanspain.com/sanitas/sanitas-health-plans.html
Image Source: Daily Telegraph