Many expatriates from the UK and elsewhere in Europe choose to move to Spain permanently each year which is understandable considering the fantastic quality of life afforded to those willing to take the plunge.
Although life in Spain is relatively laid back and trouble-free, there are occasions when things can get a little stressful. You know what I am talking about! SPANISH BUREAUCRACY. It’s the envy of the world and something most of us get used to and learn to live with over time.
Where many people get into difficulties when moving to Spain, is when they bring a foreign registered vehicle into the country, unaware of the potential pitfalls.
In one of our previous articles, we spoke about driving a UK registered car here in Spain and the current rules and regulations under Spanish law.
Under recent EU directives, you are deemed a permanent resident in Spain if you spend more than 183 days a year here. This means that you are only permitted to drive a UK car here for up to 6 MONTHS in any one year period.
If you were driving it for longer than this, you MUST be a permanent resident. To a Spanish traffic officer, you would be breaking the law and would be hit with a big fine not to mention potentially having your car impounded and having to spend even more money to get it back.
Beyond the 183 days, you would need to either register and MOT/ITV your vehicle here or drive/ship the vehicle out of the country. Importing it legally will mean that it may need to be adapted for Spanish roads and there may also be registration tax (Impuesto de Matriculación), road/traffic tax (IVTM) and in some cases IVA/VAT to be paid. In some instances, this can amount to THOUSANDS OF EUROS!!
If you need further clarification on whether you can get a UK car MOT'd in Spain or not, read this article https://www.healthplanspain.com/blog/expat-tips/706-can-i-get-an-itv-mot-for-my-british-car-in-spain.html
If you are importing your vehicle into Spain, you will also need to make sure you register this with the DVLA in the UK by completing section V5C/4 of your V5C logbook, as you will need to this when your vehicle is out of the country for 12 months or longer.
Be warned though! You can’t just move to Spain with the intention of becoming a permanent resident, drive your car for 6 months and then register it or drive it back to the UK when you feel like it. If you move to Spain with the intention of becoming a permanent resident you must register it with your local traffic department within 30 DAYS OF ARRIVAL!
I know what you are thinking!
“how will the police know whether I am resident or not?”
Well, moving to Spain permanently involves lots of form filling and hence a TRAIL. Think NIE number, empadronamiento, children at school, energy bills, taxes etc. It’s not that difficult for the Spanish police to check this. Even Inspector Clouseau could work it out!
Don’t forget, if your UK MOT expires while in Spain you will be driving illegally. Even if it is insured in Spain, the insurance will be invalidated once the MOT expires.
You will hear people in expat forums advising to drive it back to the UK, get it MOT’d and then drive it back again, but do you really want to do this??
Even if you legally have the correct paperwork, there is always the chance that the Spanish traffic police will not speak good English (why should they after all?). If they don’t understand what you are saying and you don’t appear to have the right documents or can’t prove that you are resident or non-resident you could potentially be penalised. Why chance it?
The reason for this article is that we hear either via word of mouth or by what we read online in forums and other websites about expats who have recently been hit with massive fines due to their lack of understanding of the Spanish motoring laws.
Our advice? Leave your UK car in the UK and purchase a Spanish vehicle once you are here. It will save you a lot of stress and possibly save you from a big fine and a major headache in the long run.
For a current list and to find your nearest DGT traffic office, see the following link
Below you can find a number of resources and forum posts about bringing a UK registered car to Spain.
Updated: June 22, 2022 CET