Whilst I often use forums and Facebook pages as a source of information, I sometimes find the information misleading or advice provided off-putting. This was the case when I began researching registering a UK car in Spain. In fact I found so much contradictory information, out there, that i decided to write about my own experience of registering a UK car In spain in the hope that it would help others 🙂
Now some of you are going to say … “why did you bring your car to Spain, it’s easier just to buy a Spanish car”.
I am not going to argue with that. There are certainly many benefits in having a Spanish car and it maybe we buy a Spanish car in the future. For us, it was simply a matter of circumstances that led us to having a UK car in Spain.
Why did we bring our UK car to Spain ?
Prior to moving to Spain, we had spent 10 years living in the Turks & Caicos Islands. We had always planned to return to the UK for about a month prior to onward travel to Spain. It was an obvious opportunity to catch up with family and friends. Also, we had items in storage scattered around the country and we need to update Josie’s passport. This left us with a dilemma – how were we going to get around whilst in the UK ?
We needed a car, pure and simple. The cost of hiring a car was too much and borrowing one wasn’t a realistic option. So we made the decision to buy a car – ending up with a Skoda Octavia diesel estate. We reasoned we could use it in the UK and that we could then drive in it to Spain, along with our few possessions and our dogs. This would provide us with initial transport in Spain and allow us to take our time to look for a Spanish car. We naïvely thought we could easily sell our UK car in Spain to someone returning to the UK – as if everyone else didn’t think of that !
How long can you keep a UK car in Spain ?
Despite a recent bunch of scaremongering on Facebook – fake news if you will – the laws have not recently changed.
If you have Spanish residency (we didn’t at the time) then you need to register a UK car within 30 days of bringing it into the country.
If you are non-resident (as we were) then you can keep a UK car in Spain for up to 6 months. This was our plan. It is important to mention here that you should check how long your car insurance covers you to drive the car abroad. Most policies cover periods between 30 and 90 days. I only found 3 insurance companies that would cover a car for 6 months – Saga (if you are over 50 years old – which we weren’t), Nationwide and Liverpool Victoria (who underwrite Nationwide policies). We chose Nationwide as we have accounts with them which gave us an additional discount.
Please note: this was correct when we were arranging our car insurance in December 2016.
Suddenly our time was up !
The months slipped by and we started to realise that we would not easily be able to sell our car in Spain, certainly not without taking a big hit on the value of the car. We also started to notice that Spanish cars hold their value and are more expensive than UK equivalent. We were still undecided about what to do – even toying with the idea of driving the car back to the UK and selling it there.
In the end, time made the decision for us. Although we had only been in Spain 4 months, the UK Car tax was getting ready to expire and so a decision needed to be made. I started to research registering a UK car in Spain as I reasoned it couldn’t be more expensive than either the loss on selling the car, or the cost of driving it back to the UK.
The first thing I discovered was that I would have to make changes to our car…
What changes do you need to make to your car before you can register it ?
- If you cannot adjust the beam direction on your car headlights (this can be done on some newer cars) then you need to replace the headlights.
- Separate fog lights need to be removed. If you have symmetrical rear light clusters which include a fog light then all is good.
- A towbar must have an identification plate on it. You have to remove a non-certificated towbar and its visible electrics. Just removing the tow ball is not enough.
- Check that the tyres/wheels fitted are of the sizes and speed ratings (usually on a label on the door pillar) approved by the car manufacturer.
Our rear lights and tyres were fine and thankfully I found an identification plate on my towbar.
This meant the only thing I needed to do was change the headlights. After much research, I bought our replacement headlights here at a cost of 250 Euros. There are plenty of other options out there though.
So far so good. Now what about all the horror stories I had read about the complicated paperwork involved when registering a UK car in Spain ?
Easy … I went to see a Gestor !
Who or What is a Gestor and what happened next ?
A great definition of a Gestor and what they do can be found here.
A friend of ours had recommended Antonio, who worked at ‘Gestoria Mesas Porcel’, in Baza. He was helpful, professional and spoke excellent English. If you live in the area, I would have no hesitation in recommending them. They don’t have a website, however their information can be found here.
I ended up walking through the door with no appointment and spoke to Antonio who advised me that initially I would need to give him the following documents:
- My NIE certificate (my Spanish tax identification number).
- My Padron certificate (provides proof of residence in your municipality).
- The vehicle registration certificate (V5).
He took copies of them and said he would need to confirm that our car could be registered. He didn’t expect problems as it was a model available in Spain. It may be something to bear in mind if you have an unusual car though.
Antonio phoned later that day to say there would be no problem registering the car and to ask if I could bring the car back to the office the following day for an engineers inspection (not an ITV inspection).
The engineer inspected the car, including measuring the vehicle length, height, width and wheelbase to ensure it corresponded to the maker’s spec. He checked both the chassis number and engine number matched, the fog light was in a light cluster and that the towbar had a manufacturers plate. The whole thing took about 10 minutes.
After that Antonio showed me a breakdown of the costs I would need to pay them.
I have detailed them below:
- Ficha técnica reducida 100,00€ (engineer’s document).
- Traffic tax 105,36€.
- Registration tax 131,76€.
(this tax varies from car to car, depending on the model/maker, age and emission levels) *
- Road tax 93,30€.
(again, this tax varies, depending on the town hall and specifications of the car).
- Plates 15,03€.
- Office expenses 14,00€.
(including photocopies, calls, shipping from Baza to Granada and vice versa).
- Office fee 80,00€.
* the emission levels of your car can seriously affect the tax you pay, as can be seen from the details below. I found the emissions level on a UK Government website here and have screen printed my results. With a CO2 level of 135, I was liable for a 4.75% taxable value of the car – have the wrong car and it could cost you 14.75% of the value of the car !
A few days later I got a call from Antonio to collect the engineers report from his office. With the report, I could now take the car to my local ITV station to get a matriculation ITV. This is slightly different to a normal ITV as there is additional paperwork to process.
What is an ITV and how do you get one ?
The ITV (Inspección Técnica de Vehículos) is the roadworthiness test for a motor vehicle in Spain. It is the equivalent of an MOT in the UK. ITV tests are compulsory and may only be undertaken by an authorised garage. There are stations in most towns and cities, you sometimes even see them at service stations along the motorways.
How you go about this varies from region to region.
Where I live, you normally make an appointment online, arrive at the appointed date, pay the fee and wait outside in your car until your car is called in for its inspection.
Apparently you cannot book online for a matriculation ITV , so I turned up with a friend (who was both familiar with the process and spoke far better Spanish than me) in tow and presented myself at the desk. I handed over both my V5 document and engineers report and paid 150 Euros. This is slightly more expensive than a normal ITV due to the additional paperwork.
If you are not lucky enough to have a spanish speaking friend to go along and help, there are no doubt ‘fixers’ in your area who will come along with you for a small fee.
We sat in my car until my number plate appeared on a screen, telling me which bay to drive into. I sat in the car whilst they connected a device to test my car emissions. They then checked the oil level, windscreen level, tyres, all lights, wipers, seatbelts and that doors and windows opened and closed smoothly. They also connected the towbar electrics to make sure they worked.
Next they checked the alignment of the headlight beam (this is why you need to change the headlights on a RHD car).
Moving forward, they tested the front, back and hand brake on a rolling machine. Finally we moved onto another machine over an inspection pit and were handed a walkie-talkie. They communicate over the walkie-talkie on how and when to turn the steering wheel as they inspect the suspension.
I got an advisory on my motor oil level and informed that the tracking needed checking.
That aside all was good, I got a pass certificate and more importantly an ITV sticker (for the car windscreen).
I took all the papers back to the reception and was told to return 24 hours later to collect the completed documents.
This I did the following day and returned it all to Antonio. I got a call from Antonio 4 days later to say that all the new car documents were ready for collection along with my new number plates.
Now all I had to do was insure the car.
This was relatively straightforward and I paid 450 Euros for a fully comprehensive policy. Interestingly breakdown cover is included in all car insurance policies 🙂
Back home I changed the number plates and attached the ITV sticker.
In just under 2 weeks, we had a Spanish registered car 🙂
So what were my total Costs ?
- Replacement headlight 250 Euros.
- Gestor (as above including taxes etc) 539.45 Euros. *
- ITV 153.09 Euros.
Total ( Exc car insurance) 942.54 Euros.
* this included variable fees which are determined by the make and age of the car, its specification and your local town hall.
Final Thoughts …
The car registration was completed on 30th May, the same day my road tax expired in the UK *phew*.
The only mistake I made along the way was not to complete the section of my V5 certificate advising the DVLA that I had exported the car. To be honest I didn’t know I needed to do this. It only came to light when I got a road tax refund notice which either needed to be paid or completed as a SORN. Neither applied so I phoned the DVLA. They were very nice and told me to download a V756 form (application for permanent Export when you don’t have a vehicle registration certificate), complete it and post it back to them.
We got a 450 GBP refund when I cancelled our car policy. This covered a years worth of insurance here in Spain 🙂
We have been advised to keep all the car registration documents as well as insurance documents in the car at all times. Photocopies are not acceptable unless endorsed at a National Police Station.
Anyway, I hope that this take the mystique out of the whole process of registering a car in Spain and shows you how straightforward and inexpensive the whole process is.
To conclude, please note that this is my own experience in my part of Spain. We all know from personal experience that different regions have different procedures. For example in Extremadura my friend pays for his ITV at a bank and takes the receipt to the ITV Station.
That said, the fundamental procedure should be identical throughout Spain.
So … Who are one foot in the cave ?
We (Danny and Josie) have spent the last 10 years living and working in the Caribbean. In 2015 we decided we wanted to move closer to family and friends so bought a cave house in the Granada region of Andalucia, Spain. We moved there full time in January 2017. Now we write about our experiences of cave living and how we are adapting to life in Spain.
We also have a Facebook page full of pictures, experiences and information that we have found useful along the way. If its your thing, you can also follow us on Instagram 🙂
5 words related to this blog entry …
Residency – La Residencia.
Headlights – Los Faros.
Inspection – La Inspección.
To make an appointment – Hacer una cita.
Number Plate – Número de matrícula.