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Can I take my car with me to Spain? What do I need to know and do?

Can I take my car to Spain?

It is entirely possible to take your car to Spain, as our guest blogger Marijke explained recently.  But if you intend to keep it there, the process requires some detailed paperwork and can be expensive.  Whether you’re just driving through or you’ve already booked the removal company ready for your permanent move, here’s a breakdown of all the things to think about before you hit the road.

Driving licences

As long as you live inside the EU it’s relatively easy to retire in Spain.  All you need to do is apply for a residence certificate and then after five years apply for permanent residency.  If you live outside the EU, you need to apply for a Long Stay Visa before you move.  To apply for a visa, you’ll need a valid passport, a medical certificate and proof that you have the means to support yourself financially.

All EU driving licences are valid for short periods in Spain.  A UK driving licence is valid in Spain until 1st August 2020, although this may change after Brexit.  There is an up-to-date Department for Transport website that will communicate if and when things change. 

After 1st August 2020, you’ll need to apply for an IPD if you’re driving in Spain with a UK licence after 1st August 2020 for visits longer than six months.  The permits are valid for one year and you can apply through the Post Office.

All EU nationals must exchange their original driving licence for a Spanish driving licence within two years of residency. 

If you’re driving through other countries to reach your destination in Spain, you may also need to apply for additional relevant International Driving Permits (IPD); you can find the current list of countries that require this on the British Government website.

Car insurance

EU, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland insured motorists are automatically covered for third party liability in Spain.  However, if you have UK insurance on a British car, then you’ll need to contact your insurance provider at least a month before you travel and ask for green cards for both your vehicle and any trailer or caravan it may be towing. 

Check with your insurer if your policy will still offer cover beyond standard 3rd party liability i.e. will they cover theft or damage to your own car while abroad.

Vehicle registration requirements 

Your income will depend on your savings and investments, and whether or not you’re drawing a private and/or state pension.  It’s worth checking in on the exchange rate from time to time as fluctuations between your home currency and the euro will affect your budget.  It’s also worth seeing if your native pension provider will pay your income in your preferred currency. 

If you’re an EU national and you’re planning to spend less than six months driving your vehicle in Spain, you don’t have to register your car at all. 

For any period of up to 12 months, UK drivers will need their UK vehicle log book (V5C) and trailer registration documents.

Regardless of where you’re from, once you become a permanent resident, you must register your car within 30 days of importing it into Spain. 

Registering an imported vehicle can leave you with a tax bill of up to 40% of the vehicle’s value. The paperwork for importing your car is complex and you may need to hire a ‘gestor’ to help you complete it in Spanish. 

If you’re not drawing a pension yet, and have worked in both the UK and abroad, you can contact the International Pension Centre for advice and claims.  If you’re an EU national or have worked in several EU countries, you’ll find up-to-date pensions advice on the EU website.  

Here are some important pointers:

  1. If you’re bringing the vehicle from outside the EU, then you will need to pay import taxes at the customs office before it is released. 
  2. You will need an NIE number to pay any tax.  
  3. Your car will also have to pass an ITV inspection (Inspección Técnica de Vehículos), which is similar to an M.O.T. in the UK or a D.O.T in the US. At the moment, you don’t need to book the ITV inspection until your current M.O.T. runs out. This may change after Brexit though. 
  4. You will need to make an appointment to submit your registration application to the local Traffic Department of the municipality where you live.  
  5. Alongside your application, you’ll need:
    1. Personal identification documents
    2. Proof of address
    3. Receipts of local car tax and registration tax payments
    4. Current registration documents
    5. Evidence that VAT has been paid in the country of purchase and/or import taxes have been paid to customs.
    6. M.O.T. or ITV inspection certificate
    7. Original and photocopied receipt for the vehicle purchase
    8. EC certificate (a home owner’s certificate to prove there are no legal or monetary disputes over your property)

Finally, you’ll need to inform the DVLA or equivalent authority in your home country that you have exported your vehicle. In the UK, this means completing the ‘notification of permanent export’ section in your V5C registration certificate. Otherwise you will still be liable for road tax in the UK.

Number plates

If you don’t have a Spanish number plate, you’ll need to display a GB sticker, even if you have a number plate with the EU symbol.  

Can I take my car to Spain?

Traffic accidents

It’s worth noting that driving a right-hand drive vehicle in Spain causes visibility issues that could potentially mean you are at greater risk of being involved in a road traffic accidents. 

The process of making an insurance claim against another driver is the same across the EU.  You need to be able to identify the driver, prove wrongdoing and make sure they have insurance you can claim against.  You may have to make your claim in the local language and responses will vary from different insurance companies.

All cars in Spain are required by law to carry two warning triangles to put at the front and back of the vehicle, in case you have to stop in an emergency and need to alert drivers around you.  If you wear glasses, you’re also required by law to carry a spare pair. You are not obliged to keep a reflective jacket in the car, but if you’re found on the motorway hard shoulder without one, you’ll be fined. 

The drink-driving limit in Spain is more stringent than in the UK with the legal limit at 0.05% for experienced drivers and 0.01% for anyone with less than three years experience. 

If you’re feeling intimidated by the process of bringing your car with you, remember that it’s easy to hire a car in Spain in the first instance.  Or you may prefer to invest in a Spanish car right off the bat like Marijke and her husband Hilary did when they emigrated. 

Are you thinking about relocating to Spain?  Or have you done so already? How did you find the experience?  Would you recommend it to others? Would you be willing to share your story with us, either as a guest blog or via our podcast series?  Please do get in touch if so, we’d love to hear from you.

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