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Buying a car in Spain

Hilary and I drove to Spain in our UK car, a second hand Renault Megane.  We’ve had it for a few years, and it’s fine, it’s reliable, it gets us to where we want to go, and it’s not too big.  I’m not very interested in cars, so why would I write a whole blog about them?  Well, here’s the background …

Importing cars into Spain

When we went to Cordoba with our gestor (Spanish administration advisor) to arrange our residence permit – which we got by the way! – we also talked about cars.  It transpires that cars with foreign number plates need to be officially imported into Spain within six months of arrival.  This means you may incur import taxes, and it also involves an ITV (a full examination to understand any safety risks, similar to MOT in the UK) to enable it to be registered with Spanish plates.  In the case of a British car, changes need to be made to the lights so that they don’t blind on-coming traffic.

Having used our Renault Megane on the local roads, we’ve realised that it is fairly low to the ground. Which means that we often scrape the undercarriage on some of the tracks near our house.  So instead of the expense and effort of importing our UK car, we thought we might buy a Spanish car instead.  Easier said than done!

Hilary and I with our residence permits

Too many options

When you buy a car, you need to specify your requirements and research what’s available.  But that’s not so simple, because we’re in Spain, don’t know the market, and don’t even know how long we’ll be staying for.  Hilary and I spent many hours talking through different options, ranging from buying a new car from a dealer, to getting a clapped-out run-around for €1,000 from a local garage.

We agree that we will need a car that can get us around Spain and that will manage well on the local tracks.  In addition, we need to be able to drive to the Netherlands or the UK at times, and so it will have to be a reliable car.  But if we only stay for 12 months, it might not be sensible to spend too much money, and a new car would lose its value quickly.  And so our thoughts go round and round, and we’re not getting any closer to a decision!  

UK car complications

In the meantime, we’ve realised that our UK road tax runs out later this week, and our car insurance by the end of the month.  As we now live in Spain, we can no longer renew our UK insurance. 

To make matters worse, our UK car has just been ‘scraped’ by an enormously big lorry that wanted to get past me in a hurry.  The scratches are not a pretty sight, and will need to be repaired.  Thankfully, there’s a local garage that will do this, and the cost isn’t too high (not compared to UK prices anyway!) So, we will leave it in the garage for three days next week, and will have it back just before our UK insurance expires, and then we will take our car off the road. 

Car hire in Spain

In order to buy ourselves more thinking time, we’ve rented a car for the next two weeks.  All airports in Spain have hundreds of car rental places, and we’ve taken time over the years to find the best one for us.  We’ve experienced some horrific sales techniques by car hire companies trying to flog insurance when picking up our rental car.

And so we usually go with the same car hire firm near the airport, with friendly and efficient staff, and reasonably good value too. And this time we were very lucky, because even though we’d booked a basic car, they’ve upgraded us to an amazing Audi.  We feel very lucky to get the upgrade, though it’s scary to drive such a posh motor on our local tracks! 

The Spanish second hand car market

It’s difficult enough to find a good and reliable second hand car in the UK.  And now we need to do it in Spain, where we don’t really know our way around, and our level of Spanish isn’t quite good enough for sophisticated negotiations.  We explained our predicament to a good neighbour who offered to go with us to nearby Antequera and help us find what we need.  Such a lovely gesture, and we had a great evening talking to dealers and second hand car sales people, helped by our Spanish friend.

This experience gave us the confidence to do it by ourselves, and over the past week we’ve visited a large number of second hand dealers and garages.  We’ve also looked at dozens of private and trade sales on the web (I’ve found particularly useful for this).  We found that the second-hand car market in Spain is very different from the UK.  There are many cars available at the top end (eg 1 – 2 years old), and also lots of really old bangers.  But if you’re looking for a car of maybe 5 – 6 years old, there’s not much about.  It seems that people keep their cars much longer and only buy a new one when their car is nearing the end of its life.    

Another interesting observation is that dealers often display two prices in the car window. The lower of the two applies if you get a finance deal and the higher one if you pay cash!  As extranjeros in Spain, it may not be so easy to get a finance deal, so we’d end up paying the higher price.  This seems unfair, and somewhat unusual, but there doesn’t seem to be any interest in negotiating a lower price for cash payment.

Anyway, I’m pleased to say, we’ve taken a big decision and are hoping to buy an ex-rental car next week from a dealer in Malaga.  Let’s hope all goes to plan, as one blog about cars is quite enough 😊

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