Cars & Driving in Spain

Car Driving Licence

English and other EU citizens

Michelin Red Guide
Espana & Portugal
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You can drive on a valid UK or other EU licence for six months, after which you must either:-

  1. Leave Spain
  2. Apply for your UK or other EU driving licence to be approved and stamped
  3. Apply for a Spanish driving licence

Licences issued prior to 1990 are invalid unless accompanied by an official translation into Spanish; infringement could incur a very heavy fine. The minimum age to hold a driving licence in Spain is 18 years.

The British Consulate suggests that it is advisable to exchange UK licences for Spanish ones, which are also valid for visits to the UK. In England the DVLA will not put a non-British address on a replacement licence, nor send one out of the country. Therefore, if a British licence is only registered with Spanish authorities and is lost or stolen, a replacement cannot be obtained from the UK, and Spanish authorities will not be able to replace one they did not issue.

Licence Validity & Renewals

Driving licences are valid for ten years if the licence holder is under 45, for 5 years from the age of 45 to 70 years and two years thereafter. To renew a licence in Spain the applicant needs a medical certificate issued by an officially recognised centre.

To apply for your driving licence to be replaced by a Spanish one

Go to your local Provincial Traffic Headquarters, sometimes based within the Police Station, as it is in Gandia. Say you wish to change your British driving licence for a Spanish one. They will inform you that you must undergo a medical examination (as do Spanish nationals) and give you details of how to proceed...

Take with you :-

  1. Your valid UK or EU driving licence
  2. A copy of your NIE form
  3. A photocopy of both sides of the driving licence ID photograph card
  4. Your passport and one photocopy.
  5. Two (2) passport photographs

Whilst the process may differ slightly in different provinces, the above documents should cover any requirement. The process is very simple and quick. Take care not to leave any of your original documents.

Your new Spanish licence is also valid for driving during visits to the UK.

To apply for your British driving licence to be stamped and registered

Make it evident that you want your licence stamped, not replaced and proceed as above.

Please note: The practice of registering a British driving licence (photo type) can now only be carried out at main provincial Police/Highway authority offices, e.g., Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia etc.

This I understand will also relate to the driving licences of other EC Nationals. I recommend that before travelling you ask at your local police station as to which centre you need to attend for this service.

Non EU citizens

If you are a non EU citizen you must obtain a Spanish Licence. You cannot exchange your home country licence for a Spanish one. Get advice from your own Consulate or the Spanish Traffic Office.

Cars and the law

In Spain you should always carry your Driving Licence, car purchase and car insurance documents together with a bank receipt showing that the insurance premium for the current period has been paid.

Failure to produce these documents if stopped by the traffic police can result in a fine of up to €300. This can be asked for on the spot and if you are unable to pay, your car can be towed away for later retrieval and probably incur another charge

Luminous Yellow Jackets

Road safety law passed in 2004. All drivers should take note that it is now against the Law not to have at least one luminous yellow jacket available in any car or vehicle whilst on the road, it is also mandatory that this jacket should be worn should you breakdown on any highway. These jackets are very low cost and available at many super markets, car & cycle shops.

Ensure that the jacket is an authorised version; I am advised that some of Chinese manufacture do not meet the road safety regulations.

If stopped by the police, there is an automatic fine if found not to be carrying one.

Halt Signs

Many drivers treat Halt Signs rather casually in some locations you can clearly see all around and that there is no obstruction so you do a perfunctory stop and go. This practice cost some friends a €65 on the spot fine. The law states you must be seen to physically stop, break on, off, gear change and go. How many of us do it!

Traffic Regulations require that the following items be kept in the vehicle:

  • Set of bulbs and tools necessary to replace them
  • Two warning triangles - officially approved by the Ministerio del Interior, bearing a round symbol E9 and the code 27R03
  • Spare tyre and the tools necessary to replace it
  • A reflective jacket
  • A spare pair of glasses (for those who wear spectacles to drive)

A fine is payable if these are not carried.

AA Road Atlas
Spain & Portugal
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Car Importation & Registration

The procedures relating to importation are complex. The motoring associations in Britain and the Real Automóvil Club de España can provide guidance, Tel: 91 594 72 33 / 91 594 72 43 - but the authoritative source of information is the Directorate-General of Customs in Madrid. (Dirección General de Aduanas en Madrid, C/ Guzmán el Bueno 137, 28003 Madrid. Tel. (00 34) 91 553 02 00, Fax. (00 34) 91 553 52 42)

Driving with non-Spanish registration

As a member of the EU (but not a registered resident of Spain) you may import your home grown car into Spain using its own original licence plates. You may retain it in Spain indefinitely so long as you maintain its home country tax fully paid up, including a current MOT as required.

However you may not stay in Spain any longer than six months in any one calendar year and neither you nor anyone else can use it during the following six months in Spain.

Your car must also be insured in its country of registration under EU Law. This can give you problems with insurance. Some companies will offer cover but please read the small print.

Import Tax & Registering your vehicle in Spain

Anyone who spends more than a total of six months a year in Spain is considered resident, and must pay import tax and re-register their imported vehicle. Tax can vary depending on engine c.c. If you take out a residence permit this all changes. Your car must then be registered in Spain but you can be exempt from the 12% registration tax. Get proper advice.

Non-residents can only register vehicles in Spain on temporary tourist plates, valid for a six-month period in any one year, and renewable annually.

Non-residents who become Resident - must obtain full national plates and pay the Impuesto Especial of 12%, which is based on the car's ready-reckoned value. (Non-residents from outside the EU are exempt from the Impuesto Especial).

Residents importing a vehicle must register it with the local authorities and obtain Spanish national plates. They should surrender the British vehicle's Registration Document to the DVLA in the UK and from them obtain a certificate of permanent export (V561) to present to the Spanish authority.

As a Spanish resident, your car with foreign number plate can only be driven from the Spanish border or port of entry to the place of residence in Spain and registration with the department of Transport and application for Spanish plates should take place during the first 30 days of arrival in the country.

For further information, requirements and fees, contact the "Direccion General de Trafico" in the area where you set up residence.

Bringing a right hand drive car into Spain You need a Road Worthiness Certificate; these are available from Spanish ITV (MOT) centres. Some adjustments to the vehicle may be needed to comply with EU regulations. Once obtained these should be carried in the vehicle at all times.

Car Purchase

New Cars are subject to 16% IVA (VAT), payable the first time a car is bought and registered.
Purchasing is somewhat involved, you can’t just go into a garage and buy for cash, you need the following documents:-

  1. your NIE or Residencia number.
  2. the address of a place of permanent residence. (This can be a friend’s home as long as they will vouch for you and you remember to notify your change of address as soon as you move to your own purchased property.)
  3. a Spanish bank account and can pay by cheque or by Spanish or International Credit card. Note: This is the method I used and have had no problems. I found the police most helpful.

Second Hand Cars When you buy or sell a second hand car in Spain, the Impuesto de Transmisiones Tax of 4% must be paid (Transference Tax). Either by the garage or you and the sale must be registered with the authority.
Beware, ensure that when you buy a second hand car that there are no debts outstanding against it, you can be held responsible.

Car Hire in Spain

Car rental in Spain or anywhere in Europe is somewhat of a lottery, there are good and bad, some very bad.

If you are looking for a cheap bargain rate be careful and read the contract's small print. Some companies offer considerably lower rates if you accept 3rd party insurance. In my opinion it is not worth the risk.

If you look at cars generally in Spain, you will see far more cars with bangs and dents than is normal in England. There are several reasons:

  • Town roads are generally much narrower.
  • Parking is taken more casually; on corners, on zebra crossings, even on roundabouts; double parking is often the norm and stopping in inconvenient places to have a chat is quite normal.
  • Lastly take care in one way streets, Spanish cyclists and scooter drivers quite often seem to ignore them.

If you are parking in a narrow street it is advisable to close your off side wing mirror.

The fact that you are in the right regarding the law doesn’t help when you are having difficulty with the car hire firm and the language, so much time is wasted.

Insist on Full comprehensive and Nil or minimum excess.

Car Insurance

Check the small print and query anomalies with your insurer!

Spanish insurance regulations differ from those in the UK. For example, after an accident, if a vehicle is declared a write-off in Spain, the insurance company pays only a percentage of the vehicle's current value, even when the policy is 'fully comprehensive'.

Do ensure that your policy states "Fully Comprehensive" if that is what you require. A recent accident with no other car involved cost one member of the English community €18,000 to replace his new car because he had not checked his policy terms, it only covered 3rd party.

Note: If you need to have your Insurance Policy cover car hire whilst your vehicle is ‘off the road‘ following an accident, you need to state this fact. It will cost a higher premium. Even if the accident is not your fault, claiming for incidental loss can be difficult and very time consuming.

We had quotes varying from £950 down to £285 pa for fully comprehensive cover on a Focus Estate (the most expensive being from the car main dealer). We took the one that was most clearly defined, it was also the lowest. It was Spanish and when we had an accident on the Motorway (no other vehicle involved) were so efficient, after investigation they wrote to say we would suffer no loss of no claims bonus and no increased premium as it was not our fault.

EU legislation requires that motorists in member states have full third party insurance. However, there is nothing which regulates what is applicable to third party or comprehensive insurance. This is a matter for member states, whose regulations differ.

For assistance, please complete my car insurance information request form

It is important to check carefully what cover your policy provides. ASEGURACE may provide guidance, Tel: 902 120 441

Motorway Travel

Michelin Map 990
Spain & Portugal
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Should your car be involved in an accident on a Spanish motorway that was not the result of collision with another vehicle or careless driving but caused by debris being left on the roadway by whatever means, report the incident immediately to the police. I am advised that you then have the right to make a claim against the Government Highway Authority.
This happened to me but I did not find out until weeks later. Even so, In this instance my Spanish insurance company paid up without penalising me.

Parking General rules

Yellow Lines  mean "No parking", Many ignore this but we don't advise you to! In fact, the Police are very tolerant but we do see cars being clamped for being on yellow lines. Unknown costs to retrieve.

Blue Lines  mean "Find a meter" and pay for the time you require. Meters are situated at the side of the road or against buildings. Again many people say you can ignore the tickets. We are told that the authorities rarely chase offenders but we are also told that when you come to sell your property all such tickets are registered against the property as a debt, plus interest. We have also seen cars on blue lines (either they have overstayed the time period or did not pay at all) being towed away by the police but have not gone into the consequences.

Be Aware in some towns there are roads with no painted curbs, but notices on posts which say parking restricted and you must pay, search for a meter. In other streets there are notices restricting the side on which parking is allowed.

Parking Fines  If you do find a parking fine stuck under your windscreen wiper you will find a form and a small envelope attached, you have the option to fill in the form, pay the amount it asks for into one of the parking ticket machines. Press first the Red button, pay in the money then press the Blue button. The machine will print out a receipt. Detach the small receipt portion at the bottom, then place the other portion and the form into the envelope and post in the slot at the bottom of the machine. When it happened to me the immediate fine was €2.20. Retain your proof of payment or it can be more expensive later.

Underground Parking  in the centre of Gandia.
Note: the first half hour is free: Ideal for a quick trip to the bank. There are two levels and usually no problem in parking. On return ideally pay the charge at the desk before collecting your car because it saves time and can save an extra 30 minute charge.

Super Market Parking  Many have their own free parking but remember to collect a disk (Ficha) for raising the exit gate when paying for shopping.

A friendly police force

One day in June, I parked my car in the main Paseo in Gandia, legally paying for a 1 hour ticket. On return from a visit to the dentist some 40 minutes later, no car. I thought it had been stolen. The thief I found was a friendly policeman who had towed it away to prevent it being damaged by marble cladding falling from a nearby building. It took a bicycle ride to retrieve it from the local police pound. The police had paid the removal charges. I feel such an attitude should be commended. Many thanks, Gandia Police.

[Practical Hints
to Living in
Spain - Gandia - Valencia]

General Information
Emergency services, natural hazards & daily life
Language & Education
The languages of Spain and the education system
Health Care
Registration, english speaking doctors, A&E, hospital etc
Property Matters
Property purchase & residency, pitfalls and property for sale
Currency Transfer
Better rates from foreign exchange service companies
Telecomm, water, gas & electricity service & supply issues
Useful Contacts
Recreational, consular, medical, travel & service contacts
Sports & Leisure
Sports, leisure & tourist information and contacts
Cars & Driving
Motor vehicle usage and ownership in Spain
Working in Spain
Moving to Spain to work or run a small business
Spanish Taxation
Introduction to Spanish taxes and where to get help
Hospice Appeal
Please help the Franciscan Brothers