Importing Your Car into Spain

Should you import you car into Spain or should you buy one there? If you want to import your car into Spain, how should you do it? How long will it take? What will it cost?

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This guide covers…

This guide is about the steps needed to import your car to Spain.

It describes, in particular, how to import your car to the area of Andalusia/Andalucía – which contains the Costa del Sol. See a map here. Please note that certain aspects of the law in Spain vary from one “autonomous community” (comunidad autónomalightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject to another.

It looks at the formalities involved in importing your car, the different methods of importing your car and some factors to consider when deciding whether to import your car.

See also our guides to Driving in Spain, Driving Licences in Spain and Insuring a Car in Spain.

Introduction

For the purposes of this guide we will, in the main, use the term “car” to include motorcycles and trucks.

Importing your car to Spain is a common but slightly complex procedure. However, it is not so complicated that it should put you off the idea of bringing your car to Spain. Indeed, for many people the most difficult part of the process arises from their lack of good Spanish: and even that is not a problem in some parts of Spain.

Importing your car temporarily

Citizens of EU member-states importing an EU registered car

If you are coming to Spain for up to six months (for example, on holiday) and you are over 18, you can bring your vehicle to Spain, drive it using your existing driving licence and use it with its own licence plates and without paying any Spanish taxes.

You are just a visitor. No formalities are required.

The vehicle must be road worthy and legal in its country of registration.  Your car must also be insured in its country of registration.

You should carry your vehicle registration document, proof of insurance and your driving licence. You should also comply with the general requirements of Spanish law as to warning triangles etc. See our Guide to Driving in Spain.

Non-EU citizens and cars not registered in the EU

Non EU citizens do not have the same rights.

Using your driving licence in Spain

In most cases, if you are over 18 you will be able to drive in Spain using your own national driving licence backed up by an International Driving Permit (“IDP”). This is, basically, a translation of your driving licence issued by the relevant authority in your own country. It is not, on its own, a driving licence and must always be used in conjunction with your national driving licence. It is valid for one year but can be renewed.

IDPs are cheap and quick to obtain.

Do a google search to find the issuing authority in your country.

If you hold a licence from a country that is a signatory of the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, you should not need an IDP – but, in practice, it is a good idea to get one as it can same a lot of aggravation if you are stopped by the police. See here for a list of participating countries.

Bringing your car to Spain

You can usually use a vehicle with foreign number plates, without registering or taxing it, for up to six months. This will only be for your own personal use and for tourist purposes.

Third party liability insurance is required and the vehicle must be road-legal in the country where it is registered.

You do not need a carnet de passage en douanes.

This is governed by EU law. See here for the regulations.

Keeping your car in Spain for more than six months

Citizens of EU member-states

Many people wish to keep their car in Spain for longer than six months. For example, they may want to keep a car at a holiday home they own in Spain and use it during the several short visits they make each year.

Although you may keep your car in Spain for more than 182 days, you cannot yourself remain in Spain for more than 182 days in any calendar year. If you do, you will become a Spanish resident (whether or not you  have applied to any paperwork to confirm this status) and you will then be required to re-register your car in Spain. See below.

You may only use the car for a maximum of 182 days in the year. Nobody else can use your car during the rest of the year.

Your car may remain in Spain indefinitely, provided it is street-legal in the country where it is registered. This would include it having paid any vehicle tax in that country and having passed any annual inspection in that country.

It must be insured in the country where it is registered.

It may be possible – depending upon where you are in Spain – to obtain the Spanish equivalent of your annual vehicle inspection – an ITV (Inspección Técnica de Vehículos).   You do this by applying to your local IVA test station for una ITV voluntaria. However, this is a grey area and there must be some doubt as to whether such a certificate would make your car road-legal in your own country (and so legal to use in Spain). Not having a valid annual inspection certificate is also likely to invalidate your insurance in your own country.

Obviously, it would be an expensive exercise to take your car back to your own country just to obtain a vehicle inspection certificate. However, some owners incorporate this into their travel plans. For example, they might drive to Spain in the car in January and then fly home after a couple of weeks. They would then come, by air, on two or three other short visits during the year and fly out for a further visit in, say, November. At the end of that visit they would drive home, have the car serviced and obtain a fresh vehicle inspection certificate, before starting the process again the following year.

If you are going to do this keep careful records of when you were in Spain. Boarding cards will often suffice. This will allow you to prove your status of non-resident if the need arises.

People who are not EU citizens

The period of six months permitted by EU law cannot usually be extended.

Importing your car to Spain permanently

Should you import your car to Spain?

Before looking at the technicalities, it is worth thinking about whether importing your car to Spain is a good idea.

A few want to do it because they particularly want their special or classic car in Spain. Their situation is different and importing the car usually makes sense.

Most people want to do it because they think this will be cheaper and/or less difficult than buying  car in Spain. That might will not be true.

If you come from within Europe, the cost of getting your car to Spain is not usually significant. You will usually drive it there. However, if you come from (say) the US, the cost can be significant.

But this is not the main problem.

  1. If you are going to import your car to Spain, it will have to pass a Spanish vehicle inspection.  That is, often, not easy. depending upon where your car comes from it may need quite a lot of work in order to comply with the Spanish rules. For example, a car form the UK will need its headlights changing. A car from the US may need a lot more work.
  2. Spares may be difficult to obtain. Even if you think your model is sold in Spain, it is likely to differ from the model sold there.
  3. If you come from a place where people drive on the other side of the road, your steering wheel will be on the wrong side. It is massively less safe driving a right-hand-drive car in Spain, especially in cities and in rural roads.

Getting your car to Spain

Most people will drive.

If you are thinking of shipping your car, there are a number of companies offering this service from various countries in the world. Choose one that is experienced and get a price that covers all costs, door to door.

The steps needed to import your car to Spain

This process can take a few weeks and involves a certain amount of your time and lots of paperwork. There may also be registration taxes and/or import duty to pay This will depend upon the age of the vehicle and where it is being imported from.

You will need to register the car within 30 days of its arrival in Spain.

Import the car to Spain

Where a vehicle is imported from outside the EU, you (or your agent) will generally have to pay import taxes at the customs office before the vehicle can be released to you.

Obtain an ITV (Inspección Técnica de Vehículoscertificate

If you import a car from a non-EU country, you will need to submit your car for homologation (homologación). This is a process through which vehicles are made to comply with certain safety and other administrative requirements before they can be registered. The vehicle must be certified by the manufacturer (or an officially recognised laboratory) and undergo a test before it can be registered in Spain. It’s a long and complicated process and can vary from place to place in Spain.

Every vehicle in Spain requires an ITV certificate. However, if your vehicle is registered in an EU country and it has a current foreign equivalent of an ITV, you will not need to obtain a Spanish ITV until the current one expires.

Other vehicles will need an immediate ITV.

See this list of all ITV stations in Spain.

For the documents required, see here.

New (Unregistered) Vehicles
  • The vehicle’s technical specifications document (provided by your vehicle manufacturer), with a translation into Spanish
  • Receipt of payment of any import duty
  • Your existing registration document
  • Proof of purchase
  • Proof of payment of VAT/IVA
  • Your driving licence
  • Your vehicle insurance document
  • Your passport
Used Vehicles

You will need all of the above plus your existing vehicle registration document

Classic cars (coches clasicos) require a special ITV, as well as an authenticity certificate.

As with everything in Spain, you will usually need to produce the originals of all documents, plus a translation into spanish, plus a photocopy of the document.

If your test is successful, a Technical Test Certificate Card (Tarjeta de Inspección Técnica) will be issued.

Help!

Bearing in mind the complexity of this – and the need to speak Spanish in order to complete the task – it can be a good idea to get a garage to attend to all of this for you. In most parts of Spain there are garages that specialise in this. In places popular with foreigners, they may well speak your language.

Pay the local car tax

This is the local tax (impuesto municipal sobre vehículos de tracción mecánica – IVTM) paid to allow your car to be on the road.

It is paid at the local town hall.

Register the vehicle in Spain

The next step is to register the vehicle so that you can then get your Spanish number plates.

The following must be submitted at the local Traffic Department (Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico):

  • An application form, which is available from the Traffic Department
  • A copy of your NIE – Número de Identificación de Extranjero
  • Your passport or residence card
  • Proof of your address: usually in the form of a rental agreement or the title deeds to your property
  • Any existing registration document
  • Proof of ownership of the vehicle
  • A Certificate of Conformity (Certificado de Conformidad) from the vehicle manufacturer or a certificate of homologation, issued in Spain
  • Your Technical Test Certificate Card – Tarjeta de Inspección Técnica
  • A receipt for the payment of the local car tax
  • Confirmation of payment of the registration tax (Impuesto Especial sobre Determinados Medios de Transporte)
  • Proof that VAT (IVA) has been paid in the country of purchase.
  • Your registration fee

Once again, it often makes sense to have someone do this for you.  That person is usually a local gestor. Gestors are professional gophers, who navigate the Spanish system daily. Seek a recommendation – perhaps from your lawyer – and get a good one who speaks your language. Also get a comprehensive estimate of fees and expenses.

How much does it cost to import your car to Spain?

This will vary greatly. It depends upon where you are importing the car from, its age, its type and its emission levels.

How long does it take to import your car to Spain?

Allow six weeks for the whole process.

Professional help

As already mentioned, it makes a lot of sense for lots of people to entrust this process – from shipping to registration – to one or more professionals.

in an ideal world, this would be just one person but that is almost never possible. In most cases you will need a shipping agent (if you are shipping your car to Spain) and a local gestor to do everything else.

Conclusion

Bringing your car to Spain for short visits poses no problems.

As for importing a car permanently, we probably go against the trend here. Generally – unless you have a very special car – we think it is better to sell your old vehicle “back home” and then buy another one in Spain.

Further Information

Please contact the author if you would like any further information. See the sidebar for their contact details.

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