Driving legally in Spain

Frequently asked questions

Life in Spain Thursday, February 11, 2016
Driving legally in Spain

How to drive legally in Spain is one of the most talked about and written about subjects amongst the expat population. We frequently receive questions from clients directly and on the forum about licences, vehicle registrations and driving laws in Spain. Here, Graham Shelton of www.spanish-number-plates.com answers some of the questions that we are most often asked.

What must I keep in my car?

The following must be kept in the car at all times: Registration document, ITV card (MOT certificate equivalent), proof of payment of road tax and insurance documents. You must always carry your driving licence with you.

Additionally, you must carry 2 warning triangles and a minimum of 2 hi-viz jackets, though you should carry enough of these so that every passenger in the car has one in case of need. Recommended, but not obligatory are a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher. My personal recommendation is a few litres of water in case you break down and are stranded in the heat of the day.  

What must I do if I am buying or selling a vehicle in Spain?

One of the prime reasons that ex-pats bring their cars with them from ‘home’ or go back to buy their next car is because of the very high cost of cars in Spain compared to many other EU countries, especially the UK. However if you do decide to buy a Spanish car (or sell one) privately the cost of transfer of ownership is not free as transfer of ownership tax and fees are due.

At a dealers, IVA (VAT) will be included in the selling price instead of the transfer tax. If you are buying from a dealer, get an original bill of sale showing the price paid and ask the dealer for a ‘Permiso de Circulacion Provisional’ which is provided by Trafico, often via a gestor (law administrator) preferably before you pick up the car. This is a legal document that shows that the vehicle is being transferred into your name and allows you to use the vehicle.

If buying privately, I would recommend going to a gestor specialising in this type of work or contacting a specialist (such as myself) to handle the 10 pieces of paper required!

If you are selling privately, under no circumstances rely on the buyer to transfer ownership. There are reasons why it is not in his interest to do so, therefore it may never happen and you will remain liable for all fines, taxes, debts etc. being imposed upon the vehicle. Just because the buyer is a friend, neighbour or relative, do not rely upon them undertaking this task but go to a gestoria or a specialist yourself.

Do I need to change my licence?  

Provided that you have an in-date driving licence showing your photo which has been issued in an EU country, this is perfectly legal in Spain. If you commit a motoring offence, your driving licence can be taken from you irrespective of where it was issued; likewise you will be fined and you may also suffer a points penalty.

If you live in Spain permanently, you are required to exchange your UK licence for a Spanish one within two years of gaining Residency but only if your licence has 15 years or more to run before it expires. If it has less than 15 years before expiry it has to be exchanged before the expiry date.

Spanish driving licence will cover you for driving anywhere in Europe as does your present one and you can hire a car in the UK or elsewhere just as you do now. Trafico in your Provincial capital (such as Alicante City or Malaga City) is the place to go or engage a gestoria.

Some folks are reluctant to give up their UK driving licence, but personally I find it very useful to have a Spanish driving licence as identification as it shows my name, photograph and NIE number.

Will I need to have a medical if I change my licence?

Many of you will have heard about ‘the medical’ that is required in Spain in order to have a driving licence. This is a series of simple tests of your coordination ability, eyesight, hearing etc which is undertaken at specialist medical centres (Centros de Reconocimiento de Conductores). You will need to take along your licence, passport, Padron, Residencia and a couple of passport style photos.

Recent changes mean that anyone applying for a Spanish driving  licence now needs to undergo the above procedure. The medical is required every time the licence is renewed which is every ten years.

Irrespective of where your licence was issued, a medical is mandatory upon renewal if you are over 70 years of age. If you have a UK licence you would have to go to the UK for a medical, so save yourself the trip and get a Spanish licence.

What should I do if I have an accident?

Once you have both surveyed the damage you should, where possible, remove your vehicles to allow other traffic to pass and dig out from some hidden crevice your insurance documents which should include a claim form and an advice leaflet.

Accident report forms, issued by your insurer are identical throughout Europe, so everyone can follow them irrespective of their native language. You will need to exchange identity information, addressees, sign each other’s documents and swap the relevant copies for forwarding to your respective insurers. Do not admit liability; this is for the insurance companies and for the courts to decide if it’s serious enough.

There is no need to call the police or notify them if no-one was either injured nor public property damaged, but if you have any doubts call them on 112.

If your vehicle cannot be safely driven, call the number provided with your insurance documents; all good companies have English speakers, and a grua (breakdown truck) will wing its way to you, normally within the hour.

About the author

Graham has successfully re-registered over 1800 vehicles over the past 9+ years as well as dealing with transfers, etc. He is legally registered and works closely with a specialist law firm. For quite some time, he has written the respected “Mediterranean Motoring” section of the Costa News on the same subject. Graham Shelton publishes articles regularly in the Costa News group and you can find out more information on legally driving in Spain on his website. www.spanish-number-plates.com

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