A lot of conflicting information circulates about how long you can keep and drive a UK registered car in Spain. The authorities themselves even seem to be confused, and give different answers.
In this article using the facts from official publication, we aim to present a practical explanation to answer the question of how long you can legally keep and drive a UK registered car in Spain.
Contrary to the popular belief that a UK registered car, (or other vehicle), can only kept and legally be driven in Spain for 6 months, the actual length of time will ultimately be dictated by the following:
- the date that the MOT is due, and
- the status of the driver, (i.e. whether resident or tourist).
In all cases, whether you live in Spain or are just visiting, to legally drive a UK registered car in Spain, you must of course have a valid driving licence, and the vehicle must be road legal in the UK, i.e. taxed, with valid MOT and insurance.
The absolute maximum time a UK registered car can be kept in Spain, regardless of whether you re resident in Spain or not, is technically a year, (less a few days). The DVLA deems a vehicle to be permanently exported once it has been out of the country for 12 months or more. This means that the vehicle either has be taken back to the UK before the 12 months is up, or otherwise registered onto Spanish number plates.
This link provides more info: https://www.gov.uk/taking-vehicles-out-of-uk/for-12-months-or-more.
Non-Residents Driving a UK Registered Car in Spain
So for tourists or non-residents, so long as the vehicle is road legal in the UK, it could technically be used in Spain for (nearly) up to 12 months.
Here is a scenario to illustrate this:
A person lives in the UK and owns a holiday home in Spain which they visit regularly over the course of the year. They have brought over a UK registered car to use when they visit.
As visitors in Spain, they are entitled to use their UK registered vehicle, as tourists, provided it’s road legal in the UK, and so long as they do not exceed the 12 month DVLA permanent export limit. This means that their vehicle could remain in Spain until the sooner of, when it needs it’s MOT, or a few days before the anniversary of it being brought to Spain.
In this case we’ll say that the car is over 3 years old, so it’s return to the UK is dictated by MOT due date. If the car was less than three years old it would be the DVLA 12 month permanent export rule.
For this example, we’ll say that the car’s MOT due date is at the beginning of January, they brought the car to Spain straight after it’s MOT, so they can keep and use the car in Spain until it has to be returned for its MOT again at the beginning of January the following year.
Among others, something that someone in this circumstance would need to consider, is whether their insurer will provide European cover for a vehicle being kept outside of the UK for such a long period of time. Many UK insurers only offer a maximum of 90 days, some do offer longer, and there are also some Spanish insurers who will cover vehicles on UK plates.
Other considerations are that the Spanish equivalent of UK road tax is generally lower than in the UK, as is insurance for Spanish registered vehicles. Therefore, if you don’t travel to and from Spain with your vehicle, and are driving, or sending it back just for the purpose of MOT, switching it to Spanish plates, or getting a Spanish registered vehicle, apart from being less hassle, will most probably also be cheaper in the long run.
Residents Driving a UK Registered Car in Spain
The Spanish authorities apply the rules of residency when policing UK registered cars. This is probably where the 6 months comes from, and this applies to the person driving the car, not the vehicle itself.
Throughout the EU, the measure for determining your country of residence is 183 days. The assumption that the authorities make, is that if a UK car has been in Spain 6 months, then so must so must its owner, and therefore that makes them Spanish resident. Once you are resident in Spain, you can no longer drive your UK registered car as a tourist, so you’ll either need to switch the car to Spanish plates, or sell it and buy a Spanish registered vehicle.
Local police, ‘Policia Local’, and traffic enforcement, ‘Guardia Civil – Trafico’, do track and record use of UK registered vehicles over a 6 month period, using this as their marker for the 183 day rule. They then warn the owner to either stop driving the car, or register it onto Spanish plates within 60 days. If they find the car on the road again after the 60 days, they invariably impound it and ask the owner to prove that they do not live in Spain, before they’ll release the vehicle.
You can find answers to a lot more questions about driving UK registered vehicles in Spain in our article UK registered cars in Spain – Facts & FAQ’s
If you would like to talk to one of our vehicle registration experts about about your UK car in Spain, come in and see us, or give us a call on (+34) 951 77 55 44 / (+44) 033 0001 0777, and we’ll be more than happy to answer your questions and offer you some free guidance and advice.