We get asked lot’s of questions about bringing UK registered cars to Spain, and whenever we write or share articles or info, the comments and replies that we get, reveal a lot of confusion and mis-information abounds regarding driving UK registered cars in Spain, keeping them here, and switching them to Spanish number plates.
So we’ve compiled a list of the most prevalent myths and FAQ’s, and answered them with facts and other useful info.
Driving UK registered cars in Spain
Myth, Fact, Right or Wrong? Click on the tabs to find out.
You can just get a voluntary ITV if your MOT runs out.
You can put a UK registered vehicle through the ITV, but it will not be road legal in Spain unless it has valid MOT and UK road tax paid.
Now there's no tax disc, Spanish police can't tell whether my car is taxed
Myth. Anyone can check using this link https://www.gov.uk/get-vehicle-information-from-dvla, which also shows whether a vehicle has valid MOT. Policia Local in many areas already check UK vehicles for valid MOT and tax using this public information service.
Spanish Police only want to know the car is insured
Not true. Police in Spain treat a UK registered vehicle without MOT, the same as they would a Spanish vehicle without ITV, i.e. not permitted to drive on the road. They are also know that un-taxed, SORN or permanently exported vehicles on UK registration plates are not road legal. They will impound any UK registered vehicles that they find on the road that shouldn’t be, issue fines and will not release the vehicle until it is made road legal.
Policia Local are paid by the local town hall and local road taxes go to the town hall. So legalities aside, they have plenty of reason to want to remove road tax evaders vehicles from their roads, and get those who keep and drive UK registered cars here but pay UK road tax, to switch to Spanish.
A UK registered car can only legally be driven in Spain for 6 months
Not exactly true. For tourists or non-residents, so long as the vehicle is road legal in the UK, i.e. taxed, valid MOT and insurance, it could in theory be used in Spain for up to 12 months.
Bear in mind most UK insurers will only provide European cover for 90 days, so you’d need to make sure your insurer will cover you for longer, or get a new policy. Some Spanish insurers will cover vehicles on UK plates.
The Spanish authorities apply the rules of residency when policing UK registered cars. This is where the 6 months comes from. The measure for determining your country of residence is 183 days. Their assumption is that if a UK car has been in Spain 6 months, so must its owner, and therefore they are now Spanish resident. Once you become a resident in Spain you can no longer drive your car as a tourist, and so you’ll either need to switch the car to Spanish plates or sell it and buy a Spanish vehicle.
Regardless of whether you live in Spain or not, after 12 months out of the country, the DVLA deems a vehicle to be permanently exported, and they need to be notified. The vehicle then needs to be registered onto Spanish number plates.
This link provides more info: https://www.gov.uk/taking-vehicles-out-of-uk/for-12-months-or-more.
Getting Spanish Number Plates
It's so difficult don't even bother!
We hear this a lot, and completely understand why this myth prevails. We definitely admit that switching a UK registered car onto Spanish number plates isn’t straight forward, and in some cases can be very difficult. That said, if you needed a wall built, would you not bother simply because you can’t lay bricks? Of course not! You’d find a bricklayer.
For someone practiced and experienced, who knows exactly what they are doing, the task is my no means too difficult.
It costs a fortune so it's not worth it
In most cases this is not true. For your average car the overall cost is only a fraction of the value of the car. Import tax which can make up a fair amount of the total cost, can often be totally avoided. Spanish road tax is also cheaper, as is insurance.
Also consider, that second hand vehicles in Spain hold their value, so the value of a vehicle can even increase when it’s put on Spanish plates, especially if it’s left hand drive.
Even though they command higher prices, second hand vehicles in Spain are generally in much worse condition than UK second hand cars. For this reason, many people actually source LHD second hand cars from the UK or Germany for example, to bring to Spain and switch onto Spanish number plates. You end up with a better car for the same or even less paid!
You have to be resident in Spain to switch a UK vehicle to get Spanish plates
This is not true. Anyone with an NIE and address in Spain can do so.
I have to be on the Padron to get Spanish plates for my car
You don’t, however having an up to date Padron certificate does make the process easier. In the process, the Padron certificate is used as proof of address, a rental agreement or deeds to your property are also accepted.
I will lose my private plate
Not if you don’t want to. You can retain it with the DVLA.
You can't switch a RHD car onto Spanish number plates
You can register any road legal RHD UK private vehicle with EU type approval, onto Spanish number plates. It is also possible in certain circumstances to register RHD UK cars that don’t have EU type approval.
The only time RHD is a problem is when trying to import certain commercial vehicles, this is due to road vehicle safety. E.g. a driver in a RHD panel van with no side or rear windows has only his wing mirror to see approaching traffic when joining a main road or motorway.
You don't need to change your headlights, you can just use stickers
If only it could be so simple! Stickers are a temporary fix to prevent headlights of vehicles configured for driving on the left blinding oncoming drivers when driving on the right, and vice versa. e.g. UK tourist on holiday in Spain.
To pass ITV, a UK vehicle must be either be re-configured for driving on the right, or headlights replaced.
Other FAQ’s & Useful Information
How long can I keep my vehicle in Spain on UK plates
If you are a tourist, the first consideration will generally be the length of time that your insurer will provide cover for. This is usually 90 days.
In the EU, you are deemed to be resident in the the country that you spend 183 days (or more)in. In Spain, when you reach that point you can no longer drive a UK registered vehicle as a tourist. Many local police forces are recording use of vehicles over a 6 month period, using this as a 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 impound it and ask the owner to prove that they do not live in Spain before they’ll release the vehicle.
Can I get an MOT done in Gibraltar?
No you cant. Gibraltar MOT is for Gibraltar registered vehicles only.
If the car is not in my name, can I still get Spanish number plates?
Yes you can, however you will need proof of ownership, ( compraventa/sales invoice ), and will have to pay change of ownership tax.
What's so difficult about getting Spanish number plates?
Difficult isn’t necessarily the best word to describe the process for getting Spanish number plates. Time consuming and frustrating at times, it definitely is. The process is extremely onerous. If you’re doing it yourself, the following is a breakdown of all the different agencies / departments you have to deal with, appointments you have to book / attend, and forms that have to be completed.
Agencies / Departments:
- Registered Inginero Tecnico (EU Conformity certification)
- VEIASA (in Andalucia) for ITV
- Ayuntamiento or local tax office (road tax)
- Agencia Tributaria (Hacienda) (special registration tax)
- Direcion General de Trafico (DGT)
- Registered number plate supplier
Documents & Paperwork
- NIE / Residencia
- Proof of address
- Certificate of Conformity / Ficha Reducida
- Ficha Tecnica
- IVTM payment form
- Permiso de circulacion
- Inginero Tecnico
The above assumes you are already have an NIE or Residencia, are registered with the tax office and no change of ownership is required. If you don’t have an NIE or Residencia, you’ll also need either form EX15 or EX18, and two trips to your Comisaria (Policia Nacional).
To register with the tax office you’ll need Mod030, and for change of ownership, you’ll need Mod621 and proof off ownership and to visit your local Recaudacion Junta de Andalucia to pay the transfer tax for change.
I guess you can understand why many say its too difficult!
Do I have to change my UK driving licence if I move to Spain?
The DGT (Direcion General de Trafico) is the authority in Spain, and their website states that EU driving licences, which currently includes the UK, can be used in Spain.
There are clear obligatory requirements of residents in Spain who hold old style licences with no expiry date, to obtain a new Spanish licence to comply the law created to follow the EU directive to regularise driving licences across EU states.
Information provided by the DGT, (Direcion General de Trafico), is unclear regarding the exact process and requirements for resident holders of other new style EU licences. What is clear is the a Spanish resident holding a UK licence has to comply with the Spains rules relating to driving licences. This includes registering the licence with the traffic authority (DGT), so that the Spanish credit system can be applied. Medicals when applicable also have to be taken.
This is a link to section of the DGT website covering licences: https://sede.dgt.gob.es/es/tramites-y-multas/permiso-de-conduccion/canje-de-permisos/espana.shtml
Whilst EU licences are vaild in Spain, holders of UK licences should be aware that the DVLA requires you to notify them of change of address. The gov.uk website states that you can be fined up to £1000 if you fail to notify, and that you must also be resident in the UK in order to do so. It adds that if you are moving abroad, you should contact the driving licence authority in your country of residence.
The UK driving licence is an identity document, and as such needs to have correct information about the holder. If you are living in Spain, you are not a UK resident and therefore cannot update your current address, which means that retaining your UK licence with your old UK or other address means you have false information on an identity document.
We don’t have a legal opinion on this from either country, however, our view is that, based on the information available, the suggestion is that when you become resident in Spain, in order to be 100% compliant in both countries, a holder of a UK driving licence, would need to exchange it for a Spanish one.
What other modifications will I have to make to my UK car to pass ITV?
As you would expect the vehicle have to pass all the usual obvious road worthiness checks, as it would at an MOT station, and it must also meet Spanish vehicle approval standards. The following is a list of things that you might need to check:
- Headlights – these need to have beam dipped for driving on the right.
- Rear lights – reverse can be on left or right, but the fog light must be in the centre or to the left of centre. It cannot be on the right as it is on most UK vehicles.
- Tyres – in Spain rules are more strict than in the UK regarding to the speed rating and tyres must match exactly across on axles, i.e. front and back can differ but both front and both back must be the same type.
- Extras – tow bars, steps, window tints etc, must all have an EU conformity number that matches its type approval number. Regardless of whether the addition was fine to use in the UK. No EU conformity number means it can’t be used in Spain, and would have to be removed.
- VIN – stamp / plate must be present and visible. The windscreen VIN is not accepted as proof of the vehicles ID.
- Dash lights – red warning lights are an instant fail. In some cases even yellow warning lights such as brakes and airbags are also. Technicians check start up sequence to check warning lights.
- Speedometer – has to display in KPH. This can be either analog or digital. If it shows both thats fine.
You have to have a high visibility vest / jacket in case you breakdown
This is correct. However, in the event of breakdown or accident on a main road or motorway, for safety ALL occupants are required by law to leave the vehicle and move to a safe place. High visibility vests / jackets are therefore needed for passengers as well as the driver.
Can children sit in the front seat?
The front seat restriction used to be age based, but is now according to height. Children less than 135 cm tall must sit in the back, the only exception being if the car doesn’t have rear seats, the rear seats are occupied by other smaller children, and or it is not possible to install the necessary approved child restraint in those seats. In such cases the child can sit in the front seat in the appropriate child seat.
The autonomous regional government set up in Spain, means that local application of rules, processes required by authorities and enforcement does also vary from one place to another. Local authorities (and individual civil servants) will often also have their own interpretations.
Alternatively, come and see us, or give us a call (+34) 951 255 877 or (+44) 033 0001 0007