Driving in Spain – the law

The Internet is home to lots of conflicting advice about the legalities of driving in Spain, especially as an expat from the UK.
Is your UK driving licence valid? How long can you drive a car on UK registration plates?
In the light of recent stories about an increased number of people being stopped and paperwork expectations being enforced more strictly than in the past this article explains some of the basic information about motoring law in Spain.

What do you need to pay attention to if you want to ensure that you are driving legally in Spain and are not going to have any problems if the Guardia Civil stop you to check your paperwork.

“Circulation permit” – this is the official document with technical details about the car. It has to be carried at all times. Failure to produce this document or having an out of date ITV results in a 500€ on the spot fine. If you are driving a UK registered vehicle this is the ‘Vehicle Registration Document’.

ITV certificate – You have a legal obligation to carry the certificate from the most recent ITV test and to have displayed the sticker. Not doing so results in a fine from 10€ to 200€. If you are driving a UK registered vehicle this is evidence of your most recent MOT.

Driving licence – Failure to carry a driving licence carries a fine starting from 10€. If the licence is out of date this rises to 200€ and if you cannot prove you are legally permitted to drive (eg. You are banned or don’t hold the correct licence for the vehicle being driven) it rises to 500€.

Insurance – You do not now need to carry your insurance documentation and proof of payment but it is advisable to do so as this may still be asked for if you are stopped. If your insurance is not up to date, which can include not having paid the most recent premium, your car will be confiscated and you will have a fine of between 601€ and 3,0005€. In addition, if you were involved in an accident you would be personally liable for the damage to any other vehicles and for all medical costs for any injuries.

Driving with a UK registration plate:
This is becoming increasingly enforced so I would advise checking the details and making sure you are legal. If you bring a car over to Spain on UK plates and are on UK insurance then check you are covered by that insurance. Most companies only allow for 30 days of cover. This is extremely likely to be checked if you are stopped and the above notes about insurance would then apply.
You are legally allowed to drive a car on UK plates for up to six months. If you are stopped it is your responsibility to provide evidence of when the car was brought over (eg. Ferry tickets). To bring your UK car onto Spanish registration plates is best done by employing the services of a gestor. The cost is likely to be around 1000€-1500€ which will include the registration tax and annual licence fee.
If you have UK plates that are beyond the six month period and you are stopped be aware that you can be forced to pay the IVA (VAT) on the assumed Spanish value of the car. This is currently 21% and is paid in addition to the bills above for transferring the car to Spanish registration plates. (Eg. If a car is valued by the Spanish authorities at 10,000€ then should you be stopped outside of the six months the IVA due would be 2,100€ and you would then have to pay the registration fees above to transfer the car to Spanish plates.) In the past people have been given a period of grace after being stopped to deal with this transfer but increasingly it seems the fines are being applied immediately if the car is not legal.

This advice is offered as a plain English overview of some of the most important laws affecting expat motorists in Spain. If you wish to add anything else relevant please do send your additions to submissions@ukteacherinspain.com

The European Driver’s Handbook from the AA contains regularly updated advice on driving in Spain and other European countries. It is essential reading for anybody needing a quick overview of the motoring laws of European countries.

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