Driving in Spain?
Spain: Traffic Rules and Vehicle Import
Regulations for the Road
The national minimum driving age in Spain is 18; however, depending on the rental company, you must be at least 21 to rent a car. Once you have a legal license or international driving permit, you may begin the adventure of driving on Spanish roads.
Please note the following rules:
- The Spanish licensing system is based on a points system. When you receive your license you are given twelve points if you have more than three years of driving experience, and eight points if you have less. Per offense a set number of points — ranging from two to six — are subtracted. Once you reach zero points, your license will be revoked.
- Seatbelts must be fastened at all times and for all passengers in the car. Children under the age of twelve may not sit in the front seat; appropriate child restraints must be used, especially for children under three.
- Driving while intoxicated is absolutely unacceptable in Spain and the limit is 0.5‰ BAC. You will not only face severe charges and having your license confiscated (for at least one year) if you drink and drive, but you may end up in prison as well.
- National speed limits are set at 120 km/h on highways, 100 km/h on major roads, and 50 km/h on urban roads. If you are caught driving 20 km/h above the speed limit, you can count on an immediate fine and points subtracted from your license.
- All cars must have two warning triangles and a visibility vest on board. These are to be used in case the car breaks down on the side of the road.
Importing Your Car into Spain
EU residents planning on staying in Spain for longer than six months should have no problem importing their cars: they simply need to register it (matricular) and receive Spanish license plates. Be careful when you hit the six-month mark — if you are caught driving in Spain without Spanish plates after having received your residency permit, you will be fined.
For non-EU citizens considering importing their car to Spain, the process is a bit lengthier, but not impossible. First, the car will have to go through customs and import taxes have to be paid. If coming from overseas on a ship, the car will be left in the harbor until approved and you will have to pay the warehouse fee.
You also need to get your vehicle inspected (Inspección Técnica de Vehículos) at a station near you (more on this below). Next, register your vehicle at the Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico near you (see below for further details). Finally, it is time to pay your import taxes. These consist of the following percentages of the vehicle’s original price, which is gradually scaled down over the years:
- 10% import duty
- 21% VAT (to be paid at customs)
- A registration tax based on the vehicle’s CO2 emissions — ranging from 0% to 14.75%
Next Step: Registration
After your car has successfully passed the customs checkpoint (only applicable for non-EU cars), you have to register it at the nearest provincial traffic department (Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico), which will issue you a temporary license plate. This step is relevant for all persons importing a vehicle into Spain, whether they are EU citizens or not.
For the registration process, you need to bring the following documents:
- your passport (original and a copy)
- proof of VAT and vehicle registration payment
- proof of residency
- the original certificate for your tax identification number (NIE)
- original registration of car and proof of ownership
- proof of Spanish motor vehicle liability insurance (seguro de vehículos)
- proof of payment of road tax (Impuesto sobre Vehículos de Tracción Mecánica)
- proof that your car passed the technical vehicle inspection (see below)
- EC certificate of conformity or homologación (see below)
Navigating Spanish bureaucracy can often be a big hassle, so it is advisable to hire an agency (gestoría) to complete the process for you. Even then, registering your car can often take at least two weeks.
Vehicle Inspection in Spain — Is Your Car Up to Scratch?
Once you have your temporary Spanish license plates, you will have to have a vehicle inspection test done, called an inspección técnica de vehículos (ITV). In order to get permanent plates your car must successfully pass the ITV. If you import a car from a non-EU country, you will need to submit your car to a homologación, which is a procedure in which an appointed test office fixes your car in order to comply with Spanish safety conditions.
The processes mentioned above may vary by autonomous community, and therefore it is best if you contact the customs office of the region you are planning to live in. The importation process can be relatively hairy and expensive, especially for cars coming from the United States and Canada. It is therefore sometimes more convenient to simply buy a car in Spain.
If you do still decide to import your car from the US or Canada, it is often a wise decision to go through a company which specializes in importing non-EU cars. If you decide to purchase a car in Spain from a dealer, the registration process may even be sped up as he or she will aid you in filling out forms and a homologación may not be necessary.
We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.
If there’s something you’re still not sure about, check out the InterNations Forum.