Understand how to import a vehicle to Spain and the rules regarding registering it once you arrive…

It is illegal for residents of Spain to drive a car with foreign plates, so once a car is imported to Spain, it must be registered with the Spanish authorities. If entering Spain with foreign plates, residents are allowed to drive from the port of entry to their residence only. Spanish plates must be obtained within 30 days of entry. Temporary permission to drive an imported vehicle – and temporary licence plates – should be obtained from the provincial Traffic Department (Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico) or full re-registration of the car must be undertaken.

Non-resident EU citizens

EU citizens who are not Spanish residents may drive their foreign-registered vehicles (cars, motorbikes and caravans) in Spain for up to 180 days (six months) in a calendar year as long as it is road-worthy in the country in which it is registered. In this case, only the owner of the vehicle may drive it. Students from another EU country studying in Spain are permitted to temporarily import a car for the duration of their studies, but proof of enrolment in an academic institution will be requested.

A foreign-registered vehicle may remain in Spain for more than 180 days in a calendar year as long as it is not driven. Even though EU citizens are no longer required to obtain a residence card, after 182 days the vehicle must be registered in Spain or garaged.

Note: the six month period need not be consecutive and is counted over the course of a calendar year only. This period is based on the owner’s and not the car’s presence in Spain.

The procedures relating to importing and registering a foreign vehicle are complex. It is possible to complete the process independently, but there are specialist companies that can provide assistance.

In order to register a car in Spain, a vehicle must undergo a safety inspection similar to the UK’s MOT test. Import taxes as well as IVA may be payable on imported vehicles once registered.

Non-resident, non-EU citizens

A car owned by a non-EU citizen may be kept in Spain as long as it is only used for up to 180 days (six months) in a calendar year and remains road-legal in its country of registration. However, once it has been used for six months, it should be officially sealed (precintado) by Customs authorities (aduana) or the Guardia Civil. Though not commonly done, it can be used as proof that the vehicle was not driven illegally. At the start of the next calendar year, the seals may be removed by the officials and the vehicle may be driven again for another 180 days. There is a fee for this service.