Registering an imported car in Spain

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KEEP IT RUNNING: It is recommended to hire a consultant when registering a plate in Spain.

THERE are no official estimates or records about the number of cars with a British (or other EU country) plate in Spain. But it is commonly known there are lots.

One of the first differences between Britain and Spain is that the MOT test is every year and many garages are allowed a certification to do it.

In Spain, the equivalent (ITV) is done every two years if the car is four to 10 years old; and every year if it is older than 10.  We are speaking about private cars here (‘turismos’ in Spain), not motorbikes, trucks or vans.  

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It is known that some expatriates use their contacts back at home to get an MOT certificate without having to take the vehicle back to Britain every year.

This is obviously an illegal practice and doing it exposes the driver to the danger of a fine, or even having the car seized.

In Spain, ITV offices are run by the public administration, and there are far fewer test centres than in the UK. So although possible that an ITV technician could ‘do a favour’ it is definitely very difficult and rare.


Some expatriates think they can use the ‘I am on holidays’ trick if they are caught by the Police. That works for rented cars – or basically those with a Spanish plate – but not when importing a car.

When bringing a car to Spain the paper work must be started within a period of 30 days. The law is clear about it and, since the 2011 regulations, the authorities have become stricter about it.

The protocol for Police and Guardia Civil when catching a foreign car is the following:


a) Non-residents: They can drive a foreign car for up to 90 days. The officer records the plate. If it is caught again after that time, the driver is requested to apply for a Residence Certificate and a Spanish plate in a period of 30 days (60 if they have a Green Plate), paying the IEDMT taxes. If caught again, they are given five more days to do it.

After that, those who did not register are fined €500 and the car is seized until proceedings are done.

b) Residents: They are given 30 days to apply for a Green Plate or a permanent plate when caught the first time. The rest is the same as above.

So, those want to do things the right way, should first apply for a Green Plate (Placa Verde) at their nearest traffic office (Jefatura de Trafico). Green Plates are valid for 60 days and cost €19.20. They are temporary because they are meant to give enough time to get a permanent Spanish plate.

When requesting the permanent plate, it is advisable to hire a consultant agency (gestoria), otherwise get ready for lots of paperwork.

The original car papers, municipal register (padron) and NIE have to be produced. Once they start proceedings, “it takes around three weeks to be done,” Lucia from Gestoria Administrativa Los Boliches in Fuengirola said. “That is to say, if all the proceedings are OK and the ITV does not find any car engine or part problem.

“With British cars, they most commonly need their headlights to be replaced, because they are not valid here. This adds around 10 days to the process, so we advise to get them previously fixed,” Lucia added.

The overall costs of registering the car plate – the so-called import tax, ‘impuesto de matriculacion’ – can range from €0 to more than €12,000. “This depends on the brand, the model, how old it is, and the volume of CO2 emissions,” Lucia pointed out.  

To calculate the costs, visit: www.coche.es/impuesto-matriculacion 





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