Importing a Car
How to bring you car to Spain
Spain - Travel & Leisure
Anyone wishing to import a vehicle into Spain must be a permanent resident, own property in Spain or have a rental agreement for a minimum of a year and hold a Spanish driving licence.
The regulations and paperwork regarding car importation are now comparatively simple, but many people still find the red tape forbidding and employ a gestor to do the paperwork for them.
The procedure for the importation of a caravan or motorcycle with an engine capacity over 49cc is the same as for a car, although mopeds with engines below 49cc can be freely imported as part of your personal possessions and require no special paperwork.
After you’ve completed the importation procedure (outlined below), you mustn’t drive your car until your local provincial traffic department has issued temporary (green) registration plates (see page 248). These are valid for a limited period (usually ten days) and allow you to drive to the nearest testing station for an inspección técnica de vehículos ( ITV) test, which must be passed before you receive a permanent registration number.
The exact paperwork required depends on whether the car you wish to import is new or second-hand and from the EU or outside the EU. Personal documentation for the importer includes proof of residence in Spain (residence card or personal identification from your country of origin plus a certificate from the local police in Spain stating that you live in the locality), proof of owning or renting a property (the rental contract must be for a minimum of one year) and your Spanish driving licence.
Documentation for the vehicle includes the technical inspection certificate; the completed form for vehicle registration ( Certificado Unico para la Matrícula de Vehículos) available from your local provincial traffic department; the invoice for the purchase of the car if you’ve bought it within the last six months; proof of payment of road tax ( impuesto municipal sobre vehículos de tracción mecánica/IVTM; and proof of payment of the appropriate taxes. Cars imported from outside the EU may need to undergo the homologation process as well. A vehicle imported tax and duty-free into Spain mustn’t be sold, rented or transferred within one year of its registration.
Details for the exact paperwork and documentation required can be found on the Department of Traffic’s website (http://www.dgt.es – go to Vehículos), where you can also download forms.
Homologation ( homologación) is the procedure whereby vehicles are made to comply with certain safety and other requirements before they can be registered. A vehicle imported from a country outside the EU must undergo homologation and must be certified by the manufacturer or an officially recognised laboratory and undergo a test before it can be registered in Spain. It’s a long and complicated process and the information demanded by the regional authorities often varies with the region of Spain.
The following taxes and duty must be paid when importing a vehicle into Spain:
- VAT ( IVA) at 16 per cent on cars imported from outside the EU or on a tax-free car (on which VAT hasn’t previously been paid) imported from an EU country;
- a registration tax ( impuesto sobre circulación de vehículos) of 12 per cent (11 per cent in the Canaries) on petrol-engined vehicles with a capacity of over 1,600cc, four-wheel drive vehicles and diesel-engined vehicles over 2,000cc, and of 7 per cent (6 per cent in the Canaries) on vehicles with smaller engines. However, residents coming to live permanently in Spain and importing a car on which they’ve previously paid VAT and which they’ve owned for at least six months are exempt. An application for exemption must be made within a month of the date of issue of your residence permit, and you must present a certificate of non-residence ( certificado de baja de residencia) from the country you’re leaving.
- import duty of 10 per cent on vehicles imported from outside the EU unless you’re a resident (see above).
Each of the above tax rates is applied to the original price of the vehicle, with a reduction for each year of its age up to ten years, e.g. 20 per cent after the first year, 30 per cent after two years, 50 per cent after four years, and 80 per cent after ten years.
Driving a Car on Foreign Registration Plates
Residents: A Spanish resident isn’t permitted to operate a car on foreign registration plates. Vehicles registered outside the EU cannot generally be operated in Spain or any other EU country by EU residents, although there are a few exceptions. The importation of right-hand drive (RHD) cars was prohibited in 1991, but this was subsequently reversed (after protests from British residents to the European Commission!). However, only immigrants importing an RHD car may register it in Spain; existing residents aren’t permitted to purchase an RHD vehicle abroad and register it in Spain.
Importing an RHD car into Spain isn’t recommended, as driving an RHD car on the right-hand side of the road is dangerous and your visibility is greatly reduced, particularly when you want to overtake or pull out onto a main road. Numerous accidents occur every year involving RHD cars – usually because they pull out in front of another car they cannot see.
Non-residents: The regulations for non-residents depend on whether you’re an EU national:
- EU Citizens – Non-residents of Spain resident in another EU country can bring a vehicle registered in another EU country to Spain and can use it (for up to 182 days per year) without paying Spanish taxes. The vehicle must be legal in its country of registration, meaning that it must be inspected (for roadworthiness) as appropriate and taxed there.
- Non-EU Citizens – A person resident outside the EU may temporarily import a vehicle registered outside the EU for a total period of six months (which needn’t be continuous) within a calendar year. In certain circumstances, the six-month period can be extended. This applies, for example, to those regularly crossing into EU territory to work, full-time students from outside the EU, and people from outside the EU on a special mission for a specified period. The vehicle can be used only by the owner, his spouse, parents and children (who must also be non-residents). Note, however, that it’s necessary for non-EU citizens to have a foreign-registered vehicle ‘sealed’ ( precintado) by customs during periods of absence from Spain.
This article is an extract from Living and Working in Spain.
Click here to get a copy now.
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