Spanish Living Home Page

Cars & Motor vehicles in Spain

Things for consideration when driving cars or other motor vehicles in Spain.

Although many do, you cannot drive a foreign plated car in Spain forever. The maximum time of use per annum is 6 months and the other 6 months you need to park the car in a garage or store on private land. It is illegal in Spain to leave a car on the road without valid insurance. Insurance companies are also required to remind you of this when it's time to renew your car insurance.

This however is rather hard to check when you are a European tourist. When you are from the EU you can drive in Spain on your foreign driving license without the need for any kind of international driving license. Non-EU members are the only ones who have real advantageous points when they purchase a car on tourist plates and stay as a non-resident. You do not have to pay the 16% IVA (VAT) and neither do you have to pay the Spanish special vehicle registration tax of 12 %. Nice saving of 28%.

Europeans can avoid paying the 12% special vehicle registration tax as Spain is the only country in Europe that has this tax. When buying your car all you have to do is request that the car be fitted with a tourist license plate, rather than a full Spanish license plate. You will have to renew this every year which will cost you approximately 150€. You can repeat this as many years as you want.

Buying a car on Spanish plates can save a lot of complications and has certain advantages. The rules are that you have to have a residency or own a property or be able to present a Certificado de Empadronamiento (a certificate to show that you are registered as living in the community). An addional benefit of providing this address is that El Trafico will send you the bill by post directly. Although this may not sound much like a benefit initially, you might appreciate it when it comes to selling the car and you need to sell and transfer the car to somebody else, you wont get hit suddenly with 2 years of  worth of traffic violations and fines (multas).

Spanish police are empowered to demand payment from tourists on the spot for any traffic violation committed. They can impound your vehicle if you are not able to pay and will even march you to the cash point to get it. Spain is all too well aware of the resources required to chase fines issued to persons living in other countries. If you commit any traffic offences and get caught, the main priority for the Police is to ensure that you pay the fines there and then.

Car parks and parking

No parking is allowed within 7 metres of a bus or tram stop. On a one way road you are allowed to park on the side with even house numbers on even numbers of the month and vice versa. If there are parking metres check the times you have to pay as it is often only needed between 9:30 and 14:00 and 16:30 to 20:00 o'clock. If you're unlucky enough to get a parking ticket, don't just throw it away as you can nullify the penalty by going to one of the little pay machines to find a little envelope in which you can place a small nominal fine (3 Euros the last time I got one of these - it may have gone up a bit) and then post it back into the machine.

Before you are able to sell your car in Spain, you must clear any outstanding fines or taxes at the local Adjuntamiento (Council Office). When we tried to sell ours after arriving on the Costa del Sol we found around 1,500 Euros owing in fines and back taxes - this was way more than the car was actually worth at that point.

Disabled parking

You can park with your Disabled Badge from back home on the designated disabled parkingspots without a problem.

Breakdown / Warning Triangles

It is obligatory to have two triangles in your car. One to place in front and one to place at the back of your car in case of accident or breakdown. Important: On roads such as the N340 (A7) that runs South through the Costa del Sol, this is very advisable as in places, especially around Mijas Costa, this road gets very narrow and the traffic moves very fast. These triangles can be purchased in all garages for around 10 Euros. Once the triangles have been set up try to stand on the other side of the barrier away from the road. Normally the Police are pretty quick and adept at dealing with these types of breakdowns and will have the Grua (Tow Truck) there as quickly as possible. Your car insurance may also cover you for any Grua costs and if it does you should get on to the car insurance company immediately who will organise everything.

Reflective vests

It is also obligatory to wear a reflective vest as soon as you step out of the car onto a main road after an accident or breakdown. These can also be purchased in garages for around 10 Euros.

Speed limits

Cars and bikes have to stick to the indicated maximums. In villages and urbanizations it can be as low as 40 km/h. Highways 120 km/h. Roads with 2 lanes or more 100km/h. All other roads 90 km/h.

Radar detection

Speed traps and radar equipment are in use on virtually all of the main roads. The motorways contain numerous speed traps hidden along the side of the road. You may notice these as they flash when you pass. Mobile speed traps are also present on the country roads (El campo)

The Police now have a new weapon for the fight to get drivers to slow down – brand new high powered Mercedes with cameras and speed tracking equipment mounted and hidden in the front bonnet. You'll know when you've been caught by one of these because they will pull in front of you and then display a Slow down or Pullover message on an LCD display mounted in the rear window.

Alcohol and drink driving

The maximum alcohol percentage in blood is 0,5%, (2 x 33cl cans of beer for an average size adult), although it is recommended not to drink at all when driving.

Please be very careful and vigilant, especially at night on roads like the A7 (N340) that runs the length of the Costa del Sol. (The sun once labelled this the 'Road of Death'). Drink driving is a problem in the Costa del Sol and some of it is due to the fact that the bars and pubs are so spread out geographically along this road. Obviously this is still no excuse but it's simply too tempting for many to take the car and stop in one town for a drink and then drive on to the next for another. At some point this person will also have to drive home so its a case of pay 50 Euros for the Taxi ride home (and get the car tomorrow) or risk it. Whilst sober the choice would be obvious but after a few pints? Too many take the chance.

Random Police Road Blocks (Control Points)

The Police force has had considerable success in 2010 whilst conducting random stops (even though the choice of location and time to set up the stops is not quite so random). More than half of drivers stopped in a recent random stop campaign didn't have a driving license and many had no insurance at all. If your paperwork is not in order can impound your car and you will have to pay for them to store it at the pound.

If you're a local you will need to show your current ITV (MOT), Carnet (Driving License), certificate of insurance, Permiso de Circulación (means it's allowed to be on the road), and most likely your passport if a foreigner.

If you are American, a note about the Carnet (Drivers ID card). US driving licenses are not valid in Spain and it's very tempting to purchase 'International Driving Licenses' on the web. The police know about these and laugh at them. They are not valid in Spain either (or anywhere else as they are not provided by any recognised international drivers' organisations)

If you're a tourist with a car rental, you will be asked for your passport and car rental paperwork. Also remember that if you are penalised  the fines will have to be paid on the spot. And they are quite prepared to march you to the cash point if you dont have it.