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Cars & Stuff
Written by Dave Fisher & Mike Roche   
Thursday, 13 November 2008

Changing the number plate of non Spanish cars

Firstly, if you don’t want a lot of hassle & heartache, then get someone who knows the score to help you. It is well worth every penny as you are going to encounter Spanish bureaucracy at its best! You will need original documents and a photocopy for every time you sit in front of officialdom. The total cost will be between 750 & 800 euros (depending on engine size and time of year) plus whatever it costs to get the car legal on Spanish roads.     

There are two separate threads for forms that you need to change your number plate to a Spanish one; your personal documentation and the car’s documentation.

Firstly the car

To import a car permanently into Spain, it must conform to Spanish laws. For non European cars, ensure the tyres are European. Other points of possible problems include changing the headlights for driving on the right (deflectors are not permissible for permanent imports), Bull bars, tow bars, window tints, roof racks and sun roofs. A recent change has been where there are not two reversing lights and two high intensity rear lights. Where there is one high intensity rear light, it must be on the left of the car, and a single reversing light must be on the right, the opposite to many British cars.   

A “European Certificate of Conformity” is a start but if you don’t have one, don’t panic. A Spanish engineer can produce a “Ficha Technical Reducida” for about 120€. This document will state how long, wide, high the car is, with other technical stuff like how many gears, cylinders etc.

Either a “Certificate of Permanent Export” from the DVLA or the original (V5C) logbook (in your name) will be required.  

To ensure conformity to Spanish laws you need an ITV test FOR IMPORTATION. Note that it is a longer (and more expensive) test and not the normal one. Here I will digress; if you buy a new car in Spain, then it will need an ITV test when 4, 6, 8, and 10 years old annually thereafter; however, some cars (like a Renault Kangoo) can be considered commercial vehicles and require more frequent testing.

Next you will need a certificate from the Hacienda to say that it is either exempt from “import duty” or that you have paid the import duty; you have between 30 & 60 days from entering this country to do so.

Pay the car tax (impuesto sobre traccion mecanica) in the Ayuntamiento. As it is the first year, there is a different procedure to go through, but the costs are the same as all other cars; however as all cars have to pay their road tax on the same day, you may have to pay ¾, ½ or ¼ of the full price depending on when you start the process.

Now to the forms for you

You will need an NIE, obtainable from the Police Station in Cadiz. If you have residencia, then it will be argued that you must be outside the 60 days and you must pay import duty. There are ways around this, but far too complicated to explain here.    

You have to prove you have abandoned your country of birth with the intention of residing permanently in Spain (the laws have changed in that a foreigner can own a Spanish car, but the procedures have not been brought up to date to reflect this). As there is no such form for Europeans, the British Consulate (nearest is Malaga for this) has invented one. It is called a “Baja de Residencia”.

Now that you can prove you do not live in England, you need to have an official paper with your address on it to prove you DO live in Spain; it is called a “volante de Empadronamiento” or Volante Collectivo if there is more than one person on it (can be for the whole household).

Now you have all the forms, simply take them (with your passport) to Trafico in Cadiz, pay the fee, and in two days time, they will issue you with the necessary documentation to have a number plate made. I might add that all car number plates in Spain are now issued by a computer, they started in 2002 at “0000 BBB” (Yes zero is a valid number to a computer) and simply get incremented by one whenever a new number plate is issued.

Next your Driving licence   

The area is covered by confusion, and many people have an attachment to their English licence and do not want to change it. However for under 20 euros it can be changed to a Spanish one, but can take up to six months. Once more take your passport, obtain and complete the two forms for “Canje de Permiso de circulacion”; add two passport photos, NIE, Volante de empadronamiento, your passport and your old licence then Trafico will take the forms and call you back in about six weeks. They will then issue a temporary licence whilst your new Spanish licence is made. Another six weeks and you should have it. A word of wisdom; if you have a buzon in a venta, then the letter telling you to collect your licence will be returned to Trafico. Both times you will need to go to Trafico and ask about your licence.      


Buying or Selling a Car

Buying a car is quite easy, but read on. If you are selling a car, do not part with it (or the keys) until all the documentation has been completed and Trafico have accepted it! If you sell a car without this, then YOU will be liable for any fines (speeding, parking etc) and you will be liable for the road tax (and fines for non-payment). You MUST have a current ITV certificate even if the car is less than four years old. Also note that Trafico will not allow you to change ownership if there are fines outstanding – Buyer beware. The thing to remember here is that this is not England and that a car is considered as a lethal weapon. If you are buying a foreign registered car (including a British car) then beware. You instantly become liable to pay any outstanding fines etc, and the car can not be imported until ALL fines have been paid. So if buying a car, make sure the documentation is completed before handing over your hard earned! I should add that a car can be impounded if the law has been broken; the onus of proof is on you, not on the Police. After 180 days you are considered a resident and residents may not drive foreign registered cars; having said that, there are many foreign registered cars in the Malaga area that have been used out here for many a long year by ex-pats that have no legal documentation at all. However, should anything untoward happen, they may loose the car permanently.    

First obtain form 620 from “Junta de Andalucia” for 40 cents; complete the form and both buyer and seller take it to the Junta in Cadiz (by the port). You will need both sellers & buyers passport, NIE and empadronamiento, or residencia, the car docs (permiso de circulacion and ITV green card), plus proof of payment of the road tax. Pay the transfer tax (most are under 500 euros), then go to trafico with all the same docs (including the 620 proof of payment). Get the form for transfer of cars, pay the 45 euros, and they will change all the docs to the buyers details. As to timing, allow five hours from leaving to returning to Chiclana (including the odd coffee).   

For more information and help with these procedures contact:

Dave Fisher  Tel 666 259 810  This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Mike  Roche Tel 627 017 746

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 04 March 2009 )

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