Happy to Drive in Spain with Foreign Number Plates? Think Again

FOR many years a significant number of expatriates living in Spain have chosen not to take out residency and have driven cars with foreign number plates, relatively content that they were unlikely to have problems with the authorities.

British passport holders who fit into this category need to understand that Brexit has changed everything and now whilst it was possible for members of European Union states to drive a foreign plated car for 180 days out of 365 in Spain, this will no longer be the case when the UK finally exits the EU.

Then you have to register your vehicle or get rid of it.

Many may assume that it’s worth taking a risk but the recent seizing of Gibraltar registered cars during lockdown by the Guardia Civil as Gibraltarian workers who have residences in Spain but have never registered the cars in Spain are a perfect example of what could happen.

Police Officers don’t need to be brain surgeons to recognise a foreign number plate and it is easy to stop the driver and demand their papers which may well show that they are residents rather than holiday makers.

It can be quite a confusing operation, particularly if you don’t read and speak Spanish, so the use of a local third party to undertake the work for you may be worth considering. Why not check our advertisers for such specialists?

In order to register your ‘imported’ car, you will need the following documentation;

Spanish customs import document (if vehicle purchased outside of the EU)

Original copy of log book


NIE number and details of your address.

You will have to pay registration tax based on the value of the vehicle. The value is not market value except in rare cases but is supplied via the Hacienda (tax office) tables which are much less than market value.

The percentage of value levied as tax is either zero, 4.75 per cent, 9.75 per cent or between 14.75 per cent and 16.9 per cent depending on the region of Spain where the car is to be registered and is based on the CO2 emissions. Additionally, you will need to pay road tax (IVTM) which is set by each town hall, so the cost varies

To register your vehicle, you will need an engineer’s inspection which produces a ficha reducida which is not a mechanical inspection, but verification of the vehicle’s characteristics. Where a vehicle has a manufacturers Certificate of Conformity, the ficha reducida is not required.

it will then need an ITV (MOT) test undertaken. Following this, the two taxes are paid, and the car can be registered at Trafico. This will allow you to obtain Spanish number plates, insure the car here in Spain and drive it without worry

(This article is for information only and should not be taken as legal advice)

Written by

John Smith

Married to Ophelia in Gibraltar in 1978, John has spent much of his life travelling on security print and minting business and visited every continent except Antarctica. Having retired several years ago, the couple moved to their house in Estepona and John became a regular news writer for the EWN Media Group taking particular interest in Finance, Gibraltar and Costa del Sol Social Scene. Currently he is acting as Editorial Consultant for the paper helping to shape its future development. Share your story with us by emailing newsdesk@euroweeklynews.com, by calling +34 951 38 61 61 or by messaging our Facebook page www.facebook.com/EuroWeeklyNews