Expat guide to car purchase in Spain

Published:  9 Aug at 6 PM
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Once you’ve moved into your new home in Spain and discovered the disadvantages of the local transportation options, it’s time to consider buying a car.

Purchasing a vehicle in Spain is procedurally similar to the British model as regards bureaucracy, but with several layers of Spanish law tacked on for good measure. For new arrivals as yet far from fluent in the local language, the process is daunting, with finding a bilingual friend the best idea. If you’re a registered resident, you’re allowed to buy a car as long as you’ve either purchased a house or have a rental contract lasting one year or more.

Basically, if you live in a city and don’t plan on exploring the entire country, the smaller the vehicle the better as it saves money on fuel and is far easier to park on a postcard – the average size of free parking spots in most Spanish cities. For those eager to try new technology, electric or gas-fuelled cars are available, with their purchase encouraged by the Spanish government via grants to those who succumb. In many major cities including Madrid and Barcelona, car tax on these models has been slashed by 75 per cent, but buyers should remember off-street parking is essential for recharging and charges only last for local journeys.

If you need a vehicle but are watching the pennies, good options are the considerably cheaper KM O cars registered by showrooms but only used to for demonstration drives. Spain’s secondhand car market is comparatively expensive as locals don’t sell as soon as a new model is launched. Buying from a private seller is cheaper, but should it be a ‘lemon’ you’ve no recompense apart from the compulsory six month guarantee. Reputable dealers will cope with the necessary paperwork and bureaucracy for a small fee, but buying privately involves setting up a legal purchase agreement, getting the car re-registered to your name and more. Using a ‘gestor’ is the easiest option and takes care of language issues.

Although you don’t need a Spanish driving license to purchase a car, you’ll be asked for your foreigner ID number, your house deeds or a rental contract and your proof of residence in Spain. Spanish road tax costs up to €175 annually, the MOT test has fixed prices and either third party insurance or the full monty is cheaper than in the UK. Paying out for the privilege of driving doesn’t stop there, as road tolls are found on many of Spain’s motorways and you’ll need to buy and carry a fluorescent jacket for each person travelling, two warning triangles and child seats if relevant.
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