Driving legally in Spain

If you are a regular visitor or live in Spain, chances are you drive whilst you’re over here. Having access to your own transport can enhance your experience. Some people are proficient at making good use of public transport and find their way all over the country using only trains and buses. If this isn’t you and you need to be behind the wheel – read on.

The requirements are different depending on whether you are a resident or non-resident.

Resident requirements

If you are a resident of Spain (live here for more than 183 days a year) then you are required to change your driving licence to a Spanish licence within two years of obtaining your residencia.

If you have brought a vehicle to Spain that is registered in another country then you must re-register it within a month of being a resident. You should also let the country know where it was registered that it has been permanently exported.

If you do live in Spain but make frequent returns to your home country you might want to consider your airport car parking arrangements. This can be a beneficial way of ensuring that you have transport to and from the airport, working out much cheaper than having a taxi. Your car will also be kept under surveillance and even given a spring clean before you collect it on your return.

Non-resident requirements

Many people choose to hire a car when they are non-residents. Much depends upon the length of time you spend out here. If you are only hiring, then you need to do nothing more than secure the best deal you can, establishing what the position is with petrol and whether you start out with a full tank and top it up before you return the vehicle.

If you choose to bring a car over as a non-resident, then it can stay here for up to six months before it will need to be re-registered in Spain. If you don’t want to do this you will need to take it back to where it is registered for another six months or more.

The other alternative that many people prefer is to buy a car in Spain to use. It can work out cheaper than hiring every time you come over and again, it might work out cost effective to leave it at the airport. If you do take this option be aware that there can be problems with some garages requiring you to be on the padrón to purchase a vehicle.

If you are a non-resident you should not be on the padrón. This is a requirement for residents only. The garage should be prepared to accept your Title Deed or ‘escritura’ instead as proof that you have a property here and the address can be used to register the vehicle.

Applies to everyone

Whatever your residency status and whatever the status of your vehicle do make sure that you familiarise yourself with the basics of the Spanish highway code.

You should also make sure that you have in your vehicle:

  • Car registration document
  • ITV card (MOT certificate equivalent)
  • Proof of payment of road tax
  • Insurance documents

If your car is hired then these documents should be provided for you. You, of course, are responsible for ensuring that you have your driving licence to hand.

Driving in Spain can be a real pleasure and there is often less congestion on the roads than you would find in other countries. Just ensure that you’re legal and can smile with confidence at the sight of the guardia civil.


Information sourced from ‘Legal cars and legal drivers’, Graham Shelton, ‘Costa Life’, Costa Blanca News, Autumn 2014.