Tourists of any nationality are free to drive foreign plated cars in Spain as long as they do not exceed the maximum permissible period of 6 months in the year and the six months do not necessarily need to be consecutive. Anyone resident in Spain for periods exceeding the 6 months must then buy a Spanish registered vehicle or apply for the foreign owned car to be registered with a Spanish Registration Number.
Unfortunately the purchase of a car in Spain is not as simple as it is in other parts of Europe. One could say that it is high time to start regarding the motor car as an essential tool for survival in this modern world and not as if it were some sort of precious object replacing the traditional donkey.
Before you can even start looking for a suitable vehicle, you need to ensure that you have a NIE of NIF number. Then you have to prove that you do live in Spain with a supporting title deed to a property or a rental agreement. Furthermore you need to register your residence status with the local authority within which you reside. This is done by requesting a certificado de empadronamiento from the local Town Hall.
Armed with this documentation, you may then start the purchase of the car of your choice but do not think that it is as easy as paying for the car and driving away with a temporary insurance cover note, because the car must now be registered in your name and this additional paper shifting is done by the dealer before you can take the car.
In the first place there has to be a circulation permit for the car which needs to be supplied to you by the dealer together with the invoice, the guarantee and the official technical information sheet relating to the vehicle (log book).
You will need to pay the fee for the municipal registration of the car. This is equivalent to Road Tax with the exception that it is payable to the local authority where you reside. Remember you will be responsible to pay for this every year of your life until you follow the right procedure correctly in the event of a transfer of ownership to another person. Even an insurance write off needs to be notified and proven. Until such time as you name is taken off as the owner of the specific vehicle you will be responsible for this tax, yes even if the car was written off and dismantled.
Should you need to order the car from a dealer and wait for delivery, make sure you get a receipt for any deposit and that the deposit is clearly shown on the purchase order as part of the purchase price and also that the price of the car will not alter while you are waiting for its delivery.
If you are part exchanging with an old car, make sure you have a contract for the sale of the car, even if it is part exchanged, you will need this to prove to the authorities that you no longer own it and are no longer responsible for the vehicle.
Should it be the case that you wish to purchase a used car, you must make sure that you do obtain the necessary circulation document as well as the log book which is referred to as the technical data of the vehicle. The other thing that is important is to make sure that all the municipal tax has been paid up to date otherwise you will be taking on the debt. Remember that any vehicle over 4 years of age must also have an ITV (Road Test) certificate. The buyer will be charged to pay for a vehicle transfer tax which amounts to 4% of the purchase price.
The car is considered such an asset that it may be even the subject of a charge for an unpaid debt, therefore the history of the car must be checked out to ensure there is no lien on it. If you are buying a used car from a dealer do not forget to ask for the details of your guarantee.
Please note that these are only general guidelines. For further details you should consult a qualified Spanish Lawyer.