Driving in Spain
Updated: Mar 21
Whether you are thinking of moving to Spain or you are already resident in the country this guide will help you understand the basic requirements of driving in Spain.
Getting started – helpful background information
Which Spanish government department is responsible for matters related to driving in Spain?
The Direción General de Tráfico, known as the DGT, is the responsible body. Its website describes the full range of its remit and is available in English: https://www.dgt.es/nuestros-servicios/conoce-todos-los-tramites/
The DGT covers everything from driving tests to licences, vehicle registration and fines for traffic offences.
What do I do if I need to learn to drive or prepare for the Spanish driving test?
The role of driving schools in Spain
In Spain you must use a properly registered driving school. The school can teach you to drive if you have never driven, or introduce you to driving on Spanish roads if you are already a driver, and will prepare you for the theory and practical tests. Whilst it is possible to arrange the theory test yourself this is not an easy process and since you must use the dual control car of the driving school for the practical test, it is simpler to have the school arrange the complete driving test.
How long can I drive in Spain with my existing licence issued in another country?
I have an EU licence
If you have an EU licence you may use it to drive in Spain for as long as it is current although you may choose to exchange it for a Spanish licence. If you are resident in Spain and you lose your licence or it is stolen or defaced you need to get a renewal/replacement Spanish licence. You do not need to take a test. If the driving licence has an indefinite period of validity (no expiry date), or is valid more than 15 years for group 1 (AM, A1, A2, A, B and BE), or more than five years for group 2 (C1, C1E, C, CE, D1, D1E, D and DE), you must renew it two years after being granted residence in Spain. See: https://administracion.gob.es/pag_Home/en/Tu-espacio-europeo/derechos-obligaciones/ciudadanos/vehiculos/permiso-conduccion/validez-canje-reconocimiento.html#:~:text=The%20procedure%20is%20much%20simpler,been%20withdrawn%20for%20any%20reason.
My licence is not an EU licence If your licence is not an EU licence - including those from the USA, Canada and Australia you may legally drive in Spain with that licence for up to six months, so long as it is valid. Thereafter, you have to have acquired a new Spanish driving licence by taking the Spanish driving test (theory and practical) - unless there is an exchange agreement such as exists between Spain and some South American countries and (since March 16 2023) the UK:
My licence is from the UK
Holders of a current UK licence (that has not expired) are now able to exchange their UK licence for a Spanish one without having to take a Spanish driving test. And, for six months, UK licence holders can legally drive again on their valid UK licence whilst they complete the exchange process.
The Dirección General de Tráfico has updated its website with detailed information on the exchange process:
and you can also find information on gov.uk/livinginspain. Make sure you have the correct documentation with you when you go to your appointment, so do read that section carefully.
When you enter the system to book your appointment, you should choose the option "Tramites de Oficina" (not Canjes) and then "Conductores".
If your original licence is not from the UK, and you exchanged it for a UK licence, you will only be able to exchange your current UK licence if there is an exchange agreement between your original country and Spain. For example, if you took your test in Australia and then exchanged your Australian licence for a UK licence, you will not be able to exchange your UK licence for a Spanish one. You will have to take the full Spanish driving test. See: https://www.dgt.es/nuestros-servicios/permisos-de-conducir/permisos-extranjeros-y-de-fuerzas-y-cuerpos-de-seguridad/conducir-con-un-permiso-extranjero/
What if I want to buy, hire or borrow a car in Spain? - The driving licence requirement.
If you are from a non-EU country, living in Spain, you may drive a Spanish car on the licence issued in your home country for up to 6 months from the date your TIE (Foreigners Identity Card) states your residency starts. You must then exchange this for a Spanish licence or, if you are not eligible to do this, you must sit a Spanish driving test. This applies whether you buy, hire, or borrow a car.
If you are driving on an EU licence issued in another country, you may drive a Spanish car on your licence for as long as it is valid.
Can I bring my car to Spain when I move?
Different rules apply depending on whether you intend to bring a car registered in an EU country or a non-EU country. However, vehicles in both categories brought into Spain must be registered with the Spanish authorities within six months of entry into the country, when they will be issued with Spanish plates. It is illegal to drive a vehicle without Spanish plates after six months.
Bringing a car from an EU country into Spain is relatively straightforward. However, the vehicle still has to be proved roadworthy, be registered and be fitted with Spanish plates within the time limit.
Bringing a car from a country outside the EU is more complex. If contemplating doing this you should check the position regarding the import duty and taxes which may be payable.
If you do import a car to Spain and it is four years old or more, it will require an
Inspecciòn Tècnica de Vehiculos or ITV test https://www.dgt.es/buscar.html?q=ITV
This is a test to ensure that your vehicle is roadworthy and is compulsory for vehicles over four years old.
The test must be carried out at an authorised ITV testing station and for this test you will need to produce the following documents:
Proof of vehicle ownership
Proof of payment of fees and taxes
Driving license of the owner
Vehicle insurance policy
Vehicle data record
To find an ITV testing station:
Registering your vehicle and changing the number plates
Once your vehicle has passed the ITV test, if this was needed, it must be registered, and the number plates changed to Spanish ones.
If the vehicle is from a country within the EU:
If the vehicle is from a country outside the EU:
In order to register your car, you need to make an appointment at your local DGT office (Directorate-General for Traffic). Find your local office: https://www.dgt.es/conoce-la-dgt/donde-estamos/
Here you will need to:
Fill out Modelo or Form 567 and pay registration tax on foreign vehicles
Pay the Impuesto de Circulación or circulation tax, which is set by your local Town Hall
The documents you need for the process are:
A completed application form to change the plates.
Your NIE number, TIE and proof of address.
An original and a photocopy of the proof of payment of the registration tax and circulation tax.
An invoice for the purchase of the vehicle.
Proof of payment of VAT in the country of origin of the vehicle.
The Certificate of Conformity – issued by the car manufacturer, see section 3 in the story which follows.
After all this has been done, and you have paid for car insurance, your car has been legally imported, registered in Spain, and is ready to drive.
Using a professional adviser to assist with the process
Many people ask a lawyer or gestor to help with these processes. See here:
It is possible to manage the process yourself, without engaging a professional. Read this personal story from Al Herrera who lives in Barcelona, to find out how he did it step by step:
I’m moving to Spain and I want to drive - what do I do now?
You need to be aware of all residency requirements before you come to Spain. You can find everything you need to get you started here: https://www.ageinspain.org/residency.
Please note that unless you are an EU national or you have the right to residency under the the UK/Spain Withdrawal Agreement (i.e. you were legally living in Spain before 2021 and you still live in Spain), if you are planning to live in Spain for longer than 90 days in any 180 day period you MUST apply for a visa before you arrive in Spain. You MUST do this at the Spanish Consulate in your home country.
If you are an EU national and you have a valid EU driving licence, you can drive in Spain.
If your licence is from a country that has an exchange agreement with Spain (this now includes the UK), you can drive on your licence for up to 6 months, then you have to have exchanged your licence for a Spanish one in order to continue to drive legally after 6 months.
For everyone else, you need to:
1. Acquire the TIE card – the Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero – Identity Card for Foreigners
This card is essential if you wish to drive in Spain or to sit the Spanish driving test. You must apply for this identity card within one month of arriving in Spain: see the Age in Spain guide on getting a TIE
2. Take the Spanish driving test (if your licence is not from the EU or you are not eligible to exchange your current licence)
The Spanish Driving Test
What does it consist of?
There are three steps, taken in this order:
A medical examination
A theory test
A practical driving test
How do I prepare for the Spanish Driving Test?
Enrol with a driving school in your area and arrange to have the medical examination with your family doctor.
Can I take lessons and the test in English?
Many driving schools offer lessons in English. The theory test, which is a multiple choice format, can be done in English or Spanish and resources are available in both languages – see below.
The practical Driving Test will be conducted in Spanish.
How do I prepare for the Theory Test?
The driving school will guide you and provide some resources for you to study. You may also do ‘practice exams’ online in English:
When should I take the Theory Test?
Agree with the school when you are ‘ready’ to take the real exam. The school will arrange dates, fees, and advise you on how to prepare for the test - for example mobile phones are not permitted and you should take two pens.
When do I find out the result of the Theory Test?
Test results are available next working day on the DGT website – you must achieve a mark of at least 27 out of 30 to pass.
What happens if I fail the Theory Test?
You may resit it until you achieve a pass!
How do I prepare for the Practical Driving Test?
Arrange an initial lesson with the school so they can assess how your driving fits with Spanish requirements.
Take driving lessons as appropriate, including learning a dozen or so Spanish instructions for the Practical Test.
Please note that your lessons may include having other students in the car and you may take it in turns to drive.
Agree with the instructor when you are ‘ready’ to take the real test and the school will arrange this and advise you on how to prepare for the test.
What happens on the day of the Driving Test?
In the car as well as yourself will be the driving examiner and your instructor. You will take the test in the school’s dual control car.
The result is usually given on the same day.
How do I get my licence and what does it cover?
You will be advised of the website where you can access your temporary licence, which covers you until the plastic licence arrives by post. This will show the date you passed class B and the date to which it is valid.
There will be no other classes on this new Spanish licence. To be authorised to drive other classes of vehicles, for example Motorcycles, you will need to take the test for that class.
Anything else before I start to drive?
After passing your Spanish practical test you will be given an L plate (white on a green background) which must be clearly displayed on the left rear side of any vehicle you are driving for 12 months from the date of your new licence. It is a fineable offence not to display it when driving during this period. It is also an offence if you do not remove it after 12 months, and/or when any other driver uses the vehicle (unless they too are a new driver and are required to display it)
What are the penalties for driving infringements in Spain?
In Spain points are deducted, not added!
New drivers have 8 points on their licence which rises to a maximum of 12 after three years. Points are deducted depending on the seriousness of the infringement.
The DGT website describes the different categories of infringement and the penalties which may be imposed:
The teacher becomes the pupil - A personal story from Ruth Collins
Ruth Collins was a driving instructor in the UK. Newly arrived in Spain, she is preparing to take the Spanish driving test. Here, she shares some insights into the process and describes some of the differences between driving in the UK and driving in Spain.
With many thanks to Ruth Baldasera for her assistance in preparing this Guide. Ruth and others run two very helpful groups on Facebook:
Ladies Driving in Spain: https://www.facebook.com/groups/149618217271810
Men driving in Spain: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1907740552748164
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