Driving in Spain, idyllic countryside, coastal roads and peaceful journeys. OR constant horn beeping, wayward parking, one-way systems, and driving on the opposite side of the road (if you’re a Brit like me!) - it certainly can be a bit of a minefield! This guide aims to fill you in on everything you need to know to be speeding around Spain in no time (But beware: tickets for speeding are horrendous, as are tickets for any kind of traffic violation)
- Shall I buy a car in Mallorca or bring the one I own?
- Shall I buy new or second-hand?
- What about long-term rentals and financing?
- What's the paperwork involved?
- And most importantly: Is my driving licence okay?
“You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen, it said 'Parking Fine.” Tommy Cooper
To Buy Or Not To Buy, That Is The Question… #
A common dilemma here in Spain is whether or not it’s beneficial to become a car owner. There is a lot to be said for owning your car, primarily the security of being able to resell your vehicle, should you need to, and also the freedom of being able to travel across Europe, without any restrictions from financing or hire car contracts. On the other hand, to buy a car can be a large financial expense, and of course a long-term commitment. I would advise that you do not purchase your car immediately, as personal situations can change and cars take time to sell, it may be that an alternative leasing or hire option suits your needs best. However, if you are looking to make your life here then owning your car allows for freedom and easy access to all of Spain and its neighbouring Balearic Islands.
Affordable Mallorca Tip: It must also be noted that you must have your Residencia (NIE green card) in order to purchase a vehicle here. This must be accompanied by various other paperwork, including your Passport, Empadronamiento (certificate of residence), Escritura (proof you own a property) or Rental Contract (if you rent your property). All of these papers will be required when buying from a dealership, and you will most certainly need your NIE) to complete the Traspaso process, even if you’re buying privately.
Insurance Costs #
Here in Spain we also choose to insure our vehicle, not the driver, therefore insurance costs are significantly lower in comparison to other countries. The insurance is based upon the age, model and make of your vehicle, taking into consideration factors such as age of the driver, but not solely relying on this.
As someone who has spent the last few years driving in England, and spending an average annual cost of 1,500 £ on insurance, I was pleasantly surprised to only pay 780 € for my annual insurance here. It is less common for motorists to opt for a fully comprehensive insurance policy, with most companies offering third party fire and theft as their most popular package - in particular for drivers under the age of 25.
As with anywhere in the world, there are insurance companies left, right and centre, each promising the best price; a comparison site such as www.rastreator.com will be sure to identify the best provider for you! If like me your Spanish is still in its fledgling stages, then Linea Directa have a spectacular English speaking department, who are on hand for calls and queries from 9am-9pm, Monday to Friday. They are also able to arrange split payments and automatic renewals to make the process as painless as possible!
Second Hand Cars #
For those of you who travel to Spain regularly, you will have noticed that cars here look a little more ‘loved’, or ‘weathered’ than in other countries. Dents and scratches on doors and bumpers are simply signs of aging gracefully, and not viewed as unsightly disfigurements. If you are looking for a pristine vehicle, then buying second hand is probably not the option for you.
However, if you’re looking for the most affordable option, then second hand vehicles are in abundance! It must be noted that second hand vehicles in the Balearic Islands carry a slightly heftier price tag than those on the mainland, due to their importation costs, however you can still secure yourself a reliable motor for anywhere between 3,000 € and 7,000 €. For this price you can find a vehicle from between 2004 - 2012, in either manual or automatic transmission (although automatic is rather difficult to come by, as I found out!).
A benefit of buying here in Spain is that many second-hand vehicles are ex-hire cars, therefore the mileage is low, and the service history regular, allowing for peace of mind when purchasing. Another perk of securing a vehicle like this is that many of the Rent A Car companies, have connections to garages, ensuring that you always have somewhere reliable to send your car, should you have any issues.
Insider Tip: Make sure to check that your car doesn’t have any outstanding fines linked to it, as once the car is transferred into your name these will become your responsibility! There are companies such as www.spanishsolutions.net who will run a debt check on your car, for a fee of around 34 €, to make sure that you aren’t inheriting any additional costs, this is strongly advisable when purchasing a second-hand vehicle from a private dealer.
Driving Your Car to Spain #
Driving your car to Spain can often seem like it may be the easier option, why sell your trusty motor, if you can simply drive it over and begin your new life in the sunshine? In theory this option is certainly a good one, and many people bring their cars to Spain with no problems at all. However, you must enter this process with your eyes open, as there are a lot of things to consider!
Changing Over Number Plates #
New regulations came into place on the 9th of May, permitting you to drive your car into Spain, and legally keep it on its original number plates for three months, before converting to Spanish plates. This rule ONLY applies to NON-residents of Spain and the Balearic Islands, as any residents who choose to do this only have one month, after obtaining their Residencia, to complete the process. It must be noted that upon your drive to Spain your car MUST contain valid stickers to display its country of origin, for example ‘GB’ for Great Britain. Your car cannot enter the country without these stickers!
Warning! Failure to complete this process within the time frame allocated could result in the car being confiscated! So, it is vital that you move quickly with this procedure.
All you need to know and more about importing a foreign into Mallorca: Read More
Long Term Rentals and Finance #
Now that I’ve got you thinking about buying or not buying, I thought I would throw another option into the mix - long term rentals and finance options! ‘Oh no’, I hear you cry! ‘No more please!’ However, for those of you who aren’t too certain on the duration of your stay here in Spain, or who would like a cracking car with a low monthly payment - then these could be the options for you!
Many people consider renting cars simply for a week or two, to explore their holiday destination, and get all their supplies from the closest big supermarket! Although renting a car for a short period of time can serve a purpose, renting for a long period of time can be far more beneficial.
- Many large companies such as Europcar and OK cars will rent vehicles for up to 6 months, changing your vehicle regularly each month, and providing fully comprehensive insurance, included in your monthly payments.
- One benefit of renting a car, is that you are guaranteed a replacement, should anything happen to your vehicle, and providing the incident or fault is not caused by yourself there will be no extra charge - fabulous!
- Hiring a car also guarantees a modern vehicle, usually the latest model with all the mod cons and bells and whistles that you could ask for, meaning no winding down windows, or melting due to lack of air con- which could be an issue in a second-hand vehicle.
Although this all sounds very appealing, we do of course have to factor in a cost. For those of you aged 26 and over, you could find yourselves renting a small car (Fiat 500/ VW Polo) for around 300 € per month, which breaks down to only 75 € per week. This is certainly a great price to secure a modern motor, inclusive of insurance. However, those of you aged under 26 you could be looking at a price of almost 100 € per week, due to the Young Driver surcharge, which is added to all motorists under 26 years old - which makes this option far less affordable. If, like me, you hold an automatic licence, the costs then rise again, so do bear this in mind when considering a long-term rental.
Increasingly popular here in Spain are the finance deals available on many new vehicles. This option allows you to purchase a new, or almost new, vehicle with little or no deposit, and manageable monthly payments over a period of 3-5 years. Although a monthly commitment financially, financing a car does expand the types of vehicle that you can consider as many cars that may have been too costly to buy outright, could be feasible to pay in monthly installments.
In order to be granted a finance deal, you must prove that you have suitable and sustainable monthly income, and therefore a dealership will have to run a credit check. This could prove more difficult for younger buyers, who maybe have a low or seasonal income. However, those of you with guaranteed work and regular income should have no problem getting approved!
Some of the most affordable finance deals are around 100 euros per month, 0 deposit and low interest, over a period of 7 years, meaning that at the end of your deal you can either purchase the car, by clearing the remaining balance or you can choose to trade it in, and upgrade to a newer model. Many dealerships will include benefits such as free servicing for the first year, or a roadside assistance package, both of which save you money!
A word of warning: Although it all sounds incredibly enticing, it must be noted that if you had to leave the country, or were no longer able to make the payments, the finance companies will repossess the vehicle, and there will be an outstanding payment which you must pay within the time frame given - therefore this option only really applies to those of you who are financially stable, and settled here in Spain.
Motoring in Mallorca #
Having a car in Mallorca is essential in order to make the most of this beautiful island - many coves and bays are out of reach without having access to a set of wheels, and public transport can be hard to come by during the winter months; so having a car makes island life a lot easier!
As mentioned earlier on, car prices can seem a little high here on the island, and this is due to the importation costs from the mainland, and other European countries. Although an initial costly outlay, cars in Mallorca seem to live very happy lives. Due to the small size of the island nowhere is far to travel, so your mileage will never be excessive and your car should have a problem-free existence for many years to come!
Mallorca adheres to all of the Spanish guidelines in terms of paperwork, road signs, and what you must carry in your car. It can be difficult to understand all of these things, especially as it seems there are so many factors to consider! However, when it’s broken down it really is a piece of cake!
ITV (Inspeccion Tecnica de Vehiculos) #
A minefield all of its own is the ITV - equivalent to a British MOT, this test ensures your car is roadworthy. The ITV must be completed by an approved garage and car owners are obliged to complete the test every 4 years on a brand-new car, every 2 years on a car under 10 years old, and every year for a car over 10 years old. The test itself costs, on average, around 50 € and providing your car flies through there will be no additional costs. However, any problems you will of course be required to fix at your own expense, and the car must then be re-tested to ensure that it is safe to drive.
It is recommended that you make an appointment to avoid long waits, although you can turn up on the day and hope for an available slot. Whilst your car is undergoing its assessment you are expected to wait in the centre until your car’s registration plate is called out, and you are able to collect it (hopefully with a smile on your face!). The process itself is not too complex, and providing your car passes you will be issued with a new sticker, which is placed in the top right-hand corner of your windscreen, and there it shall stay until it’s next review - perfect!
What You Must Carry in Your Car #
In accordance with Spanish law every driver must carry a reflective yellow vest, two warning triangles, proof of insurance and ownership, and your car must display a valid ITV sticker, in the top right-hand corner of your windscreen.
The reflective vest must be worn as soon as you have a breakdown, or if you are involved in an accident on the road. You must then lay out the two warning triangles, one in front and one behind your car if you end up in this situation. Failure to do so will result in large, on the spot, fines.
Your proof of insurance here in Spain and Mallorca is the receipt you receive upon payment of your policy, a printed copy of this should always be in your glove compartment. Your insurance provider should also send a European accident form, which is to be filled out at the roadside by yourself and anyone else involved, to ensure correct procedure when filing a claim with your policy holder.
Although not compulsory, guidelines advise that you also carry a medical kit within your vehicle, just in case of any emergencies whilst driving.
Driving Licence #
The biggest question of them all… ‘Is my driving licence okay?’ My biggest worry upon moving to the island was what to do with my licence. Every person I asked seemed to suggest something different, and after thousands of suggestions I sought help from Tracy Knight, a wonderful woman at Translations Mallorca who answered all of my questions!
For those of you with a full driving licence that has been issued in an EU country, you are entitled to drive here in Mallorca, as a resident, for up to 2 years, before legally having to change your licence to a Spanish one. This gives you a little time to get used to driving, find out all the information and swap your licence over.
Unlike many of the other processes, this one is rather simple - you must make an appointment at the Tráfico Centre, here in Mallorca ours is in Palma, take a small medical test (they ask some question to check you’re okay to drive) and then they issue a new card. The total cost is around 70 €. If you use a translator, then of course there are additional charges, but overall it is relatively affordable and simple - hoorah! Once changing your licence, you will have 10 years on your new card before you must renew it, and in order to do so it you simply repeat this process.
Affordable Mallorca Tip: Note that there have been cases where people have been required to change their licence within 6 months of becoming a resident and driving in Spain, so do endeavour to change your licence as quickly as you can!
Although many foreign licences are accepted here in Spain and the Balearics, all residents of foreign nationality must check the individual rules for their driving licences, and ensure that they make the appropriate changes as soon as they can, or else they could be subject to fines.
Reliable Traders #
Finding a trustworthy dealer can be difficult, especially if you are not a petrol head or if you don’t speak the language! It’s always advisable to take someone else along with you when searching for your dream car, and if possible, somebody who knows what they’re talking about! Here are just a few websites to help you begin your car search - good luck!
New and Finance
All information is based on personal experience and opinion, and may change due to law changes or based on your location in Spain.
By Zoé Holmes
9 September, 2019