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Buying a second-hand car in Spain: 9 key questions you have to ask in Spanish

If you’re buying a second hand vehicle in Spain from a private seller, there’s a big chance you’ll have to do the hard bargaining and scrutinising in Spanish, so here are nine questions to help you with the process. 

Buying a second-hand car in Spain: 9 key questions you have to ask in Spanish
Photo: Tumisu/Pixabay

1. ¿Cuántos kilómetros tiene el coche? What’s the vehicle’s mileage or how many kilometres does the vehicle have?

Knowing the vehicle’s kilometraje (mileage) is one of the most objective ways of agreeing on a price.

If you’re not sure if the seller is telling the truth or if they’ve fiddled with the odometer reading, there are websites that allow you to get an estimate of a vehicle’s mileage based on its registration date. 

What constitutes an acceptable mileage is up for interpretation, but generally cars with more than 150,000km will have seen better days.

2.¿En qué estado está el coche usado? What’s the state or condition of the used car?

Here’s where they should say que va mal (what’s wrong) with the car, if at all and if they’re honest. If the seller says the car’s condition is excelente or bueno (excellent or good) then it’s obviously a good sign.  If they say it’s in un estado normal (normal condition) they may not know the true value of the car they’re selling. 

3.¿A quién le compraste este vehículo? Who did you buy this vehicle from?

The fewer the owners the better, so if the seller is the primer propietario (first owner) the better the chances of it having been badly treated by more people.

They may say they bought it from a concesionario (car showroom), and if it was nuevo (new) or de segunda mano (second hand).  

This may also be a good time to ask ¿dónde has vivido mientras has sido dueño de este coche? (where have you lived while owning this car?) to know if the vehicle has had to endure bitter cold winters or scorching hot summers, or if it’s been driven in a coastal area where it may have picked up rust (óxido).

You can also request a record of the vehicle’s history from the DGT to make doubly sure they’re telling the truth.

Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

4.¿Podría ver el historial de mantenimiento? Could I see the car’s service history?

This is one of the surest ways to find out if the car has been in an accidente (accident) and suffered daños (damage) that could creep up on you when driving the vehicle in future. 

You should ask to see el libro de revisiones (the car’s service log book) where a responsible driver should have written down any issues the car may have had. It’ll be much harder for a seller to miss out certain shortcomings if they show you written proof of the vehicle’s service history, oil change receipts and other documents showing why it’s been taken to the garage or that it’s passed the ITV (Spain’s roadworthiness test).

A new service called Carfax which allows you to check all this is starting to gain popularity in Spain.

5.¿Qué tipo de aceite utilizas en el coche? What type of oil do you use in the car?

This is in fact a good way of finding out how much TLC the vehicle has received from its previous owner; the more they know the greater the possibility that they’ve taken good care of the car.

6.¿Te importaría si inspecciona el coche mi mecánico? Would you mind if my mechanic checked the vehicle?

Even if you don’t have a mechanic, this is sure way of quickly ascertaining whether the seller is not giving you the full picture. Obviously if they’re more than willing it’s a good sign and if come up with some sort of excuse it’s a reason to stop inquiring about the car.

If you’re not a car expert, it may actually be worth getting a mechanic to check the car inside out. Otherwise, look for obvious signs of repaired damage, study all four tires carefully, look under the hood, and start the engine but keep it idling so you can check for any smoke, strange noises, leaks etc. 

7.¿Cuál es el último coche usado que has vendido? Which is the last used car you’ve sold?

This may seem irrelevant but there are many people in Spain just as there are in other countries who make a living from buying old bangers, doing them up and selling them at a premium. That’s not to say that none of them can be trusted, but they will obviously understand the used car market better than you and may well know how to camouflage some of the vehicle’s shortcomings.

A vendedor particular (private seller) who isn’t selling cars on a regular basis is more likely to not know all the tricks of the trade. 

Photo: Kay Pilger/Unsplash

8.¿Por cuánto estás dispuesto a vender el coche? How much are you willing to sell the car for?

This tells the seller that you’re not willing to meet their price. If the ad they’ve posted is old, they’re also likely to be more open to negotiation, or as they say in Spain regatear (haggle). 

You should use a tasador de coches usados (second-hand car valuation) website beforehand, in which you’ll have to input la marca (the brand), el modelo (the model), combustible (fuel), kilometraje (mileage) año de fabricación (manufacturing date) and more to know in advance what it’s really worth.

Offering to pay al contado (up front) rather than con financiación (financing through monthly installments should also help you to negotiate the price down slightly. 

9.¿Podría probar el coche? Can I test drive the car?

It seems obvious but you should never buy a car without having driven it first, and any seller who denies you this option is best avoided. Agreeing to a 30-minute drive with him or her with you in a car is a fair compromise. 

Listen out for unusual noises and pay careful attention to how the gearbox feels when changing gears (or changing the transmission if it is automatic), ask yourself how the steering and brakes feel. 

If you’re not sure you’ll be able to pick up on everything, ask a friend or pay a mechanic if you’re not 100 percent sure you can do a thorough enough evaluation.


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Why you should think twice about buying a car in Spain, even if it’s second hand

A combination of supply and demand problems caused by the pandemic and a lack of microchips is making cars much harder to come by in Spain. Here's why you should perhaps consider holding off on buying that vehicle you had in mind for now.

Why you should think twice about buying a car in Spain, even if it's second hand

Getting your hands on a car – new, second hand, or even rental – is becoming much harder and more expensive in Spain.

The car industry has been hit by a perfect storm of conditions that have made new cars harder to come by and, as a result, caused prices to rapidly increase. 

According to Spain’s main consumer organisation, Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios (OCU), the microchip crisis affecting the entire globe, combined with an overall increase in the price of materials needed for car manufacturing and increased carbon emissions legislation has created a shortage of new cars in the country.

New cars

With less cars being manufactured, prices of new cars have gone up: a recent OCU report reports that new car prices have increased by 35 percent, higher even than Spain’s record breaking inflation levels in recent months. 

READ ALSO: Rate of inflation in Spain reaches highest level in 37 years

It is a shortage of microchips and semiconductors – a global problem – that has caused car production in Spain to plummet. In the first eight months of 2021, for example, production fell by 25.3 percent compared to 2019.

This is not a uniquely Spanish problem, however. The entire world is experiencing a shortage of semiconductor microchips, something essential to car manufacturing as each car needs between 200 to 400 microchips.

France’s car exports, for example, have fallen by 23.3 percent, Germany’s by 27 percent, and the UK’s by 27.5 percent.

Simply put, with less cars being produced and specialist and raw materials now more expensive, the costs are being passed onto consumers the world over.

Equally, these industry-specific problems were compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.The average wait for a car to be delivered in Spain is now around four months, double what it was before the pandemic, and depending on the make and model you buy, it can be as long as a year.

Car dealerships across Spain were forced to sell cars during the pandemic to stay afloat, and now, when consumers want to purchase new cars, they don’t have enough to sell and can’t buy enough to keep up with demand due to the materials shortages that have kneecapped production.

Second-hand cars

With the scarcity and increased prices in the new car market, the effect is also being felt in the second-hand car market too. With many in Spain emerging from the pandemic facing precarious financial situations, then compounded by spiralling inflation in recent months, one would assume many would go for a cheaper, second hand option.

Yet, even second-hand prices are out of control. In Spain, the price of used cars have risen by 17 percent on average so far in 2022.

Cars 15 years old or more are 36 percent more expensive than they were in the first half of last year. The average price of a 15 year old car is now €3,950 but in 2021 was just €2,900 – a whopping increase of 36 percent.

As production has decreased overall, purchases of used models up to three years old have declined by 38.3 percent. Purchases of cars over 15 years old, on the other hand, have surged by 10.4 percent.

If you’re looking to buy a second-hand car in Spain, keep in mind that the reduced production and scarcity of new models is causing second-hand prices to shoot up.

Rental cars

These problems in car manufacturing have even passed down to car rentals and are affecting holidaymakers in Spain.

Visitors to Spain who want to hire a car will have a hard time trying to get hold of one this summer, unless they book well in advance and are willing to fork out a lot of money.

Over the past two years, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a shortage in rental cars in Spain. However, during peak holiday times such as Easter, the issue has been brought to the forefront.

It’s now common in Spain to see car rental companies hanging up signs saying “no hay coches” or no cars, similar to the no vacancy signs seen in bed & breakfasts and hotels.

READ ALSO: Why you now need to book a rental car in advance in Spain

While all of Spain is currently experiencing car rental shortages, the problem is particularly affecting areas of Spain with high numbers of tourists such as the Costa del Sol, the Balearic Islands and the Canaries.

According to the employers’ associations of the Balearic Islands, Aevab and Baleval, there are 50,000 fewer rental cars across the islands than before the pandemic.

In the Canary Islands, there is a similar problem. Occupancy rates close to 90 percent have overwhelmed car rental companies. The Association of Canary Vehicle Rental Companies (Aecav) says that they too have a scarcity 50,000 vehicles, but to meet current demand, they estimate they would need at least 65,000.

According to Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE), fewer than 20 million foreign tourists visited Spain in 2020 and revenues in the sector plummeted by more than 75 percent. While numbers did rise in 2021, the country still only welcomed 31.1 million foreign visitors last year, well below pre-pandemic levels and far short of the government’s target.

Many Spanish car rental companies have admitted that the fleet they offer is down to half after selling off vehicles in the pandemic due to the lack of demand.

End in sight?

With the microchip shortage expected to last until at least 2023, possibly even until 2024, it seems that the best course of action if you’re looking to buy a new or used car in Spain is to wait, let the market resettle, and wait for prices to start going down again.

If you’re hoping to rent a car when holidaying in Spain, be sure to book well in advance.