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Reader question: Can I buy a car in Spain if I’m not a resident?

Reader question: Can I buy a car in Spain if I'm not a resident?
Can I buy a car in Spain if I’m not a resident? Photo: Clayton Cardinalli/Unsplash
If you spend only part of your time in Spain but don’t officially reside in the country, what are the rules regarding vehicle ownership? Can second home owners buy a car for the time they spend in Spain?

Depending on where you have your home in Spain, getting a car might be necessary or not at all. 

Towns and cities across the country usually have an excellent transport network and many neighbourhoods are often tightly-knit well-serviced areas where you can find most of what you need within walking distance.

But if you live in a more rural setting or want the comfort of a car for weekend getaways and more, having your own vehicle might be what you need for life in Spain. 

But what happens if you’re a second home owner who is a non-resident in Spain? Is vehicle ownership possible?

Yes, it is.

Generally speaking, foreign nationals can buy a car registered in Spain provided they are residents in Spain, but not fiscal residents in the conventional sense. 

There are different opinions in both Spanish and English-language sources over how this residency has to be proven. 

Some say it’s necessary to have a green residency document if you’re an EU national and the TIE card if you’re a non-EU national, others say just having a NIE foreign identity number (not residency) or the padrón (town hall registration) is enough. 

According to Spain’s General Directorate of Traffic’s vehicle rules (El Reglamento General de Vehículos), a foreigner can accredit their residency by showing one of the following:

  • An official residency document 
  • The title deeds to prove they own a property in Spain 
  • A rental contract for a property in Spain 
  • A NIE/NIF number
  • Padrón 

That means that if you’re not officially a resident with a Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión green document, or a TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero) but you own a property or you rent one long-term, you can buy a Spain-registered vehicle. 

If you own or rent a home in Spain, you’ll most likely have at least a NIE, and possibly also a padrón. 

Obviously, non-resident non-EU nationals have to factor in the 183-day rule to not become tax residents in Spain when it comes to buying a car in Spain. 

It may be better to rent a car for the maximum 90-day periods that they can spend in Spain.

Due to the EU’s freedom of movement, this is not as closely monitored with EU nationals and residents.

The Local Spain called up two car showrooms to confirm whether it was possible to buy a car without being a resident and both confirmed that it is possible if the buyer is renting or owns a property in Spain. 

It’s also worth noting that it may be harder to access financing for your vehicle if you’re not a resident in Spain as you’ll have to provide proof of income/pension etc and you’ll have to meet the standards of the Spanish financing entity with your foreign documentation.

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Member comments

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  1. Hi, what about driving a British registered car to Spain and using it for 6 months? We have TIE’s and own a Spanish property but are British citizens.

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