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Driving in Spain: What are the extra costs of owning a car?

car driving in triana neighbourhood of Seville
If you're thinking of buying a car in Spain, aside from the vehicle's price you should consider the costs of fuel, services, insurance and more. Photo: Marco Nürnberger/Flickr
Aside from a car’s own individual price, what other costs do people thinking of buying a car in Spain have to consider before deciding whether it’s worth the expense? 

For some people in Spain, having their own vehicle is a necessity, be it because they live in a rural part of the country, they regularly drive great distances or other reasons that require independence and easy travel.

For plenty of other people however, it’s not such an easy choice. 

Around 80 percent of Spain’s population live in urban areas, many of which are densely packed and easy to get around on foot or on efficient public transport networks. 

This means that having your own car isn’t generally a necessity, but rather a bonus for weekend getaways and more comfortable travelling. 

But in these cases, is it worth getting a car in Spain? One of the determining factors for people is the expense. 

Apart from the monthly payments (unless the car is bought cash), there are plenty of extra costs that add up. 

As a minimum, it’s fair to say that a driver in Spain has to pay a minimum of €1,500 a year to use their vehicle, in plenty of cases more than that. 

Here’s a breakdown of the main extra costs that come with owning a car in Spain.

Fuel 

Fuel prices have increased in 2021 in Spain, meaning that on average it’s €14 more expensive to fill up your talk than a year ago. 

Filling up from empty up to the brim with petrol costs an average of €77.80 for a 55-litre tank, according to data by the European Commission’s Oil Bulletin.

For diesel, the amount is €69.80.

That means that an infrequent driver with a petrol car (48 percent of the total share in Spain) who fills up once a month will pay around €933 a year in fuel.

Those considering buying an electric car, which although more environmentally friendly are still considerably more expensive than regular vehicles, have to factor in sky-high electricity prices in Spain currently.  

It’s a completely different ballgame, with the option of charging at home if there’s the right setup for it or at public and private charging stations. 

It can work out cheaper than fuel but electric car drivers have to abide by low-rate hours to avoid Spain’s most expensive electricity rates.

READ ALSO: Where to get the cheapest fuel in Spain

Insurance 

Any car which is primarily kept in Spain by law has to have insurance even if it’s not driven, with steep fines for uninsured drivers. 

How much you pay in insurance for your car can vary depending on the cost of the vehicle, the driver’s experience and the amount of cover you want.

The average price of fully comprehensive insurance without excess in Spain is €1,037 per year, while that of insurance with excess decreases to €454 per year, according to Spanish price comparison site acierto.com. 

It’s important to carefully study what your insurance provider offers with the deal and there’s an increasing amount of custom-made policies available online.

Depending on how often you use your car in Spain and how old it is, a yearly service may be necessary. Photo: Pascal POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP
 

Maintenance costs 

These costs aren’t so easily quantifiable but it’s safe to say that the older the vehicle, the higher the need for repairs and services.

Usually the first service of new vehicles is after 15,000km and costs on average €250. 

Servicing a vehicle every 5,000 kilometres is a recommendation but failure to do so over a long period of time could cause problems in the long run as some vehicle elements do wear and break down, it could jeopardise the safety of driver and passengers and a lack of services dissuades second hand buyers.

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

Roadworthiness test 

The ITV (pronounced I-TE-UVE in Spanish) is the test that vehicles must pass to show that they’re roadworthy. When your car passes its test, you will be given a small sticker to display in the window as proof.

Cars less than four years old don’t need an ITV test, vehicles between four and ten years old are tested every two years and those older than ten years old need to be tested every year.

Prices vary between regions, but can range anywhere from around €30 for a two-wheeled moped to €43 for large petrol cars and vans and €48 for a diesel car. 

READ MORE: ITV: How to pass Spain’s roadworthiness test (plus the changes and fines for 2021)

Taxes 

There’s the vehicle registration tax (impuesto de matriculación) you’ll have to pay once off when you buy the vehicle, a rate which varies depending on the vehicle’s emissions. 

But the tax you will probably have to pay on a yearly basis is the driving tax (impuesto de circulación) set by your town hall. 

Based on your vehicle’s emissions and the rates that say fit to charge, many municipalities charge drivers for using their roads. It varies considerably between cities and regions, from €34 a year in Santa Cruz de Tenerife to €86 in San Sebastián.   

Tolls 

Up until now, drivers in Spain have had to pay far fewer tolls than their European counterparts, with a number of motorways recently being made toll-free

However, the Spanish government has been put under pressure by the EU to introduce peajes (tolls in Spanish) in line with the European model, given the €140 billion the country is receiving as part of the EU recovery fund. 

In late October, the Spanish government confirmed that it will impose a tax for the use of its highways, although it rejected that they be called tolls.

Whatever they choose to call them, from 2023 it seems that drivers on Spanish motorways are likely to be charged extra for every kilometre driven; how many euro cents per km is yet to be decided.

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