Buying a Spanish-registered Vehicle in the UK

A lot of people have thanked us for our recent post advising how to dodge problems when buying a second hand car in Spain.

However, we’ve had a few clients recently that have bought LHD Spanish-registered cars from the UK and have had problems transferring ownership.

This article will highlight a couple of potential problems and how to avoid them when buying a second-hand Spanish car in the UK.

Firstly, a car dealer in the UK cannot sell a Spanish-registered car unless the car has been deregistered (baja de exportación). The car would then need to be rehabilitated (rehabilitación de vehículo).

However, the reality in most cases is that the car isn’t deregistered and the car dealer is just acting as a middleman between the registered owner and the new buyer. Car dealers never register the car in their name and so the car is registered to the original seller.

This causes problems when the dealer doesn’t hold the necessary documentation for the car to be transferred. They are usually quick to sell the car and slow to chase up previous owners after the sale.

Here are two real-life scenarios we have recently come across.



Buyer bought the car from the dealer and didn’t have the registered owner’s NIE document or full ID. The car could not then be transferred into his name. Eventually, they managed to track the registered owner down and get the necessary ID.

On top of that, the previous year’s road tax (IVTM) hadn’t been paid and the registered owner refused to pay it. The buyer had to get a digital certificate and pay for it himself. We were then able to complete the car transfer process.

To make matters worse, the registered owner didn’t have the ficha técnica (technical sheet) of the car and so the new buyer couldn’t pass the ITV (MOT). He then had to apply for a replacement document before being able to get it ITV’ed. This had to be done at the ITV station and so couldn’t be done whilst he was in the UK.

Bottom line – it took a lot longer, was more stressful and ended up being more expensive than he had first thought.


buying Spanish-registered car in UK

A similar scenario, except this time the car was financed. Fortunately, the finance had been paid off by the registered owner. However, the car had a title reservation (reserva de dominio) and so couldn’t be transferred. To lift the title reservation, the new owner had to contact the finance company to get a cancellation document. This again took a lot of time and stress, as they didn’t speak Spanish.

They then had to pay fee to lift the reserve de dominio with Registro de bienes muebles and wait 15 days for it to be updated. We did it on their behalf, as they would have had to take the original document to the office where the car was registered and it was miles away.

What is a Reserva de Dominio?
A reservation of ownership of a car happens when you purchase a car in Spain on finance. It means the seller or lender of the car (bank or dealership) maintains ownership of the car until the loan has been paid off in full. 

This prevents the change of ownership of the vehicle until the loan is cancelled. The problem is that even when the loan has been paid in full, the reservation of title isn’t always withdrawn automatically, it has to be requested.


Before buying any Spanish-registered car in the UK, ALWAYS have a Spanish car report (informe de un vehículo) done. It only costs €8.67 and can save a whole lot of time, money and stress. You need a Cl@ve to be able to access this service. Make sure to get a full report (informe detallado). If you are unable to do it then our vehicle report service is €15.

The next important step is to make sure the car dealer or private seller has the necessary ID and documents for the car ownership to be transferred. If they don’t then don’t buy the car. SIMPLE!

I hope this information can help to take the stress out of buying a second-hand Spanish-registered vehicle in the UK. If you have a vehicle that you want to register in your name and don’t want the stress that goes with it – use our vehicle ownership transfer service. We can transfer the car while you are still in the UK so you don’t have any problems when you drive it back to Spain.

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