Problems When Buying a Used Car in Spain

We have recently had many clients that have had trouble transferring car ownership.
The Spanish car registration system is much more complicated than in many other countries.

So… I thought I would write this post to highlight a couple of the key problems people face when they have bought a car in Spain and want to change ownership into their name.


dodgy car dealers in Spain

Buying from dodgy (or not even always dodgy) car dealers. It is very common for car dealers to sell a car and not transfer registration. Either they don’t want the expense or hassle of registering the car in the buyer’s name or they don’t have the correct documentation.
And so, the car is still in the previous owner’s name. Or, even the owner before that!

They usually tell the buyer that they will transfer it, and maybe even add a little extra on but car ownership transfer in Spain is the buyer’s responsibility. Many have found when they have a problem or come to sell the car that the car dealer didn’t do the transfer and they are not the legal owner.  By that time it is very difficult (if not impossible) to get the previous owner’s ID. You are then stuck with a car that you cannot legally sell.

Private Sellers

This also applies to buying from a private seller. People sometimes sell cars that are not legally in their name. If they never changed ownership, the car is in the previous owner’s name and you won’t be able to transfer it into your name. It’s always best to get a DGT vehicle report before buying a used vehicle. 


You can insist on doing the car transfer yourself if you buy a car from a dealer. Make sure that they give you valid ID for the person whose name is on the Permiso de Circulacion (log book). You can go to the Jefatura de Trafico and do it yourself (car ownership transfer guide here), or use our car registration service for €60. If you let the car dealer do it, tell them you want the permiso in your name before you take the car.

I recommend that you get a car report done before buying a second-hand car. You can get this done on the DGT website or we can do it for €15. This report will show you the legal owner of the car and whether it has any fines or embargoes etc. It will also show you the ITV history so you can check if there are/were any serious problems with it.

For private sellers – Make sure that the sellers’ ID matches up with the name on the permiso de circulacion. If it doesn’t, either don’t buy the car or get valid ID of the previous owner from the seller before buying.


IVTM proof of payment

IVTM (Impuesto Sobre Vehículos de Tracción Mecánica) or vehicle road tax hasn’t been paid for the previous year.
The tax is charged on the 1st of January, except for the first purchase of vehicles, when it will coincide with the day the purchase is made. It is due between April 1st and June 30th.

The tax is the responsibility of the registered owner on the 1st of January.
The tax must have been paid for the previous year to be able to transfer a car into your name.


When buying a car always get proof of the IVTM payment from the seller. This could be in the form of an online receipt or a bank statement. Make sure that it clearly shows the ‘concept’ of the payment. Road tax is paid at the local town hall, by direct debit or even online now.

Therefore, if you buy a car after 1st January 2023, the seller must have paid the IVTM for 2022, 2023 tax is the responsibility of the previous owner and 2024 tax is your responsibility. If the seller can’t provide proof, we again recommend getting a DGT vehicle check done first.


1. If buying from a car dealer. Either you do the car ownership transfer,
or make sure you have the permiso de circulacion in your name before taking the vehicle.
2. Make sure the IVTM has been paid for the previous year before buying a used car.

I hope this article helps if you are looking to buy a used car in the future.
You must take your time when buying a car in Spain and make sure all the documentation is valid and up-to-date. This will save a lot of headaches and heartache further down the road.
If you want us to register a car in your name then contact us today.

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