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Keliuss

How to register your car (BMW) in Spain in twenty-something not very simple steps. 

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Prompted by member @gibbo1998 discussing registering a car in Spain, I have resurrected the below which was originally sent to friends and family via whatsapp as a way of venting frustration/keeping my sanity while registering my old E39 in Spain back in 2015. It was a working title that was sent out in smaller parts as the odyssey unfolded. It outgrew itself along the way. 

 

How to register your car (BMW E39) in Spain in twenty-something not very simple steps. 

1. Search Spanish Govt websites for a formal procedure to import/register your car in Spain. Find nothing! There might be something but I couldn't find it. Part of the problem is every region in Spain does things their own regional way. Within each region every local council has does things their own local way.

 

2. Search expat forums and find a multitude of conflicting opinions as to the procedure, (see step 1 explainer) but general consensus is: first step is to take the car to a test centre (ITV). 

 

3. Take car to test centre who say you need the registration certificate/log book (no problem) and the certificate of conformity (the what!) from BMW that came with the car when new!! 

 

4. Go home, search internet about cert of conformity and decide to call the largest BMW dealership in Ireland (Joe Duffy BMW) and tell lies that you bought your car there new in 1998 etc etc and need the certificate of conformity. The nice (but somewhat gullible) girl in the stealers contacts head office in Munich who look up your chassis number and nicely reissue the cert for free and post it to the stealers. 

 

5. Sit back and wait while the cert makes its way from Munich to Dublin.

 

6. Get a nice family member to collect the cert from nice gullible girl and send it on to you in Spain.

 

7. Sit back and wait while the cert makes its way from Dublin to Getafe, Madrid. 

 

8. Book yourself an appointment in the car test centre and head over with your newly acquired cert of conformity and pay €50 for the test. Result: Pass. And an extra €125 for them to get a measuring tape out to measure height, width, wheelbase etc of car to makes sure it "conforms" as per the cert. Result: It conforms. They say the next step is to go to the local council offices with your new cert to pay taxes.

 

Please note that public business hours in Spain are 9 or 10am until 2pm. Banks, govt depts etc. all close to public early. This shorter day makes it difficult to get multiple, or even just more than one thing done in a day.


9. Go to local council offices as instructed in step 8, where you are told, "No, you need to go to local motor tax offices to pay circulation tax (Road tax) first'. Get directions to motor tax office, not far, under ten mins walk.

 

10. Go to motor tax office, take a number, sit and wait. Fill out paperwork etc. Offer cash or credit card to pay the tax. No, no, no! They say you have to pay in a bank then take the receipt to DGT (Traffic dept.) to pay car registration tax and you're done. Sounds simple enough! 

 

11. Go to bank, pay annual road tax, €129, get receipt.

 

12. Call traffic dept to double check procedures as it's 30 min drive. Find out you need to book an appointment on Internet. Probably a day or two away. 

 

13. Go home, book appointment on internet for traffic dept. Two days hence was closest available. 

 

14. Drive 30 mins to Traffic dept. Arrive 20 minutes early. Queue up at the 'have an appointment' desk, get issued ticket number. Sit and wait 30 minutes watching the numbers beep away climbing towards your number. Watch the officials go for coffee break just when your number is up next. Wait another 15-20 mins. Get called up eventually when they come back. Guy looks through your docs and says 'No, you don't have all the paperwork, you need go back to your local motor tax office, they should have given you another document so you can pay the registration tax'. Guy gives you a hand written ticket so you don't have to book another appointment again, but only if you come back later that same day (ie, before 2). Fat chance now!

 

15. Drive 30 mins back and go back to motor tax office, take a number, sit and wait. Explain to official that they sent you to traffic dept. without appropriate documents. They say, 'Oh, ok, yeah that's right, you also need to have form number something or other. Well we don't issue that document here in this office, you need to go to the other local Govt. tax office'. 

 

16. Get directions to the other local Govt. tax office from the official and make your way there. 10min walk. 

 

17. Find a notice on the door of the local Govt. tax office that it has been relocated and you've a 20 mins walk back the way you just came past the previous tax office. Nice one.

 

18. Go to relocated local Govt. tax office, queue up and pass through airport style security, take a number, sit and wait. They look through your documents and say, 'You are exempt from paying the import tax (hundreds) because you are an EU citizen moving to Spain bringing your private car, (brilliant!) but you will need a Certificate of Residence in Spain from the Irish Embassy for the exemption to apply. You proceed to offer all and any documents you have to prove you do actually live here to no avail. Doesn't matter if you already have a social security number, are registered to vote and have the voting card for upcoming local elections, name is on the rental contract, electricity, gas and water bills, etc etc etc. and have all the documents at hand to back you up. You still need a certificate to say you are a resident in Spain! 

 

19. Call the Irish Embassy who say, 'You need to go to a public notary first and make a declaration that you live here and have the notary sign it, (about €30 or €40), then come to us with your declaration that you live here, and we'll give you a certificate that you live here' (another €40). They also suggest that you just buy a Spanish car as they've heard it's a lot easier. How very thoughtful of them! 

 

20. At this stage in the process it is required to adopt a "Fucked if I'm giving up at this stage" attitude.

 

21. Decide to be bold and don't go to public notary but instead go directly to Irish Embassy in Madrid city centre in an attempt to bypass the notary and hope you don't get to speak to the same woman you spoke to yesterday on the phone. 

 

22. When the embassy official asks 'Did I speak to you on the phone yesterday and tell you to go to a public notary first?' don't lie, just turn on the charm! Work your magic and she eventually agrees that you can do a declaration in front of the embassy consul and have your cert for a total cost of €60, (saving €20 but more importantly saving yourself a trip to a public notary, which would undoubtedly involve more hair pulling and ridiculous hoops that need jumping through). 

 

23. Make declaration in front of the consul, receive certificate of residence, pay €60.

 

24. Go back to relocated local Govt. tax office with your newly acquired cert of residence. Queue up and pass through airport security, take a number, sit and wait. When you get called up they look through your documents again and say, 'You are officially living in Spain since December. Your import tax exemption is only valid for 2 months. You are NOT exempt, so we don't need any certificate of residence from the embassy (€60 and half a day down the drain) and you will have to pay full import tax rate based on a calculation of car age, original value, emissions etc etc. 

 

25. Try to remain calm as your blood begins to boil! Watch nervously as girl enters car data into computer. Keep your mouth shut as she enters the wrong (lower) info for the emissions. Calculated import tax is €320.80. Should have been around €400, but her mistake at least nullifies the cost of the now useless cert of residence. 

 

26. Through clenched teeth, offer a credit card. She says 'No you need to go to a bank to pay, get a receipt and come back here'. She gives you a crappy A4 printout with some of your car details on it, to take to the bank. It looks nothing like a bank giro, has no bank account details, or IBAN looking numbers on it and you question her about it. She insists it is all the bank needs and they are familiar with the process. 

 

27. Go back to bank, queue for 20 mins, hand over the documents. Watch as the confused looking clerk starts the inevitable head-scratching, asks us to clarify what the crappy A4 sheet is about. She then calls the manager over for a bit more head-scratching and another questions and answers session. Neither of them can figure out what to do with the crappy A4 sheet as it contains no bank account/IBAN details. They suggest we return to the relocated local Govt. tax office.

 

28. Go back to relocated local Govt. tax office. Queue up and pass through airport security, take a number, sit and wait. Explain your story again to a different official. She also insists that the crappy A4 sheet has everything the bank need.  You insist otherwise.  She gives you her direct line for the bank to call her if they have any problems and sends you packing.

 

29. Go back to the bank again. Queue is even longer now, stay in the queue for 10 mins until you can get the managers attention. Explain the situation again and give him the tax officials direct line. He calls the number and gets someone completely different and has to explain from the beginning. After 10 mins on the phone, a lot more head-scratching, and a lot of mouse-clicks he has a giro printed.

 

30. Pay car import tax, (€320.88) get receipt.

 

31. Go back to relocated local Govt. tax office (the 4th visit now, 6th in total to tax offices), queue up and pass through airport security, take a number, sit and wait. Hand over receipt and other documents etc.  Official notices that the previous official has entered the wrong data about the emissions for your car, (see step 25 where you kept your mouth shut). Try to remain calm as she starts to click away on her mouse. She then looks at her watch (it's 1.54pm, 6 mins to siesta) and decides it's actually fine as is, saving you €80 and another trip to the bank. Get your documents rubber-stamped etc. She says you can now go to back to traffic dept. with all your taxes paid and documents in order. At this stage you take nothing for granted and inquire if all taxes are paid. She insists they are. You inquire about registration tax and she says it is all included in the import tax and you won't have to pay any more taxes.

 

32. Go home and book another appointment online for traffic dept. (earlier than previous appointment to avoid the bastards going for a coffee break again) and wait 3 days for appointment. 

 

33. Drive 30 mins to traffic dept, queue at the 'have an appointment' desk, get issued a number, sit and wait. Hand over all documents. Fill out more paperwork etc. Guy says that you now have to pay the registration tax (€95) FFS! But lo and behold! You can pay it there now with a credit card. Amazing new development that one.

 

34. Pay €95, receive your new Spanish registration cert. (log book). Almost there now. 

 

35. Go to an officially registered garage to have your registration plates made up (€36), fitting is extra, no thanks!

 

36. Go home with new plates and swap them for your Irish plates.

 

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37. (Optional) Go to fridge, open beer and enjoy! Repeat as necessary.
There you have it, only 2 visits to the test centre, 1 to the council, 3 to the bank, 1 to the embassy, 6 to tax offices, 2 to the traffic dept. and 1 to a garage. 
Only 36 steps in this 20-something not very simple step process! 

 

Keliuss

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I guarantee you the process would be different (similar but different) in different regions. One issue is that absolutely no-one along the way was much help beyond the scope of their own role in the process. They only know how to do their own job when you present them with everything they require to do it. Beyond that they don't know what's next and tend to give you misleading advice.

 

That most govt. departments where you need to pay for something won't accept a payment and send you to a bank instead, adds a lot of leg-work, mix-ups, and complications. Sometimes when you need to make some type of payment like this, there is a very specific form for that task and the bank staff can rarely find it. The digital age hasn't helped either as they can't find the form on the computer either.  

 

I read an article in the press over there a few years ago that focused on Spain losing out to Italy in the area of marriage tourism. Can't remember the exact figures but in Italy there were something like 170,000 foreign weddings the previous year that brought in so many millions of euro to the Italian economy. By comparison Spain had 167 in the same period. I didn't forget to type any extra zeroes there. One hundred and sixty seven. This was mainly attributed to their bureaucracy being too restrictive. Having married there myself I had to agree.

 

Keliuss

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Which is why Europeans are often in awe of the ability to get almost everything done in the post office all at the same time...

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3 hours ago, duncan-uk said:

And we wonder why the Spanish economy is screwed...

 

+1. 

 

What a totally inefficient way of doing things. 

 

But @Keliuss, I take my hat of to you for lasting till step 37 before resorting to any drink.  I couldn't have lasted that long.

 

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2 hours ago, 535i Andrew said:

But @Keliuss, I take my hat of to you for lasting till step 37 before resorting to any drink.  I couldn't have lasted that long.

 

You can leave your hat on Andrew lol. There would be quite a few extra steps if I mentioned all the beer involved in that odyssey. 

 

Keliuss

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That was an amusing read, thanks! I ferkin hate Spain, so won’t need to do the same .

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Haha - reminds me of when I was forced to register my E39 in Denmark.

Not as many steps for sure, but a LOT more expensive - and 14 days to do it all. 

 

Still worth it - all my colleagues (quietly) envious of my Bavarian chariot with the massive (30d) engine as they drive their leased Citroen C1s!

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The process in Portugal is not dissimilar to that in Spain. When I moved here permanently in 2002 I decided to matriculate my 18 month old 525d myself rather than pay an agent about £1000 for the privilege. One of the problems I encountered was that the rules changed as the process went along and additional certificates were needed to confirm that I did not owe any taxes here because I was applying for tax free importation under the change of residence concession. Because I purchased the car in Belgium originally and imported it into the UK I had the magic certificate of conformity which saved a lot of hassle but one oddity was that the vehicle inspection centre could not find the engine number so I had to pay the local BMW dealer €60 to dismantle various bits, gain sight of the number and give me a certificate confirming this. The paperwork had to go through Customs here but once I dropped into the conversation that I had worked for the UK Customs for 39 years  everything smoothed out and I was actually asked to explain a UK Customs document relating to the sale away yacht scheme which was sitting on the official's desk! Overall it took me about 6 months to complete the process and I had to keep the car for 5 years otherwise I would have been liable for repaying the import tax saved on a sliding scale. One of the benefits of running an older car here is that the equivalent of the UK road tax is €65 for my car whereas my wife's newer E88 costs €250

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@gibbo1998 should maybe consider an agent in Spain to do the donkey work, or at least enquire as to prices. I'm a glutton for punishment so went the DIY route. Clearly if I had to do it again it would be easier as I'm now familiar with the process.  While my OP was a long-winded rant, it was accurate. All the info is there, but in a nutshell:

 

1. Get the car inspected + extra "conform" test with CoC.

2. Pay road tax.

3. Pay import tax or apply for personal belongings exemption (time limited).

4. Pay registration tax.

 

I make it sound like a doddle there LOL, if only the reality was such.

 

Keliuss

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As a postscript to this topic it is not all bad news having a car in Spain or Portugal. I have just received the insurance renewal for my 2001 525d with 230000+ miles. The insured value which I have confirmed is the figure that the insurance company will pay out in the event of a total loss is 8500 euros. If Brexit really buggers things up for expats living in the EU and I had to come back to the UK, a quick fire would at least ensure that I had enough money to buy a good replacement!

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