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Legal Considerations when buying a used car in Spain

Many of those who own a property in Spain also like to keep a car here as well as it gives them much more freedom to travel the country and visit places of interest.

In particular it is popular among foreign residents and non-residents buying a used car from a fellow countryman who previously lived in Spain and has decided to return to their country of origin. The purchase may therefore take place either in Spain or in your country of origin, sometimes via specialist dealers.

On a number of occasions these transactions have become problematic, and even financially disastrous, because the necessary procedure was not followed. Below we provide some advice if you are planning to acquire a car in this way.

Hire-Purchase Agreements

Firstly it is important to check if the person purporting to be the owner of said vehicle, actually is the owner, or at least has the authority to sell it to you.

You should be careful to ensure that there are no outstanding payments or restrictions on sale relating to the car.

This is important as a car could be subject to a hire-purchase agreement, with payments remaining.
Accordingly, until those payments are made, the hire-purchase company may demand payment of the remaining instalments or take possession of the car.

The existence of a hire-purchase agreement with respect to a car you are interested in purchasing can be checked at Tráfico, the Spanish government equivalent of the DVLA in the UK.

In general we would not recommend agreeing to purchase a car that has not been viewed and test-driven or indeed to offers that appear too good to be true – they usually are.

It is also usually a good idea to have a mechanic give the car a once over to confirm that the condition of the engine corresponds to the description provided by the owner.

Has the car passed it’s Spanish MOT?

Once you have verified those aspects of the car, it is advisable to buy or prepare a short contract of sale where the technical characteristics of the car are specified as well as any existing defects, the completion of any MOT (In Spanish – ITV: Inspección Técnica de Vehículos), time and date of the purchase, form of payment etc. You will need to make sure that you have seen and receive a copy of the previous owner’s identity document, or it can be difficult to register the vehicle in your name.

Once this has been taken care of, it is important to verify that the change in ownership has been inscribed in the relevant government department as well as ensure that the corresponding taxes are paid. Finally you will need to ensure that the car is insured – there are a number of companies offering services in English.

If these guidelines are followed, you should manage to avoid any nasty surprises connected with buying a second-hand car in Spain. Of course, you can always contact a lawyer to act on your behalf, and you will not need to worry about any of the details.

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