Driving your Spanish car in the UK

The Covid-19 lockdown in Spain and the urgent need to return to the UK by one means or another is causing UK residents to consider driving back to the UK using their Spanish registered vehicles. This is not necessarily a good option.

The basic rule is: If you are a resident in the UK, you cannot drive a non-UK car in the UK.

You are at risk of the police confiscating your car, which might be destroyed, unless you can prove you are not a UK resident, or you are working in another EU country, and spend more than 6 months (185 days) per year outside of the UK.

See extract from this article driving.co.uk/news/illegal-foreign-cars-have-nowhere-to-hide-in-police-clampdown/: POLICE CONSTABLES James Burt and Jay Hussain have become something approaching legends in their own canteen lunchtime. Given new powers to fight crime on British roads, the pair have seized 75 cars in the past three months, making them one of the most feared road police partnerships in the country. Their record is 10 busts in one 12-hour shift.

If you are a resident of Spain (or any other EU country), a police officer might decide to regard you as a resident of the UK if you are carrying documents that are indicative of you being a UK resident. These include having a UK driving licence or UK debit cards in your wallet. The solution is to make sure you carry documents that prove without doubt Spanish (or any other country) residence. For Spanish residents it is easy to get a certificate from the Spanish tax office that states this.

If you are not a UK resident, then you can drive a non UK car for at most 6 months (per year), but your car does need to have valid MOT and Insurance from the originating country, which you have to prove to the officer in case it’s needed.

You may also have to prove that you are not driving the car for more than 6 months (for example if you show him the ferry / tunnel ticket). Every day your car is in the country counts, so if you leave the country, but the car is still there, it’s still counts towards the 6 months (as your ferry/tunnel ticket is still showing the date). Exiting and re-entering the country won’t reset the 6 months (although you will have a fresher ferry/tunnel ticket, so it becomes easier to prove you just arrived to the country)

There are only three possible options for a UK resident to drive a non-UK car completely legally:

  1. If the car is not yours and the registered owner is not a UK resident and is sitting in the car you are driving.
  2. The car is registered in the name of an EU based company, and you are working for that company. This is regulated by EU rules on using EU-registered cars in other countries.
  3. If the car is on a lease in an other country (for example it’s a car hired from France)

Note: This means that if you are a UK resident and you want to import your non-UK car, you cannot drive it even to get it’s MOT and registration, you have to tow it around, or ask someone who can legally drive it (e.g. a non-UK resident).

If you are a UK resident and have to get back to the UK and you have absolutely no other other option then perhaps the simplest solution is leave the car in a long stay car park close to a Eurostar station or a French ferry port.

This information was forwarded to Spence Clarke by a reliable source and verified by reference to the UK licencing authority website: https://www.gov.uk/importing-vehicles-into-the-uk and UK newspaper articles.

Spence Clarke & Co specialises in the provision of Spanish tax, legal, audit and accountancy services, mainly to foreigners with interests in Spain. Our cross-border knowledge helps clients adapt to the Spanish system with the minimum of doubt and disruption. If you have any questions about this article or any other matter contact us, with no obligation, to see how we can help you.