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Importing a car to Spain – Our Story

Importing a car to Spain – Our Story

Removing the Towbar – 14 days

Having lived in the same village since we moved to Spain in 2005 we know our local mechanic pretty well, a good guy, honest with reasonable rates. We use him every year to ITV our car as it’s a far less stressful process simply paying him 30 euros than taking the car ourselves.

towbars in spain

This time however was different, despite what you read on the internet the process (or at least the steps) involved in importing a car from the UK are fairly straight forward – it’s the details, time and inconsistency that adds the complication so here we go…

Our Shogun had a towbar which we knew had to come off, we already had a guy arranged to sort out the ‘ficha tecnica reducida’ and we’d changed the headlights already. So, it was off to the mechanic to get to remove the towbar, a simple job that, if we’d had the tools ie: heat and leverage we could have done ourselves but an 18 year old towbar can be pretty stubborn.

Upon arrival he said it would be no problem although he had never seen twin electrics before – ever (not so many caravans in Spain) and then the conversation progressed… maybe the towbar could stay on, he’d have to speak to the head honcho at the ITV center and instead of getting a ficha tecnica/getting the Shogun measured we could simply request the COC from Mitsubishi.

This was never going to happen as grey imports don’t have a COC as they are not built for the EU market however he insisted that there may be a option for the towbar so we decided to let him find out.

Around day five he came back to us and told us what we knew already – that the car had to measured as there was no COC and the towbar had to go. Right, so can we get the towbar removed then? Three trips later and finally the towbar was off. This had to be done as the Shogun needed photographs for the ficha tecnica and would be a no go if the towbar was still on.

Importing a Car to Spain

Ficha Tecnica & the Engineer – 18 Days

On returning to our warehouse we took the images, threw them through lightroom and emailed them off to the tecnica feller who told us five days more or less to get the paperwork back which was required before we could take the car for its first and gloriously expensive ‘special’ ITV.

On the sixth day having heard nothing we contacted the engineer  who basically told us that matriculating the Shogun was not going to be possible however,  he seemed rather unsure about some of the details so he decided to contact the ITV center directly and discuss with them what exactly was required. Six hours later and the car could be matriculated, or at the very least ITV’d with a supplied engineers report.

However, in order to do this he would need to measure the car with a special instrument and create a report/diagrams etc. The next day he came and pulled out a Stanley tape measure, this was the special tool needed to measure the vehicle… We decided to offer up some sticks to try and make the job easier but there was no way in hell that any of the measurements he was taking would be remotely close to the manufactures. The whole procedure was both comical and concerning to say the least.

car ficha tecnica measuring
car ficha tecnica spain

I remember from plating a couple of Audis years ago that the process is pretty pointless as all the manufacturers dimensions are all detailed in the hand book anyway but it has to be done… After the measuring was finished there was a lengthy discussion about what the car actually was – is it a Shogun? Is it a Montero? Is it a Pajero?

Then the phone came out for photos – photos that had already been sent of each angle of the vehicle plus all the plates, stickers and numbers, twice, just for good measure. Upon leaving the engineer promised a report by the following Monday which did not have to be submitted to a ‘college’ for an official stamp, this time he was taking responsibility for the ‘project’ which ended up in assurances that if there were going to be any issues it would be at this stage and not later down the line (ie: Trafico refusing to issue registration)

ITV (visit 1)

The report comes in so it’s off to the ITV station to make an appointment – appointments for UK cars cannot (unlike Spanish registered cars) be made online so you have to visit the station in person.

We handed over the paperwork and waited 25 minutes before the boss man emerged from his office only to stop half way, spend a moment then do an about turn back to the office for another 10 minutes. Eventually he came out and advised us that one of the numbers on the ficha tecnica reducida was incorrect. Apparently there are two numbers that could be used and the technician had put down the wrong one.

Off we went home, called the technician and he then sent over another copy of the report, this time with the correct number. An appointment was made with the ITV station for Jan 11th (11 days after the UK was about to leave the EU)

To ITV or not to ITV?

During the entire process thus far we had read online via no less than five different sources including specialists in car registration that a UK (still in Europe at the time pre Brexit) vehicle MOT was recognised in Spain and you did not need an ITV for registering the car – this follows the Royal Decree of 2018, we double checked this with our gestor who agreed so off we went to see her paperwork in hand.

Upon arrival we were then informed that you do need an ITV to register a UK car in Spain, decree or not that was just the way it was, this is a classic case of that much bureaucracy that nobody really knows what is what at any given time.

It also emerged that the ficha tecnica was not the correct one and that a blue ficha tecnica was required which can only be gained from having an ITV in the first place.

The mechanic knocks on the door

Christmas week and our trusty mechanic knocks on the door, he had been to the ITV station and been collared by the boss man who’d asked if he knew the two brits with the Mitsubishi Shogun. It transpires that a window of opportunity had become available to get the car ITV’d the day before New Years Eve as he thought there might be complications or even if an ITV could be done at all after Brexit. Appointment confirmed.

Green Registration Plates in Spain

In the meantime the gestor gets back on and says that she is going to register the Shogun with Trafico on ‘green registration plates’. Green plates are a temporary measure to register a car in Spain while it being registered properly, a car may have run out of MOT, be declared SORN in the UK, or be awaiting repairs as a few examples.

In our case it was to get the car onto the Spanish system before Brexit and avoid paying the additional taxes involved with what would be an ‘International’ import after December 31st 2020.

importing a car to Spain

To ITV or not to ITV? (again)

We now have two ITV appointments but no original documents as the gestor has them (or even Trafico as far as we knew) copies are no good so we had to cancel our window of opportunity and wait for the green plates to arrive. Cancelling the appointment was in itself a huge task as nobody understood why we were getting green plates in the first place but we (or rather my better half) got there in the end even though it took much of the day and three long winded phone calls.

ITV (visit 2)

We waited for around an hour before the number came up allowing us to drive around the back of the test station, we were then advised only person was allowed in the car so Gayle did the honours whole I waited at the other end in anticipation of the result…

FAIL! When a car fails it’s ITV you have 28 days to get it fixed, if the fail is a ‘muy grave’ then this is really bad – ours was ‘muy grave’. To be honest I was not expecting the Shogun to pass first time, it was straight over from the UK with nothing done to it except checking the lights etc. On the last MOT there was an advisory for anti roll bar bushes, we’d swapped out the lights and  knew it had an aftermarket skid plate under the gear box, all of which  was expecting issued with of some description.

But no, the Shogun would have passed with flying colours except the tester could not find the chassis number [stamped in on the rear chassis rail]. I didn’t even know they would look for it as the chassis number besides from being on the car docs and the ficha tecnica drawn up by the engineer were all there.

Apparently no readable chassis number is ‘muy grave’, here’s me thinking that ITV’s were all about safety and being road-worthy. Anyway off we went with our fail sheet ready to find a chassis number under a mountain of old underseal.

ITV (visit 3)

Underseal removed revealed a partial of a very [and I mean very] faint chassis number, the last eleven digits were there so hey, it’s genuine right? We didn’t want to grind or wire brush any further as the numbers were hardly readable anyway so off we went again – through the whole process again, and again a fail, no chassis number that could be read.

ITV (visit 4)

Having returned home to grind some more we discovered more letters and numbers that you could barely see, one however either simply was not there anymore due to corrosion or could not be seen, the number was still incomplete, we phoned the ITV station to tell them and all they said was to bring the Shogun back.

Waiting again and the boss comes out to have a look, takes a few photos with his phone and tells that he’ll let it through even though the number is missing a digit. So, we go through again, the number that the boss just looked at is checked again and we drive out to do some more waiting.

PASS! Green sticker is put in the windscreen however all the paperwork was not ready so another trip was required. All in all the chassis number could still not be read in its entirety so it makes you wonder what the point of it was in the first place, common sense prevailed in the end [or they were simply sick of us]- BUT not without more paperwork as we were given a sheet to present to someone who stamps chassis numbers and for that we need to speak to Mitsubishi. Will leave that for another day. [update Feb 2022 getting another chassis number]

ITV (visit 5) TOTAL COST: €150,00

Back again, this time to pick up the paperwork required for the gestor and Trafico. Hopefully this will be the last time for 12 months.


Paperwork all delivered to our gestor who advises us that as soon as she gets the plates from Trafico we can go and pick them up.

Picking up the plates

Picking up the plates turned out to be just picking up the paperwork and learning of our new registration, a shiny new pamphlet in the glove box with everything we needed – fully legal!

The next step was back to our trusty mechanic where it all began five months earlier, he does [or can order] standard EU number plates so off we went to speak to him – a couple of days we were told…


How long did the process take?

blue mules transport

We started the whole process off on December 8th 2020 with the removal of the towbar. We finally received our number plates on March 14th 2021[total 12 weeks]

What was the total cost?

See cost breakdown below

Is this kind of thing usual in Spain?

Unfortunately yes it is, the EU has its rules ie: certs of conformity etc and Spain is over the top with paperwork and bureaucracy to a level which you can only understand after living here for a number of years. Everything takes time and many things make no sense, it’s just something you have to put up with. We knew what we were getting into when we decided to import the vehicle.

Did the grey market issue prove problematic?

Funnily enough no it didn’t, in fact it wasn’t mentioned throughout any of the process. This is probably down to us being lucky with Spanish inconsistency, another engineer, another ITV station and the story may have been very different.

Would you do it again?

Never. This is the third car we have registered in Spain and each time has been dramatically different. The introduction of Brexit and therefore additional tax and import duty have now made importing lower valued cars from the UK to Spain a less attractive option.

Any tips?

Allow plenty of time, go with the flow and don’t let the process stress you out otherwise you’ll end up a quivering wreck. Choose your engineer carefully – get one that has experience with vehicles [ours clearly didn’t and wrote up the report with errors four times]. Get a good gestor, again, preferably one that experience with Trafico and registration process. When it comes to headlights [although ours were never checked] they need to be genuine or homologated, cheap units on ebay, if flagged up will give you an ITV fail, for us the scrapyard was the way to go although not without risk you do however get genuine manufacturer lights.

Cost Breakdown:

  • Headlights: €220,00
  • ITV: €153,09
  • Technician: €140,00
  • Gestor: €50,00
  • Trafico [registration]: €480,00
  • Trafico [Green Plates]: €130,00
  • Green Plates: €24,00
  • Final Plates: €24,00
  • TOTAL: 1221,09

And that pretty much wraps it up, our experience will of course differ to others, this is simply what we came up against while registering our Shogun, our previous car was different again, much depends on the people you use, your ITV station and which way the wind is blowing on any given day…

Find out how we re-imported our car back to the UK.

1800 1197 Mac


K90overland is Mac and Gayle, they lived in Andalucia for 19 years before moving back to the UK. Overlanding since 2019 the pair have built up a 'budget rig' and now enjoy a relaxed approach to discovering Scotland and the north of England.


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