While it’s easy to travel around Spain via public transport, as Americans, we both wanted to have the freedom of our own cars. After passing the Spanish driving exam and purchasing our vehicles, we’ve been able to reach out-of-the-way destinations and avoid overpacked buses to the beach!
Our obsessions with Peuqeño Monty and Tibu kinda end there, though, as maintaining a motor vehicle in Spain turned out to be a lot more than we ever bargained for.
Apart from insurance payments and maintenance, all vehicles registered in Spain are required to pass vehicle inspections, adding another cost and nail-biting experience to the wonderful world of car ownership abroad. Called an Inspección Técnico de Vehículo (or, ITV for short), the Departamento General de Tráfico governs the exams that make your card roadworthy or not.
How often does my car need to pass the ITV?
- Once a car is four years old, inspections are every other year; once a car is ten years old, an annual inspection is necessary.
- If you have a motorcycle, the first inspection is done after five years, and every other year after that.
- Mopeds and smaller motorbikes will undergo the first test after three years, and then every two years hence.
- Vehicles that have been involved in a serous crash must also make a trip to the ITV to rule out more than just cosmetic damage.
How can I get an appointment?
While you can show up at any testing facility without an appointment, we wouldn’t recommend it – you could be faced with a long wait or worse – be told there are no available time slots that day. Every major city will have at least one facility. The easiest way to make an appointment is by Internet: simply Google ‘cita previa ITV’ + your city or province, or through this website.
You can also call your province’s telephone number, listed here.
Have your car’s license plate number, its matriculation date and its car frame number on hand. This information can be found in your car’s registration information, called the permiso de circulación.
What to expect
When your appointment day and time rolls around, show up at the assigned ITV center a few minutes early. You’ll need to park and head into the office where an automated ticketing machine will let you choose ‘cita previa‘ or ‘sin cita.’ Those who have booked in advance choose ‘cita previa‘ and select your assigned time and license plate number.
Then you’ll wait to be called to a desk where you will present documentation and pay for your inspection. You’ll need to bring the following documents into the office with you:
- insurance information
- your Tarjeta ITV
- ‘permiso de circulación‘
- a valid ID
The man or woman behind the desk will return all documents except your Tarjeta ITV, as the tarjeta will be attached to other documents and given to you to then pass on to your inspector once the revision begins. All drivers must pay the inspection fee in cash or by credit card. As of writing, the cost for vehicles was:
- Car: 37,90 euros
- Motorbike (up to level 5): 27,70 euros
- Motorcycle or Quad (levels 6 and 7): 33,50 euros
(these prices often fluctuate slightly between autonomous communities and even the type of gasoline you use)
Once you return to your car, you’ll need to wait for your license plate number to be called along with the lane number where your inspection will take place. No matter how big or small your ITV station, there will be at least one lane specifically for ‘turismo‘ and at least one for larger vehicles, like trucks and semis.
There are three stages to the vehicle inspection. In the first, you’ll be asked to honk your horn, switch on lights and wipers, check turn signals, break lights and emergency lights. The inspector will also examine your seat belts, check emission levels and have a look under the hood.
Next you’ll be asked to drive forward onto metal plates. Here, the inspector will go underground and check your car’s motor and alignment, asking you to move the steering wheel from left to right on his command. This process will repeat for the back tires as well.
Finally, your brakes and headlights are examined (this is where many people fail!). You’ll be asked to again drive onto a metal platform and put your car in neutral, then brake on command – first slowly, then pedal to the floor. This must be done on the back tires as well and to test the emergency brake.
Once the inspector has finished checking your car, you’ll park in a different area and wait to be signaled by your inspector for your paperwork to be returned.
What happens if I don’t pass?
Your car will receive one of three outcomes: favorable (pass), defectos leves (small defects) or defectos graves (large defects).
If your result is favorable, you’ll receive a new sticker, which should be placed in the upper right-hand corner of your windshield. The sticker carries the expiration date, so you’re set until your next ITV inspection or scheduled car maintenance.
If your car does not pass, a list of the faults will be outlined on a blue paper. By law, you have two months to sort out repairs and then pass a second inspection. The two-month cut off date will be printed on your blue form. Don’t worry about repeating the whole rigamarole again – rather, inspectors will only look at the listed faults once you have presented documentation in the office and been called.
If needed repairs are very serious, your car will likely need to be traded for scrap metal and you’ll have to take a taxi home. Speak to the inspector about your options.
Note that failure to present updated ITV paperwork could result in fines as high as 1,500€. Also remember that any car that has been previously registered in another country must pass an ITV exam before being registered in Spain through the Departamento General de Tráfico.