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Insurance in Spain Car Insurance

All about driving without insurance in Spain

November 9, 2023

The promise of a long weekend, wine country and a few friends brought together from all over Spain was making for the perfect fall getaway. I picked up our rental car in Madrid’s Puerta de Atocha train station, our designated meeting place, to drive the first leg to Logroño, the capital of the La Rioja region.

After traversing the A-1 motorway towards Burgos, the GPS told us to avoid tolls by taking the A-11. After a brief stop to eat in San Esteban de Gormáz, a medieval town set against a stunning landscape, I rounded a corner to see the Guardia Civil flagging me down for a routine traffic stop.

While I wasn’t ticketed for speeding, I was fined 100€ on the spot for driving without insurance and without a valid EU license and warned that new legislation was coming into effect that would have made penalties much, much steeper. In conclusion: driving without insurance and without a license in Spain was not a sound decision.

Driving without insurance in Spain, like most of the European Union, is illegal and can have serious consequences. Failure to provide proper automotive insurance coverage is not only a legal requirement but also essential for your safety and financial protection. 

ca driving without insurance in Spain

What are the legal implications for driving without insurance?

It goes without saying that driving without insurance in Spain is a violation of the law. All motor vehicles – including motorcycles and motor bikes - must have at least the minimum legally required insurance coverage. This is known as Seguro Obligatorio de Automóviles.

The insurance requirement is in place to protect not only the driver but also third parties who may be injured or suffer damage in a traffic accident – indeed, had I caused an accident without insurance, I would have had to pay all personal and vehicular damages out-of-pocket. Without insurance, you simply are not fulfilling your legal obligation to provide compensation in the event of an accident.

Are there potential penalties for driving without insurance?

Spain’s foremost English language road assistance and information site, N332.com, estimates that more than two million registered vehicles in Spain are operating without compulsory insurance. Cars must be insured, even if they are sitting in a garage at your holiday house.

So, yes, you may face severe penalties such as hefty fines, suspension of your driving privileges, and even the impoundment of your vehicle. Simply put, if your car is not insured, the fines start at 601€ and can cost up to 3,005€ - and that’s without causing an accident or any physical damage to a vehicle, person or property.

In the event of an accident, if you are found to be at fault and don't have insurance, you can be held personally liable for the costs of repairing other vehicles, medical expenses, tow, and other damages, plus legal fees for all involved parties. This can lead to significant financial repercussions. And if you’re not at fault for the accident (in this case, the motorist who caused the accident’s insurance would cover any physical damages), you would still be sanctioned, and your vehicle likely impounded.

More importantly, there are financial and penal risks, and they can be substantial, particularly if the costs you are responsible for exceed the cost of insurance premiums. Thus, your personal assets, including your savings and property, could be at risk if you're unable to pay for damages or injuries resulting from an accident.

Can I drive in Spain as a tourist without insurance?

No, this is both illegal and dangerous, as you’ve learned. If you’re a new resident in Spain, you should either validate your license at the Departamento General de Tráfico nearest to your place of residence or consider getting a local license. In general, EU/EEA member states

You can consult whether or not your license qualifies for an exchange on the Spanish administration’s website.

For instance, holders with a U.S.-issued license can use their state license for up to six months before they must complete the driver’s education course to obtain a Spanish license. Beware that you can be sold a car without valid insurance coverage; once you drive it off the lot, the risk is entirely your own.

I learned my lesson that blustery afternoon in San Esteban – three months later, I had my Spanish driving license in hand and shortly after, the keys to my first car. I shopped around for the right insurance, understanding that as an American, my entire driving record was essentially useless and that I would need to pay steeper rates for additional coverage as if I were a new driver.

The Importance of Proper Insurance Coverage

Automobile insurance not only helps you comply with the law but also provides financial protection. Depending on the type of coverage you choose, it can protect you against a range of potential risks, including accidents, theft, vandalism, and more.

Comprehensive insurance can also provide coverage for your own vehicle in the event of an accident, which can be essential for repair or replacement.

The vehicle in Spain, rather than the driver, is insured. This means you can add additional drivers, and policies can be transferred to another driver in the event of a sale.

Certain factors, such as age or residence or driving record, will affect your premiums, as well as the type of coverage you choose for your vehicle or any add-ons. These include:

In 2016, yearly car insurance premiums sat at 350€, just slightly above the European average, according to Insurance Europe.

car driving without insurance in Spain

Introducing Caser’s car insurance options

As one of Spain’s leading insurance companies, Caser Expat Insurance offers you comprehensive car insurance options to suit you, no matter if you’re a full-time resident in Spain or you have your holiday home here. In addition to the options listed above, Caser goes above and beyond by giving you a replacement vehicle and travel assistance from the scene of an accident or breakdown, the choice of where repairs are carried out in addition to their preferred partners, and a number of add-ons to full customize your plane. Get your personalize quotation in less than two minutes by clicking here.

You can also bundle coverage in the event that you have another policy with Caser, such as health or home insurance for the best price with unbeatable coverage.

The Takeaway

As you’ve learned, driving without insurance in Spain is illegal and can result in severe consequences, both legally and financially. To ensure your safety and protect yourself from financial liabilities, it's essential to have the proper insurance coverage for your vehicle. If you plan to drive in Spain, consult with an insurance expert to understand your specific needs and choose the right insurance policy that suits your situation and budget.

Download Free Guide:  How to Choose Car Insurance in Spain

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