Life can be a bitch. Problems and tragedies happen to all of us and just when we think that the corner is being turned, wham there we go again. Hindsight has 20/20 vision but sometimes with planning we can avoid the slings and arrows of this life

On occasion I have assisted customers in getting their UK registered cars out of police compounds as the vehicle has overstayed its welcome in Spain. Generally it hasn’t been too difficult to release the car so when I had a call from an Englishwoman, a senior citizen, to rescue her car I was expecting no particular issues; how wrong I was

After travelling for an hour and a half, I met the lady in her town. She had been saving hard for a trip of a lifetime the other side of the world to see her daughter and grand children. The last thing that she needed was worry and more expense, but this is what she got. Her car had been impounded as the UK tax disc was out of date and incurring storage fees of €10 per day. We went to the Policia Local which had impounded the car

Illegal in the UK so illegal in Spain

Because the car was “illegal in the UK due to an out of date tax disc, it was illegal in Spain”, so it could only be driven back to the UK or re-registered. “OK, I am here to re-register it” I said, “so if you release the car to me I will get on with it”. “The car cannot be driven without a UK tax disc or Spanish registration” repeated the officer “so you cannot take it from the compound”. “Well I need to pass it through the ITV station first and cannot do that unless I can drive it”. The officer shrugged and said “It’s your job, your problem, you sort it”

We could have had it trucked to and from the ITV station, but the cost would have been horrific. The lady could not tax the car in the UK on line because her MOT had ran out; glad that the police hadn’t twigged this or more grief would undoubtedly have followed

The only solution was to take out provisional registration on green plates, something that I have never needed to do before. Firstly we had to pay the registration/import tax at the Hacienda then a few visits to Trafico who were a little bemused by it all. As the owner was by now in the antipodes I met the lady’s solicitor armed with the provisional papers and plates at the Policia Local so that he could pay all of the fines and fees to release the car. We were told to come back between 22.00 and 06.00 as the shift responsible for towing the car away would be on duty then. The solicitor who was a local agreed to do this.

A few days later I called the solicitor to advise him that I was coming to collect the car. “Incredible, it has no insurance” he said. “Incredible” I thought that he hadn’t mentioned that the car had not been collected before now. The car had insurance so I faxed it to him and late that night he called me to say that the Policia will not accept the insurance as it did not show the temporary Spanish registration, so the owner had to take out insurance for temporary registration and change the policy once full registration has been achieved
Keystone Cops?

The solicitor, my colleague Leigh and I met at the Policia again, yet more confusion as it could only be dealt with by the officer in charge of impounding, despite the station being full of officers with lumps of brass on their shoulders. The officer in question duly arrived half an hour later. We were all incredulous that the whole situation revolved around one person; whatever happened to systems and organisation? Even the solicitor commented “and to think we pay these people”. Once the right man arrived things moved on without fuss; so we went to sign for and collect the car with a final twist when we were asked to surrender the “yellow plates” for destruction; it took me a while to twig that they meant the UK plates; they were not taking any chances of the car continuing to be illegal

So off to get Spanish headlights; the tyres are marginal too, so more emptying of purses before the engineer’s inspection and ITV

This is an extreme case and I add that in my dealings with various police forces in Spain I can say that this particular force is not typical.

Accepting that the lady owner had greater priorities in her life, what could she have done differently? The obvious is to have re-registered her car before it became a target by allowing the road tax to run out (removing the out of date disc may have made her more obvious)

Staggering the costs

The costs of re-registering could have been staggered by changing the headlights before saving up for the next stage. A periodic check on the tyres would have allowed her to have these changed before they became worn and dangerous. The ITV inspection could then have been carried out with the fees and taxes being paid later after more saving up. Instead, she has paid for a grua, daily impound charges exacerbated by her passive solicitor, a fine, additional cost of temporary registration; all extra amounts that would have been avoided had she re-registered her car “as she always meant to do”

Many people bury their heads in the sand over re-registration and some get away without bothering for quite some time; this story may save some of them a lot of grief and unnecessary expense in the future. Finally I have not concocted this story to drum up business and I acknowledge that it is an extreme case, but forewarned is forearmed