Importing a car into Andorra

We moved to Andorra in the summer of 2011.  I'd bought a 1 year old Land Rover Discovery 3 car with left hand-drive the summer before, with the prior knowledge that I could import it into Andorra when we gained residency as it would be less than 3 years old (or certainly less than 5 which is a special exemption that they give to car owners that are changing their residency, even if things did drag on a bit...).

I had the V5 Registration document, and the invoice from the dealer that I bought it from.  What could possibly go wrong?

The car was 2nd hand, so there was no VAT to consider or claim back.  The price I got from the dealer was a good one, and I didn't want to buy new, as you can generally get a excellent car for a serious discount if you are prepared to have one with a couple of tens of thousands of kilometres on the clock.

If you are bringing in a new car you should look at this blog [update:JAN-17 now deleted but available via wayback machine; information maybe getting outdated too] entry, but don't forget about ensuring you have a CoC.... read on to find out about that....

I was so confident that I didn't bother doing anything about the importation until April 2012.  My first mistake.

Andorra give you one year from arriving to get the thing imported so I figured that I had 5 months or so to get it done.

I went down to the ITV station in Sant Julia fully expecting for them to take a few Euros off me and grant me a positive inspection.  But no.  The guy there told me that a) the lights were probably wrong b) that I needed some European homologación number or contraseña.

They checked the lights, which were fine, but came unstuck with this code, which they were expecting to find somewhere on the metal plates.  It is a long code number beginning with an "e". Anyway I said, I'll just ring Land Rover in the UK and get them their number.

On returning home I called Land Rover and the lady told me it would be £100 please give me the VIN.  So I trotted that off.  "Sorry, that car does not have Certificate of European Conformance."   Doh!   So now what.  Anyway several hours of internet research ensued.

It turns out that manufacturers of mass produced cars issue a type-certificate when they are producing cars, but my car, which was originally produced for the Russian market (it is left hand drive and had a zone 5 DVD player - so that explains a lot), and by some convoluted means via Holland and back to the UK was sold to me in Spain, and then ultimately I hoped, for use in Andorra, did not have one from LR because it was destined for outside of Europe.

Andorra is not part of the EU customs union, but they insisted that this car have a rather unfortunately named CoC or Cerficate of conformance, before they would give me the ITV,  which is the equivalent of a UK MOT test certificate.

I guess they are just assuming that a car that conforms to EU standards is good enough for them.  Fair enough.

OK, a bit more internet digging and I found a few places that appeared to sell CoCs online. EuroCoC for example. Great,  except that unless you have a manufacturer issued CoC originally, they can't help.

Yet more digging and it turns out that the UK will have issued an IVA/SVA  Individual Vehicle Approval for this car, as it has UK plates.   So I look at the log book, and lo-and-behold there is a typed reference to a IVA/SVA being issued in June 2009 (when the car was new, and registered in the UK).

So I take this to the chap down at ITV and he says that's not good enough, but he does know somewhere in Spain that I can take the car to get it tested.  It's in Tarragona - where we used to live, and return often, so I think well maybe I just take the car there to get tested, come back with the new certificate and job done. They are called IDIADA.

I think maybe I try to retrieve this old IVA Certificate too, so I call VOSA in the UK and they tell me that after one year, they send everything to DLVA Swansea.  So I call them, and they tell me after negotiating their IVR press 8 if 7 etc. blah blah... that they don't have it.

So I call IDIADA in Tarragona.  Their test is going to be 1700 Euros + Spanish IVA at 20%.  I nearly faint. So with renewed vigour I call DVLA back and tell them I want them to try harder with this certificate that they have some place.

This time they tell me that any documents that they have for the car will be on microfiche somewhere and I need to fill in a V888 form, send a fiver, and they will get digging.   So that's what I do. It takes 6 weeks.

If you do this, I recommend you send a postal order, as it means they don't have to wait until your cheque clears before they do anything.

So an anxious time for me as I wait for DVLA to dig around and see what they got.

In the meantime I'm aware that I still need to actually import the car before the 1 year time limit expires. Time is ticking on now and so are the summer holidays when nothing will get done. So we go to see the people at "tramits" industria i vehicles down at Baixa de Moli, near the roundabout beyond the Govern.  Very helpful chap there says that they not concerned about the year limit as long as I have a "Papel de Vall", meaning the thing has passed the Duana stage.  No problem I've still got time.

5 weeks later a poorly photocopied image of the VOSA IVA certificate arrived.  The signature of the tester has been blanked out because of the Official Secrets Act or somesuch, but it clearly shows my VIN number, some text that says "this vehicle can be registered in all member states with left hand drive and speedometer in kilometres   which is fine, and also sports the very important official stamp.  All documents you ever need to produce here, by the way, definitely need some sort of stamp to have any official credence..

So I again full of expectation clear off to the ITV.  The young boss guy seems intrigued by my scrappy IVA certificate, but a guy in blue overalls who clearly was having a very bad day soon passed on the depression to me.  "No, we want a Spanish Certificate of Conformance."  I pointed out this was a European test and my little document does say "Valid in All Member States", but his day was so cloudy he could see nothing.

I thought I'd see my mate at Tramits about this rejection.  He said it was a matter for his boss.  So there I am in the car park with the hood up talking to an Andorran Government Official.  I question why they are asking me to get a Spanish certificate  when I already have one from the UK.  Andorra is not part of Spain, so why choose them?  Why not a French one for example.  Just seemed a bit "computer says no" to me, and of course there was the small matter of 2000 Euro that would have be shelled out to gain one of these said documents.

She will look at it for me.  I get home, I hope she's asked some really knowledgeable people about this, and they've come to the correct (for me) decision.  I read my email.  "The Andorran government will only accept certifications from these two Spanish Agencies."   So she's basically contacted the ITV guys and now she's trotting that back out to me.  Double Doh.   The other agency is one in Madrid, that do the same as the Tarragona lot.

I really need to go down to the Spanish border (because I've seen a row of Import/Export companies down there, and it just seems busier than the French side) to get this "Papel de Vall".   I have a V561 which was generated for me by DVLA (it came very fast, as I faxed the request), maybe a week to Andorra.  You can use the V5, but knowing how these people work, more paper is better and something that says "Export Certificate" is definitely going to be a "good-thing".

One thing that a lot of people involved in this process don't realise is that if you have owned the car for more than 6 months prior to moving to Andorra you do not have to pay the import tax currently 8,4%.  Even the customs officials at the Duana wanted to hit me for the money.  Luckly my friend at Tramits had made it clear you do not have to pay.  And he's clearly further up the food-chain, so stand your ground if you find yourself in a similar situation.

OK, so the guy at the Duana tells me I need to visit one (any one) of these cabins by the Duana.  They tell me I need a Certificat de Exportacion.   I show them by V561 which in big letters on it says "Certificate of Export",   shaking heads.  No you need a "Certificat de Exportacion."   Again plenty of banging head against the wall opportunities.

In desperation I ring my neighbour Jane who has been here 25 years, married an Andorran, and has gone pretty native.  She helps people out that are completely new to Andorra, and/or have no Spanish or Catalan.

This is where things to start to change, albeit slowly, for the better.

She knows my problem, and is aware of a way round.  Via the French border and a compliant Duana agency.  It turns out the Spanish side are looking for this document which shows you have removed your vehicle from the Spanish vehicle registry....  clearly something that is not possible with a UK registered car!

At 8.30 we go in convoy with a camper van owned by a hilarious Irishman to the French side.  A hour or so of coffee and waiting and nervous sweating and Jane comes back with the long awaited "papel de vall", zero import duty paid, just a couple of hundred to the agency for some hefty pen pushing.

I explain my woes with my lack of CoC... yeah.   She says "Why don't you just go to Costa and get him to do it."  This is a really good idea.   There I am struggling along with my limited Spanish and non-existent Catalan trying to figure out what's going on.  I should just play the game and let him sort it out.

I then had to go to India for a month for work.

I came back at the end of August.  I go see Costa.  He says "I will get the ITV, don't worry".  But I explain it might not be so easy.  He's confident.   I leave it with him.

I figure if I can get the IDIADA (the Tarragona 2 grand Euro guys - see above) or INTA the Madrid agency, in an email, to agree that my UK IVA is equivalent to whatever they will be giving me... then I can go back to the people here and say "look the people in Spain say it's the same, so what gives...."  or something on those lines.

So I start emailing, which is much better because I have Google Translate on my side, thus avoiding those frowns and queried/frowning-looks from people as I butcher their language.  After about 5 or 6 exchanges, I have an email that says "In this case, we would ask the manufacturer [Land Rover] to produce a technical document detailing the requirements of [the Spanish law implementing the European Conformance legislation]."  OK, so movement there, they don't want to see the car, they just want something from LR giving the performance figures, the safety standards etc. that the car possesses.... and then they will issue a certificate.  By no means home and dry, but at least there is a Plan B.

Two days later I go back to Costa.  He's not so confident.  "We are having a meeting to decide if you can register the car here or not."  He's not in his usual mechanics overalls but has trousers and smart shoes.    He's going to see the Govern.  What a star.

The next day I go to see him.  He's not there, but I know something's happened.  One of his boys tells me what he think that Costa is actually a policía encubierto - "undercover policeman".  And sure enough I go in the office and there is a duly stamped and signed ITV.

The rest was plain sailing, take the whole lot V5, Passport, Andorran Insurance (much cheaper that Spanish or UK insurance by the way), ITV document (note down the contraseña, for they will ask for the homologation document) another couple of hundred Euros, then wait a couple more days, and you can get the Yellow Card, and go collect the new plates from the Andorra AA (next to what is now previously Hiperandorra).

In case your wondering, I gave Costa a bottle of the finest bubbly I could find in Escale.  He deserves more I guess, but he has got a customer for life.

Postscript:  I've just found something that makes this all this much much clearer.  I was just adding links to the text and noticed something.  I noticed that both the IDIADA and the websites redirect to a subpage one and the other  which struck me as similar, on closer inspect the colours are very similar and also the use of ..:: name of company ::.. format in the title.

I did joke much earlier in the process to my wife that the boss of the ITV company here was probably related to the IDIADA lot.  How wrong I was,  it is actually the same company!  This explains why they were so keen for me to get a "Spanish" European conformance....   and then provided me with their sister companies contact details (er.. 2 grand Euro please - kerching!), whilst not mentioning any connection... and then completely refused point blank my subsequently found UK VOSA issued certificate.

I better stop now because Andorra is a very small place...

Good luck with your Importation!


  1. Wow Karl what a story. I'll bet you are still king of Andorra in that massive Discovery.

  2. Loved this commentary and story. What a nightmare!


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