If you look at the back of your driving licence you will see a list of vehicle categories determined by both a letter and a pictogram indicating the type of vehicle referred to. The license also displays dates next to those categories for which you are permitted to drive, in the columns headed 10, 11 and 12, which detail validity from and to dates and any observations respectively.
The vast majority of drivers in Spain have a category “B” licence, which means they are certified as qualified to drive a normal passenger car, but being qualified in that category also allows you to drive some other vehicles.
As a category B licence holder you are permitted to drive specially designed passenger cars, for private use, ranging from a small urban car, an SUV, minivan or sports car. There is no limitation to the type of vehicle, so long as it is registered as a private car, but there are limitations to the physical characteristics. Namely, a private car must be equal to or less than 3,500 kg in weight and can have a maximum of nine seats, including the driver. The vehicle can only be driven for private and leisure use and not for any commercial gain, whether that be for business or carrying passengers in exchange for cash or goods.
In the case of vans, you can drive any van in which either passengers, goods or both can be transported, whether that vehicle is approved as a private or commercial vehicle, so long as it has a maximum weight equal to or less than 3,500 kg and no more than nine seats including the driver.
For both cars and vans you can also attach a trailer with a category B licence, provided the total combined weight of the vehicle and trailer do not exceed the maximum weight permitted by the technical specifications of the vehicle.
In the case of passenger cars, there are two options allowed under a category B licence. Firstly, a passenger vehicle of up to up to 3,500 kg and a trailer not exceeding 750 kg, representing a maximum combined weight of 4,250 kg. Or a passenger car (up to 3,500 kg) and a trailer exceeding 750 kg, provided that the combination does not exceed 3,500 kg.
If the trailer exceeds 750 kg and the joint between car and trailer exceeds 3,500 kg but not exceeding 4,250 kg, it is necessary to take two specific practical tests which covers vehicle manoeuvres and dealing with traffic.
If the trailer exceeds 750 kg and the joint between car and trailer also exceeds 4,250 kg, it is necessary to obtain a BE category certification, which enables a passenger car to tow up to 7,000 kg, spread over 3,500 kg maximum weight for the car and 3,500 kg maximum weight for the trailer. This requires both a theoretical test and two practical tests, one of manoeuvres and the other in traffic.
However, in addition to what we might consider to be the normal vehicles one would expect to be able to drive with a category B licence, but there are others.
You are permitted to drive some two-wheeled vehicles with the category B qualification. Having the “B” category automatically qualifies licence holders for the AM category. That permits drivers to ride small mopeds with engines smaller than 50cc or an electric motor, provided that the vehicle has a maximum limited speed of 45 kilometres per hour and they are only ridden on urban roads.
After holding your category B licence for a period of 3 years, you are automatically upgraded to be allowed to drive vehicles requiring the A1 category, which permits you to drive small motorcycles up to 125 cc and with a maximum power of 11 kW (15 hp). However, you must be aware that this is only the case in Spain. This automatic classification is not effective in other European countries without obtaining the A1 classification qualification separately. That is why, even if your license is issued in Spain, you will not see the validity dates filled in on the back of the licence unless you have undergone specific examinations. In the event of a category B licence holder riding a 125cc motorbike and getting stopped to have your details checked at the roadside, the Guardia Civil traffic officers will refer to the dates of your category B validation to ensure you qualify.
With the category B license you are permitted to drive three-wheeled bikes or tricycles, provided that two of the three wheels are on the same axle. There are no limitations in terms of power, the only condition is that the manufacturer has had the vehicle approved as a tricycle and not as a three-wheeled motorcycle. The difference is that the tricycle requires specific approval and must have certain standard characteristics including a parking brake, minimum track width and lighting specific to this type of vehicle. If the vehicle does not meet these characteristics then they are subject to the conditions of licencing for motorcycles. A motorcycle with a sidecar for example is not classed as a tricycle and is governed by motorcycle licencing requirements.
All microcars and vehicles which have been approved as quads can be driven with the category B licence. This includes two categories of light quadricycle (with a maximum weight of 350 kg and maximum power of 4kW) and normal quads that can reach up to 550 kg maximum and up to 15 kW (20 hp). The four-wheel buggy type vehicle of more than 15 kW can also be driven, so long as they are classed as passenger cars. You can also drive quads or ATVs, whether of leisure or agricultural type and regardless of engine size or power.