Why? When the licence needs renewal (either about to expire or already expired): To comply with legislation that mandates that you should only renew you driving licence in your country of residence. So if you reside in Spain, you renew in Spain.
When? That depends on whether you are a EU or non-EU citizen and on the kind of licence you hold.
Update re Brexit: advice from the UK Government.
Self explanatory: you renew (obligatory exchange / renovar comunitario) your EU licence for a Spanish one when your licence is about to expire (up to 3 months before that).
But you could be required to renew sooner, after 2 years of residency, if your licence does not meet the requirements laid out in the ´2 year resident protocol´ as published by DGT/Trafico in December 2014.
1. If you hold a licence without expiration date, like the old paper only UK licences or the German, French or Belgium older ones. CAB Spain does not have any issue with the legality of this requirement.
2. If you hold a photo card licence, valid for 10 or 15 years before the photo has to be renewed and you have any of the categories C and/or D on them and on the back of the licence, their validity period has not been cropped to 5 or 3 years (holder under or over 65) but instead shows your 70th birthday or no end date at all.
CAB Spain has published several articles on the illegality of this requirement, but we fully understand the practicality of complying, to avoid fines. For more info, click this LINK.
All obligatory exchanges are treated as renewals (renovar comunitario) and require a medical.
You do NOT need to renew your EU licence for a Spanish one if it´s a photo card, in date and
Voluntary actions with regards to foreign driving licences:
Info canje non-EU but with convenio here.
How? This FAQ from our website describes the procedure, provides links to forms etc.
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