John Bassett

How to buy and register a car in France

4 min read


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__If you’re thinking of moving to France and owning a car, there are a few things to keep in mind. The biggest difference is that French steering wheels are on the left-hand side of the car, and people drive on the right-hand side of the road. __

However, you might want to keep your British right-hand drive car – either to save money or because you can’t bear to part with it. If that’s the case, it’s not a big problem – you’re allowed to drive your right-hand car in France. But it’s not necessarily the safest option. Driving a left-hand drive car will make it easier for you to turn, overtake and use roundabouts, so you’ll be safer behind the wheel. Whatever you choose to do, we’ve got some tips to help.

Buying a car in France

The car buying process in France is pretty much the same as in the UK. If you want to pick up a second hand bargain there are plenty of places online to start your search.

If you’d rather skip the Internet and go old school, check out L’Argus magazine – it’s probably the most important car publication in France. In fact, insurance companies trust it when they process claims and premiums. Other options include the classified ads of the local newspapers or the forecourts of nearby garages.

Buying a used car from a dealer means that they’ll handle the paperwork. If you buy from a private seller, you need to be careful not to miss any of the required documents. Check out the list of papers below that you and the seller will need to finish the sale.

The seller should provide:

  • A certificate of transfer and document of sale (Certificat de Cession) in triplicate, which should be completed and signed by you and posted to the local Prefecture within 15 days of the date of the sale.
  • A document that certifies the car is not being held as security against a loan, or that there is no legal problem for the sale (Certificat de Situation Administrative).
  • Proof of an MOT (Contrôle Technique) that’s been conducted in the last six months before the date of the sale. The seller doesn’t need to provide this if the car was made in the last four years.
  • The vehicle’s registration document (Certificat D’Immatriculation) with the words ‘Vendu le…’ plus the name of the seller and the date of the sale in indelible ink.

The buyer should:

Provide proof of address and passport (or other valid ID). You’ll need this when you go to the local prefecture with the seller. Complete the part of the certificate of transfer (certificat de cession). Make sure to re-register the used car within a month of the purchase.

Bringing your car to France

If you want to keep your UK wheels and you are planning to stay in France for six months or longer as a resident, you’ll need to apply for a Grey Card (Carte Grise Certificat D’Immatriculation) to avoid getting into trouble with the French police. This must be done within thirty days of entering France and you can apply in your local prefecture. Once accepted, your car will be given a French registration number and plates. Failing to follow this procedure is considered very serious under French law.

To apply, you’ll need:

  • Your passport or other valid ID.
  • Proof of French address, such as a utility bill in your name.
  • Vehicle registration document issued by the UK authorities, or an export import tax certificate (Certificat de Régularité Fiscal). You can get this document at your local tax service office (Centre D’Impots) if you bring all your UK car documents.
  • A certificate of conformity (Attestation D’Identification) from the vehicle manufacturer, to ensure you car’s technical specs conform with French requirements.
  • MOT certificate.

If you plan to register your UK car in France, it’s best to get your MOT check done in the UK before you move. France accepts British MOT certificates if they’re no more than six months old upon arrival. Plus, it’ll save you the hassle of sorting the MOT when you arrive.

The most difficult and expensive part of importing your car is changing the headlights, which stops you from dazzling oncoming drivers. You’ll need to visit a French car mechanic and pay for the headlight adjustment, or simply replace them with second hand headlights from another car.

The Carte Grise can also be pricey, depending on your car. It’s a one-off fee calculated according to your vehicle’s CO2 emissions and the area where you live. If you’ve got an old banger, the Carte Grise might be more than the car value itself.

Moving abroad is exciting but it can be pretty overwhelming. We’d love to help you secure a new car in France by transferring your funds – with great exchange rates and minimal fees. Get in touch if you have any questions.

*The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing (February 2020). It could change depending on what is agreed between the UK and the EU during the 2020 transition period.

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