John Bassett

How to buy and register a car in France

3 min read


If you’re thinking of moving to France and driving a car in your new home country, 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 secondhand bargain, there are a few good places to start your search:

AutoScout24 La Centrale leboncoin ParuVendu

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 nearby car 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 thea 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 (three parts), which should be completed and signed by the person that owns the car. A copy of the document should be posted to the local Prefecture within 15 days of the date of the sale. A document that certifies that 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 check that’s been conducted at least six months before the date of the sale. The seller doesn’t need to provide this is 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 ID). You’ll need this when you go to the local prefecture with the seller. Complete their part of the certificate of transfer (certificat de cession). Re-register the used car within a month of the purchase. Bringing your car to France If you want to keep your UK wheels, you’ll need to apply for a Carte Grise (certificat d’immatriculation) to avoid getting into trouble with the French police. This must be done within thirty days of entering France. You can apply in your local prefecture.

To apply, you’ll need:

Passport or ID. Proof of French address. Vehicle registration document issued by the UK authorities, or an export certificate 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. MOT certificate.

If you plan to register your UK car in France, it’s best to get your MOT check in the UK before you move. France accepts British MOT certificates if they’re no more than six months old before you come to France. 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 cough up for the headlight adjustment. Or you can replace them with secondhand 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 cost more than the car itself.


Moving abroad is exciting but it can be pretty overwhelming, too. 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 (October 2019). It could change depending on the outcome of Brexit.

Final thoughts

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