If you intend to live in France for more than six months (in any twelve-month period), the vehicle must be formally registered in France and plated with a French registration number.

The fact that some expatriates drive around in France with foreign plates that they should have changed reflects a failure of enforcement rather than a failure of the law. This is a huge risk because the insurer may refuse any claim if the vehicle is involved in an accident. Furthermore, especially for those with UK-plated vehicles traveling to the UK, you risk having your vehicle impounded by customs authorities, who will require you to complete importation formalities before returning it to you. We are aware of a number of such instances.

However, unless you are a permanent resident of France or can demonstrate that you are about to become a resident, your tax office is unlikely to issue you a tax certificate for importing a foreign-registered car. We are aware of numerous instances where non-residents have been denied a tax certificate.\

Buying A Car In France Is Expensive

“For starters, buying a foreign car in the UK, US, or Dubai is significantly more expensive. A comparable car in the UK can cost up to twice as much in France. It’s also true that the spec in the UK/US is typically higher, with more sporty options.

There are additional considerations. Because of the government-led push toward French-made vehicles in France, Peugeot and Renault’s prices are extremely competitive when compared to foreign makes. People also keep their cars for longer periods of time. As a result, the used car market is frequently overstocked with early models and high mileage. Cars work harder here because public transportation is scarce in rural areas. As a result, a car is regarded as a functional necessity rather than a luxury item.

There’s a lot to be said for familiarity when it comes to automobiles. If you like your car and know you won’t be able to buy it for the same price once you’ve moved, it makes sense to bring it with you. However, the European administration makes it difficult. That can be a turn-off for a lot of people. Connections to France HCB operates in France and Italy, and each country’s situation is unique. They have their respective set of rules and regulations for importing and registering a foreign vehicle. There is a significant amount of red tape. There is also a long list of documents that you must provide at each stage of the process. It’s often said, “What you need is patience!”

Registering A Car In France

To complete the formalities in France, you must be officially registered as a taxpayer online. If you’re new to Europe, you’re unlikely to have already paid taxes here. Fortunately, it is legal for someone else to register on your behalf. This is one of the services provided by French Connections HCB.

The online registration platform for your foreign vehicle could be more user-friendly. For example, only certain PDF sizes are acceptable. And the ‘quitus fiscal’ (the certificate confirming VAT tax clearance for your vehicle) is frequently delayed.

A fiscal quitus can be obtained only if your UK-registered vehicle arrives in France before December 31, 2020. If it arrives after that date, you must go through customs to obtain a ‘certificat de dĂ©douanement’ in order to register your car here.

Most Prefectures require a conformity certificate, which only the vehicle’s manufacturer can issue. Some Prefectures require it to be done in French. If that is not possible, the DREAL (Direction RĂ©gionale Environnement AmĂ©nagement Logement) is the only organization in France authorized to carry out the inspection. Fortunately, an office is located in every region of France.”

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Registering A Classic Car In France

Classic cars add another layer of complication because the manufacturer required to issue the conformity certificate may no longer exist. In those cases, French Connections HCB works with the FFVE (FĂ©dĂ©ration Française des VĂ©hicules d’Époque) as long as your car is more than 30 years old. They can issue a French document instead of the usual Certificate of Conformity. They also deal with vintage motorcycles.

Help With Registering Your Car Or Bike In France

If this is your first time and you are still getting familiar with the process, you should speak with an expert company like French Connections HCB. They handle car import, transportation, and registration inquiries daily, so they can offer support and guidance or even handle the entire process for you. It takes approximately three months from start to finish, so they are happy to divide the cost over those three months at no interest. In addition, they provide a money-back guarantee.

People frequently inquire if we also service motorcycles. But if it has wheels and you want to bring it to France, Italy, or Portugal, French Connections HCB can help!

If you need to ship your car to France from another country, you can do so through an International Shipping company such as Ship My Car or CFR Rinkens. Furthermore, if you want to avoid driving your vehicle through France at first, Pop Valet will collect and deliver it door to door using their fully trackable service. Fab French Insurance offers extremely competitive premiums for people bringing cars in from abroad.”

Bringing A Car To France And Registering It There

Let’s take a closer look at how to register a car in France. This section covers car registration in France and obtaining a Carte Grise (Certificat d’Immatriculation).

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A Car Is Usually Essential In France

You can finally relax once you’ve waded through all the paperwork, signed every sheet of the sale documents, and initiated a thousand more pieces of legal paper. You’ve purchased a home in France and are excited to begin your new life as an expat (Living in France). But, before you unwind completely, have you considered purchasing and registering a car? Almost everyone requires one these days, and with so many of us moving to the French countryside, or at the very least to small market towns, a car is as necessary as a home. And it must be registered, though it should be noted that if you are bringing your car from the UK to France, you can keep your UK license and plates for a limited time.

When Registering A Car In France, You Must Obtain A Carte Grise (Gray Card) And New French License Plates

To be clear, what you are attempting to acquire by registering your car in France is a carte grise, but with a new registration number for the car, which you can then use to purchase new French number plates.

Please keep in mind that a carte grise is now formally known as a Certificat d’Immatriculation (Registration Certificate), despite the fact that the term carte grise is still widely used.

Registering A Car In France Will Involve A Lot Of Paperwork

Of course, you knew you’d need a car and that you’d have to register it. It’s just that it paled in comparison to the monumental task of purchasing a home. Surely, registering a car cannot be that difficult? No, it usually isn’t. It would be best if you remembered in everything you do from now on that you are in France, and things are done differently here. For one thing, where one piece of paper would suffice in the UK, a minimum of twenty will be required in France. France is drowning in paper, and registering your car is just another drop in the bucket. You’ll be fine as long as you’re prepared for it and complete the paper chase on time.

Should You Bring Your Old Car To France Or Buy A New One?

The most important decision you must make is whether to keep your UK car or trade it in and buy a car in France. Of course, this is dependent on how much cash you have available. If money is not a dealbreaker, it is better to sell your old car in the UK, relocate to France, and purchase a brand-new car.

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Buying A New French Car – Registration Is Simple

If you purchase a new French car in France, registration and everything else are straightforward. The dealer will handle all the paperwork and provide you with the carte grise or gray card, which is the equivalent of a log book and the certificate showing your car has been registered. The only point worth making here is that it is best to do as the French do and buy a car made in France by one of the major French automakers such as Renault, Peugeot, or Citroen.

The Majority Of Cars Driven In France Are Made In France

You will quickly notice that these French firms manufacture a large percentage of the cars on French roads, and this is not solely due to French national loyalty (though this is undoubtedly a factor!). French cars are easier to find parts for if something goes wrong and much easier to find experienced mechanics for!

Buying A Second-Hand Car In France

The essential thing to remember here is that used cars are very expensive in France. A quick glance through the “petits annonces”, small ads sections of local papers, or a car sales magazine will reveal that the second-hand market here is significantly more expensive than in England. So, it is also more expensive than that of Spain, so one option for those living in the country’s south is to buy a car in Spain and then get it imported into France. Of course, it must then be re-registered in France in the same manner as a UK car.

Registering A Second-Hand Car In France

If you buy a used car in France, you must follow certain procedures in order to register it. The vendor should provide you with all existing documentation, including the current carte grise and a bill of sale. You then have approximately fifteen days to apply for a new carte grise, as these are not passed from owner to owner but are canceled and replaced. The simplest way to deal with the paperwork involved here is to go to your Mairie, who will not only do all of the paperwork for you but will also tell you how much it will cost. Some Mairie employees will even post your application for you! In some cases, the car may need to go through the CĂŽntrole Technique (French MOT) again, though the vendor is supposed to do this as part of the sale if the car is old enough.

Importing A Vehicle From The United Kingdom And Registering It In France

When you decide to bring your car to France, the situation becomes a little more complicated. Even if you are a French resident, you can currently keep your UK driving license and UK plates for a limited time, but you will eventually have to switch to French plates and a French license. Your UK driving license will be valid in France until it expires, and you can keep UK plates for up to six months if you are not a French resident and up to one month if you are a French resident. If a vehicle needs to be approved through the DRIRE, the time allowed for French residents can be extended up to three months. 

These time limits only appeared to be strictly enforced in the past, but with insurance laws tightening, this should no longer be the case. If you are unsure, I recommend that you seek current local advice about registering a car from your Mairie first. Speaking with a reputable local insurance broker is also a good idea. Franck Haloche offers an excellent service to English speakers looking for insurance in France; for more information, visit www.france-insurance.co.uk.

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How To Re-Register A Car With French Plates In France

Everything in France is an exercise in paperwork, so you first need to know what paperwork you need to gather to register a car. A list is available from local DRIRE (Direction RĂ©gionale de l’Industrie, de la Recherche et de l’Environnement) offices, or, as we did, from our insurers. Others have found the Mairie to be extremely helpful in this regard as well, but it is, of course, dependent on the individuals involved. The steps outlined below are subject to regional and temporal variations, but they represent a typical sequence of events in the registration of a car in France!

The English Bit

This is the simple part because you can do it in English. We were instructed to notify the DVLA that we were permanently exporting a vehicle to France and to obtain an export certificate, or V561. However, all you need to do now is tear off the export section of the V5C and send it to the DVLA before handing it over to the Prefecture. Even so, this is not strictly necessary because the French authorities are legally required to notify the DVLA that a vehicle is registered in their territory within a period of two months of the event, prompting the DVLA to record the vehicle as exported officially. It is important to note that this is the only notification that will suffice, as neither an export certificate nor a tear-off from the V5C is proof of anything.

Certificate Of Conformity

This is an important part of registering your car in France, and it appears to be the most difficult. Difficulties can arise with unusual cars or vehicles that were originally imported to Britain. The Certificate of Conformity serves as the manufacturer’s assurance that the vehicle complies with current applicable legislation. It used to be that a manufacturer would provide this free of charge as long as the car was a recognized model with a counterpart in France. In France, the standard fee is now €131. This certificate must be a genuine original, not a photocopy. If possible, contact the car manufacturer and request a Certificate of Conformity while you are still in the UK, as this may not cost you anything, though this depends on the manufacturer. It may also be available in French. A copy of the car registration document (V5C form) and, in certain cases, a cheque are required.

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Registration Of Older Or Unusual Vehicles In France Is Likely To Take A Lot Of Work

Difficulties are probable to arise with older or unusual vehicles or those that do not have a French equivalent. Older vehicles may be eligible for a Type Approval Certificate, which your dealer can provide. Owners of “vehicules de collection” must obtain an attestation certificate from the FFVE (FĂ©dĂ©ration française des vĂ©hicules d’époque) proving that the vehicle is technically compliant. And if your vehicle is an import to the UK and there is no equivalent model in France, you may have your work cut out for you. I’m sure there is a way, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a lot of time, endless patience, a relentlessly optimistic attitude, and aren’t in any hurry.

Change The Headlights

Set the headlights to the right-hand driving position. Remember that this is not cheap, and the temporary stickers you use on vacation will not suffice. You’ll need to install optique blocks, but first, check your car manual to see if you have switchable lights. (The lights must dip in the proper direction.) Most good garages can do this for 400-700 Euros but make an appointment ahead of time. If you ask, they can locate used lights for you.

The CĂŽntrole Technique

You can now get the CĂŽntrole Technique, which is the French version of the MOT, now that you have the headlights. These are carried out in literally hundreds of garages throughout towns and villages. It doesn’t matter which you use if your French is good, but if you know people locally, word of mouth is a good guide. You will be able to find a garage which most likely will be helpful to you as a non-French-speaking Brit! 

If your car requires additional work, you will be given a time limit (two weeks when I last had mine done) to correct any issues and re-test it. The Cîntrole Technique costs approximately 65 Euros, and you must bring your Certificate of Conformity, proof of address (for example, a utility bill), proof of identity (for example, passport, you may not need it, but it’s helpful to bring it just in case), and your blue V5C to the garage.

It is also worth noting that, as of 2014, a Controle Technique performed in another EU member state is valid as long as it is less than six months old. So, if you had an MOT in the UK within this time frame, you don’t need a Controle Techique in France.

Tax Certificate

Now, take all of your paperwork and go to your local Centre des Impots, explaining that you want to import your car. If the vehicle is more than six months old and has traveled more than 3,500 kilometers, you will not be required to pay any tax. Your current mileage will be requested. The goal of taking all of this to the Centre des Impots is to obtain a Quitus Fiscal certificate, indicating that there is no duty payable on the vehicle. In our case, the paperwork required included the following:

  • The UK Log Book.
  • V561 export certificate.
  • Proof of residence in France (utility bill, etc.).
  • Original invoice from the vehicle purchase showing the name of the previous owner and the price paid, CĂŽntrole Technique Certificate.
  • The Certificate of Conformity.

We also needed identification, so we brought our passports. It is also a good idea to bring around five photocopies of everything, just in case, as with any bureaucratic exercise in France.

Please keep in mind that, while this was the case in our case, I understand that now the only documents required for the Quitus are:

  • V5C.
  • A purchase invoice (which is optional if V5C is in your name).
  • Proof of identity (passport).
  • Certificate of Conformity.
  • Proof of address.

Some argue that when dealing with French bureaucrats, it is best to start small, offering only the documents you know or believe are necessary and only providing others on specific requests. The reasoning behind this is that the less you give them, the less they have to argue about it!

The Carte Grise (Known As Certificat d’Immatriculation) At Last

Finally, weighed down by all your paperwork, you are ready to go to the prĂ©fecture to register and receive your carte grise. After completing a Demande de Certificat d’Immatriculation (a downloadable form is available at https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/R13567) and paying your fee, the fun can begin. (In terms of fees, keep in mind that since 2008, there has been a tax payable here on the first registration of any car with a high CO2 emission, ranging from 200 Euros to around 3000 Euros depending on the emission of the car and the department in which it is registered. 

This tax does not apply to vehicles registered for disabled use.) You might get lucky and get your new registration or a provisional registration certificate right away. In that case, go out and buy some new plates and consider yourself French! Unfortunately, this may take a little longer. There have also been reports of people having to return home, “carte griseless”, and wait with bated breath for La Poste to arrive with the much-needed and hard-won documents.

To make things easier on yourself, bring your Certificate of Conformity, Contrîle Technique Certificate, Quitus Fiscal, proof of identity (for example, passport), proof of address (for example, utility bill or your house purchase Attestation), V5C, and the completed Demande de Certificat d’Immatriculation form.

Please keep in mind that they will keep your V5, along with the Quitus Fiscal and the Certificate of Conformity, but will give you the exportation slip, which you must immediately send to the DVLA. Please keep in mind that, as of 2017, you can only apply for a Certificat d’Immatriculation online through the Agence Nationale des Titres Securises.

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Change Your Plates

It would be best if you now changed your license plates. Local Garages will be able to do this for you for a small fee if you have your carte grise with you.

Change The CĂŽntrole Technique Information

All you’ll need is your carte grise (or the provisional form if you haven’t yet received your carte grise), your Contrîle Technique Certificate, and some form of identification (for example, passport). It would help if you took these to the garage where you had your Contrîle Technique performed, and they will change the registration plate information on your certificate for free.

Changing Your Insurance Certificate

If you have French car insurance, the number on your insurance certificate must be changed.

Final Words

This guide has covered all the details of registering a car in France. Stay safe, drive safe, and best of luck with moving throughout the cities and going on long drives in your car!