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Is it usual to be charged a malus on second-hand car?

I was shocked to be charged a malus (penalty) fee on a second-hand car. Is this a new law?  N.P.

27 March 2019
By Oliver Rowland

No, this is not a new law. There has been a malus penalty on certain more powerful and polluting second-hand cars for several years. 

There was a change last year to make the criteria for this relate to the power of the vehicle (expressed in a unit called chevaux fiscaux, abbreviated to Ch) and not the level of CO2 emissions the car produces, as before.

The current rules relate to second-hand cars first registered since June 1, 2004.

Cars with a puissance fiscale rating (stated on the carte grise registration document) of 10-11Ch which are under one year old attract a payment of €100 when registered to new owners. Between 12Ch and 14Ch this rises to €300, and €1,000 over 14Ch.

The amount of the malus is then reduced by 10% for every year since the first registration. So, for example, owners of two-year-old cars will pay €90, €270 and €900 in the same bands. The penalty is paid when cars are registered to new owners.

It is collected either by the garage selling the car or paid directly if the new owners register it themselves.

It mainly concerns power-ful cars, such as premium German makes BMW, Audi and Mercedes.

At the same time, owners of cars with particularly high pollution levels, registered for the first time in 2009 and later, have to pay an annual pollution tax of €160.

The tax applies to cars from 2009 emitting more than 250g of CO2/km or more, for cars from 2010 and 2011 emitting 245g of CO2/km or more, and from 2012 and later for cars emitting more than 190g of CO2/km.

Buyers will receive the tax demand in the post in the year after they are registered as owners, and every year after until they no longer own the vehicle.

Both of these taxes apply to owners and to people with long-term rental agreements of at least two years or with an option to buy.

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