In France, the main vehicle roadworthy test is called the contrôle technique (CT) - the equivalent of the British MOT or bilbesiktning, for example, in Sweden. Here are some key points to know about these checks.
All private vehicles weighing less than 3.5 tons that are older than four years must go through a CT (see later for some exceptions for classic cars). The lack of a valid CT can invalidate your vehicle insurance.
It is a biennial inspection (every three years in Monaco) that is carried out by private authorised centres. Test centres are free to set their own rates but you are likely to pay around €70, sometimes less if you book via specialised websites. Note that if you need a follow-up visit (contre-visite) this may be included in the price or at an additional fee.
The test can be carried out on appointment or on spec.
There is currently no test for motorbikes, trailers, quads, etc. However, this is going to change and a technical inspection is scheduled to start although no date has yet been set.
When selling or transferring a used vehicle to another driver that is more than four years old, the buyer must show proof that it has passed a CT in the last six months.
Specific rules apply to lorries and commercial transportation vehicles.
French vintage cars holding the classification ‘collection’ enjoy some privileges:
- Any vintage car (more than 30 years): CT every five years instead of two.
- Vintage cars manufactured before 1960: no mandatory CT.
Rules tightened in 2019
The test was made stricter in 2019 and there are now 133 mechanical checkpoints which can lead to 610 possible reasons for failure, compared to a previous tally of 410.
Only vehicles classified as Euro 4, 5 and 6 and registered after 2005 are affected by this new procedure, the main objective of which is to reduce the rate of CO2 emissions in compliance with the "energy transition law for green growth" which became law in 2015.
The anti-pollution test on diesel vehicles is therefore now more rigorous.
If the pollutant emissions of the vehicle inspected exceed those recorded at the time of purchase, it will have to be repaired, or cleaned, before being retested for a subsequent, but smaller, fee.
NB: these repairs cannot be carried out by the CT test centre, you choose your own garage to carry out the work.
Which vehicles need to be tested?
- any car that is four years old or more
- private cars, thermal, electric and hybrid
- commercial vehicles, such as vans or company vehicles
- vehicles whose engine runs on gas or LPG
- vintage and collection vehicles
- recovery vehicles
- vehicles for medical transport
- driving school vehicles
- cabs and tourist vehicles with driver
- passenger vehicles with less than 10 seats
Cost of the technical control
As explained, the CT price is not regulated and inspection centres are private companies that are authorised and are free to charge whatever they want. Competition and free markets therefore fix the fees. Centres in rural areas tend to charge less.
Here are some tips to find a cheaper CT in France:
- Use a price comparison website, e.g. this one
- Book your test instead of just showing up. Off peak, prices are cheaper
- Travel a bit to find a cheaper technical centre. You must use a state-approved centre, of which there are more than 6,000 in France. Here is where to find them.
Note: the price of the CT must be displayed at the entrance of the establishment.
Time limits and duration of the technical inspection
The first inspection must be carried out during the six months preceding the fourth anniversary of the first registration of the vehicle. Then, the control is carried out every two years.
No reminder is sent: the control is at your initiative.
To do the test you must have the original vehicle registration document.
Note: depending on the type of vehicle, an inspection takes between 30 and 45 minutes.
What are the checks performed?
There are 133 points of control to be checked concerning:
- Vehicle identification: vehicle documents, licence plate, etc.
- Braking equipment: brake pads, discs, etc.
- Steering: steering wheel, gearbox, etc.
- Visibility: windshield, mirrors, etc.
- Lights, reflective devices and electrical equipment (including vehicle specific equipment) electric and hybrid.
- Axles, wheels, tires, suspension.
- Chassis and chassis accessories (including specific equipment for gas-powered vehicles).
- Other equipment: seat belts, horn (horn), etc.
- Nuisances: pollution, noise level.
Validity of CT vehicle test in France
When the test is positive, it is valid for two years. When a car undergoes a CT test, four outcomes are possible:
- No remark: all is well
- Minor defect(s): the CT is valid, it is advised to fix those defects, but it is not mandatory
- Major defect(s): those issues must be solved within two months. Before the deadline, the car has to go through a second check (contre-visite) during which the controller will ensure that those major defects have been fixed
- Critical defect(s): the vehicle poses an immediate threat to the driver and the surrounding vehicles, therefore it must be fixed ASAP. When a CT is issued with a critical defect, the owner is allowed to drive until midnight. In other words, you must take your car immediately to the garage to get the work done. Once fixed, the garage will provide you with a document that authorises you to drive to an CT centre for a retest.
The controller also affixes on the windshield of the vehicle a sticker bearing the letters ‘CT’ followed by the deadline of validity of the control performed.
During the follow-up inspections, the points checked depend on the deficiencies noted during the previous inspection. Three cases are possible:
No major deficiency: no follow-up inspection is necessary. The validity of the control is two years.
At least one major defect: the driver has two months to carry out the counter-check.
At least one critical failure: the driver has 24 hours to take care of the repairs.
Sanctions and fine in case of non-compliance
In case of non-compliance with the obligations related to these tests, you risk a fine of €135. The fine can be reduced to €90 or increased to €750 depending on how quickly (or slowly) you pay. The police can also take your car off the road and keep the registration certificate.
They will give the vehicle a traffic card valid for seven days in which you are obliged to get it through the tests. Once the result is deemed satisfactory, the registration certificate is returned.