Buying a car in France, of course, involves paperwork to officially register it. Since the end of 2017, formalities have moved online. Here we explain the process, likely costs, and what to do if you want to bring over a car from the UK.
Anyone resident in France has to register a newly acquired vehicle within one month of purchase to obtain the carte grise, also called the certificat d’immatriculation, (car registration document).
Without this, the police can fine you €135 (up to €750 if not paid promptly) and may immobilise the vehicle. The main way to register a car now is online at the Agence nationale des titres sécurisés (ANTS) website.
Help is on hand for those without computer skills or equipment at most préfectures, sous-préfectures and Maisons de services au public (use the search box here).
It is also possible to pay a professional to do the admin for you on the ANTS website.
Gathering the necessary papers
For a second-hand car, you need to provide form cerfa n°13750, available here.
You also need proof of your home address less than six months old and the old carte grise barred with either vendu or cédé (plus the day/month/ year of the sale) with the previous owner’s signature.
If the car is more than four years old, you need proof of a contrôle technique (French MOT) less than six months ago. You also need a code de cession from the seller (obtained by the seller on the ANTS website).
You have to swear on your honour you have the relevant insurance and driving licence.
Payment is by bank card and the price varies according to type of vehicle and home address. You can use this simulator.
You will receive a dossier number, proof of your application, and a temporary certificate (certificat provisoire d’immatriculation) to drive for one month, only in France, while you wait for the certificate, which should come within seven working days.
You have to keep the old carte grise for five years. For most new cars, the garage will deal with the paperwork for you, but you can do it yourself on the ANTS site here.
Registering a car imported from the UK
It is more complicated if you want to register a car in France that you are bringing over from the UK to keep in France. In this case, you are also required to apply to register the car for French plates within a month of importing it.
Since Brexit, you have to go through customs and also obtain a certificate of conformity before applying via the ANTS website.
The process is cheaper if you are bringing the car over as part of a move to France to become a resident.
There are two potential taxes: TVA (VAT) and customs duty. You are exempt from both if you are moving permanently to France, the vehicle is for personal use, and you bring it over within 12 months of your arrival.
You must have owned the car for at least six months and it has to be included on the obligatory inventory of personal belongings for customs handed over when you move. You also have to present the registration document to customs.
In return, they will give you certificate 846A, which is necessary for registering the vehicle in France.
If you are not bringing the car as part of a move, you have to pay VAT at a rate of 20% on its estimated value, as assessed by customs, who will use specialised journals such as the Argus to work out the price, or call an expert.
Duty is payable at a rate of 10% on vehicles if they were not manufactured in either the UK or EU.
This Connexion journalist rang the French customs inquiry telephone service on 0800 94 40 40, who said that if I wanted to import my elderly mother’s Kia Picanto, which she no longer drives, I would have to pay 20% VAT plus 10% duty on the value of the car, as Kia does not have a UK factory.
I would have to present the car at French customs at the border on arrival and pay the required sum to be given the necessary certificate 846A to register it in France.
‘My advice would be to sell any British-registered car in the UK and buy a fresh in France’
Mark Stevens, of The English Car Mechanics firm in Opio, Alpes-Maritimes, said he has not heard of anyone having to pay import duty to customs when bringing over a car to France from the UK – yet.
However, he warned that, if applied, it could be extremely costly, as can VAT. “My advice would be to sell any British-registered car in the UK and buy a fresh in France,” he said.
“It will save a lot of hassle and potentially a great deal of money. If import duty is included and if customs do not agree with your assessment of the price for VAT and put it up, it could be very expensive.”
Another requirement is a European certificate of conformity (certificat de conformité européen). Where to get one depends on the type of vehicle.
Either you have to approach the car manufacturer’s offices in France (France no longer accepts British-issued ones post-Brexit), or you have to take the car to a service called the Dreal.
The latter stands for Direction Régionale de l’Environnement, de l’Aménagement et du Logement. This will inspect it and verify it corresponds to French standards. You can find your local one here.
The procedure can be complex and costly. Car manufacturers charge for the certificate, and Mr Stevens says prices are from €300 upwards. Dreal might also require adjustments to the car, at your own cost. Finally, you will also need to take the car for a contrôle technique in France, as the UK MOT certificate is not longer accepted here.
Our main image was drawn for Connexion by artist Perry Taylor. For more of his work click here.