It should be simple to buy and export a second-hand car from the UK without having an UK address.
The key is to make sure the UK seller completes the “permanent export” section on the log-book, form V5C, and sends it to the DVLA, with a letter giving your name and French address.
They must then give the rest of the V5C form to you, so you can use it when you register the car in France.
This is different from the normal procedure in the UK, where the buyer is just given the green “new keeper” slip. The seller can still claim a refund for the unused part of vehicle tax.
To insure the vehicle, it is easiest to use your existing motor insurers in France and talk to them about what you are doing, preferably before going to the UK to buy the car.
Usually, they will be happy to help, and will start an annual insurance policy for the vehicle as soon as you tell them you have bought it.
If you are changing insurance companies, you will need to provide the standard documents for motor insurance: driving licence, a copy of your ID card or passport, and your relevé d’information d’assurance from the last insurer.
You will have to provide the registration details of the vehicle.
If you have made the necessary arrangements beforehand, this can often be done by photographing the V5C form after you have paid for the car and sending it by email, followed by a telephone call to ensure it has been received and the insurance is in order.
A temporary insurance certificate can be sent to your phone to avoid you waiting for a paper copy, but check with the insurance company that it is happy to do this.
As for the question of what will change after the end of the Brexit transition period, the answer is that nobody knows for certain.
However, France has fairly similar procedures for registering second-hand vehicles from the EU and from outside.
For vehicles originating from the EU, you provide a quitus fiscal certificate, saying all taxes on the vehicle have been paid, so you do not have to pay them again in France.
For cars originating outside the EU, this is replaced by a customs form, certificat de dédouanement 846A, which is only issued after you have paid VAT and any import taxes on the vehicle in France, or a statement from French customs saying no taxes are due.
For vehicles imported from the US, for example, the taxes are calculated from the value, before local taxes on the receipt, or on an estimate by customs officers.
Customs duties are 10% of this figure, and you also have to pay 20% VAT on the figure used by the customs officers (receipt or estimate).
Non-EU second-hand cars also need certificates showing they conform to EU rules, which are not required if the necessary information is on the registration certificate of a vehicle from an EU country.
Send your queries about life in France by email to firstname.lastname@example.org