Is it worth importing an older car for use at a second home in France?

We look at the pros and cons of bringing a vehicle to France for holiday usage from outside the EU

Reader is looking for a cheaper option to hiring a car
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Reader Question: It is expensive to rent a car in France for trips to our holiday home - is it easy to import an older second-hand car to drive when we are here?

There are two things you have to consider when importing a car from outside the EU: the cost and the bureaucracy.

There are a number of things you must do to import a car and, if you will only be using it for a few weeks or months of the year, it might not be worth going through the cost and paperwork, though that does not mean it is impossible.

The Connexion has previously obtained confirmation that it is (scroll down the article) possible for second-home owners in France to register a vehicle, although it may be time-consuming and expensive to do so.

We assume that you do not want to import the main car you use back in the UK, as you mention you only want to use your car here for holidays. Here we outline what you need to do to import a car.

Requirements to import a car

Firstly, when importing a car from a non-EU country to France it is usually necessary to pay French import VAT at 20% of the value of the car. Depending on the country of origin, additional import taxes of around 10% may also be due.

You would pay these at the customs office on importing the car, and should then obtain a certificate from your local tax office in France to show that any relevant import tax has been paid.

To register the car in France, you must apply to register the vehicle online at the ANTS (Agence nationale des titres securisés) website. Otherwise, it is also possible to pay a carte grise professional to carry this out.

The required documents to register an imported car in France from the US, UK or other non-EU countries (these rules are amended for EU countries) are:

  • Your passport and valid driver’s licence

  • Proof of your French address, such as a recent utility bill

  • Vehicle registration document. You should complete the ‘permanent export’ section of the certificate.

  • Dated and application for registration of the vehicle in France

  • If you have recently bought the car from someone else, the purchase invoice

  • Certificate of conformity (certificat d’homologation or certificat de conformité),

  • Import tax certificate (‘quitus fiscal’)

  • French contrôle technique test less than six months old

The certificate of conformity is to confirm that the car conforms to EU standards.

The Connexion was previously told by French-based mechanics that ones issued by the UK, for example, are no longer accepted post-Brexit, so in the case of importing non-EU cars that do conform to EU standards, you should obtain one from the relevant manufacturer in France (who will charge for it).

Otherwise the car may have to undergo additional paid-for inspections, and possibly modifications, in France.

Factors like the age of the car may increase the costs of importing the vehicle.

For example, imported cars may need adaptations, such as changing headlights to meet French roadworthiness standards, and a speedometer that uses kilometres instead of miles. If the car you want to import is old, these may be further additional costs you must weigh up.

Cars older than four years will also need a contrôle technique (the French roadworthiness test) check after importation - we discuss the French contrôle technique rules here.

Buying a second-hand car in France

Buying a second-hand car may not only be cheaper but also a much easier way to keep a car in France as a non-resident.

It is possible for second-home owners to purchase a French car to use exclusively in the country.

After making your estimations for the price (and potential headaches) of importing your car, you should look at the price of a comparable second-hand car (vehicule d’occasion) in France, using a website like L’argus or Leboncoin to browse.

Note, however, that the price of purchasing a second-hand car has increased considerably since Covid-19.

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