Make sense of... the new contrôle technique

Anyone driving a car in France should be aware of the contrôle technique (CT) – France’s ‘MOT test’ – but recent changes mean the next time you put your car in for the test it will be subject to tougher rules and likely to cost more

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The contrôle technique has had a revamp, linked to new European standards aimed at improving road safety across the EU. While the goal is to cut deaths on the roads due to faulty vehicles, the impact for car drivers is likely to be increased costs and more chances of your vehicle failing.

There is also a new tougher category of fault which means the car cannot be used after midnight on the day of the test if it has not been repaired.

Which cars must go through a contrôle technique?

Any car that is four years old or more is subject to a CT every two years.

The first one needs to be done during the six months before the 4th anniversary of the car’s mise en circulation (date when it was authorised to be used on the road). No reminder is sent so it is up to your initiative to organise this.

It can be carried out at any approved CT centre in France: if in doubt see and insert your postcode under Trouver le centre de Contrôle Technique le plus proche de chez vous.

Like the British MOT test the contrôle involves the checking of a number of mechanical points for roadworthiness, including whether the brakes and headlights work, that the tyres are not too worn, seats and belts are in working order, the car is not too noisy or polluting etc.

At the end, the centre will issue a paper called a procès-verbal de contrôle, indicating the date, the car’s kilometrage and whether any faults were found. It will also place a stamp on the car’s registration document and will put a vignette (sticker) on the windscreen indicating the expiry date of the contrôle’s validity.

Where faults are found requiring obligatory correction, you must have the car repaired and bring it back for a contre-visite at which just these issues will be re-checked.

It is not possible to sell a car that is more than four years old to a member of the public without it having had a recent contrôle technique (within the last six months) and, if a contre-visite was required, it must have been completed or the date to do so must not have elapsed.

It is possible to sell a newer car without a contrôle technique or a car of any age if selling to a professional.

If you are found to be driving without a valid contrôle technique by the date required to have one there is a €135 fine and the police can require a test to be done within seven days.

What has changed?

The number of items that have to be checked has increased from 123 to 132 which means the test takes longer and costs more. It now takes around three-quarters of an hour rather than half an hour and on average costs €80 (up from €65).

Several of the points checked relate to the brakes and tyres while another, for example, relates to the condition of the windscreen wipers.

Also new is that a contre-visite is now, in most cases, paid-for (around €15) whereas it was often previously free of charge.

Another important change is that there is a new category of fault that needs immediate action, whereas formerly if faults were found requiring obligatory correction drivers had two months to have them repaired.

Under the latest rules, faults may be either ‘minor’ – with no obligation to repair – ‘major’, requiring a contre-visite in two months or ‘critical’ meaning you must have them repaired immediately and the car cannot be used on the road after midnight of that day if it is not repaired.

The latter could include for example, leaking brake fluid, very worn, smooth tyres or a crack in the windscreen obscuring the driver’s vision.

In such a case a specific sticker will be placed on the windscreen until the required repairs have been carried out.

Avoiding problems

The biggest headache is likely to be the new ‘critical’ fault finding, so the best way to avoid it is to have the car serviced regularly and, in the case of any obvious problems, have them repaired before you take the car for a contrôle technique.

Some basic points to check would include: that the stop lights work, the tyres are not obviously heavily worn, that the brakes are working well, that no liquids are leaking out, that doors close properly and that your exhaust is not wobbly and liable to fall off.

No contrôle technique for classic cars or motorbikes

Designated classic cars (registered as véhicule de collection) older than 1960 do not need a contrôle technique (newer ones need one every five years); nor do motorbikes and scooters, quad bikes or other light vehicles which can be driven without a licence, or caravans.

Other countries’ versions

Under the latest EU rules, you may register an imported car in France if it has had a similar test in another EU country as long as it was done less than six months before and any required repairs have been carried out (or it is still within the period for doing them). Tests carried out in non-EU countries are not valid.

Once a car has been registered with French plates it is not possible to do another foreign test in the future.

The image here was drawn by artist Perry Taylor.For more of his work see