Selling a used car in France - explained

Your guide to the paperwork and process around selling a used car in France 

Selling a second-hand car privately can net you more money, but will involve a lot of paperwork
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New car sales slowed in March, attributed in part to the wait for new models later this year. 

A total of 180,024 new passenger cars were registered during the month, according to figures from the Plateforme Automobile (PFA) – a slight drop (-1.47%) compared with March last year. 

The market remains 20% below pre-Covid figures. 

The majority of cars on the road here are still French models – Renaults, Citroëns and Peugeots, along with the Romanian brand Dacia, considered French because it is owned by Renault. 

Things are changing, but last year the top three best-selling new cars in France were the Renault Clio, with 97,471 sold, then the Peugeot 208 with 86,262, and the Dacia Sandero with 69,106. 

This brand loyalty has some regional variations – in Bordeaux, you used to see more Fords than elsewhere in the country because the manufacturer previously had a huge gearbox factory there, which has since been sold. 

The trend is reflected in the used car market too, with most dealers admitting French-branded cars are easier to sell than foreign ones. 

Although the market changed with the arrival of SUVs, France still has a high percentage of small cars on the road. Selling a used car in France is very much the same as elsewhere – you have the choice of using a dealership or garage, or trying to sell it privately. 

The easiest option is selling to a garage – apart from you filling in the carte grise registration document to record the sale, the garage will handle the rest of the paperwork. It also lets you avoid meeting the buyer and dealing with price negotiations. 

The cost of this convenience is likely to be less cash in your pocket. According to a study by Leboncoin – the largest free classified ads site in France – people who sell a vehicle themselves usually get €1,500 to €2,000 more than if they do so via a garage. 

 Read more: How safe are purchases on French classified websites?

What documents do you need?

To sell a used car directly, you must first collect the necessary paperwork. As well as the carte grise – now officially called the certificat d’immatriculation – you need a contrôle technique certificate and window sticker from within the last six months, if the car is older than four years. 

You must also download two certificats de cession d’un véhicule d’occasion (Cerfa form 15776*01) to be filled in by both you and the buyer. 

Finally, a certificat de situation administrative – commonly called a certificat de non-gage – states there are no outstanding loans on the vehicle. 

It is available online after five minutes of form-filling. 

Assembling all the garage bills and maintenance logs for the vehicle is highly recommended. 

A government website, histovec, gives owners the official history of the car, which can also help convince buyers they have a good deal. 

However, entries on this are voluntary by owners, so it is far from extensive. 

Before publishing a ‘for sale’ notice, you obviously need to establish the price you will sell at, as well as check you are within the rules.

Read more: Are there rules for putting a ‘for sale’ sign on car on French street?

How should I receive money from sale?

Websites such as L’Argus, Leboncoin and La Centrale all give estimates for vehicles for around €10 – but be warned that quotes are usually only for cars first registered in 2009 or later. 

The sites are available to both buyers and sellers, so it is likely the buyer will have the same information. 

Alternatively, browsing used car lots and classified advertisement sites should give an idea of what you can charge. Payment is usually via a virement instantané straight to your bank account. 

It can cost between €10 and €20 for the sender to do so, but you can knock this off the asking price. 

Note, however, that not all French banks currently allow clients to use the service. 

Read more: French bank to close dozens of Britons' accounts citing Brexit

Ordinary bank transfers, which are free, can take three days to clear – a long time for the large sums associated with a car sale. 

Ordinarily, cheques are very risky. If a virement instantané is not available, you could ask for a bank-certified cheque, which most banks provide for a fee, again of around €20. 

Caution is required even with these. 

Verify the telephone number of the bank independently on the number on the cheque when making sure it is genuine. 

You can also check with your own bank. Call them when you are presented with the cheque and give the number on it. They will then be able to tell if it is genuine. 

You can be paid in cash but, again, be careful. 

The limit of €1,000 for cash transactions only applies to professionals. For private individuals, all you need is a note from the buyer guaranteeing the origin of the funds if the amount is in excess of €1,500. 

It is advisable to make arrangements with a friendly shopkeeper to check the notes for forgeries, and to make the transaction in a safe place – in front of a gendarmerie, during opening hours, is one solution. 

Leboncoin now offers a secure payment system for €19.99, charged to the buyer. 

The buyer pays the agreed sum into an escrow account, and it is released to the seller only after the buyer says they are happy with the car.