Where can I find cheap DIY tools in France?

We also review whether second-home owners can bring tools to France from abroad

Many undertake DIY tasks – bricolage in French - on their homes by themselves
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Reader Question: I like doing DIY at my second home but feel that the dedicated shops here are always expensive. Is there a way to find cheaper items for sale? 

There are a number of major DIY chains and gardening centres across the country, selling products for DIY (bricolage) tasks.

Prices for items can vary, however, and you may be able to find discounts during the approved sales seasons, which run roughly in January and July each year.

Read more: When is the best time to shop for deals in France?

DIY stores not only reduce prices in the traditional sales period for the general public, but some also host ventes privées – private sales – at other times of the year to which they invite customers who have loyalty cards or who have signed up for rewards schemes. 

Alongside these main stores however, there are a number of alternatives to find both equipment and materials at a cut-price. 

Especially for equipment, buying second-hand can offer value, and smaller local DIY stores sometimes offer a selection of second-hand items. 

In addition, you can buy tools online, through French sites such as Leboncoin, although these do not come with the warranties you may find shopping in-person, and you should therefore be wary before handing over a lot of money.

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

You may also find tools at French car boot markets (brocante or vide-grenier).

Rent or borrow your tools 

If you are working on your second home, and only need the tools for a few weeks per year it may be cheaper to rent the specific tools required. 

This applies in particular for the expensive tools you will not using often.

Major chains such as Leroy Merlin provide tool-rental schemes, and both companies and individuals rent their tools out on Bricolib.

If you have a neighbour who also undertakes DIY they may let you borrow tools. 

Can I bring tools from the UK into France? 

Bringing in tools from the UK - ie. from outside the EU - can pose problems with customs.

Firstly, if you are bringing them to a second home to leave them there permanently, in theory French VAT is due on them at 20% of the value, and customs duties can in some cases be payable on top, at variable amounts depending on category of item.

Readers’ experiences with this have been variable, but by the letter of the law, you should declare the items to French customs on passing through. If they judge the items to be old and worn, the value ascribed may not be too high.

There is an exemption on VAT and duties for items that are only being brought in for less than three years and then taken back. However, in theory to obtain this you need to fill out some French paperwork. The UK also has its own form for returned goods’ to ensure it does not tax items being brought back in. 

There is another process called a Carnet ATA, but this is more likely to apply to professionals bringing in tools they need for jobs.