Registering a car in France
Put the paperwork in place and it is relatively easy to register your car in France...Even From Spain!
This lens details what you need to do to export your car to France from the UK or Spain i.e. how to register your car in France.
The process for registering your UK car in France will be slightly different depending on where you are living.
There is however a common thread that applies wherever you are and it is entirely about making sure you have all the necessary documentation required to complete the process. It is also worth knowing that the process for registering a car from any EU membership country, Spain, Germany etc. is virtually identical to this process. Just replace UK registration document with the registration document for the country you are importing from. Spain, for example, is a 'Permiso De Circulacion' but it also comes with an import certificate from the manufacturer, which is also required when you register in France. Mine had the ITV (Spanish MOT) record on the other side of it, which fooled me for a moment when I was asked for this certificate.
Before you begin this little journey it is probably worth discussing a very good reason why you may want to register your UK car in France or perhaps going and buying a LHD from Spain.
In a word it is economics, I was rather surprised to find out that second hand cars in France are much more expensive than in the UK and you can potentially end up spending literally thousands of pounds in order to stand still other than the benefit of having a left hand drive.
This brings me to another option, that of importing a left hand drive from the UK and then registering it in France, my personal experience was that this was a cheaper option than buying in France but for me not cheap enough, so I ended up sticking with a right hand drive. That may not be the case for you however and is certainly worth investigating before you leave the UK if you really want a left hand drive car.
The rules for how soon you need to register your car in France revolve around your French residency.
To adhere to the rules you should register your car within 1 month from attaining residency. If you are moving from the UK you are not strictly obliged to apply for residency i.e. get a Carte de Sejour, but after 6 months and 1 day (183 days) living in France for tax purposes you will be considered resident.
This is where most people extract a little more time to get their car registered and consider they actually have 6 months in which to register their car. You can temporarily export your car for 6 months in 12 as well if you intend to return it to the UK.
Personally, if you know you are going to keep and register your car in France and you consider yourself resident, I would work to the 1 month rule and then you will be sure you are legal, this is achievable as well if you have the documentation we are about to discuss.
Bottom line is that if you are resident in France you are not allowed to drive a vehicle that is not registered in France. Also driving in Europe comes with some additional rules to driving in the UK, so make sure you are up to speed, excuse the pun, on European driving regulations.
As an aside, this process assumes that you have taken reasonable precautions to ensure that the car you have bought or are planning to buy is free of any encumbrances i.e. there is no outstanding debt against the car, fines or unpaid tax for example. Those issues are difficult enough to deal with in your own country never mind a country where you may not speak the language or know how the legal systems work. So worth doing some research on how to do this before you get too far along.
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These are the documents you will need to obtain your Carte Grise - Carte Grise or Certificat d'Immatriculation is the French Registration Document
If you possibly can you should try to get your certificate of conformity in the UK via a dealer for your car manufacturer and then take it with you when you go to France.
Its also worth scanning the list to see what documents you need to bring from the UK and make sure you have them with you as well.
- Certificate of Conformity - this is the proof that your car has been manufactured to meet the standards in France
- Your UK Registration Certificate - used to be called a log book in years gone by
- Proces Verbal de Controle Technique - French MOT required for cars older than 4 years and renewed every 2 years
- Quitas Fiscal - also known as the Certificat d'Aquisition
In turn this needs: -
>Vehicle invoice for proof of purchase
>UK Registration Certificate
>Proof of address
- Proof of Address in France - usually a utility bill with your name and address in France on it
- Proof of Identity - your passport is universally accepted
Certificate of Conformity
Proof you car meets the French Standards
There are 2 ways to obtain a certificate of conformity, this assumes that you don't have it already as it is now standard practice to issue one with new purchases, so check your documentation pack first.
I will describe the 2 options and let you decide which is the easier.
Option 1 - Request the certificate from the car manufacturer via a dealer
This is the route I opted for, basically I had had some work done on my car at the Renault dealer in Cheltenham before I left the UK (not essential but it meant I was in their database). I phoned the garage and told them I needed a certificate of conformity for my Renault Megane.
At first they told me I had to go to Renault UK, which I did but was then referred back to the dealer.
Having established that it was in fact the dealer that has to make the request and that there is a special form they use for doing this exact task, I was put through to a very nice lady who although was very busy agreed to submit the form on my behalf. I asked her for her email address so that I could drop her a line and establish contact, this turned out to be a good move because we then had several exchanges where she needed more information.
The bottom line is that the dealer sends a request to Renault UK who then forward the request on to Renault France and Renault France send the certificate out to the address on the form, which in my case was my UK address but with mail forwarding in place.
I really don't know if this is the same process for every manufacturer but I would suggest that a main dealer in the UK preferably one you have dealt with is a good starting point from which you should be able to establish the proper procedure, just be prepared to be a little patient, they are getting nothing but good will out of this (unless they decide they need to charge you) and are usually not familiar with the procedure.
For me this worked, about 2 weeks later the much needed certificate of conformity arrived in my French post box.
I am not sure I would have been so lucky had I owned an older car where the CofC did not exist, or if the car was a Japanese import for example. You might find that if this is the case you may need to follow the 2nd option.
Option 2 - Request the certificate through DREAL (Previously DRIRE)
Things have changed since I registered my car i.e. a switch from DRIRE to DREAL and apparently the best thing to do now is to contact DREAL and make an appointment to have your car tested. If all is OK you should receive an attestation around 3 weeks later.
When you go to the DREAL test centre you will need to take the following:
- The vehicle to be tested
- Vehicle Registration Certificate (the original)
- Certificate of import (Quitas Fiscal)
- Proof of residence (utility bill is easiest)
- Proof of purchase
- Proof of Identity (passport)
- Driving license
- Proof of Address
- Method of payment (cheque book)
The charge for the service was at the time 67.38 euros but will almost certainly have changed with time and you should now pay when you take the car for the test. My recommendation would be to find out which DREAL office can deal with the request (Perpignan if you are in Languedoc-Rousillion) and get in touch with them to see what is required.
All the above is worth verifying when you get in touch and just in case anything else is required. Personally I would also put the car through a 'Control Technique' and have the certificate available. So things like the potential switch of headlights for a RHD car are seen to have been taken care of. There is a risk that the car will not get an attestation in which case the expense would be a waste, but if it does you will need that for the final registration anyway.
7, rue Edme Mariotte
TÃ©l : 04 68 08 15 00
Fax : 04 68 08 15 15
The office is not easy to find, being on the upper floor of the building Immeuble Kennedy which also houses totally different department on the ground floor. Don't be put off, go up the stairs and you'll find the DREAL
Some people have had success getting their Carte Gris by using the services of the Fédération Française des Véhicules d’Epoque especially when they are trying to import a classic car that pre-dates the issue of certificates of conformity. which started in 1997. The car itself needs to be 30 years old to take this route as I understand it, but you can check yourself as I have never had to use this option.
There is a discussion on this very topic on SFN (Survive France Network), using this link, which some people may find useful.
Once you have the certificate of conformity the rest of the process is a breeze, subject of course to you having the other required documentation in place.
Attestation d'identification d'un vehicule importe conforme a un type national Francais - Request for a certificate of conformity via DREAL
Below you have a link for any forms you need to fill in for submission to DREAL and links to a location map and the website for DREAL.
- Forms required for importing different vehicles
If you cannot for any reason obtain a certificate of conformity for your car from the manufacturer then you will need to contact DREAL and you will need to arrange an inspection.
- DREAL for Languedoc-Rousillion
This is the website for DREAL in the Languedoc-Rousillion region but don't get confused the request for the certificate goes to Perpignon at the address detailed above.
- Map for DREAL location in Perpignan
If you open this link you will get a map for the location of DREAL in Perpignan which you can view in a larger window if required.
My Google Maps - DREAL Location in Perpignan
UK Registration Certificate V5C
Time to exchange it for the Carte Grise
The new style registration certificate follows the same format as the Certificat d'Immatriculation (Carte Grise) in that the categories follow the same numbering system. This is particularly useful when you are filling in the form for requesting the Carte Grise because you can transpose the information from the V5C certificate to the form with a high level of confidence. See ***Tip*** below.
The certificate is left at the Prefecture when you get the Carte Grise but don't forget to tear off the 'Notification of Permanent Export' strip, fill it in and send to the DVLA.
They need this to know you are no longer liable to pay tax in the UK, if you don't send it you will end up getting a tax renewal request and non payment could mean a fine.
If your car is off the road you can advise the DVLA and fill in a SORN Statement to declare the car is not liable for tax. Ultimately however you will need to send the notification of permanent export so that you can use the car in France without being liable for UK tax.
Note if you are running the car on UK plates it is advisable to have a current UK tax disc.
Proces Verbal de Controle Technique
This is the French equivalent of the UK's MOT Certificate
In order to obtain a 'Proces Verbal de Controle Technique' for a right hand drive car you will need to change the headlights to the French standard.
In the UK when you dip your headlights they dip to the left which isn't very useful if you are driving on the right hand side of the road. So in order to drive in France and pass the controle technique you need French headlights otherwise known as 'bloc optiques'. This assumes of course that the car model you have doesn't let you adjust the headlights to conform which can be the case, so worth a check.
I have read of a few instances where people have claimed to have got their cars through a controle technique without changing their headlights at all, not quite sure how they managed that so if you want to risk it then I guess you can, I preferred to get mine changed so I could be sure.
To keep costs down it is a good idea to go to a scrapyard for replacement lights.
I paid 200 euros for mine and ironically I got them from a scrapyard directly opposite to the DRIRE office in Carcassonne. But had to speak French to sort the details out.
I then had to pay 170 euros to get them fitted, not an easy task without the right equipment, so for me worth every centime.
After that getting the 'controle technique' was fairly straightforward, I booked an appointment at a local test center (there are lots around and you don't always need an appointment). He asked to see my Carte Grise but was happy with the UK Registration Certificate and about half an hour later I had my certificate and a bill for 70 euros.
Don't forget if you car is less than 4 years old you don't need to do this step at all. It has also been reported recently that a UK MOT will be accepted if it is less than 6 months old at the time of your application. I am not sure which department that was in, but again if you want to try then the easiest way to find out is to go to the prefecture and see if they will accept the UK MOT. The worst case scenario is that they say no and tell you to go and get a 'controle technique'.
If you are interested, French headlights dip straight up and down so if you are driving in the UK you don't need to modify the lights at all not even with those little stickers, what a good idea!!!
Quitas Fiscal - also known as the Certificat d'Aquisition
This is issued from you local Centre des Impots
This really is a paperwork exercise providing it is a used vehicle which you are bringing to France for personal use, it is at least 6 months old, driven more than 6000km and you can prove it was bought privately as a second hand vehicle or that you paid the VAT when you bought it new.
Under these circumstances the 'quitas fiscal' is free.
The other point to remember is that you have to use a centre des impots in the department that you are living in i.e. if your address is in Aude then you have to go to an Aude 'centre des impots'.
I personally went to the office that sits under La Cite in Carcassonne right next to the river and took the following documents: -
- Vehicle invoice for proof of purchase
- UK Registration Certificate
- Proof of address
To be on the safe side I would also carry my passport as proof of identity just in case I got asked for it.
Anyway you just go into the office ask for the centre des impots and they point you to a waiting area and when it is your turn you present the necessary documents and they fill in the 'quitas fiscal' give you all your paperwork back having taken photocopies and you are done.
If you want to be super efficient you can take a set of photocopies with you which will save time and the risk of something going missing.
Yes! you really are nearly there
It's time to go to the prefecture and get your Carte Grise
You now have all the documents you need to apply for your Carte Grise.
I have provided a link below to the form you need to complete in order to obtain your Carte Grise. Fill this in as completely as possible and then arm yourself with the following documents that you have so diligently obtained: -
- Certificate of Conformity
- UK Registration Certificate
- or a Permiso De Circulacion & an import certificate from the manufacturer for a car from Spain
- Controle Technique
- Quitas Fiscal
- Proof of address in France
- Proof of identity
If you live in Aude you can go to the Prefecture in Carcassonne, the address is: -
52, Rue Jean Bringer
11000 Carcassonne, France
Tel +33 4 68 10 27 00
You might want to consider how you actually find all these places, I found my SAT NAV was absolutely invaluable when you have to find government departments in different locations in and around the cities.
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You can get the carte grise the same day within about 1/2 an hour. Go to reception and get a ticket so you can join the queue. When you get called up you just present all your documents (again a good idea to have photocopies of everything and keep them separate to the originals).
The lady there will create a file of your documents and should return all the originals except the quitas fiscal and the UK registration certificate back to you.
The file is then passed to the issuing department, so new ticket and new queue, this time when you are called you will be asked to pay for the carte grise.
The cost for the carte grise includes the cost of the car tax and is dependent on the puissance (engine power) of your car in CV's (2CV, 3CV etc.)
Mine was a 5CV and cost 170 euros.
That's it you are now the proud owner of a French registered car, so get the hell out of there.
Carte de Grise (French registration Form) - To apply for the Carte de Grise you will need to complete this form
Below is a link to the form you have to fill in for the Carte Grise, you need to print this out and complete it as fully as possible.
If you are unsure leave it blank and ask for help at the prefecture, this is better than making an error.
***Tip*** the numbering on the form is the same as on your UK Registration Certificate e.g D.1 Make is D.1 Marque on the form. Although the latest form is much simpler than the older version, with much less to fill in.
I have also provided a link to a map for the Prefecture and a link to the Prefecture's website.
- French Registration Form
This is the document you need to submit to the prefecture when you are registering your car in France
- Map showing location of the Prefecture
This is a map of Carcassonne showing you where to find the Prefecture, the office is located close to the town center in the new part of Carcassonne.
- Prefecture de l'Aude
This is the website for the Prefecture in Aude, not sure it will be of any use but you never know.
Prefecture - Carcassonne
This is where you go for a 'Carte Gris', check in at reception and then they will direct you to the ticket dispenser so that you can officially take a position in the queue.
Number Plates and Insurance
Once you have French plates you need French insurance
Axa or AGF will insure you on English plates provided you can convince them you are registering your car in France and I am sure there will be other French insurers that will do the same. You will need proof of your address in France and ideally proof of your no claims from your English insurer, although they will accept this retrospectively in most cases.
I was misinformed a little when I was arranging my French insurance as I was told that more than 2 accidents in the last 3 years would mean I may not be able to get insurance (I actually had 3 accidents, but I don't want to talk about that), this proved to be bad advice, as I later found no problem provided you talk to the right companies. What was true for me however was that they did not honour my no claims protection insurance I had in the UK, basically they said an accident is an accident and rated me accordingly, ouch!!!!
The other thing to watch out for is how long it takes to arrange the insurance, some companies took weeks (yes weeks) to get back to me and I ended up taking an expensive option because I didn't inquire soon enough.
It is a good idea to switch to a French insurer while you are on English plates so that when you do fit French plates you are already legal. You will of course have to send your French insurer a copy of your newly acquired carte grise so that the certificate can be updated but at least you won't be in the dodgy position of running on French plates with an English insurer.
It's worth noting as well that when you come to renew your insurance the following year, say you got a really bad deal and wanted to move to another company, then you need to know that, unlike the UK, you have to inform your current insurance company in writing using a registered letter that you want to cancel your cover within 20 days of receiving the renewal notice. If you fail to do that then you will be tied in for another 12 months - so beware.
To find English speaking insurance companies in France you can try Anglo Info who have a pretty good list of available insurers. You can sometimes get reductions on your insurance by taking out house or health insurance at the same time, so worth asking.
You can order your French number plates on line for an easy life, but pretty much any garage will sort you a set out, or you can sometimes find them being done in shopping centres. I got mine from a little shop in the Geant shopping centre near the motorway junction in Carcassonne.
Don't forget screws for number plates are illegal in France and you have to use pop rivets. Also before getting your number plates ordered just double check the paperwork for the registration. I recently discovered that there was a one digit error between the document and the chassis number actually on the car. When I went to get it corrected the only way I could do it was to register the car again. The cost of the amendment was only a couple of Euros but then of course I had to go and buy new number plates which was significantly more expensive.
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French films to help you improve your language skills by listening to native French speakers
Useful Links for Registering a Car in France
- DREAL Carcassonne
This link gives you a map for DRIRE in Carcassonne and even more importantly the scrap yard right opposite where I got my Bloc Optiques. Chemin Maquens 11000 Carcassonne
- French Driving License: Exchanging a Foreign Driving Licence in France - AngloINFO Languedoc-Roussil
Information on how to exchange your foreign driver's licence for a French licence. Information applies to European Union citizens (UK, EU etc) as well as people with American, Australian, Canadian or South African driving licences.
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