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Buying and Selling Cars in France  


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FACT FILE: Buying and selling cars in France

This is information would be out of date in the 2020s era and there are disclaimers at the end

See also: Driving in France and Monaco

For a French registered car to be driven legally on the road, it will need a carte grise, insurance and a vaild contrôle technique.

The Carte Grise - Certificat d'immatriculation- When you own a French (registered) car you are obliged to arrange for a new carte grise that registers the vehicle in your name at your address at the préfecture. This procedure must be completed within 15 days of the sale. The price of the carte grise depends on the size of the engine.

Registration of a new car -The dealer from whom you bought the car from, should arrange the issue of a new carte grise.

Registration of a second hand / used car - (Voiture d'occasion) If you purchase a used car from a dealer, they should issue you with a carte grise. If you purchased it privately then the following procedure applies: You must go to the préfecture or sous-préfecture with the following documents.

  • Cancelled carte grise that came with the car (don't purchase one without this- it could be a stolen vehicle!)
  • Certificat de vente - sales certificate that was given to you by the seller.
  • photocopy of your passport.
  • Proof of address of residency - electricty - phone bill etc
  • Certificat de situation - available from the préfecture, this ensures that the car has no outstanding legal payments with it.

Contrôle Technique - A car over three years old must have a contrôle technique.This is to check that the card is road worthy. It must be completed every two years at an authorised garage. Check that your garage can carry out the contre-visite (the second visit after essential repairs have been carried out) is free. When your car passes the contrôle technique you are given a macaron - a sticker that is displayed on your windscreen. If you are planning to sell your car you must have a contrôle technique completed within 6 months of the sale.

Changes to French registration plates from 2009 - Black on White registration plates on French cars from 2009.

From the 15th April 2009 the department number will no longer be on the French registration plate. The registration plates will no longer be black on white at the front and black on yellow at the rear as in the UK, but black on white on the front and rear as in Portugal, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Poland and many other European countries.

From the 15th April 2009 the département number will no longer be on the French registration plate. The registration plates will no longer be black on white at the front and black on yellow at the rear as in the UK, but black on white on the front and rear as in Portugal, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Poland and many other European countries.

They are made up of two letters, three numbers and two letters these are separated by hyphens(e.g. DE-354-FG) and will be allocated to a vehicle for life unlike presently if the owner moves from département to département. The new plates do not contain any element that identifies where the car owner lives.The Government claimed that this would facilitate police dealing with stolen or suspect vehicles. There was opposition from the suppression of department numbers (75,62,48,06 etc) on the registration plates and there was a Government climbdown. A car owner may add the official logo of their a French département to the their new style plate together with the département number below it on the right hand side of the number plate. This does not have to be the département where the owner lives.

Second hand cars: (voiture d'occasion) The new regulations apply to second hand cars from the 15th June 2009 will get these as well when la carte gris (registration document) is updated with a new address or owner.

If you are moving to France from another EU country you can keep your old British, Irish, German registration plates, but you must display where relevant Contrôle Technique. However if you are caught by a speed camera, don't think your foreign plates will help you.According to Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau the British are the worst followed by the Germans. Drivers will be tracked down to their French home address or via the home country of the registration plate.

N.B. This information should not be relied on for accuracy and is presented here without the responsibility of jml Property Service and the website it is being displayed at. ©jml property Services 07-05

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Editors Note - October 2016

If you are looking for a company to transport packages, furniture and classic cars from the south of France to England or vica versa our family has used Riviera Transport. Based in Biot and Portsmouth they are a very efficient company Find out more here



Article by Lynne Peacock who moved to France and she and her husband took their two UK registerd vehicles with them - A Citroen AX and a Fiat Camper Van. Here is her story taken from her website

We imported two vehicles when we moved to France last September: my trusty 'shopping basket' 1996 Citroen AX, and our elderly but very cherished camper van in which we have travelled many happy miles.

The Citroen

The Citroen was fairly straightforward, if you forget about the waiting around for the various bits of paper to come back from DRIRE and the prefecture. DRIRE very kindly offered to give me an attestation de conformité, which cars sold before 1997 don't have, but the form I had to fill in, 'demande d'identification d'une voiture particulaire importée neuve ou usagée', involved me discovering parts of my car and service manual I never knew existed.

Yes, yes, I know - typical female! But on that day I had had an altercation with my dear husband (DH), so was determined not to ask for help and crawled around under the bonnet looking for a small metal plate that, so my form said, carried vital information. The cost of the attestation was €67.38 which seemed quite reasonable - but that was only the start!

As the car was over four years old, it needed a controle technique. But before it could have that I had to replace the headlamps. This is where the costs began to rise. The local Citroen garage was very helpful and fitted them the day I wandered in to ask about a rendezvous. However, the mechanic was concerned that I seemed to have a missed a service.

Ignoring mutters from husband about forgetful women, I booked in for the next day and - as I had read a leaflet while I was waiting for the headlamps and knew I could have a free pre-controle technique check - I asked for that to be done at the same time. After shelling out €224.08 for headlamps and €72.48 for the service, I felt able to go and book the controle technique. I thoroughly recommend the DEKRA operation at St Cere - charming chaps and I got a free umbrella! Another €55.50 though!

Now it was just a case of getting a photocopy of my passport (25 cents) and finding the original bill of sale which, amazingly, I had kept. Not from any kind of sensible system, so much as that I used to stuff everything into my desk and hadn't thrown it away. Thanks to my much more organised DH we had sent off our VO5 documents to Swansea before leaving the UK and I therefore had my certificate of permanent export. I copied it, twice (50 cents) in case it got lost in the post.

How Many Chevaux?

Despite having yet another form to fill in just to ask for the re-registering to be done which I've forgotten the name of (and it duplicated almost everything on the attestation,), I still needed to know how much it would cost me to actually register. I rang the prefecture in Cahors and was told €27.50 for 'un cheval'. We decided the AX must be 'un cheval'. (Wrong!) The documents went off with an accuse de reception, €4.50, just to make sure it got there.

Then began the saga of the incorrect cheques. First everything came back, with a note that I should have paid €110 as it is €27.50 per cheval and my car was four chevaux. I still have not managed to work out why exactly. Also, the price was due to go up in February 2005 but no decision had been made exactly when.

It was still January, so I bunged the whole lot off again with a cheque for €110 and €4.50 for the accuse - and it came back to say it had gone up to €120!

That's when my size six went down hard! Off to the prefecture again, with me feeling that by now I had shares in La Poste, but finally, on Saturday 26 February 2005, my carte grise arrived.

There then followed a quick dash to our local Auto Leclerc for my new plaques but - dommage - they were out of film and I had to wait. A week later they were still out. Desperate to parade my new French number plates, I asked for the nearest garage who could do them for me and they sent me to another place nearby.

So, €28.50 for three plaques, (we have a remorque), €5 for fitting them and finally I could blend in with all the other French traffic on the road.

Cost? €588.81 or about £418 and worth every penny.

The Citroen garage mechanic had a grumpy sidekick who said I should drive a French car in France (ie: left-hand drive) but I'm used to my car and in a world where everything in our lives is new the comfort of driving the car I know is immeasurable.

The Camper

Meanwhile, on the camper front we are still waiting. It will be four weeks come next Tuesday. The process so far has been much the same as for the car but with one major exception.

We wrote to Fiat for the attestation as the service des mines couldn't find our camper on their list - an Eldiss Autoquest on a Fiat Ducatto chassis. (see how technical I can be when necessary?). We changed the headlamps with our new best friends at the Citroen garage who had ordered them for us and passed the controle technique at St Cere, where we received our second free umbrella.

The major difference is that we had to have the camper inspected by the bureau veritas. The service des mines very helpfully gave us two addresses but both were a long way off, and one was even in another department. However, for an increased fee, the chap would come to us. So that's what we opted for.

The Inspection

One very cold morning in January he finally arrived in his van, having rung me from the other end of the commune as he had got lost. We stood around nervously as he poked around under the bonnet and the bunks. His task, we had been told, was to check out the electrics and gas to make sure they were safe and serviceable. The gas supply passed muster but he was unhappy that there was no label on the inside of the gas locker door saying 'butane'. This, despite there being a large sign on the OUTSIDE of the same door saying LPG plus a picture of a gas canister...

He fiddled with the wire from the camper battery (as opposed to the battery for the engine) and insisted we fix an inline fuse. My DH pointed out the existing fuse tucked into a corner, but to no avail.

At this point I tried to pour a little oil on the situation. The DH may not speak much French but his face spoke volumes. Monsieur Veritas and I had a fervent exchange about how important 'la securité' is. The DH relaxed a bit.

Back inside the camper we were told we must change all the sockets for French sockets. Luckily I was the only one who heard and understood the DH's muttered aside that at least the English sockets were earthed!

Then came the piece de resistance for our inspector. After entering and exiting our shower/toilet several times he turned to us both and heaving a sigh told me 'Problem, Madame, grand problem!'.

We waited for him to explain. Our toilet window was apparently too small to evacuate out of in the case of our fire creating an 'incendie'. The said fire is to the left of the toilet door and the door opens to the right, therefore to exit the shower/toilet you would have to pass in front of the fire and therefore the conflagration! 'Grand problem'!

We all trooped outside and he showed us how we could enlarge the window. I could see my husband was at this point considering abandoning the camper to its fate. Enlarging the window would be quite a job and we also had a ladder across it. Back inside we all looked at the way the door was hung and our chap suggested that rehanging the door would satisfy regulations. I asked if they had changed the regulations re toilet doors in the EU recently but he replied that it had always been thus. I knew our camper was old but not that old!

Then we had our biggest surprise. Filling out his form and asking us for a cheque, Monsieur Veritas announced that as soon as we let him know we had made the changes he would forward our document to us for the prefecture. My husband asked if he wanted photos to prove we had changed things. Monsieur looked bemused at the idea and replied that a letter would do.

He declined a coffee and wished us good day and drove off, we assume, to worry some other poor campers.

Exhausted, we set off to the Brico to find the various bits and pieces. That afternoon my DH changed everything, including the door (what a nuisance it is now!) and took photos to prove he had done the work as he is a man who likes to be seen to be doing things properly. In a couple of weeks the document arrived. A cool €209.62 worth of proof that the camper is fit for the road.

The Wait

And so we wait... True to form we've sent it off the requisite three times and paid the accuse each time. The first return was because my husband forgot his proof of identity, the second time because the cheque was wrong (déjà vue!). But at least as the camper is over 10 years old we only have to pay €110 despite it being a 10 cheval.

Three weeks and counting. Maybe it will arrive tomorrow. But I'm not holding my breath...

(We are advised that the second car was finally imported -jml Property Services March 2007)

Article: Copyright © Lynne Peacock 2005 - Please note: This article must not be published on any website without the written consent of the writer Lynne Peacock

Transfering ownership of a French registerd car - August 2013

In the early part of the summer I raised a topic on The Riviera Reporter Forum - I will shortly be having to transfer the ownership a French registered car that currently has the old style white and yellow 06 number plates. Can anyone help with advice as to where to go to do this or can you download forms in line as well. I presume the car will then have to have new style number plates. Do you have to go to a specialist garage to have these fitted. Any help please. Many thanks

The great thing about this forum, is that I have always had useful replies to the issues raised. This time Kathy and Ants replied "When the new owner registers the car at the prefecture they take the registration doc to a place that does plates and they do them. Nothing complicated about it. Was about 30 euros. If it is at Grasse Prefecture the number plate place is opposite. Done in minutes."

As kathy says, the plates can be made and installed almost anywhere, even in some keymaking places near supermarkets. All they need is the registration document. As for changing ownership:

If you don't speak French it's probably best to get help from a friend or neighbour, also if you are doing it on line or by post. It's pretty straight forward (rare in France) -

all you need at the motor vehicles registration office at the prefecture are the standard docs:

- the old registration document (commonly called "carte grise")

- a "controle technique" (MOT) less that 6 months old

- Proof of identity (passport or other) - proof of address called "Justificatif de domicile" (electricity bill will do)

-statement that there are no outstanding debts on the car called "certificat de non-gage" or "Certificat de situation administrative" (available on line

- declaration of sale called "déclaration de cession" (Formulaire cerfa n°13754*02 available on line )

In the case that the transfer of ownership is made following the death of the previous owner rather than sale or free donation, you will need a document from the notary handling the succession stating that you are the legal inheritor of the vehicle.

- Re registration request called "demande de certificat d'immatriculation" (Formulaire cerfa n°13750*03 available on line )*03

- Payment for the re-registration of an amount that which varies by department.

If you are applying by post you can send a cheque. If you are applying on line you can pay by card. If you are applying in person you can do either. The amount depends on the fiscal HP ("Puissance fiscale") of the car and the department number.

You can make the calculation on line here :

An easier way is just to hire one of those relocation assistance people to do it for you but they take a fee.

In August I went into the Sous Prefecture in Grasse.The car was being transferred following a death and the appropriate documentation was therefore brought.Fortunately we had our neice with us to assist with the language. Process took well over an hour with booking in at reception, getting a number and waiting to be called then proceeding downstairs to pay. Registration document arrived in the post a couple of days later, however it misses the most important part of the address.

A useful shop acroos the road makes up the new style number plates and quickly fitted for a few Euros.Quite a contrast to doing the same thing in England whereby you post off everything to the DVLC in Swansea and not have to physically to go somewhere other than the post box. If the French introduced a DVLC there would probably be a lot of people out of work throughout the country or re employed on other work.

Another Forum contributor has made the following comment - "You'll just have to get used to the fact that France is far too bureaucratic and there are far more public workers than necessary. But it is (or "was" before Mr Hollande took over) slowly getting better and in some rare cases is even easier than the UK. For instance you only have to pass the MOT every 2 years instead of every year like in the UK. There is no road tax in France either so that is one less bureaucratic hassle."

Is it good though not having an MOT equivalent every year? A car could become unroadworthy 9 months after the test. In theory it can still be driven for a further fifteen. Same rules apply with the Republic of Ireland and the National Car Test NCT.

Copyright © Philip Suter September 2013

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